Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Dr. Horton's essay is available for free here.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Celebrant: All our problems
People: We send to the cross of Christ.
Celebrant: All our difficulties
People: We send to the cross of Christ.
Celebrant: All the devil’s works
People: We send to the cross of Christ.
Celebrant: All our hopes
People: We set on the risen Christ.
Celebrant: Christ the Son of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.
Friday, September 10, 2010
"Christian spirituality concerns the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith."
-Alister E. McGrath
Thursday, August 26, 2010
One way to prove active obedience is to start with the assumption of the truth of the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Rom. 4:1-8). In the Reformed doctrine of justification one is entirely righteousness to inherit eternal life without adding any works of their own to their justification. However, the Bible teaches that one needs to follow the Law perfectly to obtain heaven so this means that when we are justified by faith alone we have to be imputed a persons perfect Law keeping. As the scriptures teach there is only one person who followed the Law of God perfectly and that is Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Therefore, when we are justified by faith we are imputed the perfect law keeping of Jesus Christ. The controversial step in this line of reasoning is that we have to follow the Law perfectly in order to obtain heaven. So let us look to God's word to support that in order to be justified one needs to follow the Law perfectly:
Luke 10:25-28 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."
This verse teaches that if we follow God with all our ability then we will inherit eternal life. If we sin just once we have failed to love God with all of our ability and this means that the Law does not just require relative obedience for eternal life but perfect perpetual obedience for eternal life. When Jesus says “do this, and you will live” he does not mean physical life but eternal life because in context that was the question asked to him by the Lawyer (v. 25). Therefore, to enter into heaven one has to be perfectly righteous. Mark 12:28-34 is another passage that is similar to Luke 10 but Mark shows us that the requirement of perfection cannot merely be substituted or satisfied by sacrifices:
“28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" 29 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
This section of scripture sheds light on a very important principle: Obedience is better than sacrifice (v. 33). This means that any sacrifice cannot be a mere replacement of perfect law keeping because obedience to the Law is better than sacrifice. Many people who reject active obedience do so on the basis that we do not need perfect law keeping imputed to us because all we need is Jesus' sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, but verse 33 teaches that sacrifice cannot be a replacement of obedience because obedience is valued more by God. Rather in order for us to be right before God we need sacrifice and perfect obedience to be credited to our account. So we cannot say that the passive obedience can replace the active obedience because both the passive and active obedience are both necessary conditions for us to be right before God. Another passage that shows us that God requires perfection is Matthew 5:48 which says
“48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
There verse could not be any clearer in communicating this: God requires us to be morally perfect just like he is morally perfect. God does not grade on a curve he expects perfect obedience to his Law because his perfect nature demands it. It is therefore, established that to do the Law one needs to follow it perfectly because this is what God requires. In order for a human being to be justified one has to follow the Law as Romans 2:13 teaches
“13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
In order for a human being to be justified before God he has to do the law and as I have shown to do the Law means to follow it perfectly. However, only one person has followed the Law perfectly and that is Jesus Christ. So the only way for us to be justified is to be imputed Christ's perfect law keeping. This is one clear way to prove active obedience and it is legitimate because it is a clear and necessary inference from the Bible like the Trinity and the two wills of Jesus Christ. But there are actually texts that seem to explicitly affirm that Christ's perfect obedience to the Law is imputed to us, one clear example of this is Romans 5:19:
“19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
This is one of the clearest verses on Active obedience. This verse clearly teaches that the basis of us being imputed righteousness is Christ's perfect obedience. In other words, this verse teaches that the ground of our righteousness is the imputation of Christ's obedience to the Law. This cannot be a infused righteousness because of the fact that infused righteousness is logically incompatible with the objection that Paul anticipates in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” This is an objection that could only arise if in fact Paul was teaching a legal imputation of righteousness through grace by faith alone. Lastly, the preceding context also gives us a strong indication that Paul is working with a legal context (Rom. 4:5-8; 5:1). Therefore, this verse clearly is teaching that Christ's obedience is the legal basis by which we are imputed righteousness. Another verse like 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 helps us connect the dots by teaching that Christ's righteousness is our righteousness, it reads as follows:
29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
This verse is used to show us that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is our righteousness. In other words, this verse shows us that it is Christ's righteousness that makes us righteous. The context suggests this strongly because it emphasizes that we cannot boast before the Lord and the only way this would be true is if the perfect righteousness we had for entering heaven was not our own righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ, then and only then would we not be able to boast in ourselves, but only in the Lord for he is our righteousness. And we receive the righteousness of the Lord by faith as Paul teaches in Philippians 3:8-9
“8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-”
Paul counts all of his accomplishments and all of his good deeds as loss by only trusting in Christ and receiving the righteousness from God. Paul says that he has no righteousness of his own, but rather he has the righteousness from God by faith in Christ. Paul cannot trust in his active obedience anymore for righteousness but the only active obedience he can trust in for his justification is Christ' righteousness. For if we were to ever trust in our own law keeping for righteousness we would all be doomed. There would be no hope in this life if we did not have Christ's righteousness because we fall into sin every day, we are so very far from perfection. This is why I am so deeply moved by the words of Dr. J. Gresham Machen shortly before he died he sent his final telegram to his friend Professor John Murray. The words of the telegram were these: "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." There is so much significance and truth packed into Machen's last words to John Murray. The fact is that without Christ's righteousness there is no hope because our own best righteousness is like fifthly rags. It might not be today and it might not be tomorrow but someday we will all die. And in your last dying breath, the moment right before you go, do you want to die knowing that you are about to go before a holy God with just your daily sins? Or would you rather die knowing that you have been imputed with Christ' perfect righteousness? For the Apostle Paul and Machen the answer to this was clear we must only rely on Christ and his perfect righteousness because without it there is simply no hope in this life.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
So let us suppose for the moment that sola scriptura is not taught in the Bible and that we reject the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic arguments (as I have done elsewhere on this blog) then all we are left with is scripture. So we could modify our view of God's revelation to be as follows: Scripture alone is the only infallible and authoritative rule for faith and practice that we have knowledge of. As for there being additional revelation other than the Bible we should withhold belief that such additional revelation exists. In other words, with respect to the proposition that there is additional revelation other than the Bible we should be agnostic with respect to this proposition.
Once one has accepted this epistemological form of sola scriptura (the criteria given above) then it seems like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims of incoherence lose their weight. This is because the conjunction of reason and scripture warrant the conclusion that these are the only scriptures we know of (this is of course assuming that the other church authority arguments fails). Therefore, there is no logical incoherence with this epistemological version of sola scriptura.
