Vos Study #4

Time for Vos study #4!

The assigned reading is the entire small chapter #2, The Mapping Out of the Field of Revelation, which considers the fourfold division of General (Natural) vs Special (Supernatural), and pre-fall vs post-fall, Revelation.

One thing I noticed was that Vos has a category for pre-fall Special Revelation, but it is explicitly not Redemptive. This discussion of probation is interesting when balanced with FV insistence that the COW was gracious (in these quotes, emphasis is always mine):

The provision of this new, higher prospect for man was an act of condescension and high favour. God was in no wise bound on the principle of justice to extend it to man, and we mean this denial not merely in the general sense in which we affirm that God owes nothing to man, but in the very specific sense that there was nothing in the nature of man nor of his creation, which by manner of implication could entitle man to such a favour from God.

Those are strong words, but I think still completely in sync with MGK’s assessment that there was “not a gram of grace” in the COW.

In the podcast, Bucey and Tipton take their w-w shots at Natural Theology, which is probably not unexpected from avowed Van Tillians, but I think they push Vos farther than he himself would go. Here’s what Vos actually wrote :

Redemption in a supernatural way restores to fallen man also the normalcy and efficiency of his cognition of God in the sphere of nature. How true this is may be seen from the fact that the best system of Theism, i.e. Natural Theology, has not been produced from the sphere of heathenism, however splendidly endowed in the cultivation of philosophy, but from Christian sources. When we produce a system of natural knowledge of God, and in doing so profess to rely exclusively on the resources of reason, this is, of course, formally correct, but it remains an open question whether we should have been able to produce such a thing with the degree of excellence we succeeded in imparting to it, had not our minds in the natural exercise of their faculties stood under the correcting influence of redemptive grace.

The most important function of Special Revelation, however, under the regime of sin, does not lie in the correction and renewal of the faculty of perception of natural verities; it consists in the introduction of an altogether new world of truth, that relating to the redemption of man. … Nature cannot unlock the door of redemption.

Contrariwise, Bucey&Tipton made the question sound entirely closed. And immediately in the next paragraph is a tough pill for the w-w crowd to swallow, mitigating the importance of Special Revelation for natural understanding.

Another great quote:

Many new things belong to [post-fall, redemptive Special Revelation], but they can all be subsumed under the categories of justice and grace as the two poles around which henceforth the redeeming self-disclosure of God revolves. All the new processes and experiences which the redeemed man undergoes can be brought back to the one of the other of these two.

You gotta love some good strong Law&Gospel.

The bulk of the rest of the chapter deals with the Hebrew berith as covenant (I don’t recall MGK including Vos in his discussion of various definitions of ‘covenant’), and the choice facing the translators of the Septuagint and the writers of the New Testament to use either diatheke or syntheke. Ultimately, it seems syntheke was rejected because of its undue stress on the equality (syn-?) of both parties, and diatheke used even though it usually implied the death of the Testator (see Heb 9:16ff). There is apparently a less common usage of diatheke for “a disposition that some one made for himself” without regard to death, that was what the biblical writers were getting at.

However, this whole discussion raised in my mind the question of why God would ordain that the language that the NT would be written in would not offer a more suitable word to correspond with berith?

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Finding Christ in Adam’s Rib

I recently visited another church (for a family baptism), and after the sermon on Gen 2:18-25 (the account of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib)I was left wondering how Christ could be preached directly from this passage. (As it happened, the gospel was included via Eph 5 on Christ and the church as head and bride, but it didn’t really seem organically connected.)

So I’m wondering, how legitimate is it to see death and resurrection in Adam’s sleep, and (bloody?) sacrifice “for” his bride?

Or on the other hand, can Christ be seen at all in Eve, who is of Adam’s own nature and substance, uniquely suited to be his “helper” (a la HC16)? (It was noted in the sermon that the Hebrew word for “helper” is most often used of God as redeemer, quite often in the Psalms.) If not an actual type of Christ, perhaps a lesser-to-greater argument can get us from the necessity of “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” for Eve’s this-worldly helper-ness, to the necessessity of Christ’s being “very man” for his redemptive helper-ness?

What do you think? (Or to what can you link?)

Posted in Creation, Protestant preaching, The gospel | 3 Comments

Reading Scripture Together: Kindle edition


A few weeks ago I posted about Reading Scripture Together: A Comparative Qur’an and Bible Study Guide, by my aunt, Barbara Hampton. While it is still available in its original paperback form, it is now also available in an extra crispy Kindle edition!

The Kindle edition is priced at $4.99, but we set it up with Amazon’s “MatchBook” feature, so anybody who buys the paperback should be able to get the Kindle edition also for just 99 cents. (I don’t know how that works with anybody that might have bought the paperback already; if anybody has problems with MatchBook, drop a comment below and I will contact you offline and make sure it gets taken care of.)

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The Gospel According to Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly, discussing his youthdom in Catholic school:

I never met a  priest on earth who could tell you anything about heaven, but they knew every square inch of hell. Robert Burns said he can only presume it’s because they’ve had a guided tour of the place. When I started Catholic school sister Philomena was the headmistress, and she had pictures of hell on her office wall. I guess it was from Dante’s Inferno. Because God’s Dead, and it’s Your Fault. That’s what always got me. He died for me, but I hadn’t been born yet.

Unfortunately, that spark didn’t take, and the cat-lickers managed to turn him off from faith altogether.

The quote is from conversation in this interview (with some back-and-forth edited out). Warning, if you can’t tell from the name of the podcast, that interview is full of unsanctified words.

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Vos Study #3

Vos study #3 was posted on Valentine’s Day; this review is a few weeks late, but I had time to listen to the podcast twice!

