Friday, June 30, 2006

Matisyahu



You have to listen to this guy. Great reggae with a little hip-hop mixed in. I've been listening to his album Youth all day.


http://www.matismusic.com/

Rough Exegesis of Lemuel's Oracle Proverbs 31:1-9

This is a passage which gets misused quite a bit in discussions on drinking alcohol. The reason is because many feel the need to "proof text" their theology instead of derriving doctrine from the whole of Scripture. Because of this, people pit verse against verse, which is not really a healthy way of interpretation.

I wrote this short exegesis for Dr. Collins in Psalms and Wisdom Literature at Covenant Seminary. It is not spectacular, but the exercise itself was helpful because it helped me to understand coherence in Proverbs and how to see the importance of not ripping verses from their context. Also, the Hebrew characters will not show up in the footnotes since blogger does not have that font.


Proverbs 31
1. The words of King Lemuel. An[1] oracle[2] which[3] his mother taught him.
2. What my son?
And what son of my womb?
And what son of my vows?
3. Do not give[4] your strength to women,
Your ways to those who destroy kings.
4. [It is] not for kings, Lemuel,
[it is] not for kings, to drink wine,
or for rulers to desire[5] strong drink.
5. Lest they imbibe[6] and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the judgements of all the afflicted.
6. Give strong drink to the one perishing and wine to the ones in bitter distress.
7. Let them imbibe[7] and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8. Open your mouth for the mute[8]
for the judgment of all the sons of poverty.
9. Open your mouth,
judge righteously[9],
and defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Factors which make this a coherent paragraph
Context
Verses 1-9 are connected to the thought of the oracle which was given to Lemuel by his mother. This oracle proceeds to give instruction on how Lemuel should govern as a king, giving both negative and positive warnings. Lemuel is imparting this wisdom so others may understand as well.
I. Introduction and call to attention 1-2
II. Negative commands of excess 3-7
Those who will destroy your reign 3
That which will destroy your reign 4-5
You don’t want to look like that – 5-7
III. Positive commands of righteousness 8-9
For the voiceless
For the impoverished

Conversational Implicature
This is a retelling of Lemuel’s mother imparting an oracle to him. The oracle concerns how to be a good king. There are implicite warnings within the text, for instance the warnings concerning desires: women and alcohol. These are brought out to give the reader/hearer an understanding of what happens when one desires too much of a good thing, even though the power for the king is there to “rightfully”[10] indulge in such things. There is also the matter of ruling righteously, even to those who are on the lower end of society’s scale. Tied in this is the implicit understanding that not only do these actions show that you are a good king, but also these actions are what win the affections of the people. The idea is: there is a wrong way to rule (self-indulgence) and there is a right way to rule (ruling with justice and equity) and since a king is not needy, he should seek to be on the side of the needy and not on the side of satisfying himself.[11]

Consequence orientation

There is an aspect of negative/positive commands within the text. They are as follows:
Excess leads to the disgracing of your office
Justice leads to the emulation of your office
These commands lead one to the idea that a good king is one who would follow this oracle. Leadership requires not giving in to selfish means, though it is possible and within the leader’s right to do so, and also leadership requires being a defender over all who are in his charge – even to the one’s who are weak, poor, or needy.[12]