So even if Protestants cannot provide a proof text for sola scriptura this still does not entail that one should be a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. In fact it would appear that the epistemic status of Protestantism is not effected at all if one cannot give a proof text.
Additional arguments must be given and have dealt with those arguments in the posts referenced below.
For the refutation of all the positive arguments that the East and Rome gives for believing their positions see the following blog posts:
Friday, July 23, 2010
P1: Honoring your Mother entails that if S has the ability to keep S's mother sinless then S would bring it about that S's mother is sinless
P2: Jesus has the ability to keep his mother sinless
C: Jesus brought it about that his mother is sinless
The problem with this argument is obvious: When Mary was born and inherited original sin at that time she was not Jesus' mother (Jesus with respect to his human nature was not born). So Jesus at that time was not under obligation to bring about her sinlessness. Another obvious problem with this argument is that the commandment says to honor your *father* and your mother. This means that if this argument was carried out consistently then we ought to think that Joseph was sinless, but neither Catholics nor Protestants teach this. All this to say arguments like these are entirely desperate attempts to hide the obvious truth that Roman Catholic churches teachings cannot be justified by scripture and right reason.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Historic Protestantism has always taught that the Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone. The Doctrine of justification by faith alone is clearly taught in Romans 3:28 28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” However, there has been in recent years some Protestants that reject the doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of a future justification based on works. This rejection of justification by faith alone can be explicit or implicit depending on who you are reading. This tendency to reject sola fide on the basis of a future justification by works is primarily held by those who are proponents of the Federal Visionists movement. To give a concrete example: Rich Lusk is a Federal Visionists proponent and he says the following from his blog here http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/future-justification-to-the-doers-of-the-law concerning future justification:
“The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone. This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification. But if Joshua is to remain justified — that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity — he must be faithful. Thus, initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience.”
And again Rich Lusk says:
“Again, we find the Bible teaching that future justification is according to works. Final justification is to the (faithful) doers of the law (Rom. 2:1ff) and by those good works which make faith complete (Jas. 2:14ff). Justification will not be fully realized until the resurrection.”
In these two quotations we see an explicit denial of the traditional doctrine of justification by faith alone. Therefore, because of the seriousness of this issue in even Protestant circles now. I believe it is important that we look at the biblical texts that are often used to support future justification by works. It is my position that the Bible does not teach a future justification by works. I shall deal with the Bible passages that are appealed to support a future justification by works and I shall demonstrate that none of these passages in fact teach this doctrine that is incompatible with sola fide.
The first text I will look at is Romans 2:6-8 which reads “ 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Paul is teaching in Romans 2:6-8 that the only way for us to obtain eternal life is by works. Protestants do not actually disagree with this nor is this principle incompatible with justification by faith. This is because in the doctrine of justification by faith we are legally imputed Christ's perfect work by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). So we will go to heaven by this works principle. However, this is not our works but Christ's works which are legally imputed to our account (Rom. 5:19). Therefore, this text does not disprove justification by faith alone, but it rather this proves the principle behind justification by faith which is this: that in order to obtain eternal salvation one needs to have fulfilled a works principle.
Romans 2 contains another passage that is used to attempt to support a future justification by works, this is in Romans 2:13 which reads “13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” This is an additional passage that expresses the principle in Romans 2:6-8. The principle is this: In order to be righteous one needs to do the Law of God perfectly. This is what Jesus did for us and it is imputed to us by faith alone in Christ Jesus (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). Contextually, this is the most plausible understanding of this text because Paul in Romans 3:9-20 teaches that in light of human sin no one can be justified by works because everyone has failed to follow the law. So if we were to take this passage in the way that some Federal Visionists do then we would end up contradicting Paul's thought in the larger context of Romans; the Federal Visionist interpretation of this text contradicts Paul's thought on the lack of ability of humans to follow God's Law and on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The best explanation of these two texts in Romans 2 is to understand them as a principle that is behind justification by faith alone.
2 Corinthians 5:10
Another text that is mistakenly used to support a future justification by works is 2 Corinthians 5:10 which reads 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The best way to understand this passage is that it is referring to God's perfect standard of Justice for goodness or good deeds done in the body. The only way we are going to get to heaven is if we are good in our bodies, but we have all failed to do this. So the only option for a sinful person is to have faith in Jesus, so that his goodness is legally imputed to us by faith alone.
Now we are going to moving from Paul's Epistles to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of many sections in Matthew that has been mistakenly thought to be teaching a future justification by works, it reads “21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” This verse is compatible with justification by faith alone and it actually teaches against a future justification by works. These people are condemned by God because they are appealing to their good works so that God will let them into heaven. God's response is that what they are doing is against his “will” and that he never knew them. What is God's “will” for sinners so that they can enter into heaven? God's prescribed “will” for sinners is that they are to have faith in Christ so that they can enter heaven. So far from contradicting justification by faith this verse is compatible with it and it teaches against a future justification by works.
Another passage that is used in Matthew to support a future justification by works is Matthew 12:36-37 which reads “36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." The context here is that Jesus is condemning the self-righteous Pharisees. The way Jesus is condemning them is by holding before them a perfect standard of speech which they have failed. The principle behind these passages is the same sort of principle we have seen in the previous passages we have looked at. This principle is that God requires perfect obedience and in this case Jesus is emphasizing perfect obedience in speech. The only person who had perfect speech was Jesus Christ himself and we receive all of his righteousness by faith alone.
The last passage we will look at is Matthew 25:31-46 and it reads “31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." These passages are not teaching that one is justified by these good deeds, but rather Jesus is pointing out their good works to demonstrate to them that they have been justified by faith alone. The final judgment has an element which is demonstrative. In other words, on the final day of judgment God will speak of your good works to show that you were imputed Christ righteousness when you had faith in Christ. God will give you evidence that you are believer and he will give others evidence that they are unbelievers. This is what Matthew 25 is teaching.
