Thursday, September 29, 2016

Covenant of Revelation Defended

So I’ve just released my book, The Covenant of Revelation, and it appears to have a rather simplistic take on the Bible—so much so that I feel a little embarrassed about it, actually. In this short blog post I wanted to write a defense for it to show you the logical structure that underpins the book.

Foundational Premise: God does all things for His glory.
To assert this is nothing more than to assert that God has volitions and a plan for creation. In other words, He’s a rational actor. I take this premise as both foundational and self-evident, and as such I feel no need to justify it.
I will say in passing however that the strength of this premise is seen when you try to invert it. So if the statement “God does everything for His glory” is false, then “God doesn’t do everything for His glory” is true. But what specifically doesn’t He do for His glory? Does He do some things to establish and spread glory, and some things to sabotage and undermine it? Or say the things He doesn’t do for His glory are neutral, that is, sometimes He’s about the business of His glory, and sometimes He’s busy doing other things. What are those other things? Increasing our love for Him? That brings Him glory. So not only is the negative of this statement absurd, I can’t even conceive of what it means. Which may speak to a limited intelligence on my part, admittedly, or it may speak to the validity of the premise.

Corollary : God created the universe to glorify Himself.
No surprises right? The creation of the universe is a subset of the category “all things done.” We might also restate this corollary as: God glorifies Himself by revealing Himself to the universe He’s created without much fuss either.
I like putting it that way because makes it easier to see the consequence that God is about the business of unveiling His nature, attributes, desires, abilities, thoughts, and heart to the world—which was the reason He created in the first place. It also allows for the follow on statement: the Bible was breathed out by God for His glory. Which can be reshaped to: The Bible was given to glorify God by revealing Him.
Now if this is true, (and I think it is) then there are certain logical conclusions that must inevitably follow.
Conclusion 1: The Bible is designed to reveal Christ.
Conclusion 2: The Bible is about Christ
Corollary to Conclusion 2: the things in the Bible are about Christ.
Which means: “the covenants in the Bible are about Christ” or “the covenants in the Bible were given to reveal Christ to the world.” So far so good? Nothing spectacular about any of these statements right? Wrong. Conclusion 2 is absolutely devastating to ordinary evangelical theology. It’s checkmate in 7 for the mainstream opinion. Or if you’re not into chess it’s the Arizona Rangers big iron going Bang! For if the covenants are about Christ then the new covenant has to be about Christ too, and the stool which Baptist theology rests on gets the legs kicked off at that point.
The book is the proof of this.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elephants, Serpants, and Becoming Presbyterian

In the book Prelandra, the final confrontation between Satan (the Unman) and Ransom begins with a moral struggle for the protagonist. Ransom realizes that no matter what he says, the Unman is more clever than he, and has a better answer for why the lady should fall into sin. He has no chance to win and is about to despair when God instructs him to simply punch its lights out. Lewis writes--
The voluble self was almost thrown out of its argumentative stride - became for some seconds as the voice of a mere whimpering child begging to be let off, to be allowed to go home. Then it rallied. It explained precisely where the absurdity of a physical battle with the Un-man lay. It would be quite irrelevant to the spiritual issue. If the Lady were to be kept in obedience only by the forcible removal of the Tempter, what was the use of that? What would it prove? And if the temptation were not a proving or testing, why was it allowed to happen at all? Did Maleldil suggest that our own world might have been saved if the elephant had accidentally trodden on the serpent a moment before Eve was about to yield? Was it as easy and as un-moral as that? The thing was patently absurd!
The thing has recently come into my mind because of a sermon series begun by preacher man Van Dorn where he seeks to show Christ at the center of each Psalm. Seeing his notes on Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 1 brought to my mind the story at the beginning of my book where the Baptist church bombed out so unsatisfactorily. And it makes me think about my own situation. If I had sat under this preaching week in and week out, would I ever have developed an itch which only the presbyterians could scratch? No. The answer is no.
Had I encountered this sort of solid teaching from a Baptist sooner, had I run into Doug earlier, I would never have been swept off the road. His approach takes him close enough to the boarder of Presbyterianism that it would have cut me off completely. So I see myself in Lewis' question: would Eve have been spared from the fall if the elephant had accidentally trampled him before she'd given in? If something had intervened would she have been kept from falling?
Yeah. She would have. But God in His providence arranged otherwise.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

An Interview with the author of "Covenant of Revelation"

Welcome to the studio today Phil, it's nice to have you back.
Thanks, it's always nice to be here.

Okay so you're releasing a new book soon, tell us what's it about.
The Covenant of Revelation is a walk through the covenants in the Bible and what they teach us about Christ.

