Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why I Am Amillennial

There are a number of reasons why a person should be amillennial when it comes to their eschatology. For me, a large part of being convinced of this view is the structure of the Book of Revelation itself. The idealist interpretation, based on a progressive-parallel reading, leads one to deny that the early part of Revelation 20 refers to a future millennium. Of course, due to the rich nature of the apocalyptic genre, a number of structural elements can be detected and followed. This does not mean, however, that every grid that has been offered is legitimate. Various options are listed in the “Structure” section of Vern Poythress’ The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation.

The progressive-parallel approach, also called progressive-recapitulation, was first brought to my attention through the reading of William Hendrickson’s More Than Conquerors. It is well expressed in G. K. Beale’s commentary The Book of Revelation in the NIGTC series. Beale explains that the pattern follows “repeated combined scenes of consummative judgment and salvation found at the conclusions of various sections throughout the book” (p. 121). He lists 6:12-17; 7:9-17; 11:18; 14:14-20; 15:2-4; 16:17-21; 17:1-18:24; 19:1-10; 20:7-15 and 21:1-8. In each of these scenes, Beale tells us, the pattern is always the same: a depiction of judgment is followed by a portrayal of salvation. Beale notes that this recapitulation formula is common in apocalyptic literature and provides a helpful chart demonstrating this from Daniel (p. 136).

Anthony Hoekema, in his now classic The Bible and the Future, pulls back into a broader structure of progressive parallelism breaking the Apocalypse down into seven larger sections. He says that the sections “run parallel to each other, each of which depicts the church and the world from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of his second coming” (p. 223).

These sections are:

1) Chaps 1-3 – Letters to the churches

2) Chaps 4-7 – Seven seals

3) Chaps 8-11 – Seven trumpets

4) Chaps 12-14 – Woman giving birth while Dragon waits to devour

5) Chaps 15-16 – Seven bowls of wrath

6) Chaps 17-19 – Fall of Babylon and beasts

7) Chaps 20-22 – Doom of Dragon, final judgment, new heavens and new earth

While these seven sections run parallel to one another and recapitulate tellings of the interadventual period, there is also a degree of eschatalogical progress as more details are provided in each. Hoekema says, “Although the final judgment has already been briefly described in 6:12-17, it is not set forth in full detail until we come to 20:11-15. Though the final joy of the redeemed in the life to come has been hinted at in 7:15-17, it is not until we reach chapter 21 that we find a detailed and elaborate description of the blessedness of life on the new earth (21:1-22:5)” (p. 226). This is why the method is called “progressive.”

The twentieth chapter, typically understood to depict a future millennium, therefore fits into the scheme of recapitulation as a retelling of the time between the comings of Christ. All of the detail given in the previous sections of judgment and salvation are well-summarised in this chapter. This is why I don’t believe in a future, thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. The millennium is now.

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Reviewing Christian Film

Liam Neeson in Pilgrim's Progress

I’m not going to comment on the quality of “Christian” films, I very rarely watch them. I thought Facing the Giants was decent in that Rudy or Remember the Titans sorta way, but I’ve yet to see The Blind Side or Fireproof. Generally I cringe at these types of movies, wincing through some of the sappier “Christian” moments. You may think, Didn’t he see Amazing Grace or Luther? For whatever reason, I don’t consider them a part of the “Christian” genre. I’m rather arbitrary, I know.

Anyways, this new movie Soul Surfer seems to be this year’s Fireproof, and I likewise doubt I’ll see it. I read a review at Salon.com a month ago and felt justified in my dismissal. But then I read Timothy Dalrymple’s post: “Are Christian Movies Really So Bad?” where he notes the trend amongst film critics to be particularly scathing to the Christian genre. He offers three reasons why:

1) Reviewers want to maintain their reputations, and giving a positive review to a movie like Soul Surfer would be a good reason to lose all cred.

2) The lack of faith themes in Hollywood movies makes their appearance jarring.

3) Cynical reviewers don’t get the Christian worldview, so these movies are just plain strange.

Read the rest here.

***UPDATE*** I got to thinking, Why am I so arbitrary in my tastes for this type of film? There must be something that makes me not mind Narnia or Luther (although I thought Narnia was kind’ve cheezy, especially the kid’s hair). I’m thinking maybe it has to do with the purpose behind the films. Fireproof and those kind of movies are more evangelistically oriented; call it the “evangelism genre.” A large part of their purpose is to get the message out. Amazing Grace, it seems to me, is more intended as a story about a historically important figure who happened to be a Christian. Maybe we can call it the plain ole “Christian genre.” I know I’m splitting hairs and any sane person could push me to the wall on this. But it’s the only way I can account for my thinking.