We have seen no good reason to believe in a future justification by works. This view is incompatible with what Paul teaches on justification by faith alone and it is also incompatible with the Gospel of Grace. When we as believers die we should not fear a future judgment by works because we will be judged by Christ's perfect works. Therefore, on that glorious day God will say to us “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Joy of your Master”. The only reason why God will say this is because of Jesus, who was a good and faithful servant in our place.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
A. Scripture is the final authoritative norm of doctrine and practice
"Within the reciprocal nexus of Scripture, Church and the rule of faith then, Scripture occupies an absolutely unique place and role. It alone is verbally and completely inspired by God from its first word to its last. It alone is always and everywhere the very Word of the living God. Scripture alone, therefore, can function as the 'canon,' the rule, the final authoritative standard of truth against which all else is measured. Yes, it is the Church which does the measuring, and yes the rule of faith provides basic parameters of measurement, but it is Scripture and Scipture alone that is that standard norm" (Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, 262).
1. Scripture is inspired (theopneustos)
a. The Holy Spirit selected and influenced certain men and used them for the infallible communication of His mind without overriding their individual styles and personalities. Still, what they communicated, God communicated without error.
b. Some of the verses appealed to are: 2 Pet 1:21, 2 Tim 3:162. Scripture is infallible
a. If something is infallible, it is unable to err (inerrancy means there simply are no errors).
b. The apostles and prophets were not inherently infallible (Gal 2:11-13).
c. Since Scripture is inspired and God-breathed, it is inherently infallible.
3. Scripture has unique authority
a. It has the binding authority of God Himself and no man or church shares this particular type of authority (2 Thess 2:4).
b. The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15), but just as Jesus claimed to be the truth itself (John 14:6), so also Scripture claims to be truth itself (John 17:17). There is a qualitative difference between truth itself and the pillar of truth.
4. The supreme normativity of Scripture
a. Because Scripture has unique, infallible and final authority, it stands as the church's supreme norm. Only Scripture can be described as the "absolute norm" because only it is God-breathed. "The supreme normativity of Scripture is the logical corollary of its inspiration, infallibility, and unique authority" (Mathison, 266). If Scripture carries the authority of God Himself then its supreme authority is self-evident.
b. The writings of the fathers, canons, decrees of councils...ect are not God-breathed and therefore are of lesser authority. All of these must submit and conform to Scripture.
-Notice this doctrine does not claim that Scripture is our only authority. There are other authorities that are subordinate to Scripture.
B. Scripture is the only source of normative revelation after the apostolic era
1. Scripture has the quality of perfection
a. Scripture in itself is a perfectly complete and adequate source of revelation. It contains "all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly" (Grudem, Systematic Theo, 127).
-Notice this doctrine does not teach that Scripture is the only thing needed for the Christian faith and life...Scripture fulfills the revelatory role.
-Verses proponents appeal to are: Deut 29:29, Luke 16:29, 2 Tim 3:15
2. Scripture has the quality of sufficiency
a. "Our final authority is Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone...[it] is inspired and inherently infallible...but Scripture does not exist in a vacuum" (Mathison, 259). The Bible cannot preach or teach itself and the church must read and interpret it.
C. Scripture is interpreted in and by the church
"There is a reciprocal relationship between the Spirit-inspired Word of God and the Spirit-indwelt people of God" (267).
1. Ecclesiastical authority
a. The church is a subordinate authority recognized by the early church and the Reformers. Furthermore, Jesus Himself gives the church the authority to bind and loose...something not given to every individual member within the church (Mtt 18:18).
b. The church has the authority to teach and make disciples of all nations (Mtt 28:18-20) and is described as the body and bride of Christ (Eph 1:22-23, 5:32, Rev 21:9). It is the instrument God uses to make His Word known (Eph 3:10).
c. Many of the Reformers (Luther and Calvin) also held that it is only within the visible church that one can find the gospel and forgiveness although many protestants now hold that all that believe and put their faith in Christ are part of the church. Some call this the "invisible" church.
d. The fallibility of the church does not make her authority invalid. One only needs to look at human mothers to see this is true. It is up to the church to look at and correct herself according to the infallible word of Scripture.
e. Francis Turretin lays out three essential aspects of the church's authority: 1) articles of faith 2) ordaining or making canons/constitutions for good order 3) the judicial and exercise of discipline (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3:281).
f. The church's authority derives from and depends upon her conformity with the inherently authoritative Word of God. "The Church may be likened to a court of law, but she is not to be confused with the source of law" (Mathison, 270).
2. Private and Corporate Judgment
a. There is a difference between the role of the conscience in the individual and in the church. Individuals should read Scripture, but final ecclesiastical authority does not rest in the individual member. The Individual however, is ultimately responsible before God.
b. The individual should not study the Bible in isolation from the rest of the church (past and present). One can read the Scriptures by themselves, but should not read it individualistically.
c. "Excommunication is an authoritative judgment of the communion of saints as the covenantal body of Christ. And teaching the Word is the authoritative duty of the communion of saints as the covenantal body of Christ" (Mathison, 271).
D. Scripture is interpreted according to the regula fidei
1. Tradition: The Rule of Faith (regula fidei)
a. Tradition was the doctrine committed to the Church by Christ and the apostles through oral and written forms. The content was identical. What was once primarily an oral tradition was gradually written down in the canonical Scriptures.
b. The regula fidei was a summary of the apostolic doctrine that was taught and preserved by the church. It functioned as a hermeneutical context for the church after the deaths of the apostles.
2. Creeds and Confessions
a. Creeds and confessions aim to establish boundaries within the church. They are beliefs held to by the church (corporate).
-Many evangelicals have an aversion to established creeds because they misunderstand the way in which they are authoritative and/or their summary nature. They might agree with everything in a particular creed while denying the ultimate authority of a human summary of Scripture. Also, some find individual church creeds are needlessly divisive when they require adherence to denominational distinctives (Calvinism, Views on the last days, age of the earth..ect). Some may believe creeds are good and necessary, but that individual members should not have to sign statements that go beyond the rule of faith.
-Almost all churches (even ones that think of themselves as non-creedal) require members to be interviewed and affirm the basic tenants of the Christian faith.
3. The Perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture
a. The authority of ecumenical creeds is held to in light of the belief in the perspicuity of Scripture on basic and essential matters. They are a confession of what the church as a whole has read in the Scriptures.
b. Charles Hodge says, "If the Scriptures be a plain book, and the Spirit performs the functions of a teacher to all the children of God, it follows inevitably that they must agree in all essential matters in their interpretation of the Bible. And from that fact it follows that for an individual Christian to dissent from the faith of the universal Church (i.e., the body of true believers), is tantamount to dissenting from the Scriptures themselves" (279).
c. There can be new insights into the Scriptures (perhaps unnoticed or not articulated by previous eras), but these need to be consistent with the rule of faith.