Summary of the message of Proverbs 31:1-9 (includes Conditions of applicability and ceteris parabus)[13]
This oracle was given to a king and gives insight to how a good king should rule. Lemuel is commanded to not allow his reign to be defined by excess and is commanded to seek justice on behalf of the “least of his subjects”. Bringing this passage into the context of 21st century United States can seem difficult, but the overall message is one which rings true for all time. When in position of leadership, do not give into the things which can bring you down. This passage uses the examples of indulging in women (sex), those who would destroy kings (perhaps some sort of counsel which is not given to benefit the king)[14], and alcohol (a good gift that when used in excess destroys the mind and body). The use of sarcasm in verses 6-7 show how the abuse of leadership leads people to view the leader. Instead of being a leader who strives for justice, he will be seen as one who does not possess the dignity to lead.
The leader is then charged to seek justice and the examples of those who are “mute” and those who are “poor and needy” show the extent justice must go. It is not something which is only availed for the wealthy and influential, but something applicable to all classes.[15] For a leader to be seen as a good leader, he will be one that works for justice, even to those unable to afford the time to see him. He represents all who are under his authority with justice, and since he is following Covenantal wisdom, this justice is Godly justice, which gives those under his authority peace of mind. They know he recognizes the great task of leading and how it is more than taking advantage of one’s own position, but using it to promote goodness.


[1] NIV & NASB add an article before “aF'ªm;÷”, when translating it into English. This seems to be deficient since grammatically there is no definite article, and while nouns can have definite meaning, the evidence does not seem to be in the context to make this assumption. (I imagine the reason “the” was added was to emphasize this oracle as being the definitive, or most stressed oracle of Lemuel’s mother)
[2] I am following the more common rendering of “oracle” as opposed to Delitzsch and RSV’s use of identifying Lemuel as king of Massa. Waltke (501-503) argues that this qualifies as a prophetic oracle and Kidner (178 & 182) argues that it is following a copyist’s error to render king of Massa. It seems, though I am not a Hebrew scholar, that Lemuel should be identified as a king, but perhaps, not with regard to location and given the connection of aF'ªm linked with the idea of his mother’s instruction, that this should be understood as an oracle.
[3] NIV does not translate rv,a.
[4] NIV renders !tt as spend. While the goal behind that translation is noble, it seems the author wants to convey the idea of giving his strength (obsessing per Waltke 502) to women as well as the enemies of kings. If spending were in mind, hlK seems to be a better way to get that point across.
[5] I use “desire” to follow the motif of obsessions/wrong desires/excess. Waltke 504, Whybray 422, Clifford 270, and Delitsch 477.
[6] Using “imbibe” instead of “drink” in English strengthens the idea of excess. One can drink a glass of wine or beer, or even a shot of alcohol (sans pure grain) and still have full mental capacity, however, one cannot simply imbibe these products and expect to have good recall.
[7] Following footnote 6.
[8] The NIV’s “thought” translation does a good job of explaining the text, but sacrifices staying true to the Hebrew. “Mute” carries a stronger realization than simply “those who cannot speak for themselves”. Keeping “mute” seems to make the situation for whom the good king is to be a defender of, even stronger, those who cannot “figuratively” as well as those who cannot “literally” speak for themselves.
[9] NIV renders renders {hebrew text} as “fairly” instead of “righteously”. This is a fundamental error hemeneutically. If the goal of Proverbs is to impart Covenantal wisdom, then to judge in a righteous manner means to follow God’s way of justice, following his revealed will. To reduce righteous to fair seems to take away from the notion that the king should rule as God would rule if put in this position. It could also lead the reader of the NIV to miss the point that righteousness is of the utmost when confronted with issues where leaders must judge. In today’s society “fair” is not always equated with “right”.
[10] I do not use rightfully in the sense that God sees these actions as right, but in the sense that if a king decrees something to be “right” in his kingdom it is legally right, though it may not be morally right.
[11] I am following Waltke (508) in his interpretation of understanding the idea of giving alcohol to the perishing so they can forget their misery as sarcasm. It seems this is probably sarcastic to point out why a king does not need to be drunk, to teach Lemuel the need for sobriety and self-control. He does not need! So he should not succumb to indulgence. If he indulges in alcohol, he is like the poor man who “really needs to be drunk” since his condition is deplorable compared to a king. The effect of this sarcasm is “you’re the king! Why look like one of those guys?”
[12] This king would be one who recognizes, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “there are no little people”.
[13] There does not appear to be any implicit or explicit Christology in this pericope. I suppose one could say something to the effect of, “we serve a greater King because he does not succumb to the temptations…”, but it does not seem likely the author had this in mind when writing this text. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the interpreter to understand the text for the beauty it conveys and not try to draw out meanings that are not there. If one goes down the “greater King” path, it could let the audience “off the hook” because those being admonished from the text are the ones called to forsake excess and treat those whom they have authority over with justice.
[14] Contemporary audiences would resonate well with the example of Gríma Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings. His advice to the King Théoden was designed to destroy his rule, though he was flattering him, it was meant to poison and ruin.
[15] These two verses are excellent in instilling the value of “justice is blind”.


