John Frame: Doctrine of the Word of God

A fitting end to a fine series. This isn’t Frame’s best work ever (that would either be DG or DCL) but it is good and there are legitimate reasons for this volume’s limitations. Frame wanted to get his book on Scripture out, but he also suspected he might die beforehand. So he gave a shorter version of it. The first 330 pages deal with a perspectival doctrine of Scripture. The last three hundred are book reviews.

Scripture is an organic revelation, but Frame doesn’t mean by organic what 19th century pantheists supposedly meant. For Frame, “Revelations in Scripture, world, and self presuppose and supplement one another; one cannot understand one of them without reference to the others” (Frame 350).

Frame’s book isn’t just another book on Scripture and how it is inerrant or from God or something. Rather, it calls forth our obedience, and this ties with the above thesis: “Every obedient response to Scripture involves knowledge of creation and self” (364). For example, whenever I reason about or from Scripture, that presupposes I know what logic is and how to use it.

The Personal-Word Model

“The main contention of this volume is that God’s speech to man is real speech” (3). Authority: the capacity to create an obligation in the hearer (5).

Covenant and Canon

God’s relation to us is always covenantal, so we should expect a written, covenant document (108). A canon naturally arises because we need to record God’s spoken words to us, and our God is a God who speaks.

Frame builds upon Meredith Kline’s 4 or 5 Point Covenant Model to show the unity of Scripture (148ff):

(1) Revelation of the Name of God
(2) Revelation of God’s mighty acts in history
(3) Revelation of God’s Law
(4) Revelation of God’s continuing presence to bless and curse
(5) Revelation of God’s institutional provisions.

Covenantal revelation is both personal and propositional (153). God reveals his Name, but he does so in propositions (and sentences and declarations).

Our relationship with God is covenantal, and in covenants God speaks to his people (212).

Some of the chapters were quite short and I wish Frame extended his analysis. However, the book reviews show remarkable analysis and depth. See especially his reviews of Enns and Wright

Gospel and Spirit (Gordon Fee)

See the source image

Fee, Gordon.  Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991.

The real battle over inerrancy doesn’t concern whether the autographa are (were?) inerrant.  The conservative has no access to them and the liberal can’t produce any arguments on why they would be errant.  The real problem, however, is hermeneutics.  Lacking any fear, Gordon Fee jumps into the fray.

Hermeneutics and Inerrancy

Since Scripture is a divine-human product, it creates tensions in the life of the church.  We have eternal truths applied to human particularities.  The temptation to get around this tension results in a “divine rule book” hermeneutics. Many conservatives (since liberals scorn Scripture, we don’t even need to address them) level all the imperatives in Scripture with the result that they can’t live by their own advice.  As Fee wryly notes, “One whole wing of evangelicalism, for example, argues vehemently for the eternal validity of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 on the silence of women, while rejecting every other imperative in the chapter, including the final one, not to forbid speaking in tongues” (Fee 45).

Even worse, but proving Fee’s case, Paul doesn’t always give the same imperative to the same situation. The guidelines for widows in 1 Cor. 7 is different from 1 Timothy 5. So how do we do ethics?  First, we realize that God’s gift precedes his obligation (good Augustinianism here).  We do not start with “law” but with God himself, who gives himself to us (good Wyclifite insight here).  As Fee notes, “All things are measured by the character of the Father; as his children we are privileged by the power of the Spirit to bear his likeness in the world” (46). To do otherwise is to make the medieval mistake: turning the gospel into a “New Law.”

While some of Fee’s comments decisively rebut the cessationist, he is on weaker ground when it comes to women in leadership.  He makes several important points, but none of them is logically overwhelming. Still, they are worth considering.  Should women be quiet in church (1 Tim. 2:8-15)? The question we should all ask is which part of 1 Timothy is particular and which eternal?  For example, no patriarchalist literally holds to 5:3-16 (which, interestingly enough, is opposite of Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. 7).  What grounds do we have for thinking that is particular to that situation and not eternal?

I don’t know.  Fee raises good points that few patriarchalist have thought about (or even are aware exist), but the structure of his argument resembles a tu quo que fallacy.  I’ll leave it at that.

His two most important chapters deal with distinctives in the Assembly of God and the larger pentecostal church.  Can we draw doctrine from narrative and is the baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to regeneration?  The answer to both questions is “sort of.” While cessationists, Baptist and Reformed, oppose basing doctrine (or practice) on narrative in theory, they do so in practice.  Where is the didactic teaching that says we baptize infants (or believers after a credible profession)?  It’s not there.  They base the teaching (correctly, I believe) on the household baptisms in Acts.