-This doctrine does not claim that every part of Scripture is clear and easy to understand-- a point many Protestants, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox misunderstand about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
-Many modern evangelicals who advocate a tradition 0 approach try to affirm the perspicuity of Scripture while rejecting the use of creeds!
Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura informed most, but not all of the explanation of Sola Scriptura in this post.
Many Protestants find 1 Cor 4:6 to be an important principle for Sola Sriptura. "Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, 'Do not go beyond what is written.' Then you will not take pride in one man over against another."
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Does Matthew 18:18 teach that Jesus promised to back up the decrees of the disciples and perhaps those of their successors? Not according to Craig Keener in the Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (William D. Mounce). "The matter is not quite so simple; the actions described in heaven are future perfect passives-which could be translated 'will have already been bound in heaven...will have already been loosed in heaven.' In other words, the heavenly decree confirming the earthly one is based on a prior verdict."
The language being used here is similar to a Jewish law court where elders in the synogogues made decisons on legal issues. "Many Jewish people believed that the authority of Heaven stood behind the earthly judges when they decided cases based on a correct understanding of God's law. (This process came to be called 'binding and loosing')." By obeying God's law, the earthly court upheld what was decreed by the heavenly court (121).
This is the will of God being carried out through the church based off of what has already been done in heaven. It is a matter of the church recognizing the impenitent heart of an individual who has already been seperated from God and reflecting this in the fellowship of the church. When a person refuses to turn from their sin (even after loving confrontation), the church has the responsibility to make the reality of the sin before God clear to everyone.
What are the implications for the church's authority? Church authority must be looked at in terms of recognizing what God has already decreed and in the context of this passage, this must be done with great care! The passage does not assure us that our judgments will be infallible, but if we follow the process laid out (concerning witnesses and going to the person in private) in the will of God (see John 16 also), then the heavenly court will be reflected on earth perhaps even with supernatural action (Mtt 18:19-20 and 1 Cor 5:4-5,13) all of this was of course assuming a correct interpretation of the Scriptures (Colin Brown, Dictionary of NT Theo vol.3 p.781).
This understanding poses a challenge to those Protestant churches that deny the church has any authority. The passage is also often used by the RC and EO as part of a case for their own perspectives on church authority as well. The passage however may not be used in support of church infallibility.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
After considering the gradational and equivalent views of authority within the Trinity from a historical perspective, Erickson says: "There are no hard conclusions to be drawn from this historical survey, for neither position finds unequivocal support for its position. However, if one believes that the church made progress in its ongoing reflection on this matter, then it would seem that the view of equal authority has an advantage over that of gradational authority. While one might say that it is a choice of whether one follows the Eastern or the Western tradition, it is worth noting that in recent years the differences between the two traditions have become less" (167).
In support, Erickson cited the "Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity" from the Orthodox and Reformed dialogue from Kappel-am-Albis, Switzerland on March 1992.
Do any of you think this particular gap has actually become less?
Monday, April 19, 2010
Dr. Ligon Duncan, one of the growing number of Protestant scholars who is actually familiar with the writings of the Early Church Fathers, did a wonderful interview for Sovereign Grace Ministries titled "Patristics for Busy Pastors." This is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the Fathers, especially those who don't have time to take seminary courses or attempt to wade through the massive body of Patristic literature on their own. If you're already familiar with the Fathers, this is still an interesting interview and well worth your time. And if you're like me, a Protestant who laments modern Protestant ignorance of the Fathers (this was not the case in the 16th century!), then you should be cheering that Dr. Duncan and others like him are attempting to cure that ignorance!
Now, on to the provocative title of this blog post! It is the title of Dr. Duncan's message from last week's Together For The Gospel Conference. The Video is below.
But, let's face it, the real reason for this blog post was an excuse to share this picture of Dr. Duncan's head on a Church Father's body (courtesy of Sovereign Grace's website).
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In a chapter entitled Why Victoria’s In on the Secret, Smith claims that Victoria Secret gets right what many in the church miss. Its marketing “quite intentionally combines passion with transcendence, combines sex with religion…marketing taps into our erotic religious nature and seeks to shape us in such a way that this passion and desire is directed to strange gods, alternative worship, and another kingdom. And it does so by triggering and tapping into our erotic core—the heart.” Advertising sells an ideal and taps into the core of what we are and directs us away from God. Smith’s point is that often many in the church take a different and inferior approach. “…The church responds to the overwhelming cultural activation and formation of desire by trying to fill our head with ideas and beliefs” (76).
Smith suggests that the church try and redirect passion and desire rather than try to overcome it with ideas and beliefs. While Victoria’s Secret is “grabbing hold of our gut (kardia) by means of our body and senses—in stories and images, sights and sound, and commercial versions of “smells and bells”—the [Protestant] church’s response is oddly rationalistic” (126-127).
Personally, I found this book on the whole to be very insightful. I thought I would take a piece of it out for discussion given the implications on the emphases our churches place on different ideas and practices. I tend to agree that Protestant churches do tend to place too much emphasis on ideas and beliefs (though I think these need to be a good part of the picture). Still, I wondered about the Eastern Orthodox (among others) church’s multi-sensory approach to liturgy and how this might be something we can all learn from even if we do not accept what they do with some of it. Thoughts?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
It has long been an interest of mine to experience different Christian denominations, church services and liturgies. I pay close attention to the various teachings, styles of music, sacraments, how people within the church interact and even how outsiders are treated. Recently, I have transferred to a new graduate school and am now in pursuit of a church to attend. I guess you could say I’m a church shopper.
Lately, I haven’t been able to escape the memory of one church in particular. The atmosphere was pleasant, warm, friendly, and upbeat that Sunday morning. Entering through the doors of the church, I was greeted by mortals wearing business casual attire who went out of their way to get me connected with information and welcome bags. As a new person in the area, I felt welcome and sure of getting plugged in if I desired. Life was good.
Church took an odd turn once I entered the main area. Hearing the band play “Sweet Home Alabama” on a Sunday morning does that. It was like stepping into the church version of the Twilight Zone. The place reminded me of a movie theatre; there were electric guitars up front and a concentration of lighting, Persian rugs and great colored lights.
The music was moving and there was a big emphasis on personal reflection that was half spoken and half sung throughout the songs. Looking around, the people seemed very dedicated— closing their eyes and making every verse sung their personal prayer. Each person seemed to be lost in their own little world. The songs seemed very individually centered and after a while I wondered if it was just all about getting lost in the experience.
