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Archive for August, 2011

This syrupy piece of marijuana-haze hymnody is found in the hymnals of churches that have substituted sentiment for orthodoxy and worship. Hence you don’t find it in older Presbyterian hymnals, but in the Trinity Hymnal. Nor do you find it in Episcopal and Lutheran hymnals until very recently in some Lutheran books.

The song would be much improved if the spacy refrain were omitted. I don’t know if Horatio Spafford actually wrote this refrain in his original poem or if it were added by Philip Bliss in his gooey music, but I do know that if I smoked marijuana I’d love it. It drifts along in a haze that is so far unlike anything God enjoys, as seen in the book of psalms, that is might as well be Hindu.

Happily, two of Spafford’s stanzas are usually omitted:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
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4. The Three Basic Phases of the Covenant

We have introduced the three phases of the covenant, from childhood to adulthood to full maturity. Let us look more fully at each of these three phases.

The Bible speaks of the Church as Daughter in this Old Creation phase: Daughter Zion, Daughter Jerusalem, and for converted nations, Daughter Tyre, etc. This is a time of childhood, of immaturity. We think of immaturity as something bad, but it is not. It is a gift of God appropriate for our first phase of life. We have said that the Son has eternally “become” mature, but this also means that the Son is also eternally moving from being immature. There is nothing wrong with such immaturity. It is what being a son means: to look up to one’s father. The Son is eternally immature, being a Son to his Father. He is eternally becoming mature through the Spirit. And he has eternally become mature, so that he is fully like his Father.

We need to remember the difference between created time and the Divine eternity. In time and history, maturation is a process, while in eternity it is a condition.

Thus, in the Old Creation we are like the Son in his Divine immaturity. We are under the Father, who has sent the Son to us as his Angel (messenger) to teach us the rules we are to obey during our childhood: the Law. The Father has sent his Spirit to cause us to grow up into adulthood. He wants us to become fully mature, just as his Son is eternally mature.
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HOT OFF THE PRESSES!

Peter J. Leithart & John Barach, eds., The Glory of Kings: A Festschrift in Honor of James B. Jordan (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

Foreword — R. R. Reno

Introduction — Peter J. Leithart

PART ONE: BIBLICAL STUDIES

1. The Glory of the Son of Man: An Exposition of Psalm 8 — John Barach

2. Judah’s Life from the Dead: The Gospel of Romans 11 — Tim Gallant

3. The Knotted Thread of Time: The Missing Daughter in Leviticus 18 — Peter J. Leithart

4. Holy War Fulfilled and Transformed: A Look at Some Important New Testament Texts — Rich Lusk

5. The Royal Priesthood in Exodus 19:6 — Ralph Allan Smith

6. Father Storm: A Theology of Sons in the Book of Job — Toby J. Sumpter

PART TWO: LITURGICAL THEOLOGY

7. On Earth as It Is in Heaven: The Pastoral Typology of James B. Jordan — Bill DeJong

8. Why Don’t We Sing the Songs Jesus Sang? The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of English Psalm Singing — Duane Garner

9. Psalm 46 — William Jordan

PART 3: THEOLOGY

10. A Pedagogical Paradigm for Understanding Reformed Eschatology with Special Emphasis on Basic Characteristics of Christ’s Person — C. Kee Hwang

11. Light and Shadow: Confessing the Doctrine of Election in the Sixteenth Century — Jeffrey J. Meyers

PART FOUR: CULTURE

12. James Jordan, Rosenstock-Huessy, and Beyond — Richard Bledsoe

13. Theology of Beauty in Evdokimov — Bogumil Jarmulak

14. Empire, Sports, and War — Douglas Wilson

Afterword — John M. Frame

The Writings of James B. Jordan, 1975–2011 — John Barach

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3. Covenant Maturation

Let us now turn to the application of this One Eternal Covenant into history. We have been looking at Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology has to do with the persons of God and their relationships, with God’s relationships with humanity, and with our maturation toward being junior partners in the Divine community. Thus, the large focus in Covenant Theology is on persons, and we can link this with the Father-aspect of reality. Literary Theology studies how the Word is organized, and thus engages the Son-aspect of reality. When we move to Typology and Ritual, we are moving into the area of artistic imagery and of time sequences, the Spirit-aspect of reality.

These are the three large zones of Biblical Theology. Obviously, since God is One and “all of God does all that God does,” these three aspects of Biblical Theology cannot be separated fully from one another. What we begin to do in this essay is consider how the Spirit applies the one Covenant in history. We shall see that He does so by carrying humanity through ever-widening and ever-deepening spirals of maturation. These spirals or cycles correspond to one another, and thus are typologically related to one another. Thus, in this essay and those that follow, we are beginning to put Covenant and Typological Theology together.
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Hymn Bark is a series designed to purify our good hymns from errors, and purge some bad ones. Here is chapter 2:

Not really much wrong with this hymn, though I wish musicians would teach the congregation how to sing it. Routinely the note at the end of line 3 is changed, which hurts the musical diversity and melodic intensity of the hymn.

The only problem is “all the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.” This is based on a misinterpretation of Revelation 4-5. The Elders in that passage are not saints, for Jesus has not ascended and there are no saints in heaven. They are angels, specifically the 24 Archangels that correspond in heaven to the 24 courses of Temple priests and the 24 courses of Temple musicians. We could change to “angels all adore Thee,” but I recommend just sticking with Biblical language and changing to “elders all adore Thee.”

