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Richard B. Hays and the fire of texts

… Despite all the careful hedges that we plant around texts, meaning has a way of leaping over, like sparks. Texts are not inert; they burn and throw fragments of flame on their rising heat. Often we succeed in containing the energy, but sometimes the sparks escape and kindle new blazes, reprises of the original fire.

That is a way of saying that texts can generate readings that transcend both the conscious intention of the author and all the hermeneutical strictures that we promulgate. Poets and preachers know this secret; biblical critics have sought to suppress it for heuristic purposes. At times, the texts speak through us in ways that could not have been predicted, ways that can be comprehended only by others who hear the voice of the text through us—or, if by ourselves, only retrospectively.

Such phenomena occur repeatedly in all significant discourse: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your hearts.” The texts that envelope us speak through us; resonant speech discovers typologies that interpret present experience through the language of predecessors. But these typologies come to us unbidden, impose themselves upon us in ways that we understand through a glass darkly. Anyone who has ever acted in a play knows the experience of discovering that lines from the play come unexpectedly to mind in real-life situations different from the original dramatic context. The aptness of the quoted line does not depend on exact literal correspondence between the original meaning and the new application. Indeed, the wit and pleasure of such quotations lie partly in the turning of the words to a new sense. In such cases, the act of quotation becomes an act of figuration, establishing a metaphorical resonance between drama and life. Paul’s uses of Scripture often have a similar character: Scripture is for him the text of the word-play in which he performs and from which familiar lines repeatedly spring to life in new situations.

To limit our interpretation of Paul’s scriptural echoes to what he intended by them is to impose a severe and arbitrary hermeneutical restriction. In the first place, what he intended is a matter of historical speculation; in the second place, his intertextual echoes are acts of figuration. Consequently, later readers will rightly grasp meanings of the figures that may have been veiled from Paul himself. Scripture generates through Paul new figurations; The Righteousness from Faith finds in Paul a new voice.

Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Richard B. Hays. Yale University Press: London, 1989. Print. 33.

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REVIEW: ‘Introducing World Missions,’ Moreau et al.

Authors A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee wrote Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey “for prospective missionaries as well as for those who are interested in missions but may serve in other capacities in God’s work.”[1]  That second target audience is the one which applies most neatly to my situation.  I do not perceive myself to be one who will spend most of his life “on the field,” although the editors of this volume do state carefully that the “missionary call” is not necessarily a call to a lifetime in one place.  Nevertheless, a quasi-transient life being spent between a few locations either abroad or domestic would not be unwelcome. For being written to both the sent and the senders, IWM accomplishes its task well.

The authors divided the text into five parts.  Summarized, they are written respectively about the theology of missions, the history of missions, the “call” to missions (and its attendants), preparing for missions, and the contemporary milieu of missions.  The most fruitful sections for me were the history, preparation, and contemporary milieu of missions.  Also, on page thirteen, the first chapter relates twenty-three definitions used in missiology, a helpful reference for my own structuring of the theology of missions.  Having been exposed to some of those terms, although certainly not all, I find myself able to more easily converse with others (especially those who have gone on mission) about missionary work.

Part 2 of IWM relates the history of mission work throughout the church.  Especially enlightening was the focus on how the church has historically been concerned with proclaiming Christ to all men everywhere over against the contemporary trope that true Christianity is just being a nice person and minding one’s business.  Further, the ecumenical inclusion of Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals helped demonstrate that, despite otherwise deep and troublesome theological rifts, most self-identified Christian groups are concerned with spreading Christ throughout their contexts and foreign contexts.  Part 4 details how one can and ought to prepare for a missions experience, whether they are the one being sent or the one sending.  The practical wisdom contained in this section is great.  From replanting families abroad to creating relationships with those people to whom one ministers, this section opened my eyes to many unforeseen aspects of international missions, which I would have ignorantly glossed over.