Finally, a giant screen descended from above and the pastor greeted us from the mother church. Shortly after, a family psychologist was welcomed on screen. This dragged on for a while. Initially confused, I looked at the bulletin handed out in the beginning and found it was just an announcement page. Looking at my watch several times, and not without a smidgen of guilt, I secretly hoped they would get on with the interview and into the sermon.
After a while, I settled down as I realized that this was the sermon. My disbelief turned into despair. What about that God guy we all vaguely know? He didn’t seem all that relevant to the discussion. How about His book that’s supposed to be “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, [that] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; [that] judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”? There were maybe one or two loose and fleeting parallels used as supplements to learning how to overcome dysfunctional family patterns when raising kids.
Futility, then boredom set in and curious, I decided to take a look around….
Lord of all, we bow be-fore Thee!
All on earth Thy scep-ter claim,
All in heav-en a-bove a-dore Thee;
In-fin-ite Thy vast do-main,
Ev-er-last-ing is Thy reign.
Hark! the loud ce-les-tial hymn
An-gel choirs a-bove are rais-ing,
Cher-u-bim and ser-a-phim,
In un-ceas-ing chor-us prais-ing;
Fill the heav-ens with sweet ac-cord:
Ho-ly, ho-ly, ho-ly, Lord.
Lo! the a-pos-tol-ic train
Join the sa-cred Name to hal-low;
Pro-phets swell the loud re-frain,
And the white-robed mar-tyrs fol-low;
And from morn to set of sun,
Through the Church the song goes on.
Ho-ly Fa-ther, Ho-ly Son,
Ho-ly Spir-it, Three we name Thee;
While in es-sence on-ly One,
Un-di-vid-ed God we claim Thee;
And a-dor-ing bend the knee,
While we own the mys-ter-y.
--The Covenant Hymnal: A Worship #19
Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Christian liturgy is an interchange between actions of proclamation and actions of worship...
The Roman and Orthodox traditions have historically found it difficult to give due weight to the dimmension of God addressing us in judgment and grace- in short, to proclamation. The Protestant tradition has historically found it difficult to give due weight to the dimension of us addressing God in love and devotion- in short, to worship...Yet liturgies do differ profoundly in their emphases, and the tragedy of the liturgy in Protestantism- and particularly in the Reformed tradition- is that the worship dimension is suppressed, sometimes radically so. The liturgy is no longer 'eucharistic,' and a fundamental dimension of the life of the church and of the existence of the Christian is thereby stunted."
--Until Justice and Peace Embrace: The Kuyper Lectures for 1981 delivered at The Free University of Amsterdam, Nicholas Wolterstorff, ch VII p157-158.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
There has been a great deal of controversy around Matthew 16:13-20. This text has been abused by the Roman Catholic Church to prove the papacy. Whereas others want to argue that the rock of the church is only Jesus Christ. We should not bring any dogmatic or cultural assumptions to interpret this text rather we should let it speak for itself in its original language. Only once we have done contextual exegesis can we ask the questions of what dogmatic position this text supports, if any at all. In terms of exegesis I will be arguing that in Matthew 16:13-20 the rock on which the church is built is the confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter by confessing this and by administering church discipline acts as a representative for all those in the church that make this confession. In order to support this thesis we first need to look at the larger purpose of Matthew and how it relates to Matthew 16:13-20.
The Use and Purpose of 16:13-20 in Matthew
One of the main purposes of the Gospel of Matthew is to show that Jesus is the Christ. The climax and the center of the purpose are found in Matthew 16:13-20 when Peter makes the confession that Jesus is the Christ and Jesus shows his approval of this by blessing Peter (16:16-17). Hence, Matthew uses 16:13-20 as a climax of one of the central themes of Matthews Gospel: that Jesus is the Christ. The first way I will demonstrate this is to clarify Matthews’s concept of the Christ. Then I will show that the beginning and ending of the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ. Finally, we will look at how Matthew builds up to the climax in 16:13-20.
For Matthew’s Gospel the concept of the Christ is that of the divine son of God such that one could not think of the Christ without also thinking that he is the son of God and conversely one cannot think of the son of God without also thinking that he is the Christ. This is in the climax of Matthew’s Gospel where the Gospel uses Christ and the son of the living God in apposition (16:16). Furthermore, Jesus brings this out in Matthews Gospel when he asks the Pharisees what they thought about the Christ and whose son was he (22:41-42). Jesus then uses what they thought was a messianic text (Ps. 2) to show that on their own assumptions the Christ was to be thought of in terms of a divine son (22:42-45). In addition, when the birth of Jesus is mentioned it is mentioned as both the birth of the Christ (1:18) and also God dwelling with us (1:23). Perhaps most significant is that Jesus’ Jewish enemies in Matthew’s Gospel thought that his Messiahship entailed his divine sonship. Herod who wanted to kill the infant Christ thought that the title of Christ suggested a sort of person that was worthy of worship (2:4-8). The question from Caiaphas that got Jesus crucified presupposed that the Son of God was intimately connected to the concept of Messiah in the same way that Peter’s confession did (16:16; 26:63). Hence, in Matthew’s theology to think of a separation between the son of God and the Christ would be inconceivable. Now that we established Matthews understanding of the Christ we can look to see if this is one of his central themes in this Gospel.
The beginning and ending of the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is Christ suggesting that this was one of the central purposes of the Gospel writer.
The opening of the Gospel of Matthew begins with a royal Jewish genealogy demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ. The central theme of this genealogy is that Jesus is the Christ because the first line of the genealogy mentions that Jesus is the Christ (1:1) and the last two lines are emphasizing that Jesus is the Christ (1:16-17). The fact that this pericope begins and ends with the term “Christ” shows that genealogy is a pericope dedicated to the idea that Jesus is the Christ. After this genealogy we see that the historical narrative begins with verse 18 and the introduction clues us in to the truth that the Birth of Christ came about in a certain way. In other words, the beginning of the narrative in Matthews Gospel opens up with the mentioning of the Christ and his birth. Hence, it is reasonable to believe that the first thing that Gospel writer was emphatic about in his introduction will be something that he will be emphatic about throughout the entire Gospel.