As they say, for what it’s worth…

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R. L. Dabney

In my previous post I mentioned that Whitefield’s glaring flaw was his purchase of slaves to work his orphanage. The Noll quote I provided shows that his take on slavery was more pragmatic–which is no excuse–and less of a principled view of African Americans as lesser valued. However, many evangelicals did hold to that pernicious view that whites were a superior race and thus slavery was justified along racial terms. Probably the worst example of this out-and-out racism is the Southern Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney. He wrote “A Defence of Virginia” which is almost impossible to get through because it is so racially driven. I have his book on sacred rhetoric, but I’ve only skimmed it. Because of his views, as good as a theologian he may have been, I cannot read him with a good conscience.

If you want to learn more about Dabney, read Sean Michael Lucas’ biography of him. I haven’t read it, though I plan to. Lucas was recently interviewed by the Reformed Forum on this book which is worth listening to. Lucas is right to argue that Dabney, or any historical figure, shouldn’t be approached flatly or simplistically. His life and thought is complex and needs to be dealt with carefully and in context. However, the racism displayed in “A Defence of Virginia” is so gross that it can only, at the very basic level, be chalked up to sin. There has to be a willful misreading of the bible to be so horrifically wrong about the question of human dignity. While Whitefield and other great figures in history, including Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers, have to be dealt with properly on the blight of slavery, to me Dabney has been pushed into another category that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Whitefield’s Flaws

In the name of historical honesty, evangelicals must be willing to face the flaws of those we hold up as heroes. George Whitefield, the spark of the Evangelical Revival, was no doubt an incredible person. In many respects, he was what today we would call a celebrity. He counted Benjamin Franklin as a friend, crowds in the thousands thronged to hear him preach, he co-founded the Methodist movement and has left a legacy that evangelicals can look back on with pride.

However, there are some significant stains on his memory. Probably the worst was the purchase of slaves for personal use while in Georgia (1740). Mark Noll explains:

Whitefield’s all-or-nothing commitment to evangelism at the expense of well-considered Christian social ethics left an ambiguous legacy as well. His stance toward the institution of slavery is an instance. During 1740, he criticized Southern slave owners for mistreating slaves and took special pains on several occasions to preach to slaves. But he also decided on the spur of the moment that, since Europeans were unable or unwilling to work the land supporting his orphanage, it would be “impracticable” to survive in Georgia without purchasing “a few Negroes” as slaves. Whitefield, who preached so willingly to slaves, hardly gave a thought when he became a slaveowner himself.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys A History of Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2003), 108.

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Defining Evangelicalism

Evangelicalism is hard to define. Is it a movement? An institution? Can it be described by a set of necessary beliefs? Historians are of many opinions; some even going so far as to deny that evangelical, as it is commonly used, is a valid term. Mark Noll of Notre Dame, in his The Rise of Evangelicalism, has some helpful thoughts:

“Evangelicalism” is too loose a designation ever to have produced a tidy historical record. To be sure, some thoroughly evangelical denominations possess well-organized and conveniently available archives. But many evangelicals have been active in mixed denominations where evangelical emphases exist alongside other convictions. Evangelicals have also established many stand-alone churches of the sort that are always difficult to document. And still more evangelicals have devoted much of their energy to multidenominational voluntary societies. Difficulties in controlling the subject notwithstanding, it is still possible to present a coherent history of evangelicalism as defined by genealogy and by principle.

By the same token, however, it is important to realize that the emphases of evangelicalism have shifted as they came to expression in different times and places. The late Canadian historian, George Rawlyk, who did so much to promote study of evangelical churches and movements in his native land, shrewdly observed on several occasions that evangelicalism has constituted a fluid subject.

The four main principles identified by David Bebbington do not exist in the same proportions or exert the same effects in all times and places. Sometimes the experience of conversion takes precedence, at others the concentration on Scripture as ultimate religious authority and at still others the importance of missionary or social action. The evangelical traditions consistently maintain the major evangelical traits, but they have done so with a tremendously diverse array of emphases, relationships and special concerns.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys A History of Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2003), 20.