The assigned reading is the back half of chapter 1, covering the infallible nature of inspiration/revelation, the relation of BT to other disciplines (ST, etc), Vos objections to the term “Biblical Theology”, and practical uses of BT.

All that is great, but rather than reiterate what is in the book, I want to highlight two parts of this podcast that were especially helpful in bringing in outside material.

First, at about 12 minutes in, Tipton explains some of the competing perspectives that were in the background that Vos is opposing. First off, the liberal view of inspiration is exemplified by Schleiermacher, who views scripture as a record of human feeling (“gefühl”), so the words of scripture are a “dispensable doctrinal husk”, and BT becomes a study of religious history, in which studying Isaiah is no different than studying Augustine. On the other hand, the neo-orthodox (Barth) view is that scripture is an errant, human witness (inspired by God only in some vague, indirect way), which God chooses after the fact to quicken to his purposes.

Later in the podcast (about 44 min), when discussing the relation of BT to “Biblical Introduction” (author, audience, occasion, historical context, etc.), Tipton provides concrete examples of two approaches to this. First off, there is Peter Enns, who in the introduction to his book Inspiration and Incarnation, says “my aim is to allow the collective [extra-biblical] evidence to affect not just how we understand a biblical passage or story here and there within the parameters of early doctrinal formulations; rather I want to move beyond that and allow the evidence to affect how we think about what scripture as a whole is” (Enns’ own emphasis). That’s bad, m’kay. As a better example, they offer OHS MGK and his use of suzerain-vassal treaty structure to provide informative, not normative context to our understanding of God’s covenantal dealings with his people.

Great stuff, stay tuned for study #4!

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Reading Scripture Together


I am very pleased to announce the release on Amazon of a study guide written my dear Aunt Barbara: Reading Scripture Together: A Comparative Bible and Qur’an Study Guide. Barb has been studying Islam (and the Bible), and working with InterVarsity and coaching college writing and teaching ESL and dialoguing with students for decades. Now she has finally brought all this experience together in this study guide, which is designed for you and your Muslim friend or neighbor to sit down together and delve into the Bible and Qur’an side-by-side, and develop a dialogue that can lead to the truth.

I think this bit from the Introduction sets a unique tone:

[Genuine dialogue] is not an agreement that all paths up the spiritual mountain to God are equal and equally valid. This pluralism, while commonly expressed on campuses and in the media and passing for dialogue today, is an insult to people of faith who believe that their religion is true, and that others which differ from it are therefore not true, or at least not completely true.

Neither is an “I’m right; you’re wrong,” closed-minded, tit-for-tat exchange a genuine dialogue. While dialogue partners may well believe they are correct, they maintain a deep respect for the other person.

There are 7 studies in the guide, each containing a bible passage and a qur’an passsage. (The whole can be tackled in either 7 or 14 sessions.) Each text is followed by discussion questions, and then by a Challenge, and Dialogues to Witness. In the studies, the biblical and qur’anic parts are well-balanced, as well as in the Witnesses. (Indeed, giving equal time to Christian and Muslim ‘witnesses’ will give everybody something to resonate with, and something to squirm at…) The biblical and qur’anic quotes that describe the seven studies are:

  1. “God heard the boy crying” and “We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il”
  2. “This is my name forever” and “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful”
  3. “Who do you think you are?” and “O Jesus, son of Mary, recount…”
  4. “His father saw him and was filled with compassion” and “Those who obey Allah and his messenger will be admitted to gardens”
  5. “And they crucified him” and “But they killed him not, nor crucified him”
  6. “You have known the holy scriptures” and “To you we sent the scripture in truth”
  7. “Seek first his kingdom” and “Fight for the cause of Allah…but do not be aggressive”

After the 7 studies, there are three sections of resources. The most important is the first, the Leader’s Notes, which give depth and background that will be helpful. It is in the Leader’s Notes that it is most apparent that the whole study guide is a resource for Christians witnessing to Muslims. After the Leader’s Notes, there are References, and then an Annotated bibliography for what to study after a dialogue has been established through these studies.

I hope you will consider buying a copy; it’s a novel way to learn about Islam, in a context that keeps the Bible also in view. Or buy two copies, one for you and one for a Muslim friend or neighbor who might be willing to go through it with you. Or hey, see if your church wants to buy 10 or 20 and have a 7 – or 14-week group study!

A bit of information about the cover and visual design, which was my contribution added to Barbara’s many years of work on this project. On the left, tinted blue, is an excerpt from John 1, plainly reading “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God.” And lower down, “The Word became flesh.” On the right, tinted in green (a traditionally Qur’anic color), Muslims should recognize the text of Surah 1 by the sweeping, decorative script of the first word; the visible part of the first line begins “In the name of Allah…”, which is kind of the “In the beginning…” of the Qur’an. Note that, since Arabic reads leftwards, both texts begin on their respective edges of the page, and “meet in the middle” — at least visually come together. Also, the line separating the two fades from black to nothing. These visual cues are not meant to indicate any oneness between the Bible and Qur’an, but rather the opening of dialogue as these studies open both side-by-side and let them each speak.

Inside, the Bible-left/Qur’an-right theme is maintained. Each study has, not quite a “title” in the traditional sense, but a snippet from the bible and qur’an studies inside. Sometimes the bible passage is presented first, sometimes the qur’an, but always the biblical passage is flush-left, and the qur’an flush-right. And the running page headers are, instead of the traditional book title on the left and chapter title on the left, the current bible and qur’an snippets on the left and right, respectively.

The entire book was laid out in LaTeX using the KOMA-script scrbook package (just like my previous publishing project). Soon, there will also be an eBook version released, in the Kindle store, and perhaps also an .epub version on iTunes.

Posted in Books, Compare and Confess, Islam, Plugs, Review | 2 Comments