The ending of the Gospel of Matthew as well emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ. After Jesus had been crucified and has died the people around him make this Messianic pronouncement “Truly, this was the Son of God” (27:54). The reason why this statement is Messianic is because of what I have previously demonstrated, namely, that the Son of God and Messiah cannot be separated because in Matthews’s theology they are one and the same person. When the people around the crucified Jesus think of him as the Son of God they also think of him as the Christ. This shows that the beginning of Jesus’ life began with messianic pronouncement (1:18) and his death ends with a messianic pronouncement (27:54). When the Christ is resurrected he is vindicated and he now has all authority on heaven and on earth as the kingly Messiah (28:18). Furthermore, Jesus’ Messianic identity as the “son” is to be the name by which disciples of all nations are to be baptized with, in addition to the heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit (28:19). Hence, the beginning and the end of the Gospel and the beginning and end of the life of Jesus end with Messianic statements. This strongly suggests that this is the central theme of Matthews’s Gospel.
Matthew uses the pericope 16:13-20 as climax to clarify explicitly the identity of Jesus in the midst of uncertainty and controversy surrounding the identity of Jesus. The characters in the narrative are not confirmed explicitly by Jesus himself as to what his true identity is until Matthew 16:13-20. The point is that Jesus has no used of himself the title “Christ” before the crowds and disciples. All they have to go off are implicit hints that are stronger and stronger as the Gospel carries on to the final climax in the perciope 16:13-20. In the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus is teaching the people notice his unique authority that surpassed the authority of the scribes (7:28-29). This continues when Jesus heals and forgives sins in the midst of the crowds causing the crowds to be afraid and glorify God and his enemies to think of him as a blasphemer (9:1-8). As Jesus’ works and miracles continue the crowds begin to speculate more about the identity of Jesus. Interestingly John the Baptist has some confusion about whether or not Jesus is the Christ, but Jesus only gives him an implicit affirmation by pointing to his mighty deeds (11:2-5). In Chapter 12 Jesus heals a demon oppressed man who is deaf and mute and the crowds begin asking “Can this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Jesus does hint implicitly to his identity in the midst of all this by emphasizing that his greatness surpasses that of Solomon and Jonah (12:41-42). Following this Matthew leads us up to Herod the tetrarch’s speculation that Jesus might be John the Baptist back from the dead because of his miracles (14:1-2). As the tension builds the disciples indicate after Jesus calms the storm and walks on water that Jesus is the “Son of God”, but here Jesus does not yet explicitly confirm that this identification is correct (14:33). All of this builds up to Matthew use of the pericope 16:13-20 as the climax of that Jesus is the Christ.
There are many elements in the text of Matthew 16:13-20 that suggests that this Gospel builds up to this specific pericope as a climatic point. Jesus begins the section by asking a leading question to elicit a response from the disciples "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (16:13). This question coheres with all that Matthew has been doing in his Gospel by showing all the various opinions that the crowds and others have been drawing from teachings and miracles of Jesus. This is magnified more so when the disciples make a list of all professed identifications of Jesus. When the disciples mention that some say Jesus is John the Baptist or one of the prophets this corresponds to what Matthew has been building up to in the preceding context. Herod is the one who mentioned that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead (14:1-2). And Jesus himself has told people explicitly that he is a prophet (13:57). Therefore, half of the identifications mentioned come from the preceding context that has been building up to this point in the text. After this Jesus elicits even more of an answer from the disciples when he asks what they say his identity is (16:15). Peter answers and identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (16:16) and this confession is an echo of what the disciples have said of Jesus as the Son of God previously (14:33). The difference between the saying in 16:16 and 14:33 is that now Jesus explicitly confirms his identity as the Christ by Blessing Peter and telling him that what he has received is revelation from the Father. If Matthew was not clear enough that Jesus explicitly confirms that he is the Christ to his disciples he then proceeds to close the literary section in verse 20 by mentioning that Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Christ. In this pericope Matthew has Jesus bringing his disciples to the confession that he is the Christ and then in ending the pericope Matthew closes the topic of keeping his messianic identity concealed. This suggests that from beginning to end Matthew uses this pericope to emphasize that Jesus is the Christ. Hence, inherent within 16:13-20 we see the full climax of what Matthew was previously building up to in the in the preceding elements of the narrative.
The Context of Matthew 16:13-20
Now that I have established Matthews’s use of the pericope of 16:13-20 we now need to take a look at the context surrounding 16:13-20 so that I can properly exegete it.
The immediate preceding and proceeding context of 16:13-20 uses literary contrasts. In the opening of the 16th chapter of Matthew Jesus is having a confrontation with the antagonist of Matthews Gospel the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1). In this section they ask Jesus for a sign to demonstrate the truthfulness of his teaching as they have done before (12:38-39; 16:1). Jesus responds the same way he does in 12:38-39, namely, that he will not give any other sign but the sign of Jonah and that they are an evil and adulterous generation (16:4). In contrasts to the evil and adulterous Pharisees and Sadducees are the disciples in the next section (16:6-12). The disciples are given a saying of Jesus that is also symbolic like the saying to the Pharisees and Sadducees but in their case instead of being called by Jesus an evil and adulterous generation they are called those of little faith (16:8). And unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees the disciples finally understand the saying of Jesus at the end of the section (16:12). We see that in chapter 16 verses 1-4 and 5-12 there is a definite contrasting of content. This is very much like section 13-20 and 21-23. In 13-20 Peter is blessed by Jesus for understanding revelation, whereas in 21-23 Peter is associated with Satan for misunderstanding his revelation. Hence, the inherent structure of the context surrounding Matthew 16:13-20 is contrastive and antithetical.