			

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Kinsella: Living With Lions Punk Sell-Outs

It’s interesting to see that Warren Kinsella also thinks that Living With Lions are sell-outs for taking money from the government (see previous post). Kinsella, you may or may not know, writes for the Toronto Sun and has been in a couple of somewhat well-known punk outfits. He’s also a lefty (why that matters in this regard, I don’t know). Here’s his article: “Punk Sellouts?? Now That’s Offensive.” {HT: Josh Hooper}

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Living With Lilly-Livers

Punk music is, in its purist form, about offending people. It’s about upsetting the status quo, whatever that might be. As it has become diluted with the celebrity groanings of “punks” like Avril Lavigne and Sum-41, the offense has taken a less principled tone. Instead of mocking the Queen, an affront to even the most hard-hearted republican I’m sure, it is our intellects that are now being slighted. Punk used to be worth listening to. Bands like Discharge and Minor Threat wrote intelligently, if simply, as they verbally lacerated cultural norms. But what now? What does the punk community do with the barbarisms of a group of pissants from Vancouver who think that “Poo-Testament” is drollery at its finest?

For those who could care less about this sort of thing, but are suffering through this post anyway, let me provide a little background. The group Living With Lions have done the oh-so DIY thing and turned to the Canadian government for a hand-out. Who knew that having the support of Stephen Harper was so important to the scene these days? In so doing, by grabbing some cash from FACTOR, they’ve managed to draw the ire of the taxpayers who funded their album buy producing “Holy Sh!t: The Poo Testament,” with depictions of Jesus Christ as excrement (what would Dafoe do with such politically subversive genius?). Some might say this is the heart of punk’s offensive character; that these boys have really nailed it. Others like myself (as you can imagine) think that this is a sure sign of punk’s continual downgrade. Gone are the days of the Dead Kennedys or Black Flag who actually made you think, even if you disagreed with whatever cause they were promoting. Now we have the phrenic equivalence of a Nickelodeon stunt gone wrong (apologies to any kid reading this who thinks I’ve done an injustice to Nickelodeon).

But here’s the kicker. Here’s what’s made it all the more funny and pathetic. Continue reading

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SSMI Post: Spurgeon and Prayer

Here’s my most recent blogpost as the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog: “With Spurgeon in the House of Prayer.”

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Happy Vic Day!

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Prof. Ditchkins on Science

Check out the devastating arguments renowned atheist Prof. Richard Ditchkins proffers for science and reason:

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Baptists and the Supper

Some of my more sacramentally oriented friends (i.e. Anglicans) think that we Baptists are mere Memorialists when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. But this ain’t so! Although most Baptists today are of the so-called “Zwinglian” variety (though Zwingli was no Zwinglian), this has not always been the case. Historically speaking, Baptists are inheritors of the Calvinian tradition, especially when it comes to the Eucharist. Therefore we take there to be a real, or spiritual presence of Christ in the elements of the bread and wine (not grape juice!); that we take spiritual nourishment from the Supper; and have true communion with Christ. Ours is not a “real absence” view.

For instance, the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) in Chapter 30.7 says,

Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible Elements in this Ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally, and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified (l) & all the benefits of his death: the Body and Blood of Christ, being then not corporally, or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of Believers, in that Ordinance, as the Elements themselves are to their outward senses.

l 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-26.

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With Spurgeon in the House of Prayer

Arnold Dallimore, in his enjoyable biography of Charles Spurgeon, recounts the following about the Prince of Preachers’ prayer life: “He talked with God in reverence but with freedom and familiarity.” Freedom and familiarity; watchwords of true prayer. These two words prove an example of what balanced prayer should look like for the Christian. Unfortunately such balance is often toppled leaving Christians to slide from one or the other of the two extremes.

For instance, Christians can become too familiar with God in prayer that they descend into a bog of irreverence. A dear pastor-friend of mine once told me of an experience he had in seminary as he and a fellow student were at prayer. This student began their devotional time by telling God a joke! My friend had no idea how to respond, and I can only imagine the difficulty he had continuing on in prayer with this misguided brother. While it is indeed a glorious truth that Christians share an intimacy with their Father, even being able to call Him “Abba.” And it is also true that we have free and easy access to the throne of grace because Jesus has approached it and we approach in Him. It is mistaken, however, to abuse this truth and treat God as though he were “just a slob like one of us,” as the words of a boring song by Joan Osborne inform. Although the apostles knew well the freedom they had in Christ, they also recognized that God should be approached “acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

On the other hand, a bland formality can creep into prayer that strips it of its vitality. Cold prayers are the products of hearts of clay. It has been said, “What the heart thinks the tongue clinks.” What do we think of God if our prayers are so bland? While there can be a true beauty to the written prayers of the liturgical traditions, if they are not empassioned by a heart affected by the Spirit of God they are as lifeless as a rotting carp that’s washed upon the shore of some beautiful lake.

