Praise God for Fundamentalists :: Desiring God Blog

In 2005, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship passed a resolution “On the Ministry of John Piper.” Earlier today, Dr. Piper posted a response entitled “Praise God for Fundamentalists.” While conceding that many of the charges in the FBF resolution are correctly stated, he is convinced of some contrary positions, such as his noncessationist view of the miraculous spiritual gifts (in-the-whatever-it-is-worth category, DBTS’s articles of faith, article 10, on spiritual gifts is the most biblically consistent view). However, he concludes with this: “So I thank God for fundamentalism, and I think that some of the whining about its ill effects would have to also be directed against the black-and-white bluntness of Jesus.”

This brief article is worth noting and may I say “Amen” to Dr. Piper’s conclusions.

Fearing God in a Hebel World

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Picture taken from http://www.sxc.hu

With this post, I want to briefly explain how I moved into the blogosphere and how the title of my weblog developed from "My Blog" to "Fearing God in a Hebel World."

In March of 2007, Barry Pendley, a web designer and former student of mine, designed a website for me, Old Testament Studies. Barry also hosts my website, and, as you can see, the website has a great look (if you need assistance with a website and/or search engine optimization, check out Evmikna Graphics). He has placed some material related to the Hebrew courses I teach at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, many papers I have written and pictures taken from my teaching excursions outside the United States and other events connected with DBTS. 1 With my initial website, the blog was an afterthought to place some of my occasional Old Testament meanderings for our seminary students; and, as an afterthought, I simply called it "My Blog." Since the inception of this website, "My Blog," had been on the website, as a secondary heading under the primary heading "Resources," found on my home page. However, I did not start using "My Blog" until late August. Initially, I had little interest in blogging; however, while I was teaching a couple of Old Testament classes in East Africa in the summer of 2007, I developed an interest by watching a missionary blogging. When I returned to the US, I began checking out blogs and came to realize that the blogosphere has great potential for ministry. Shortly after this, I planned to start using "My Blog," which had been lying dormant for six months, with the beginning of DBTS’s fall semester. So in late August of 2007, I set up my first post with my Hebrew Syntax and Reading class serving as my guinea pigs, "Hebrew Syntax & Reading First Day."

Why then did I change the name "My Blog" to "Fearing God in a Hebel World"? The change was for two reasons. First, "My Blog" was initially an afterthought and was a banal title. I wanted to change the name so that it was coordinate with some of my exegetical work at DBTS. Second, and more specifically, I have chosen a name that is derived from my study of Ecclesiastes. The word hebel is taken from Ecclesiastes 1:2 ESV, or, which may be rendered with some transliteration as, “Hebel of hebels, all is hebel.” This word is often translated as "vanity"; however, I have taken it as “puzzling” or “enigmatic.” Solomon describes all of life on earth as “puzzling.” However, "puzzling" does not pick up the sense of frustration that Solomon experienced when he attempted to live independently of the living God. In the first issue of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, I wrote an article in 1996 entitled "The Message of Ecclesiastes." In this article, I supported taking hebel as "frustratingly enigmatic." This was the type of world that Solomon lived; and it is also the type of world in which we live. This is what life is like in a sin-cursed world. The change in the name of my weblog focuses on the area of biblical study where I have my greatest interest, Ecclesiastes, though I will continue to provides posts on Psalms (and, other areas where I have interest, especially recent creationism) as I warm up for the summer school class that I plan to teach in the summer of 2008, "Understanding the Psalms." Because I want to connect my weblog to Ecclesiastes, I linked Solomon’s final exhortation, “fear God” (Eccl 12:13) with the subject of Ecclesiastes, “the frustratingly enigmatic nature of life on earth” (Eccl 1:2). At this point, it is easier to transliterate hebel than to translate it. Thus, the title “Fearing God in a Hebel World.” Now my title focuses on only one response to life in hebel world: fear God. However, there is another recurring response in Ecclesiastes that we should not exclude with this explanatory post: the celebration-of-life motif. I have attempted to catch this nuance with the picture I have used with this post. Notice the picture’s title, "Carpe Diem" ("Seize the Day") is connected to a sundial that reflects living "under the sun." In essence, the enjoyment-of-life motif is a challenge to judiciously use the gifts that God has given us while we exist on earth and to seize the momentary use of these gifts in a God fearing manner. In light of this, I could have called my weblog: "Life in a sin-cursed world can properly be enjoyed when one has a vital relationship with the sovereign God who holds mankind accountable." However, this title is too complex; how could I squeeze this title onto a header. At the end of the day, the title that most captures the message of Ecclesiastes is "Fearing God in a Hebel World." This was the quest of Solomon’s life and it is also my quest, though I am greatly hindered because I am not a king and am lacking one or two of his shekels. In the near future, some form of this title will be one of the main subjects on my home page: Old Testament Studies. Keep your eyes posted for this change.