The Literary Structure of Matthew 16:13-20
The literary structure of Matthew 16:13-20 is composed of an introduction (13), two questions that are answered (13-16), the rest of structure has antithetical parallelisms (17-19) and the section ends with a closing remark (20). The introduction in verse 13 opens up with placing Jesus in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Then in verse 13 Jesus begins asking the disciples about what men say about his identity. The disciples answer in verse 14 with listing all of the identifications made by men concerning the identity of Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus asks his second question to his disciples as to what they say about his identity. In verse 16 we get our second answer from Peter that Jesus is the Messiah and this leads into Jesus’ response in verse 17. In verse 17 we see that Jesus’ response to Peter is in the form of antithetical parallelisms. I am in agreement with Robert Gundry’s characterization of the antithetical parallelisms of verses 17-19 which is as follows:
(17b) maka,rioj ei=( Si,mwn Bariwna/(
(17c) o[ti sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi
(17d) avllV o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
(18a) kavgw. de, soi le,gw o[ti su. ei= Pe,troj(
(18b) kai. evpi. tau,th th/ pe,tra oivkodomh,sw mou th.n evkklhsi,an
(18c) kai. pu,lai a[dou ouv katiscu,sousin auvth/jÅ
(19a) dw,sw soi ta.j klei/daj th/j basilei,aj tw/n ouvranw/n(
(19b) kai. o] eva.n dh,shj evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/j(
(19c) kai. o] eva.n lu,shj evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
In the structure 17b, 18a, and 19a are the three phrases that introduce each antithetical parallelism. 17c and b are primarily contrasting sa.rx kai. ai-ma with o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j. 18b and c is contrasting th.n evkklhsi,an with pu,lai a[dou. 19b and c is the clearest antithetical parallelism is contrasting dh,shj with lu,shj and dedeme,non with lelume,non. After the parallelisms Matthew closes the pericope in verse 20 with Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to conceal his identity. Matthew 16:13-20 is composed of an introduction, two questions, two answers, antithetical parallelisms, and conclusion.
The Confession as the Rock
Before I can argue what the pe,tra on which Christ will build his church on is, we first need to see if there is any difference between pe,tra and Pe,troj. Although Pe,troj is Peter’s nick name (4:18), so far as we know it does not appear as a name before the writing of the New Testament. So it is vital that we understand the meaning and relationship pe,tra and Pe,troj so that we can develop a theory that accounts for all of the data about the rock of church in this pericope.
In terms of meaning there does not seem too much of a difference between pe,tra and petroj but rather these two words can be interchangeable. It would seem that sources like BDAG would disagree with my above assertion because it says that petroj means a loose stone, whereas pe,tra means bedrock, piece of rock or massive rock. On the other hand, Thayer would seem to indicate that both petroj and pe,tra have general overlap because these two words both could mean stone or a cliff. The fact that there is overlap in meaning between these two words has been recognized by defenders of various and conflicting interpretations of Matthew 16:18. The usage of the word petroj in the Septuagint is used a majority of the time with reference to caves and holes of rocks (Job 30:6; Oba.1:3; Isa. 57:5; 7:19; 2:21; 2:19; Jer.28:25; 16:16; Jer. 30:10). The reason why the reference to caves and holes of rocks shows that petroj is not necessarily a loose stone is that usually when we see the rocks in caves or holes not all the rocks are loose stones, but rather there are many larger stable rocks that are a part of the cave or a hole. However, every instance of petroj in the apocrypha is in reference to a loose stone and this seems to show that petroj can take on either meaning (2Ma 1:16; 4:41;
The overlap in meaning between petroj and pe,tra is that they both can be referring to larger stable stones or rocks. Hence, there does seem to be interchangeability between petroj and pe,tra.
Although there does seem to be interchangeability between the meanings of petroj and pe,tra, there is a difference between these two words and this difference has some exegetical significance. The difference between petroj and pe,tra is that they are different genders. Usually when words have different genders and the words are not determined to be a specific gender then there is exegetical significance to this. In the case of petroj this word would be masculine form whereas pe,tra would be the feminine form. When a word has gender and this word is referring to another word, typically these words will have the same gender. There has to be some sort of reason for why the genders are different in Matthew 16:18. Hence, any interpretation that is given about the relation between petroj and pe,tra in Matthew 16:18 needs to give a adequate explanation of the gender difference.
In order to analyze what pe,tra is referring to in Matthew 16:18 lets us look at the explanations and arguments offered in favor of the traditional and prominent interpretation of this passage. The tradition position is that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj. We will first look at the explanations offered by the tradition position as to why there is a gender distinction between Peter and the rock in Matthew 16:18. After we have looked at the explanations offered by the traditional view, we will then look at the positive arguments in favor of the rock referring to Peter.
There are various ways the traditional position offers an explanation of the gender distinctions between Pe,troj and pe,tra. One explanation of the gender distinction that is used by defenders of the traditional view is that Jesus spoke to his disciples in Aramaic and in this language there would be no distinction in gender observed. In Aramaic there is only one way to say rock apyK and so Jesus’ original saying would not have made a distinction between Peter and the rock because they would both be called apyK. From this line of reasoning the traditional defender says that we ought not to make a distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra because the original saying of Jesus would not have done so. Another way the tradition position explains the gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra is that Peter was a man so his name is determined to be masculine and the reason why pe,tra is feminine is because Matthew did not want be repetitious. Furthermore, another explanation given by the traditional position is the reason why Matthew used different genders was to distinguish conceptually between Peter the name and the foundational rock which Peter metaphorically represents. These are the explanations offered by the traditional position; let us now look at the positive reasons offered in support of the traditional positions interpretation of the rock referring to Peter in 16:18.
There are various arguments in favor of the traditional view. The main argument is that Pe,troj is the nearest possible antecedent to which pe,tra could refer to. That is simply to say that Pe,troj is nearest to pe,tra than anything else in the preceding context. Another argument in favor of the traditional view is that this seems to be the most natural reading of the text. These are the primary reasons for holding to the traditional view.
The traditional positions explanations and arguments are insufficient because it does not adequately explain the gender distinctions between Pe,troj and pe,tra. After demonstrating the insufficiencies of the traditional position I will give an alternative interpretation that takes into account all of data surrounding Peter and the rock in Matthew 16:18.
The explanation that we should not make a distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra because when Jesus would have uttered this saying in Aramaic he would have used apyK for both words relies on unsupported presumption and on a faulty view of how the Gospel authors wrote the sayings of Jesus. The faulty assumption of this argument is that when the Gospel authors wrote down Jesus’ teachings they wrote down his teachings word for word rather than his overall message. There are three good reasons for thinking that the Gospel writers wrote the general message of Jesus rather than exactly what Jesus said word for word. The first reason is that when we see the parallel phrases in the synoptic Gospels we see that they all agree in terms of the general teaching message, but there is not a word for word correlation. This can be clearly seen in how the synoptic Gospel records the confession of Peter:
Matthew 16:16: su. ei= o` cristo.j o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/ tou/ zw/ntojÅ
Luke9:20: to.n cristo.n tou/ qeou/Å
Mark 8:29: su. ei= o` cristo,jÅ
Another reason that strengthens this position is that Jesus’ longest speech in the Gospels (the Sermon on the mount) only takes a few minutes to read, yet we know that Jesus would teach for hours (Mark 6:34-36). Hence, there is good reason to believe that Gospel writers where merely summarizing the general teaching of Jesus and not word for word recount of what he said. However, even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that Matthew translated this saying of Jesus from an Aramaic substratum for Matthew 16:18 the assertion that Jesus would have said apyK-apyK for what we have in the Greek as Pe,troj-pe,tra is still unfounded and speculative. The reason I say this is because we do not know enough about Aramaic to make such conclusions. But even as defenders of the traditional understanding of Matthew 16:18 recognize Jesus could have used another word for pe,tra like arnj rather than apyK. Either way we really do not know, but it cannot be argued that there would not have been no difference in the Aramaic because there are different words for rock in the Aramaic and this might account for the gender distinction in Pe,troj-pe,tra if we suppose that Matthew wrote this saying of Jesus word for word. Hence, this Aramaic explanation of the gender distinctions in Matthew 16:18 is speculative and inadequate.