Part 5 explicates the conduct and particularities of missions in the modern world.  This, in my opinion and for my own development, is the most importation section of the book.  I feel drawn to cross-religious dialogue and engagement.  In particular, the rise of Islam across the world, as well as the burgeoning problems in India between Hindus and Christians, compel me to understand, engage, and demonstrate the falsity of those false religions as opposed to Christ.  If such studies were to take me to the Middle East or to Indonesia, I would do well to honor those principles highlighted throughout the final chapters of this book. Particularly helpful were the characterizations given on pages 298 to 302 concerning the role of engaging another religion. I order, the authors listed the roles as Adherent or Insider, Seeker or Inquirer, Explorer, Reporter, Specialist, Advocate of a new religion, and Apologist or Antagonist.  I find myself drawn especially to the Specialist and Apologist or Antagonist roles. I can foresee future studies being devoted exclusively to Christian and Muslim engagement, for example.

Although IWM is not a work which I would otherwise have purchased for my library had it not been assigned reading, it will prove to be a valuable tool for future ministry. Whether this ministry is directed towards my fellow churchmen or to myself as I minister to those at variance with Christ, IWM will give tools and principles that will enable me to send others to and to myself reach the lost.


[1]Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 7.

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (V)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as other, to the obedience thereof;(a) and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.(b) Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.(c)

(a) Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 2:3, 4, 7, 8
(b) James 2:10, 11
(c) Matthew 5:17-19; James 2:8; Romans 3:31

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (IV)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.(a)

(a) Exodus 21-22; Genesis 49:10; 1 Peter 2:13, 14; Matthew 5:17, 38, 39; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (III)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;(a) and partly, holding forth diverse instructions of moral duties.(b) All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.(c)

(a) Matthew 22:37-39
(b) Hebrews 9; Hebrews 10:1; Galatians 4:1, 3; Colossians 2:17
(c) Colossians 2:14, 16, 17; Daniel 9:27; Ephesians 2:15, 16

The 10 Principles of a Reformed Apologetic

January 2, 2014 2 comments
  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what is is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic, will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation, together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the triune God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.

Taken from Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 47-55.

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (II)

October 21, 2013 Leave a comment

II. This law, after his fall, continue to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was deliverable by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables:(a) the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.(b)

(a) James 1:25; James 2:8, 10-12; Romans 13:8, 9; Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 10:4; Exodus 24:1
(b) Matthew 22:37-40

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God (I)

October 21, 2013 Leave a comment

I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.(a)

(a) Genesis 1:26, 27; Genesis 2:17; Romans 2:14, 15; Romans 10:5; Romans 5:12, 19; Galatians 3:10, 12; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Job 28:28

 

Chapter 18: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation (IV)

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation diverse ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and have no light:(a) yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;(b) and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.(c)

(a) Song of Solomon 5:2, 3, 6; Psalm 51:8, 12, 14; Ephesians 4:30, 31; Psalm 77:1-10; Matthew 26:69-72; Psalm 31:22; Psalm 88; Isaiah 50:10
(b) 1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Job 13:15; Psalm 73:15; Psalm 51:8, 12; Isaiah 50:10
(c) Micah 7:7-9; Jeremiah 32:40; Isaiah 54:7-10; Psalm 22:1; Psalm 88

Chapter 18: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation (III)

October 19, 2013 1 comment

III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:(a) yet, being freely enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.(b) And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,(c) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,(d) the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.(e)

(a) 1 John 5:13; Isaiah 1:10; Mark 9:24; see Psalm 88 and 77
(b) 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Hebrews 6:11, 12; Ephesians 3:17-19
(c) 2 Peter 1:10
(d) Romans 5:1, 2, 5; Romans 14:17; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 1:3, 4; Psalm 4:6, 7; Psalm 119:32
(e) 1 John 2:1, 2; Romans 6:1, 2; Titus 2:11, 12, 14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 8:1, 12; 1 John 3:2, 3; Psalm 130:4; 1 John 1:6, 7

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