Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 9)

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I have been delinquent in completing my series on Proverbs. I will do six more parts to complete this series. In part 8, we began looking at literary clues in specific contexts in Proverbs. With this post, we will finish looking at these clues in explicit settings.

B. Other Literary Clues

1. One-Line Sayings & the Use of a “Punch-Word”

This type of one-line saying, built on the model of contrastive parallelism, may show a certain emphasis through the use of a “punch-word” (Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, p. 168). An example of this is seen in Proverbs 11:1.

A-false balance is-an-abomination to-the-LORD.

But-a-just weight is-His-delight.

In Hebrew this proverb takes seven words, four in the first line and three in the second. I have hyphenated the terms to reflect which expressions were one word in the Hebrew text. The antithesis of “a-false balance” is “but-a-just weight.” The two Hebrew terms, “an-abominations to-the-LORD,” are compressed into a significant one-word counterpart with “His-delight.” Both of these latter expressions are strong theological descriptions of that which is an abhorrence and a pleasure in God’s sight. The counterpart of “an-abomination to-the-LORD” is the theological punch-word “His-pleasure” (ibid.). This compressed punch-word is a theologically satisfying emphasis of this one-verse unit. In contrast to that which is abominable in His sight, this verse affirms that God’s pleasure is found not only in worship but even in the marketplace.

2. One-Line Sayings & the Parallelism of Specification or Intensification

Other one-line sayings, built on the parallelism of specification or intensification, may reflect a “consequentiality.” This type of proverb shows that certain types of activity generally lead to certain types of consequences. This is to say, it reflects that God has created and governs the world and man in such a way that certain consequences are generally the result of specific actions. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). God has designed life in such a way that when parents seriously instruct their children according to a godly pattern, the consequence is that they generally share the same godly patterns as their parents. In a modified manner, we see another example in 21:31, “The horse is prepared for battle, but victory belongs to the LORD.” The first part of the verse focuses on preparing the horse for battle. The last half moves to the conclusion of the battle. The last half is unexpected in that we have a new figure introduced into a proverbial equation, “the LORD” (ibid., pp. 172–73). This is to say, we do not have a strict cause-and-effect relationship between the first half of the verse and the second. However, from the sage’s vantage point, God is the ultimate cause for everything in life.

3. One-Line Sayings & the Riddle Format

One-line sayings may also reflect a type of riddle format. The riddle format not only includes a riddle, but it may also include a perplexing statement or an image. The pattern of this format will have a riddle, perplexing statement, or image introduced in the first half of a verse with the second half explaining it. A perplexing and shocking image is used in Proverbs 11:22, “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” The image in the first half of the verse would have been repulsive and ludicrous to a Jew. How foolish it is to think that a gold ring could beautify a pig. The second half makes the point. An undiscerning and ungodly beautiful woman is comparable to the same attempt to beautify a repulsive pig. Another example is 17:12, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.” A fool in his folly is a greater danger than meeting a bear that has been robbed of her cubs (ibid., pp. 176–78). As Alden has said, “Consider meeting a fool with a knife, or gun, or even behind the wheel of a car; a mother bear could be less dangerous” (Proverbs, p. 134).

With our next post on Proverbs, we will look at the fifth principle for interpreting Proverbs.

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Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 1)

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In my Biblical Creation class this past Monday, I covered more than half of my fourth lesson that focuses on figurative interpretations of the days of creation. We looked at four of these interpretations: theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creationism, and the framework interpretation.

Theistic evolution, recently labeled by one of its current advocates as “the fully gifted creation,” argues that God created inorganic matter that contained properties with the potential to evolve into the wide variety of life forms presently observable. The advocates of this view affirm that God “created” all current life forms over extended geological ages and through random mutations and natural selection.

The day-age view maintains that the six days of the creation week were six
chronologically-arranged geological ages. This “concordist” position is supported by two primary arguments. The first is that the Hebrew term yôm (“day”) can be used figuratively to refer to an extended period of time, as it does, for example, in the expression, “the day of the LORD.” The second argument relies on the results of modern scientific dating. As such, the obvious advantage of this view is that it harmonizes the Bible with the current scientific estimate for a 4.5 billion year old earth.