May it be said of us as it was of Spurgeon: “Prayer was the instinct of his soul and the atmosphere of his life. It was his ‘vital breath’ a’native air.’ He sped on eagle wings into the heaven of God.”

This post will appear in the near future at the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog.

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Hope’s Reason Podcast

Stephen Bedard, editor of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, has started a related podcast. In the first episode Steve shares his testimony and the reason for doing the journal and podcast.

Introducing Hope’s Reason

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N. T. Wright Critiques Hawking on Heaven

When the world’s most famous physicist weighs in on the question of heaven people surely listen. Unfortunately, when he gets the question wrong, let alone the answer, then he screws a lot of people up in the process. Stephen Hawking, in a recent interview in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, declared that there is no longer any use for believing in the afterlife or heaven (he called it “a fairy tale”), he unwittingly bought into a caricature that many hold of the Christian faith. Of course, Hawking is no theologian (or philosopher as others have noted), so for many of us his words ring hollow.

Thankfully N. T. Wright, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, has set the record straight. In an article in the Washington Post, Wright corrects the misunderstanding and puts forward a proper Christian view of heaven. Wright is a good source as he has written a definitive study on the resurrection and another on life after death. He’s no theological light-weight. His resume includes stints at Cambridge, Oxford and McGill. He was for a long time the Bishop of Durham and is currently a professor at St. Andrews in Scotland.

Here’s an important quote:

Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death — first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection — he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it — most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much.

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Band Pics

My old band, Wonkavision, if we hadn’t broken up, would be fifteen years old. Tim, the singer, posted some “then and now” pics on his blog here. The above pic is from a show we did at the Acapulco Delight in Windsor, a building that no longer exists. The show was the same night as prom, you can tell from the attire who was cool enough to have a prom date and who didn’t. I’m wearing an Apocalypse Hoboken shirt and Nick’s wearing a Misfits one. I can’t remember which of the host of drummers we had was playing that night. Rawk.

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Ron Paul, Milt Friedman and Thomas Sowell on Drugs

Ron Paul is running for the head of the GOP with the hope of taking the White House from Obama. As a libertarian I have strong hopes for Paul, although I won’t be shocked if he doesn’t win either the primary or the 2012 election. Even if he doesn’t, just the fact that he’s such a popular candidate is good for disseminating the ideas of libertarianism. Gary Johnson is another libertarian running for the Republican leadership, but I’m reticent about him due to his stand on abortion.

Recently, in a televised debate with other Republican candidates, Ron Paul argued that the state shouldn’t be involved in private choice issues such as drug use, including heroin. Here’s what he has to say:

Some have run with this and are making him out to be less of a libertarian and more of a libertine. But in conservative thought his ideas aren’t all that new. Take for instance the well-known, well-respected, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman:

While it might not be so surprising to hear Friedman advocating for the legalisation of drugs as a means of curtailing drug use, that the famous conservaitve Thomas Sowell is of the same opinion probably is:

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Sister Golden Hair by Choir!Choir!Choir!

My old friend Tim McCready was (is?) part of Choir!Choir!Choir!–a music conglomerate who do some classic rock corporate singing. This version of America’s “Sister Golden Hair” is absolutely fantastic. It gives me goosebumps:

They also do some Fleetwood Mac, Sloan and The Beatles.

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Haykin on Spurgeon’s Conversion

I’ve just begun reading through Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Charles Spurgeon and am in the second chapter and the glorious telling of Spurgeon’s conversion. I love this story. One of the reasons for my love of it is the voice I hear in my head as my eyes traverse the page. Many times have I heard Michael Haykin lecture on Spurgeon; when he gets to this part of the story, I believe, he’s at his story-telling best. The tone, the volume, the accent can’t be put to paper (or pixel), but it’s in my head. Especially when Haykin bellows out, in a put-on slur (it’s the only word I can think of) the words of the working-class Primitive Methodist preacher whom Spurgeon heard yell, “Look unto me!” All my days I’ll read these words and have that voice in my head. And for that I’m glad.

***UPDATE***

A commenter asked for the story of the conversion, so here it is in his own words from his Autobiography {HT: Spurgeon Archive}

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man,* a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was,—

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E. B. White, Writing

Photo by Jill Krementz.

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Hopper/Walken

This photograph is brilliant. Taken by Annie Leibovitz in 1995 for Vanity Fair. It’s so much better when you can see it enlarged and in crisper quality.

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