Sounds simple enough--although hold on, did you say a book on covenants? Covenant theology books are a dime a dozen. Not to be rude here but everyone and their sickly uncle's dog has written on it. What are you bringing to the table that a million other people haven't?
Well a few things.... I suppose the first of which is that the objective truths of God must come before the subjective man-centric application of them, and that you need to have both together to make sense of the covenants. I start with the idea that God has decreed to reveal Himself to creation, or to bring Himself glory if you like that phrase better, and that everything that's happened since He did that is a direct consequence of that. An outgrowth of it.
The second unique thing about this book would be that the covenants are about Christ, designed to reveal Him to us. I try to discuss what they actually reveal about Him as much as possible.
The third may be the approach. I tried to make the presentation as organic as possible, so that a reader could track with the story of the Bible. I also tried to show the necessity of each historical moment.
Fourth is how I break out the book of Hebrews, that was pretty neat.
And the last thing that may be unique to this book is my heavy focus on how the new covenant is really about Christ's priesthood. 

Are you offering anything categorically original here?
Oh I doubt it. In fact I was listening to one of my pastors preach a couple of weeks ago and he took a very similar approach to the Scriptures in terms of how he first found Christ in the text and then found us on the topic of covenants in Ezra. I remember sitting in the chair thinking how he was hot on the heels of this book on his own. In terms of following the logical trail of his ideas he's perhaps six months behind me, if that. If he pursues it, that is.

What was the genesis of this book?
I was studying the Bible trying to put together what the definition of a covenant was because I felt my understanding of it was inadequate. It didn't fit right. Calling a covenant a moment that defines a relationship like so many do felt like calling a violin concerto a bunch of dudes rubbing horse hair together. It felt wrong you know? As I began to piece it together I got to talking with one of my pastors about it, which led to a rebuke, which led to me bouncing my ideas off a friend. He then said I needed to write it down and make a short work out of it. So I did.

I'm looking at the table of contents here and I don't see you address the Covenant of Works. Why not?
Well... I don't have much use for it in this book honestly. I mean if by covenant of works you mean God enters into a relationship with men at their creation then that's fine. If you define covenants in that way. If however you mean there's a covenant which allows men to save themselves, I don't think that's going to fly. I don't have a problem with the concept of a covenant at creation, but to call that a covenant of works is such a misfit of a term that I can't stand it. And the notion of a republication at Sinai--don't get me started.

Do you agree with a covenant at creation?
Sure. It's sort of a special case covenant, but that's fine. As long as you're not saying it's possible for Adam to earn his way into God's favor or equating the command to not eat the fruit as a covenant. Both of those are terrible ideas. But if you just want to say that Adam was the head of his family and was appointed regent over creation by his relationship to God, then yeah, I mean I think that's biblical don't you? I just didn't think it warranted a mention because I wanted to keep the narrative tight. Besides, all this talk of implicit covenants in the Bible isn't going to interest people. You should ask about something they want to know about.

Okay fair enough, we'll do a different question. Favorite chapter?
The covenant with Abraham. It went through a lot of drafts but I think I was able to maneuver it into a good place. It's at the point now where I have to stand every time I proof read it because seeing Christ in the covenant with Abraham makes me want to jump for joy.

Least favorite?
The priestly element of Sinai. It taxed my abilities as a writer to describe the void, or the absence of a revelation. I mean, it's not often said but the absence of a direct revelation is really quite conspicuous. I didn't think I did a great job with it and I'd just as soon just leave it out. But I can't you know? Because it needs to be there to present a proper understanding of the New Covenant. 

So your central premise, or the animating idea for the book, what is it?Christ must come first. We find Him first in the text before finding ourselves. This applies double to the new covenant.

Any other examples you didn't put in the book?
Well take marriage for example. We are to understand it first as being about Christ and the church. We're then to understand it as the means for children entering in the world and restraining lusts. Or take election. What does Romans 8 say the reason is God elected us? So that His Son could be first born among many brothers. 

Do you think this book will be well received?
Probably not. It won't sell well, and I kinda doubt the ideas penetrate into people's understanding. I mean I couldn't get people to proof read beyond the chapter on Noah, so, you know. Honestly given how many people buy this genre of book and how little known I am, I'd be surprised if more than three people make it all the way to the end. I hope that didn't come off as too pessimistic because I'm just trying to be real here. If no one else reads it my kids will and one day thank me for it. Because I'll make 'em.

Does that bother you that people might not even finish the book if they buy it at all?
As long as they read the chapter on the difference between Baptist and Presbyterians at the end of the book, no. But if someone were to read the book and be strengthened in their love for Christ, that would be amazing to hear about.

What's your next project?
I promised my daughter I'd write her a story for her birthday. It's going to be a growing up tale for her and about her. It's a world of magic and monsters. After that I'm going to finish updating Animadversions, and after that, I may just get back to my moderate calvinism book. Who knows.

Alright thanks for your time brother, that's all we have time for today. Where can we buy the book if we're interested?
Amazon of course. 

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