Progressive creationism is distinct from theistic evolution in that progressive creationists postulate that God, while using evolution, intervenes at key junctures to create life forms that would not naturally evolve. In reference to God’s involvement in evolution, theistic evolutionists postulate that God created all current forms of living things from non-living matter by strictly using the mechanism of evolution. In contrast to this, progressive creationists assert that God progressively intervenes in many places to create specific life forms in the course of billions of years. In reality, the progressive creationist view is very similar, if not at times identical to the day-age view, though progressive creationist defenders do not tend to promote it as a concordist understanding, which often focuses on harmonizing the so-called findings of Scripture with the progression related to the unfolding of the days of the creation week.

The framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. Framework defenders supports this hypothesis with three primary arguments. First, they contend that the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is arranged topically rather than chronologically. The following chart reflects the framework’s literary frame.

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The parallel nature of days 1–3 with days 4–6 reflect that this is something of a poetic account which overrides the sequential numbering of the creation days. Second, it is argued that the unending character of the seventh day (Heb 4:3–4 cites Gen 2:2) indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days. This argument is a fundamental aspect of the framework. If the seventh day of the creation week is a continuous day, then the days of the creation week are also long periods of time, heavenly time as opposed to earthly time. Third, those framework advocates who follow Meredith Kline’s version of this position also argue that God used ordinary providence (i.e., the non-miraculous sustaining and directing of all creation) to control the creation “week.” This argument is predicated on interpreting “because it had not rained” in Genesis 2:5 as suggesting that God did not create plants until he first created an environment conducive to sustain plants Based upon what Kline calls “the unargued presupposition of Gen 2:5,” he infers that God primarily used ordinary providence to control the creation “week.” Thus, Genesis 1:1–2:3 cannot be a sequential account because, for example, vegetation was created on third day before the sun was created on the fourth day.

In our next class on March 8, we will look at the major problems with these four views.

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Update on Coming to Grips with Genesis

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Last month I was told that Coming to Grips with Genesis has sold over 8,800 copies. Because this book is a defense of biblical authority and the age of the earth, I am convinced that if we are to preserve the foundation for orthodox Christianity this is a must read. However, since I was one of fourteen contributors to it (for more information, click here), I must admit that I may have a little prejudice.

I am attempting to keep track of reviews dealing with Coming to Grips with Genesis. Here are a three reviews.

    Dr. Michael J. Vlach’s review, 20 (Spring 2009), The Master’s Seminary Journal, pp. 114-116.
    Rev. Ronald L. Cammenga’s review, 42 (April 2009), The Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, pp. 146–48.
    Dr. Matthew A. Postiff’s review, 14 (2009) Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, pp. 109–21. To read this review, follow the links in this blog entry.

If you have not purchased Coming to Grips with Genesis, you can purchase it from DBTS’s Online Store.

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The Nature of Creation (Part 2)

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With this post, I will summarize our biblical creation classes from the first two Monday’s in February.

On February 1, I gave a brief commentary on significant articles and books cited in our 19-page bibliography (pages 100–119 of our syllabus). We also encountered a problem when a bulb in our projector burned out. In this class, we finished covering the last three of five arguments used to support the 24-hour day view (numeric qualifiers and the singular “day,” Scriptural parallels with “day,” and the sequence of events in the creation week and “day”). We concluded the class by initially looking at the first of four objections to literal creation days. This objection relates to the use of the seventh day (Gen 2:1-3) to argue against the 24-hour day view. If someone can prove that the seventh day is ongoing, then they are in a position to negate the literal substance of the previous six days in the creation week. To rebut this point, I noted that there is a twofold significance for the omission of the “evening” and “morning” on the seventh day of Genesis 2:1–3. Initially, the “evening-morning” conclusion is one part of a fivefold structure that Moses uses in shaping the literary fabric for each of the creation days (divine speech, “God said”; fiat, “let there be” or an equivalent; fulfillment, “there was” etc.; evaluation “God saw that it was good,” though it is omitted on day 2; conclusion, “there was evening and there was morning”). The omission of some of the fivefold framework, such as fiat, fulfillment, evening and morning, is because this was not a day on which any creative activity took place. Further, the “evening-morning” conclusion has another rhetorical effect in that it also functions as transition to the following day of creation. This transition is unnecessary on day 7 since creation is complete.