  1. The opinions that I express on my website and blog relate to my own interests and do not reflect the views of either Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary or Inter-City Baptist Church.

Ancient Protein “Resurrected”? – Answers in Genesis

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In late August, an article in the Higher Education section of The News & Observer entitled “Study maps evolution’s tiny steps: UNC researchers outline molecular changes, rebutting the creationist view” caught my attention. The lead paragraph magnanimously sets forth that “for the first time, scientists have drawn a detailed map of the evolutionary steps taken by a protein that links modern humans to a creature that swam in the oceans 450 million years ago.” The article gleefully continues, “The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, provides further rebuttal to creationists by filling in the gaps that show how evolution occurred on a molecular level.” This evolutionary map that traces humanity’s heritage back 450 million years sounds so preposterous you must wonder whether the conclusions drawn from this project were driven more by the researchers’ presuppositions or indisputable data. Dr. Georgia Purdom, with Answers in Genesis, incisively demonstrates that the real issue was not the evidence but the a priori assumptions of the researches. Take time to read Dr. Purdom’s constructive article, “Ancient Protein ‘Resurrected’?

Divorce and Remarriage Update

In follow-up to my post on October 22, “Divorce and Remarriage,” I wanted to call your attention to David Instone-Brewer’s blog where he provides a response to a number of criticisms related to his CT article on October 5. To follow his responses, you need to follow each of the posts addressed on the left hand side of the page. For example, one of his posts is entitled “Jesus silent about other grounds.” To read this post, you simply need to click on it and you are next taken to his discussion. To read his response to John Piper’s view of divorce, click the post “John Piper on Divorce” and you are then taken to this post. Since God fearing people have reflected different interpretative slants on divorce and remarriage over many years of Jewish and Christian history, I appreciated the charitable spirit in which Instone-Brewer articulated his differences with the position that Piper holds. David Instone-Brewer’s responses are engaging and you will profit by reading them.

Divorce and Remarriage

I have been following with intrigue three recent articles on divorce and remarriage. Initially on October 5, 2007, Christianity Today posted an article by David Instone-Brewer, “What God Has Joined.” This CT article is a condensation of two earlier books that Instone-Brewer had written: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible and Divorce and Remarriage in the Church. To this article, John Piper wrote a strong response in disagreement with Instone-Brewer, “Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce.” Piper’s disagreement with the position that Instone-Brewer supports is also reflected in three chapters of an earlier book, What Jesus Demands of the World (you should also note Instone-Brewer’s response to Piper’s criticisms, “More from David Instone-Brewer on Divorce“). To thicken the plot, Andreas Köstenberger responded to both articles by challenging both Instone-Brewer’s and Piper’s interpretation of Matthew 19:9, “Clarifying the NT Teaching on Divorce.” Like Instone-Brewer and Piper, Köstenberger also wrote a previous book dealing with this subject, God, Marriage, and Family.

Because this is such a significant issue in our culture, I would suggest that you read these works. And, while you are reading these, you should also add an earlier article by Joe M. Sprinkle, “Old Testament Perspective on Divorce and Remarriage,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (December 1997): 529–50. While Sprinkle was doing his research for this article, Gordon P. Hugenberger wrote what is IMNSHO a definitive work on Malachi 2:10-16: Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi. In many heated debates that I have heard over the years about God’s opposition to all divorce, the use of God’s hatred of divorce in Malachi 2:16 is the coup de grâce in some of these exchanges. Whatever else Hugenberger demonstrates, he cogently argues that Malachi 2:16 ESV cannot be used as the coup de grâce on all divorce. While the point of this post is not to solve all the biblical issues with marriage, divorce and remarriage, the point is to challenge you to study these issues. We are called to preach the gospel of Christ to a fallen world, comprised of all types of sinners many of whom have experienced the negative impact of fractured families, and to edify a church made up of regenerated sinners, with a growing number who have experienced the unfortunate ramifications associated with divorce. We must synthesize what the whole counsel of God has to say on the subjects of marriage, divorce, and remarriage and then be able to biblically proclaim what God has to say on these subjects. May God help us to be biblically informed and effectively teach his biblical truth on these subjects.