So, get out those pencils.

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When I wrote my commentary on Ecclesiastes A Table in the Mist I took Eccl. 11:1-2 as a reference to the risk of international trade. It sure did seem to me like a reference to Solomon’s risky trade with other nations. Israel exported grain (bread) and Solomon’s ships returned to him with rich cargoes (1 Kings 5:1-12). This seems to fit with the theme of chapter 11. Solomon is issuing a call to be boldly generous and lavishly good to our neighbors.

But now I wonder if there’s another way to understand these verses.

Cast your bread into the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen in the land.

Michael Homan believes that Solomon is advocating the brewing and serving of beer (“Beer Production by Throwing Bread into Water: A New Interpretation of Qoh IX.1-2,” Vestus Testamentum 52:2 [2002]: 275-278).

This looks really promising. First, there are all the references in Ecclesiastes to wine. Solomon advises godly folk to “drink wine” and enjoy life (9:7) with one’s spouse. And this exhortation to make beer and share it with others fits with the idea that the troubles of this life are best alleviated with a joyful reception of food and drink with others (2:24, 25; 3:13; 5:11, 18; 8:15; 9:7).

Secondly, beer is just liquid bread. Or perhaps we should say, as James Jordan puts it, beer is glorified liquid bread. So casting your bread (grain) in the water and waiting many days to find it is about the process of fermentation, especially the anticipation of a glorious final brew.

Third, it needs to be stressed that in the Bible beer and wine are gifts of God given to gladden the hearts of the faithful, especially in times of trouble and distress. Proverbs 31:6 says, “Give beer to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress.” This fits with the last line of 11:2, “for you know not what disaster may happen on the earth.”

Fourth, the social context of this drinking is stressed in 11:2a, “Give a serving to seven, or even to eight.” As Homan notes, “The inclusion of “seven” or “eight” people in Qoh. xi 2 fits with the context of beer drinking as a social event.11 And finally, the term plq, “serving”, is also used for distribution of food to Levites (Deut, xviii 8) and at a festival com- memorating the ark’s entry into Jerusalem, when David distributes victuals to the people (2 Sam. vi 19).”

All of this fits in quite well with Solomon’s conclusion to the book. It highlights the fact that the way to cope with the vaporous quality of human life is to enjoy food and drink, especially wine and beer with others in the Lord’s presence.

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I begin here a series of criticisms of hymns commonly sung in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. I begin with the hymn “I bind myself,” commonly called “The Lorica.

There is only one textual problem with the usual sung version of this, and that is the phrase “eternal rocks.” Obviously that phrase is heretical, and all Patrick wrote was “firmness of rock.” We should cross it out in our hymnals and substitute “enduring rocks.”

Musically, the tune used is St. Patrick (Stanford), also called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The melody exists in two slightly different forms. The version originally published in Hymns Ancient and Modern is superior to the version in The English Hymnal, though unfortunately it is the latter that was used in the Cantus Christi hymnal. I suggest musicians obtain the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal (available from amazon.com) and play the version found there. It is only the opening line that is different, but the older version is much richer. (more…)

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2. What is the Covenant?

There are many and varied descriptions of what the Bible means by the word “covenant” (Hebrew: berith). We are tempted to write that there are as many definitions of “covenant” as their are covenant theologians. Because this is a short introductory book we shall not take up who said what, and argue for one view of another. Rather, we shall allow systematic and philosophical reflection on the Biblical data to help us rise to a full and broad understanding of covenant.

Clearly, a covenant is some kind of personal relationship that involves a bond and a structure. Such a bond is real — breaking it is painful, and this pain is the pain of death.1 Thus, we shall call it a bond of life or a living bond. At its most basic, then, a covenant is a personal and structural bond between two or more persons. We can see this in the marriage covenant, which involves two people, life-bonded together, in a structured relationship with the husband as head who gives himself sacrificially to the wife who subjects herself to him.

(footnote: Since God’s life is Triune, human beings made in his image experience death when they are isolated from other people and from God. See the book of Job. We too often think of “life” only as individual life, but there is no life apart from community. This means human life, for God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” even though God was with him (Genesis 2:18). Old people who live alone, widows and widowers, need cats and dogs to keep them company. Life does not exist in isolation, but only in bondedness with others. That is why those who are “alive” in hell are also “eternally dead,” for they are cut off from God and from all other persons.)
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1. What is Meant by Biblical Theology

“Theology” is language (logos) about God (theos). We can distinguish two broad kinds of theology: Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical Theology. Biblical Theology concerns the way God presents himself and his actions in the Bible itself, while Ecclesiastical Theology concerns how the Church has applied the content of the Bible since the close of the canon of Scripture.

Let us begin with what we are calling Ecclesiastical Theology. Ecclesiastical Theology is performed when the Church studies how the content of the Bible is applied in new ways and to new matters. We can roughly distinguish four branches of Ecclesiastical Theology, in no particular order.

First there is Historical Theology. Here we are concerned with the development of doctrine through the ages of the Church. The study of creeds and confessions is a sub-set of Historical Theology, which can be called Creedal or Confessional Theology. When doing Historical Theology, it is important to pay attention to how language is used by a given writer or preacher, or a given age of writers or preachers. For instance, the Westminster Catechisms consist very largely of definitions of terms. This is a literary style, one arising from the “terminist” branch of the “nominalistic” philosophy current at that time. An earlier Reformed catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, is written in a different style.
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