Sources consulted

English Bibles:
English Standard Version
King James Version
New American Standard Version
New International Version
Revised Standard Version

Commentaries on Proverbs:
Clifford
Delitzsch
Kidner
Kirkpatrick
Murphy
Waltke
Whybray

Grammar Aids:
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon
C. John Collins, “Verb Tenses in Biblical Hebrew Poetry”
Ron Williams, “Hebrew Syntax: An Outline”


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Resurgence podcast

If you do not have this...get it here or here. It's free and you can hear Anthony Bradley's How Jacked Up Punks Will Change the World talk from Isaiah. It's amazing.

Wise words from Dr. Lucas

He has a good post on Ecclesiology, which is worth reading..even if you're a Baptist.


Some highlights

Simply put, in my mind, Baptist ecclesiology is inherently sectarian (and that is not a good thing). Let me say also that, thankfully,most Baptists' hearts trump their doctrinal claims on this matter and they end up loving Presbyterians anyway.

For me, it was the ideal of regenerate church membership that broke down first. Being someone who specialized academically in American religious history and who has done work on Jonathan Edwards, I came to be convinced that it was impossible to peer into someone's heart to determine whether or not he was regenerate. All one could do was judge the "fruit" that accompanied his profession; and sometimes the professions are illegitimate. And if you have illegitimate professions of faith, that means you have hypocrites accounted as true members of the visible church. And if that is the case, then that means the visible church is a mixed body of believers and unbelievers (posing as believers). The end result was this: the Baptist claim for regenerate church membership was an attempt to make the visible church into the church that God alone can see (which is "regenerate" because it consists of the elect through time and space). Since this is clearly impossible (as the 1689 London Baptist Confession itself confessed), it is not an ideal that is biblically demanded for the local, visible church.

Once that principle fell, I was freed to think about the visible church in the way that I see it on Sunday morning (as well as the way I see it in the Bible): as professing believers and their children, who are set apart, holy, for God's purposes in their lives (1 Cor. 7:14). And since these children are admitted as part of God's visible people, they should receive the sign of entrance into that people, which in the OT was circumcision (Gen. 17) but in the NT is baptism (Acts 2:38, 39; Col. 2:11). God's purpose has always been for entire households to be identified with God's visible people (Gen. 17; Acts 16). The upshot here is that these two understandings--the visible church consists of believing households and the sign of admittance into the visible church should be applied to the entire household as a result of the household head's profession--made Baptist ecclesiology impossible for me. And so, I joined the Presbyterian church.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Singles are made in God's image too

I was reading the latest Esquire, The State of the American Man, which was an amazing issue. In the past I’ve mentioned the interest some have in the so-called feminization of the Church, but this was an amazing critique on how the men are different today than say 50 years ago, for the better and worse.

One thing which struck me was a snippet of 25 year old American men from a broad spectrum, socially, racially, geographically, etc, and they printed their picture and one sentence of what their answers were to something like “what it’s like to be 25”.

Here are two answers which caught my attention.