Final Thoughts on MACP

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Yesterday, this year’s Mid-America Conference on Preaching (“Learning from the Past, Pressing toward the Future“) was brought to a great conclusion with a good banquet followed by Dr. Doug McLachlan’s great message on 1 Timothy 3:15. Over 230 attended this year’s MACP. This year’s speakers included Drs. Doug McLachlan, Mark Minnick, Sam Horn, Dave Saxon, David Doran, along with the faculty of DBTS.

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Mike Huckabee the last “right” candidate

After yesterday’s MACP, I wanted to check out the Cleveland and Boston baseball game. Later in the game when Boston seemed to be clearly in control of the game, I turned on FoxNews to listen to Bill O’Reilly interview Dick Morris about the Republican presidential race (apparently the Indians were also taking a break from the game, though I doubt they were listening to Bill O’Reilly). According to Morris, Mike Huckabee has moved ahead of McCain in Iowa. Morris noted that Huckabee is the last right wing conservative left in the Republican field. Check out Morris’ article “Huckabee is the Right Wings’ Last Survivor.” It is unlikely that a candidate as conservative as Huckabee and with a last name like Huckabee could get the Republican nod. However, he is refreshing to listen to and is picking up some support, as may be reflected by NYT’s David Brooks’ article. For years, I have asked myself: “Can anything politically good come out of Arkansas?” Perhaps, I may have to stop asking this question.

The MACP Begins Tomorrow Morning

The Mid-America Conference on Preaching is planned by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and held at Inter-City Baptist Church. The MACP has been held annually since 1991. The title of this year’s conference is “Learning from the Past, Pressing toward the Future” and will run from tomorrow, October 18, through Friday, October 19. For more information go to www.dbts.edu

Registration begins tomorrow morning between 8:00-8:45 am To register, you should go to Room 1 at Inter-City Baptist Church. Fill out the necessary registration material and also pick up your conference materials. A light breakfast will also be available from 8-8:45 a.m. before the first General Session begins at 9 a.m. in the church auditorium. All of the pertinent information about the details for the conference will be part of the conference materials.

You should also note that the appropriate attire for men is business casual and for the ladies a casual skirt or dress.

Initial Thoughts on the ESV Literary Study Bible

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A week ago, I received the much-anticipated ESV Literary Study Bible (ESVLSB), and I wanted to post some of my initial reactions to this new study Bible. As many of us know, this is not the first edition of the English Standard Version. Rather the ESV was first published in 2001 and, at that time, I received a copy of it. After a few years of dabbling with the ESV, I began to use it more consistently in 2004. While holding a Bible conference in 2005 at a church that used the ESV, I purchased ESV: The Reformation Study Bible. Subsequently, I began to use the ESV as my preferred literal or formal translation, though I use many other versions since all legitimate translations reflect a substantive preservation of the autographs. Since I teach Hebrew, I encourage my students that, after they have done their own complete original translation, they should consult three different types of translations to check their work. They should begin with a Bible that uses a formal equivalence translation philosophy, such as the ESV or NASB. Next, they should check a functional equivalence Bible, such as NLT or CEV, and then a Bible that is somewhere in between these two translation philosophies, such as NIV or NET Bible. These last two types of translation should assist them in refining their own English translation. Since I am committed to the original language texts that undergird all acceptable translation work, my commitment in the Old Testament is to Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and in the New Testament to the Greek New Testament (UBS4) (though my knowledge of Greek is not the same as when I did my doctoral work). However, because my knowledge of Hebrew is more a grammatical understanding, rather than an intuitive knowledge of the language, my own oral translations are more often than not coordinate with a rendering that is similar to the ESV.