In our class presentation on February 8, we finished looking at our lesson on the nature of creation. We covered two areas: answering objections to literal creation days and four observations from the creation week. About the first area, I concluded looking at the first objection about the seventh day, in Genesis 2:1-3, being an ongoing day. More specifically, we looked at three biblical texts used to support the seventh day being an extended period of time: John 5:17, Psalm 95:7-11, and Hebrews 4:3-11. The second objection focuses on the use of “day” in Genesis 2:4 as supporting that day can refer to an extended period of time and thus undermining the 24-hour day view. The third one relates to two texts connecting “day” with a 1000 years: Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. The fourth objection maintains that too many activities took place on day 6 for it to be a literal day (for my more fully developed response to these objections, see pages 112-22 of my article “A Defense of Literal Days in the Creation Week.” Concerning the second area, we drew four observations from the creation account: God’s creative activities were supernatural, sudden, functionally mature (items such as fruit trees bearing fruit, stars visible from the earth, Adam and Eve as adults, to name a few), and God’s creative activities reflect that He is the self-existent, eternal Creator God (adapted from John C. Whitcomb’s The Early Earth).

With our lesson on February 15, the class objective is to look more precisely at the creation of the heavens and the earth.

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Phil Johnson’s “Miracles and Acts of Providence”

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On a number of occasions, I have heard sincere believers thank God for his miraculous work in answering prayer. This type of testimony often gives me theological heart burn. On a few occasions, I have attempted to reason with a sincere believer making this claim. I make the point that a believer who trusts in a God who uses providence is just as much an act of faith as those in biblical times who occasionally had their prayers answered with a miracle. While excluding the miracle of regeneration, I explain why miracles do not take place today and that God has been working through providence since the closing of the New Testament canon. Earlier this morning, I rejoiced to read a great blog entry by Phil Johnson who uses a real-life illustration to make this same type of clarification about miracle and providence.

In this post, he clearly distinguishes between between “superstition” and “miracle” (you can see this distinction about 2/3 of the way into the entry). In reference to miracle, he helpfully defines a miracle as “a particular kind of sign—an unmistakable display of supernatural power calculated to confront unbelief and provoke awe—with the purpose of authenticating an agent of divine revelation. True miracles are not merely arbitrary displays of God’s power; they are manifestly supernatural and are themselves a form of revelation.”

Phil further clearly maintains that in God’s providence he still answers the prayer of faith. His conclusion is worth noting: “The faith that sees the hand of God in the natural outworking of divine providence (and understands that God is sovereign over every detail of everything that happens) is not a lesser faith than the kind of belief that can only see God at work when He intervenes in spectacular, supernatural, and miraculous ways.” This is an entry you do not want to miss. To read it fully, go to “Miracles and Acts of Providence

HT: Mark Snoeberger

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The Nature of Creation (Part 1)

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On January 25, we began looking at the nature of creation in my Biblical Creation class. Initially, I covered the events treated in Genesis 1:1-31. After this, we began looking at the duration of each of the six days in the creation week. Initially, I covered the events treated in Genesis 1:1-31. After this, we began looking at the duration of each of the six days in the creation week.

As I have defended in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, each day of the creation week was a normal literal day. I treated two of five arguments that support the 24-hour day view: (1) the semantics of the singular use of “day” and (2) “evening” and “morning” as qualifiers of “day.” In reference to the first argument, the Hebrew word translated as “day,” yom is always used of a literal day when it_ appears alone as a singular noun (for an excellent treatment of 24-hour day view, see Gerhard F. Hasel’s “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1,” Origins journal 21 [1994]: 5–38. About the second point, the qualifying expression “evening” and “morning,” used with the conclusion of each day of creation week, supports the literal day interpretation. A literal understanding of “day” is consistent with other Old Testament uses of “evening” and “morning.” Further, the general framework for each of the creation days also indicates that “evening” and “morning” are used to describe the completion of each day.

On February 8, I will finish a defense of literal creation day and then answer a number of common objections.

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Biblical Creationism (9)125

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DBTS started the spring semester of 2010 on Monday evening, January 18. One of DBTS’s professors teaches a Monday class each semester. This semester is my turn to teach the Monday night class and I am teaching one of my favorite courses Biblical Creationism.

On January 18, we covered the course requirements and the first five pages of our notes on the class introduction. With the introduction, we looked at four reasons for studying biblical creationism and the content that we will cover in the class. In a nut shell, here is the content I will cover.

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If you are interested in looking at the bibliography for this class, you can download it from here.

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A Young-Earth Creationist’s Response to Erickson, Grudem, and Lewis and Demarest

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I did a post on November 23 about Dr. Terry Mortenson‘s response to William Dembski’s theodicy. In the current issue of the Answers Research Journal, Terry initially provides evidence that supports a young-earth creationist position followed by his response to the treatment of the age of the earth presented in three well-known theologies (Erickson, Grudem, and Lewis & Demarest). Here is the abstract for this article.