My dad, a great guy, drops hints about his life around his twenty-fifth year, but I really have no clue how the old man got down. I can only assume that I wile a watered-down existence in comparison. – Cary Latham, Rhode Island

Being a husband and providing for my future wife and helping to lead our life in God is a huge, awesome responsibility. I’m looking forward to it. – Haraz Ghanbari, Virginia

Is there a problem with those two answers?
Fundamentally, I think so.
First, you have Cary, whose experience is not unique, who somehow feels “lesser” than his father because he’s not the manly man, married, two kids, mortgage, etc. He, and many men my age, have been taught that we’re odd because we haven’t married in our early 20’s, we don’t have kids in our early 20’s, and we haven’t settled down to live the American Dream. Sadly, the Church has played a part in shaping this thinking as well. It has done this by neglecting the teaching of identity. Cary has an identity crisis, and so do many within the Church.

Haraz’s answer takes some of Cary’s identity and brings it into the Church so to speak. He is looking forward to his “future wife”. It does not say if he’s engaged, but it does give an insight. His unmarried life isn’t a huge, awesome responsibility. In the Church, we have a tendency to treat unmarried (and childless married) people as if they are second class Christians. Oftentimes, a pastor will give a sermon illustration about his “single days” and speak of them as if they were the worst days of his life. What does that say to the single people in the congregation? What does that do to shape their identity? How does that help them understand the grounds for their identity (union with Christ)?

What it does do, is tell them their life isn’t great. God has somehow messed up, or they’ve somehow messed up God since they’re single. It tells them you “can’t really be happy” because you’re single. You’re a blundering buffoon without the purpose we married people have.

Now, I say this as a happily married guy and I love being married. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I wouldn’t trade my years of being single for anything in the world either. In reflection upon them, I realize that I spent too much time focusing on how life couldn’t be fulfilling until I was married. Much like people try to make Jen & I feel since we’ve been married for three years and still don’t have kids. But that’s not the case, you can be single and be fulfilled in life.

God has placed everyone in the position they are for a purpose. Our chief end in life is to glorify God and enjoy him! Guess what? That means single people can enjoy life too. That means, not telling single men how much their life sucks because they’re not married, or how there’s so much they can’t enjoy in life because they’re not married. That means, they are valuable because they belong to God. That means, they too are able to build up the Body. They too, are able to contribute to Kingdom work. They too, have worth and value because they have been created in God’s image and bear his creativity upon their lives.

Because of this, we who are not single, have no business shaming singles.
We have no business shaming our “single years” because God put us in that time in our lives. How dare we slander that.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Freedom of conscience takes another hit, SBC 2006

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Southern Baptists allowed this resolution to pass since Baptists are famous for touting that they teach freedom of conscience, individual soul liberty, etc better than Presbyterians, etc.

The funny thing to me is this line:
Whereas, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of "our freedom in Christ";

Leaders like Yahweh in the Old Testament, Jesus in the New Testament, Paul in the New Testament and so on. Or even Baptist leaders like Spurgeon, etc...or guess what bourbon ...first distilled by a Baptist pastor. Oh....oh....oh...the first supply the Pilgrims ran out of? Beer.
And don't try to say oinos meant juice because whoever advocates that is being DISHONEST. The wine from John 2 was alcoholic and there was the potential for being drunk. The yayin (which Yahweh calls good) in the OT was alcoholic.

Oh, and this line:
now, therefore, be itResolved, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-24, 2006, express ur total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages;
I guess this clears up the pondering if Jesus was a Southern Baptist or not...

How about this line:
Resolved, That we urge Southern Baptists to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our commuities and nation; and be it further
Looks like they want to go back to the temperance movement in the 19th/20th century, which was mostly advocated by liberals....not God fearing Baptists, Presbyterians or Congregationalists.

I refer you to Steve McCoy's excellent post on this matter. He is a missional Southern Baptist pastor.