When I first read about the ESV Literary Study Bible, I had some favorable expectations because of the two editors, Dr. Leland Ryken, Clyde S. Kilby professor of English at Wheaton College, and his son, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken, senior pastor at the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. For those who have taken any of my classes related to Old Testament poetic literature, Dr. Leland Ryken’s name should bring to mind favorable memories since I require my students in these types of classes to read a few of the books that he has written. One of my favorites is Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible.

Over this past week, I have been reading segments from Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes. My initial reactions have been positive. While this is a study Bible, it is not the same as other study Bibles that I have used (for example, NAS Ryrie Study Bible, NIV: Study Bible, The MacArthur Study Bible, and ESV: The Reformation Study Bible). Like other study Bibles, ESVLSB contains a commentary on the biblical text; however, what is different is that ESVLSB places its comments as headnotes rather footnotes. In addition, the headnotes do not focus on the types of comments other study Bibles have, but rather on giving the reader reflective notes about the genre of a given text and its structural unity, as well as developing other significant rhetorical features. Furthermore, ESVLSB provides an introduction to each book that focus on the following kinds of issues: general information about the book, genre, key motifs, stylistic and rhetorical features, issues that relate to human experience, the development of a book’s message as well as how a specific book’s message relates to the overall message of the Bible. Another beneficial feature is the “Glossary of Terms and Genres” at the end of book on pages 1883-1900. One final positive item is that you can currently receive a 40% discount if you order this study Bible from Westminster Books.

Let me make three observations about the books that I have examined. First, the introductory items discussed for the book of Job are good: the book at a glance, genres, keys to enjoying and understanding the book of Job, how to avoid misinterpreting the book, unifying frameworks, inferred literary intentions, theological themes, and the book of Job as a chapter in the master story of the Bible. IMNSHO, ESVLSB has the correct understanding of the Elihu speeches (read each of the five introductory notes that precede Job 32-37 ESV). The introduction for each segment of the God speeches in Job 38-42 ESV is insightful. Further, after a four-page introduction to the Psalms, ESVLSB provides a one-paragraph introduction to each psalm, which identifies a psalm’s subject, genre, key rhetorical features, and structural arrangement. I have wished for years that someone would see the need to develop this type of approach for the Psalms and I am glad to see this has finally arrived in the ESVLSB. Third, ESVLSB‘s notes on Ecclesiastes are insightful. Anyone who sees that Ecclesiastes has some value for normative theology will appreciate this note on page 970: “The book of Ecclesiastes has been aptly called the most contemporary or modern book in the Bible.”

Since my objective is only to give my preliminary impressions of Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, you’ll want to read what others have said for a more thorough review of ESVLSB. Endorsements for this study Bible may be found at Between Two Worlds and Dispatches from the Post Evangelical Wilderness. You may also want to read a couple of interviews with both Dr. Leland Ryken and Dr. Philip Graham Ryken at Mongergism.com and at Westminster Bookstore Blog. Initially, I thank God for tools, like ESVLSB, that divine providence has made available for us to effectively study Scripture. Since I still have 63 other books in ESVLSB to read, these are only my initial thoughts. Since ESVLSB‘s notes for Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes are a delight to read, I anticipate that my trek through the remainder of this study Bible will be equally profitable.

Discernment and the Presidential Election in 2008

Since I have neither listened to all the debates by the Republican presidential hopefuls nor have I read all the Republican experts, I need to do more research to determine which Republican meets my basic moral objectives. Though I doubt that Mike Huckabee could generate the necessary Republican support for the presidential nomination, he seemingly has the moral values that I like. However, the reality is that Rudy Guilliani has the potential to get the Republican nomination. If Guilliani should get the Republican nod, what is the Christian to do with his vote? A coalition of conservative Christians, lead by men such as Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, is threatening to back a third-party candidate. Should Bible believers look for a third-party candidate? Before you make a decision to vote for a third-party candidate, you should read Justin Taylor’s brief, yet provocative and insightful article that he posted on October 10: Between Two Worlds: Guiliani vs. Clinton: What Should Pro-Lifers Do If It Comes Down to Two Pro-Choice Candidates? We live in a sin-cursed world and God expects us to be salt and light in a pluralistic culture. So we must vote in such a way to preserve the best long-range good for our culture (a failure to vote is unwise stewardship). And, our vote must factor in not only a candidate’s position on abortion but also, though not limited to, the type of judges he will appoint. May God grant that we vote with discernment in 2008.