Fee suggests that a better question is how can we draw doctrine from narrative. Which experience of the primitive church is normative for us?  The Jerusalem Church shared everything, yet we have no evidence the Antioch Church did, and we know for a fact the Corinthian (and probably Roman) churches did not.

Even more problematic, while the epistles have didactic elements, they are occasional letters not systematic theologies.  Even if we draw doctrine from them, and we should, we have no warrant to treat them as Pauline Summas.

This book is a fantastic intermediate level text on hermeneutics.  It presents a number of tough case-studies that will make everyone uncomfortable.

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation

Image result for inspiration and incarnation

When this book exploded on the scene, I was temporarily out of the Evangelical orbit.  I didn’t find many of Enns’ proposals all that shocking.  I thought his reasoning was sloppy in a lot of places, and he routinely never challenges his own presuppositions, but this book isn’t that bad.

I think Enns’s work also suffers in one more regard. It was fashionable 70 years ago to play off the supposed parallels between Israelite culture (and its use of Leviathan) with Babylonian culture (and its use of Tiamat). The implication was that the Hebrews stole this from the Babylonians. Recent scholarship has suggested otherwise. The discovery of Ugaritic texts and its own usage of Ba’al/Leviathan suggests that the Hebrews didn’t borrow from Babylon after all. Enns completely misses this point.

I realize I am three or four years behind the times in reading this book. That’s fine. I’m more able to appreciate it now than I would have been in my apologist days. As readers will remember, this book caused a firestorm in the evangelical world, leading to Enns’ dismissal from WTS, and causing all Reformed bloggers to cry out in unison, “The Gospel is at steak!” (since when is the gospel not at steak in Reformed circles?).

I didn’t really see a problem with the book, though. Yes, I realize where Enns is out of bounds with traditional evangelical hermeneutics, and he should admit as much. Further, the implications of Enns’ project will be troubling for many varieties of Evangelical biblical scholarship, but the reality is that these problems *will* arrive in one form or another (ask any young college student who lost their faith in an OT intro class because a professor who was not spiritually sensitive presented these problems. I saw it happen by the dozen–and that’s a conservative number–at Louisiana College.) Cheap, pat answers will not work and insult the intelligence of young men and women. We need to deal with these issues and Enns is to be commended for dealing with it in a pastorally sensitive and academically sterilized environment, his colleagues’ hysterical reaction to it notwithstanding).

Enns, faithful to good Christology, suggests an incarnational parallel between the Person of Christ and the “bible.” As Christ has a human dimension (at this point I don’t care what connotation you give to that phrase), so also the Bible has a human dimension to it. Most conservatives are fine with this and a few smart ones will say, “yeah, didn’t Calvin say that God lisps to us?” And that’s true, though it’s doubtful Calvin would have approved of Enns’ suggestions.

Contrary to popular fear, most of Enns’ book is unremarkable. If the reader is familiar with John Frame’s works, then Enns’ interpretation of Proverbs and Torah in a situational perspective will sound old-hat. Enns also spends much time noting the differences between Kings and Chronicles, of which I assume many Evangelicals are familiar. Enns asks an important question, though: How do we continue to affirm “inspiration” and “revelation” given these differences represent different goals? Personally, I don’t have a problem with that question.

The real rub, though, is Enns’ treatment of Genesis 1-11. In short, his argument goes: it is indisputable that the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) mythologies were written prior to Genesis.i Secondly, since Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees and would no doubt have bee familiar with these stories, and given that these stories are very similar to Genesis 1-11, one is hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that Genesis 1-11 is somewhat dependent on the ANE mythologies.

(Help arrives from an unexpected place.  John Walton suggested that it is almost impossible to prove that the Hebrews borrowed from the Babylonians in such a crass manner.  Maybe they did, but it’s hard to prove one way or another).

This leads to the next problem: what do we mean by “myth?” Enns defines myth as a pre-scientific form of answering the question of origins in the form of stories (50).ii So one could advance the next conclusion that Abraham did adapt these mythological categories but at the same time radically deconstructed them. This makes Abraham’s faith all the more radical: his God is not like the pagan deities, and this is how his God wants you to live.