In the past few decades there has been a growing controversy in society and in the Church over evolution and the age of the earth. Some Christians accept the idea of billions of years, as taught by the scientific establishment, while others contend that Scripture requires that we believe that creation is only a few thousand years old. Systematic theology texts are influential in this debate as they are used in the training of future pastors, missionaries, and seminary and Christian college professors and are also read by many lay people, thus affecting the Church’s witness. After briefly explaining the evidence in defense of the young-earth creationist view and why this subject is important, three deservedly respected theology textbooks will be examined regarding their teachings on the age of the earth. It will be argued that in spite of their many helpful remarks, these scholars have not adequately explained the biblical truth on this subject nor have they persuasively defended their old-earth positions and provided convincing rebuttals to the young-earth view. On this subject then, I conclude, these systematic theology texts are not helping but rather hindering the Church in her witness in our evolutionized world.

To read the full article, go to the Answers Research Journal.

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A Young-Earth Creationist’s Response to Dembski’s Theodicy

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Before I left for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I ran out of time to do a post about a good journal article I read by Dr. Terry Mortenson in the Answers Research Journal: “Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science: A Young-Earth Creationist Response to William Dembski.”

While at ETS, I was keenly reminded that biblical creationism is a foundational issue for developing a biblical worldview. How can one claim to hold to a literal Fall of Adam and curse on the created world order (Rom 5, 8), yet argue that there were millions of years of pain, suffering and death before the Fall? The truth is that this type of interpretation cannot be consistently defended with the Bible. Any denial of and apathy towards this subject among evangelicals is distressing and will minimize a consistent Christian witness. In keeping with the importance of biblical creationism and its relevance for developing an exegetical and theological Christian theodicy, let me encourage you to take some time to read Dr. Mortenson’s important critique of Dembski’s theodicy.

Here is the article’s abstract

The problem of evil is always a challenge for the Christian witness. Human suffering and moral evil are relatively easy for the apologist to explain, and the Fall of Adam is a key to that explanation. But the thornier question is that of natural evil (disasters like hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes) that kill not only people but innocent animals. In particular, if we accept millions of years of animal death, disease, and extinction before Adam was even created, how do we explain that in light of God’s attributes and purposes? William Dembski has published a 54-page response to this question. He explains his reasons for rejecting the young-earth creationist theodicy and several old-earth theodicies and proposes a solution that accommodates the millions of years of natural evil which evolutionary scientists insist occurred before man appeared. This paper will analyze and critique Dembski’s proposal, showing it to be inadequate and inconsistent with Scripture and contending that only the young-earth view gives an adequate and biblically sound answer to the problem of natural evil. It is there a powerful apologetic ot make the Christian witness effective in our evolutionized world.

To read a PDF of the full article, go here.

HT: Fred Butler

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Critique of Coming to Grips with Genesis

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On July 10 I did a post about a biblical creation seminar DBTS offered in this past spring semester. With this entry, I mentioned that the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal would have a review of Coming to Grips with Genesis in its 2009 edition (to subscribe to the journal, go here). Last month volume 14 of the journal was released and in it Dr. Matt Postiff has a rigorous, yet positive review of this book (to get a great discount with purchasing the book, to the DBTS Store).

I highly recommend that you read Dr. Postiff’s review. He is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Ann Arbor, MI. He has received a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. After earning his Ph.D., he earned a Master of Divinity from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005 and is currently writing his Master of Theology thesis on Middle Knowledge: “How God Knows Counterfactuals.” Lord willing, he should be awarded the Master of Theology degree in May of 2010 (to read more about Dr. Postiff, go to his church’s website).

Though Matt makes some recommendations to improve a second edition of Coming to Grips with Genesis, he highly recommends purchasing and using the book with these words: “The book is a scholarly, biblical, and comprehensive defense of the young-earth view. The authors easily achieved their immediate goal–to present the key arguments for the young-earth view. They also successfully raised the issue that the age of the creation has a serious impact on foundational truths of the Christian faith. Issues such as the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture and consistency in hermeneutics are indeed at stake. The authors wisely avoid the error of making the young-earth view a fundamental of the faith. A major strength of the book is that it is a compilation of works by authors whose expertise is particularly focused on the topics on which they write.” To read his full review, go here.

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