On more thing...which is worse for you? A Guinness once a day or a Big Mac? Doctors are now saying a beer a day can be healthy for you, but let's crunch the numbers:

Big Mac: 560 calories, 30 grams of fat, 10 g sat fat, 1.5 trans fat, 47 carbs
Bottle of Guinness: 125 calories, 0 fat, 10 carbs


But wait you say....is there any sandwich at McDonald's that is lower in calories? Not everyone eats a Big Mac. Maybe grilled chicken?
Sorry, that's 420 calories....370 w/o mayo.
Hamburger? 260.
You lose.

Oh...and heart disease...it kills more people than alcohol, and heart disease comes from greasy, salty, fatty food.

Time to pass a resolution against fastfood, processed food, and the ever loving favorite after church hangout - the all you can eat buffet.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Wow...individualism...going...going...I wish it were gone

I've been in Psalms and Wisdom literature and it's been awesome studying under Dr. Collins. His passion is amazing and it is a privilege to study the Psalms under the man who translated them for the ESV and is currently writing a commentary on them.

Anyway, part of the hermeneutic Dr. Collins drills into our heads for understanding how to read and interpret the Psalms is so ridiculously amazing, I'm surprised that more people don't know this!
Ready?

He posits that since the Psalms were/are the hymnbook of the people of God, put together for corporate worship as the congregation sang them together, we must approach it that way.

WHAT? The Psalms weren't mean to be my personal devotional book for me and me only?
WHAT? You mean that when we get together for worship, it's appropriate to recite or sing these gems together as the people of God to own for ourselves???

pffft....takes all the fun individualism out of it

Friday, June 09, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Exploring Elective Cosmetic Plastic Surgery

Okay, here's a paper you can download about plastic surgery. I wrote it for my ethics class. It is one of the few which I have been pleased with in totality. The only reason, in my opinion, that it lacks more is because I was confined to a page limit. By the way, the best treatments of this topic are by feminists, and I enjoyed reading their perspectives on this matter. I was cheering all the way. There are a few problems with my topic though, one which is mentioned in the paper. First, Christians don't write about plastic surgery. That's a shame. Second, the feminists whom I read and agreed with didn't provide solutions to the problem...... (p.s. I think I started to provide a solution in my paper....)

Some highlights:
Self-esteem is one of the more prominent reasons driving people to alter or “enhance” their body appearance because the idea of attractiveness is one aspect of society exerting sway on those who do not believe they measure up to cultural standards of beauty.[1] The ideas of beauty, attractiveness and desirability can lead some to a quest of the unattainable.
[1] David B. Sarwer and Leanne Magee, “Physical Appearance and Society” in Psychological Aspects of Reconstructive and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery, ed. David B. Sarwer, Thomas Pruzinsky, Thomas F. Cash, Robert M. Goldwyn, John A. Persing, and Linton A. Whitaker, (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: 2006): 27-29.

One question posed by bioethicists and feminists, who are the primary critics of elective plastic surgery, is concerning the role of medicine with physical enhancement. Some of the criticisms range from doctors catering to a market that objectifies women to the responsibility of a physician profiting from body enhancement while people in developing countries are dying from easily treatable diseases.[1] Some argue, bioethicists not withstanding, that plastic surgery is an individual choice and the consequences are primarily realized by the individual.[2]
[1] Alice Laneader and Paul Root Wolpe, “Ethical Considerations in Cosmetic Surgery”, 310-311.
[2] Ibid., 303.

The Church Father Tertullian once said, “what hath Jerusalem to do with Athens” and such seems to be the case with the American Church and the industry of elective cosmetic plastic surgery.[1] This leads to the question of how this practice informs the Church about culture and how the Church can inform culture about this practice. The Church does not exist apart from the culture and must understand the “why” of a practice in order to address the pertinent issues behind many of the motivations leading people to seek cosmetic alterations.
[1] I say this due to the absence of Christian authored journal or magazine articles on this practice as it becomes a growing trend in American culture.

If you want to see the rest, download it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pray


Pray for wisdom for this group meeting in Grove City, PA.