I have my own take on myth and it is a lot cooler.  These “myths” are actually retellings of Yahweh’s story told by fallen members of the Divine Council.  Psyops, if you will.
Enns has other chapters on the anthropomorphic uses of language about God. While it is true Yahweh doesn’t act passionately like Zeus, and if one wants to be theologically proper, the essence of God is impassible, it’s equally difficult to read the prophetic literature and Yahweh’s interaction with his people and come to a hard doctrine of divine impassibility (yes, I affirm divine impassibility, though not without qualifications). Yahweh does indeed fight like a drunken Samson. However, much literature has been written on that point and I won’t say more.

If this sounds impious, how much more Psalm 78:65, where the Divine Warrior himself is described as a mighty man overcome with wine? Yahweh fights like Samson, but far more ferociously than Samson: He fights like a drunken Samson!”
Enns’ last chapter will also cause some problems with conservative readers. While the grammatical-historical method is a respected method and is generally preferred in how to interpret texts, the fact remains that the New Testament authors routinely violated this principle. Not only did they interpret OT texts (seemingly) out of contexts, it appears they even read into the passage elements from 2nd Temple Judaism, and even most strikingly, changed the text of some passages to make a point “fit.” Consider the following examples:

Matthew 2:15/Hosea 11:1

Hosea is not talking about the boy Jesus, nor even about a future Messiah, but is alluding to Israel’s past (133).

2 Corinthians 6:2/Isaiah 49:8

Isaiah is speaking of Israel’s deliverance from Babylon, which Paul interprets to mean the deliverance in Christ (135; for those schooled in the Redemptive Historical model, this isn’t so wild an interpretation; still, it’s not what Isaiah’s contemporaries, to whom it first meant something—remember what you learned in reading Fee and Kaiser?–which must also be determinative for us.

Romans 11:26-27/Isaiah 59:20

Paul says the deliver will come from Zion, but Isaiah says the deliver will come to Zion. Secondly, Paul applies to Christ what Isaiah applied to God (yes, that is a wonderful truth in which I rejoice, but one must also point out the diversity in the passage). Isaiah talks about those who will be delivered, but Paul talks about the Messiah’s point of origin (139).

Hebrews 3:7-11/Psalm 95:9-10

The writer of Hebrews adds a word, dio (therefore, for the sake of). On first glance it doesn’t seem to change much, but Enns makes the argument, “Whereas Psalm 95 equates forty years with the period of God’s wrath, Hebrews, by inserting dio, equates the forty years with the duration of God’s works…The forty year period is not defined by wrath, but by God’s activity. Anger is what follows this forty year period if his readers do not rid themselves of “a sinful, unbelieving heart”” (Enns, 140-141).

Now, if one simply wanted to make the above argument as a pastoral illustration and application of Psalm 95, nobody would bat an eye. But this is Holy Scripture, of which every word is inerrant.iii

Enns’ point in all of this is that the New Testament writers inherited a hermeneutical framework from 2 Temple Judaism, with much input from Wisdom of Solomon.iv They did not think they were playing fast and loose with Scripture, and presumably neither did their hearers. The unbelieving Jews might not have agreed with St Matthew’s conclusion with Hosea 11, but they (presumably) didn’t challenge his method.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the book and the sections on the law, the history, and proverbs were fantastic. While I have no qualms praising the book, I understand why it started a controversy. If Enns’ is correct on many of his points, Evangelicals. Some good answers will have to be given on how the Bible can be revealed and inspired, yet Genesis 1-11 appears dependent on Babylonian and Sumerian myths.

The Divine Stapler

I posted this a while back on Cocceius.  Updating it.  I was discussing inerrancy and bible translations with a guy who has a Reformed background but is disillusioned with the local Reformed churches and thinks a tradition like EO can provide him with absolute epistemic certainty.  This kind of thinking is intellectual death and it is how atheists are made.

I believe in inspiration.  I believe the original mss are inerrant.  But we have to be careful how we gloss inspiration, not only because it is open to rebuttals, but also because there are instances of when the inspired writers appear to be doing their own research and even putting the inspired material in a certain order.  For example, if they were ghost-writing and putting pen to parchment only that which they received in a trance, then why did Luke begin the way he did?  Why did he say that he researched the material?

 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you,

No, Luke.  You ghost-wrote everything from the Holy Spirit when you were in a trance.

Why did Ezekiel switch from 1st person to 3rd person in a matter of verses?

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and saw visions of God.[a] On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

Now, you can say that he switched to the first person pronoun so that the reader could know who was writing.  That’s true.  But why did he continue speaking of himself in the 3rd person?  That suggests an editor.

What about Torah? I think we can all agree that the Documentary Hypothesis was an unfunny joke at which liberals are no longer laughing. It’s actually funny to point out the logical fallacies.

http://drmsh.com/?s=documentary%20hypothesis

Here are the problems I’ve drawn attention to so far, with standard JEDP responses.

