Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
How Not To Do Exegesis, by J.P. Holding
02/25/2005 - James WhiteLibronics is happy again. Norton re-installed (n.b. to anyone who tries to de-install and re-install Norton SystemWorks: DON'T!), BibleWorks fonts close to where they were, things looking pretty much as they were (just running a LOT faster), and all the humorous Mac e-mails filed away (even got a blog entry out of my comments about the Mac cult--maybe Mac's don't allow you to close an e-mail you have already begun?). So I can turn a small bit of attention back to the blog, at least for a little while (I might be able to blog a bit in England, but if the choice is between blogging and seeing a at the British Museum, well, don't bother hitting "reload" too often).
I won't apologize again for having taken the time to begin a brief discussion of the ramifications of the arguments of "J.P. Holding" on election. I had honestly been sent portions of his article numerous times, and it is my hope next week to post a few items documenting further errors on his part relating to the exegesis of Romans 9 (and simple hermeneutical practice as a whole). The response from him has been very disappointing, especially to those who had, in some fashion, believed him to be "on the same page" in essence in reference to apologetics. It is amazing to me that he has latched onto the brainchild of the Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina (the preferred route of intellectual Protestants seeking a way out of actually believing in the freedom of God and the enslavement of men to sin) while admitting he had not heard of the theory of middle knowledge before. I guess he does not see that such an admission should be accompanied by a commensurate unwillingness to utilize a flame-thrower.
Today I was referred to a new article he has posted on Romans 9. It makes the same errors as the preceding material, depends on the same miscroscopic range of scholarship, etc., but this time it contains, sadly, what was not a part of the original: venom. And that is what I mean by "how not to do exegesis." Holding is obviously not willing to budge an inch (and given that, to my knowledge, he cannot handle the original languages himself, it seems a very odd attitude to have), and hence when pressed turns to the weapon of choice of such folks: ad-hominem. This is not how you do exegesis. It is how you defend your tradition to the death, but it is not how you actually listen to the text. It also tends to determine your conclusions from the start. To what do I refer? Well, let's let the first few sentences of the article speak for themselves:
Now, isn't it odd? I mean, when I began my response I noted it would be posted over time. Holding felt this was unacceptable. He decried my use of a blog and the posting of material in portions. Yet, just what is the logical difference between posting on a blog over time, and posting an article and saying, "I will be adding to this as I dig up more resources"? Further, if he is still digging up resources, why the dogmatic stance, to the point of acting in such a manner as these words indicate? The man is a master at mockery of Christians---is that the attitude of one who is still "availing" himself of "further resources"? I think not. In any case, I will post my response, without referring to Mr. Holding's ancestory, but only to his claims, as soon as I can. And then I shall be done with it, for while I have to engage the claims of nasty apologists from various groups, I do not have to respond to "evangelicals" who act in the exact same manner.The Bubba Club BrokenSeeing as how certain Calvinist alpha males and their junior apes have chosen to make monkeys of themselves responding to our material, it seemed judicious to provide what they think is not present, and hoist their own rug of "exegesis" out from under them. The following is our exegesis of Romans 9 in "bubba club" format -- showing that it does not support the Calvinist view, and melds hand in glove with the scholarship we have been consulting for the subject. This is a draft that will be added to as we avail ourselves of further resources.
An Atomistic Exegesis of Romans 9
James Patrick Holding
The Blessedness of Blindness?
02/22/2005 - James WhiteI was translating John 9 last night before going to bed, and was struck by the following dialogue (super-functional translation warning):
The blind man said to Jesus, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshipped Jesus. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see, and so that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees who followed Him around heard what He said, and said to Him, "We are not blind as well, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were really blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim that you can see, your sin remains."Blind beggar, born blind for the purpose of this very encounter with Christ. Makes fools out of the religious elite by having common sense in seeing God's hand in his own healing (was that not the unpardonable sin in Matthew: the twistedness of those who saw in the work of the Spirit the mark of Satan himself?). Is cast out for his troubles. Jesus seeks him out (Shepherd seeks the lost sheep---very next chapter!) Jesus identifies Himself, speaks of faith. The man believes and worships. What does his faith and worship produce? Jesus explains that He has come for a purpose, and it is not what you normally hear about during the 14th verse of Just As I Am. He has come for judgment, and the judgment involves sight. The blind are made to see, the seeing are made blind. Obviously, though He has healed a blind man, the action was metaphorical in the sense that it pointed to a greater reality: the physical healing pictured a spiritual reality (just as in John 11 and the raising of Lazarus!). The blind man could see what the Pharisees could not. They who thought they could see were, in reality, blind, and when Jesus says this, the little group of spies who followed Him around, trying to catch Him in His words, reporting to the big-wigs back in Jerusalem, knew He was talking about them, and so they ask Him bluntly if His words applied to them. He just as bluntly says yes: since they claim to see (and in fact do not), their sin abides or remains.
We need to be reminded, often, of the powerful Christ, the Christ who walks the pages of the gospels, but whose presence is often muted by our traditions and our fear of the faces of men. The Jesus of the Gospels tramples all over the canons of political correctness.