Pray that truth will be able to shine through the darkness of what could be a very bad, divisive, General Assembly for the liberal PCUSA.

Pray for the conservatives who are still in this denomination that they may be successful in salvaging their historic roots.

Pray for conservative denominations like my own, the PCA. Also for the SBC, EPC, OPC and many other Christian denominations, fellowships and churches that we may never face this on such a grand scale, and that conservative Christians would be heartbroken over the downturn and liberalism of mainline denominations, rather than gloat over, sneer, and berate.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Acts 15, Denominationalism and June

June seems to be the month where many denominational annual conventions/meetings/general assemblies take place. The Southern Baptists are getting together in less than 10 days, the PCUSA is meeting for their bi-annual general assembly and the PCA (my denomination) is meeting for our general assembly, along with the EPC and OPC (gotta love denominational alphabet soup). All of this in the month of June and all of this representing nearly 20 million professing American Christians.

Where did we get started in all of this?
Acts 15, is a great help for people to understand why churches must come together and work through issues facing their bodies as a whole. In this episode in church history, we see that elders and apostles (not congregations, though the elders were elected by the congregations) came on behalf of the church to reach a solution to a problem which was causing hostility between members of the larger church. Bottom line: they reached a solution on behalf of the church and we have Acts 15.

But do we play a part in this story?

The answer is yes! Churches should be connected. The old saying, "no man is an island unto himself" could be rendered "no church is an island unto herself" and should be applied to today. There are real issues that one congregation by itself cannot solve by itself. This episode in Acts gives lived out theology of a connected church which comes together to solve real issues.

How can this be applied today?
We see it when church bodies come together as one to explore issues and reach solutions. When I was an independent, I abhored the idea of this. It meant that someone else could be "stepping on my toes", but if one looks at Scripture, it shows how God's people are meant to be connected (John 17, Acts 15, the opening of almost any Pauline Epistle since they were written regionally, etc) as one body.

Yes, we have differences between demoninations and on one level it can hurt the overall unity in the larger Body of Christ, but on another level within those denominations we can live out Acts 15 by meeting together and being connected.

What are some of the implications of this?
The more radical and unBiblical ideas of autonomy are diminished and churches have the freedom to teach the whole counsel of Scripture, and the security of being connected to a greater body when issues come about where real help is needed.

There is real unity. I see this on a smaller level when I attend Missouri Presbytery meetings. Here is a large, diverse group of men, committed to the Gospel and expansion of the Kingdom, but they come together and deal with real problems and issues as one body, representing their local bodies. No "true" autonomy is lost between Kirk of the Hills (our StL church) and Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, though they are very different in style, when they come together to discuss what our Missouri PCA Churches are facing. In fact, the bonds are often strengthened, even in disagreement and debate. (I have seen this)

Another implication is that the church does not feel like they are alone in their area. Why? Because they are connected! Being connected means other avenues of fellowship, unity, work and worship may take place. Being connected means that even if Pastor X has a quibble with Pastor Y on a minutia point, they are still "in this together". Being connected means that there is accountability on part of the leadership of the local body, which is especially helpful considering some of the real dangers that come with being a leader in the Church. (See 1 Timothy 6 and Titus 1 and 2, which render sound doctrine as more than TULIP or being reformed; it's about how you live)

Western though since the Enlightenment has done much to shun the notion of connectedness and has elevated autonomy and individualism to an unhealthy, unBiblical level. Christians have been affected by this as well and it is incumbent upon those who bear the name of Christ to evaluate preference and praxis to see how it matches up to the Biblical story and this is one area that is ripe to be explored.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Some flash flood action



Here's something fun...a quick rainstorm that flooded our driveway!

Stuff like that always reminds me of Psalm 29.

Pimp this blog

Okay, my wife has a blog now. It's mostly so she could have an online journal of her two week South Africa trip from last year. She's got a journal of that, plus links to tons of pics from South Africa.

It's pretty sweet.

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