1. Nearly 100 instances where two Hebrew source texts disagree as to the name for God (Yahweh or Elohim). JEDP response: sloppy translator; the problem can’t be the divine name criterion.

2. P vocabulary and concepts showing up in J’s version of the flood story. JEDP: that’s the editorial hand; he made it messy; the problem can’t be the vocabulary criterion.

3. A criterion for P (no anthropomorphisms) not being valid. JEDP response: I haven’t seen any specifically, though I’m betting it would be something like, “well, J and E do *more* anthropomorphizing, so they must be different authors with different religious views.” (A “counting noses” answer; the problem can’t be the “view of God” criterion — of course this also ignores later anthropomorphosms outside the Pentateuch, and anthropomorphic portrayals in Jewish literature after the biblical period — never mind that stuff).

However, we still need to avoid the claim that Moses “ghost-wrote-in-a-trance” every idea.  Otherwise, we are left with some silly claims (like Moses claiming he was the most humble person in the world).

Summary

This is what Heiser calls “The Divine Stapler.”

Here’s what I mean in another dramatization. A few weeks after his dramatic inspiration encounter, one of Isaiah’s followers wakes up and gets ready for work. His job? Why, following Isaiah around and recording what he says. As he gets dressed he wonders if Isaiah will do anything weird today (helps make the day go faster) or if it’ll just be a normal sermon. He meets his colleagues (Isaiah is training other prophets like Elijah and Elisha – “the school of the prophets”) and they sit down and listen to the man of God. They each write as fast as they can, wishing they could have Isaiah repeat a few things, but they press on. They’ve been doing it for months (a few old timers have been there a couple years), so they’re pretty good at it. The next day they awaken to the shocking report: Isaiah has died! Now what do they do? Gripped by a sense of the need to preserve the prophet’s divinely-provoked sermons and teachings, they agree to get together and see what they’ve managed to record. One of them goes around the room and collects the notes of the others, stacks them neatly in a pile, shuffles them to make sure the edges line up, and then asks, “okay, where’s the stapler?” No one must touch Isaiah’s words since HE was the inspired prophet, not them, so all the notes get stapled together and so we got the book of Isaiah. Sorry, I just don’t believe in the holy stapler.

The Payoff

Adherents to the Documentary Hypothesis aren’t prepared to deal with this counter. It also keeps us from being Docetists and Platonists.

Some notes on Apocrypha?

The question that often comes up in question’s on the Apocrypha as Scripture or related to it:

(1) Is the Apocrypha inspired/part of the Bible?

The church’s witness in history isn’t entirely clear.  Augustine and others use the Wisdom of Solomon and if ever a book deserved to be in Scripture, that would be one of them.  Yet, when we read early fathers’ accounts of the canon, the modern day Apocryphal books are either missing or not all are accounted for.  The problem is further exacerbated on how to identify the “Ezras” listed by the fathers (it could either mean Ezra and Nehemiah or Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Esdras).

But that’s not my issue because that’s not how I view Scripture.  I can accept Scripture in some sense as an angled mirror to God’s revelation, but not as God’s revelation full stop.  In other words, God’s revelation isn’t univocal.

I prefer to say that Scripture is a witness to God’s revelation.  That means, if the above argument holds true:

(2) The Apocrypha is not God’s revelation.

But can the Apocrypha be a witness to God’s revelation?  Perhaps, but then it is on a case-by-case basis.  Let’s look at Sirach and Maccabees.

Sirach

Towards the end of the book Sirach is echoing the Jewish hope and story of King and Temple.  They are both interconnected.  And the world’s peace depends on them.  But when the Temple is cleansed/disclosed to the world, it is not the Davidic Messiah but the High Priest.

And in any case, all of this was wiped away with the Roman invasions after 200 BC.  So while Sirach captures some part of the Jewish narrative, it is utterly anti-climactic in witnessing to the Messiah.

Maccabees

As history Maccabees, at least 1 and 2, are supremely important.  When Judas cleanses the temple and drives out the pagans, what happens with the temple?  Nothing.

Drawing upon sources like 1 Kings 8 and Ezekiel, the Temple, Monarch, and Shekinah glory are inter-connected.  Touch one and you touch all (there is some divine simplicity, for you!).  This doesn’t happen with Maccabees victory.

So what does all this mean?  The Apocrypha is very important for history, but in terms of witnessing to the divine revelation, especially in terms of eschatology, it is anti-climactic.