A Channel Question
02/18/2005 - James WhiteSomeone came into channel last evening and posted a statement from a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School regarding the interaction between myself and Holding. Specifically, he was making a comment based upon John Piper's September 1979 JETS article that I cited as I began my response. Specifically, he asked about the following:
Heck, for that matter Piper and his take on the LXX is incorrect, since it is the OG and not the LXX. In addition, the translation of the Greek is incorrect since the a? particle shows it should be understood as subjunctive instead of as indicative, something which Piper (IIRC) misses. THEY ARE NOT ALL FUTURES, they are conditionals.I can see why such a statement from a TEDS doctoral student might cause some confusion. A quick response, as best I can understand what he seems to be trying to say. First, Piper used the LXX; each variant noted in his article is from the LXX; I guess this writer has some nomenclature issue between "Old Greek" and LXX for some reason, but such hardly seems like a reason to invest much in the way of bandwidth. Next, I see nothing in Piper saying that "they are all futures." Perhaps the writer is referring to something beyond the JETS article? He does not bother to say, but there is surely nothing in what I cited, or in the JETS article, that Piper "missed." Next, there is no question that the Greek phrase o]n a'n introduces a subjunctive. But that is because it is one way in which Greek expresses the idea of our word "whoever." Joined with the subjunctive verb it expresses that element of contingency we find in the phrase, "I will compassion whoever I compassion, I will mercy whoever I mercy." The mere presence of the phrase and the subjunctive means nothing, of course, outside of its context. The foundation of the contingency is expressed in the context: God's freedom. God chooses to engage in the action of "compassioning" and "mercying." The objects are chosen freely by Him (that is the contingency element expressed by o]n a'n). He compassions or mercies "whoever" He desires. That's the whole point.
How can election in a Calvinist sense be based on subjunctives with conditional particles?
Hence, it is very hard to follow the rhetorical question asked. Election can be based "on subjunctives with conditional particles" because the actual actions are future indicatives and the subjunctives are contingencies delineated by the freedom of God's will. What is so difficult to understand about that?
A Thought from Isaiah 17
02/14/2005 - James WhiteAt the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church we read through the New Testament in our AM services on the Lord's Day, and the Old Testament in the evenings. Last night I read Isaiah 17. I noted the following as I was reading:
4 Now in that day the glory of Jacob will fade, And the fatness of his flesh will become lean. 5 It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, As his arm harvests the ears, Or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain In the valley of Rephaim. 6 Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives on the topmost bough, Four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree, Declares the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 In that day man will have regard for his Maker And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim and incense stands. 9 In that day their strong cities will be like forsaken places in the forest, Or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; And the land will be a desolation. 10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation And have not remembered the rock of your refuge.I bring the passage to the attention of our fine readers for two reasons. First, the passage contains an "oracle" of condemnation upon idolatry. God's judgment falls, inevitably, upon idolatrous nations, and do not think that because we do not have hideous idols upon every mountain top that we moderns are not guilty of the very same deeds. America is filled with idolatry, from our universities to the capital. But note in the second place that judgment brings repentance in those who are of the remnant, the elect of God. The picture of the "two or three olives on the topmost bough," the 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They are rarely obvious to observation, but they are there, and it is God who preserves them. Further, that day of judgment brings the intended result: "in that day man will have regard for his Maker, and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel."
When we pray that God would bless a nation, do we really understand what that means? Most often, when a nation is buried in the filth of sin, as Western cultures are today in general, the greatest blessing they can receive is judgment that brings repentance. But that judgment can be very, very painful. But what should our highest priority be? We all know the answer to that question. So, the next time you hear someone say "God bless America," add to the phrase the needed information: "...with repentance."
Some Observations on Exegesis and Discernment
02/13/2005 - James WhiteThe discussion of Mr. Holding's comments on Romans 9 has once again raised the issue of the importance of exegesis in theology and apologetics. For those whose faith is determined by externals (various forms of tradition, ecclesiastical, historical, philosophical, etc.), the text of Scripture is more a field of prooftexts that are malleable in nature: they can be formed to "fit" into the mold provided by one's highest authority (tradition in all its forms). Faithful and obedient exegesis is not overly important in that context, for the actual meaning of the text as it was written is not the source of one's faith or belief. But for those who believe the Word to be God-breathed, exegesis is, in fact, the means by which one honors God by allowing Him to speak with clarity. Anything less than the most disciplined approach to the text will inevitably confuse the voice of men with the voice of God.
As I interact with faithful fellow believers, I am often troubled by the fact that for many the most important thing in evaluating someone's explanation of a text of Scripture is not what they actually say, or how they come to the conclusions they do, but instead, who is speaking! That is, we have all seen the most horrific interpretations given a free pass on "Christian television" because "he's a good believer, and he's so passionate, and such a wonderful preacher" etc. and etc. As long as a person is at least marginally orthodox they are given free reign to interpret the Bible in any fashion they wish. Likewise, they may give clear evidence of allowing traditions to result in eisegetical violations of the text based upon their traditions, but rarely are they held accountable for their inconsistencies on that point. "Don't we all have a right to interpret the Bible for ourselves?" is the cry. But let's make sure we are clear here: sola scriptura and the responsibility of each believer before God does not mean we have a right to pillage the text through our inconsistent, ill-informed, ill-disciplined interpretations. ...
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