The other explanations of the gender distinctions from the traditional exegesis of Matthew 16:18 are all insufficient. The one explanation that says that Pe,troj has to be masculine because Peter is a man and the reason why the feminine pe,tra is used is so that text would not be repetitious is insufficient. This is because the writer of the Gospel could have used phrases like evpi. sou or “on you” to make it clear that he was referring to Peter. Another problem with this explanation is it assumes that Matthew did not want to be repetitious for the sake of a word play. The last explanation that was given by the traditional interpretation was that the reason why different genders are used in Matthew 16:18 is to distinguish between the nick name Peter and the between stable rock which Peter represents. But the problem with this explanation is that Pe,troj could be both used as a nickname and as a stable rock so there would be no reason why Matthew could not use Pe,troj twice in 16:18 one time in reference to name and then another reference to stable rock which Peter metaphorically represents. If Matthew were to do this then it would be clear that he is referring to Peter, but obviously he does not do this and there has to be a sufficient reason for this gender distinction. Given the above considerations, the traditional interpretation has not yet provided any sort of explanation or reason why there is a gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra.
Now that it is tentatively established that the traditional view does not sufficiently explain why there is the a gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra in Matthew 16:18 the result is the that the arguments in it’s favor are no longer effective. The two arguments in favor of reading pe,tra as in reference to Pe,troj because it was the closes antecedent and because it was a naturally reading. But because the traditional view lacks an explanation as to why there is a gender difference. Therefore, in terms of the Greek language it is not necessarily the most natural reading and then Pe,troj probably is not the preferred antecedent of pe,tra because of the gender difference. Matthew clear makes a distinction between these two words to show specifically that pe,tra was not referring to Pe,troj so it really fails to be the most natural reading. Hence, the traditional view lacks an explanation of the gender difference and this weakens all of the arguments in its favor.
Now that we have understood the distinction of Pe,troj and pe,tra and that the traditional view fails to explain this distinction we can now look for alternative explanations. Hence, this next section will be focused on providing an explanation of the gender distinction and demonstrating what pe,tra is referring to by contextual exegesis.
pe,tra is referring to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. There is no particular word in Matthew 16:13-18 that is a good candidate and is feminine to which pe,tra could refer to and it is clearly distinguished from Pe,troj. So what could pe,tra be referring to? As I have demonstrated one of the major themes in the Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Christ and this pericope is being used as a climatic point of that theme by Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. With this consideration in mind: it is plausible to assume that Matthew is making distinction between Peter and the rock in order to bring us back to the theme of the pericope which is the confession that Jesus is the Christ. The interesting thing is that the word confession in Greek is o`mologi,a and this word can only be feminine. Perhaps Matthew would have had o`mologi,a in mind when he made pe,tra feminine. The confession by Peter that Jesus is the Christ is one of the major climatic points in Matthews Gospel and it is the climatic of the entire pericope. Hence, it is reasonable to believe that Matthew is using the Greek word pe,tra to refer to Peter’s o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ.
The view I have presented can give a possible explanation for why there is a gender distinction in Matthew 16:18. The reason why Matthew used pe,tra rather than any other word to refer to the confession is to indicate a connection to Pe,troj making the confession. The explanation for Matthew using Pe,troj was to indicate that Peter the man is the one who made the confession. The reason for Matthew changing genders to pe,tra was to indicate that he was referring to the concept and clause of the o`mologi,a that Jesus is o` cristo.j o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/ tou/ zw/ntoj. Here we have a completely adequate explanation that does have any of the pitfalls that the traditional position had.
A possible objection to my thesis is that it is contrived and a desperate attempt to avoid the obvious fact that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj as the closest antecedent. The reason why someone might think that it is contrived is because the word o`mologi,a does not actually appear in the pericope of Matthew 16:13-20. Hence to try to say that Matthew is thinking of this concept of the confession in the Greek is a artificial and desperate attempt to try avoid that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj as the closest antecedent.
The problem with this objection is that it overlooks the clarity of the theme of the confession in Matthew and it assumes that Pe,troj is still plausible antecedent for pe,tra. My contention in this paper has been that the theme that Jesus is the Christ and the confession of this in Matthew 16:16 are so clear that to say that the original writer and hearers would not of thought of the term o`mologi,a when Peter makes the o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God seems highly skeptical without reason. The fact that o`mologi,a is not in the pericope does not effect my thesis because the concept of o`mologi,a is in the pericope and it seems to be a plausible antecedent for pe,tra. Furthermore, to assume that Pe,troj as a plausible antecedent does not explain why Matthew is purposely makes a gender distinction as I have demonstrated above. There is an additional reason for thinking that Matthew would not have thought of Peter as the Rock of the church in the proceeding context. In Matthew 16:21-23 Peter tries to tell Jesus not carry out his messianic mission of his death, Peter is then associated with Satan who is hindrance to Jesus’ mission. Why would Matthew have Peter be the rock that could be overcome by the forces of darkness be the rock on which the church is build that will not be overcome by the forces of darkness (16:18)? There seems to be no explanation for why Matthew would have included this if he wanted to emphasize that Peter was the rock of the church rather than the rock of the church being the o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Hence, my understanding of Matthew 16:18 explains everything in the passage and it is not implausible like the traditional position.
Peter as a Representative of All Believers
Now that we have shown that the rock is referring to the confession, we can now look at the second part of the thesis, namely, that Peter is representative for all believers that make this confession and administer discipline in the church. I will argue for this by first looking at how Jesus’ two questions and the confession show that Peter is acting as a representative. Then lastly I will demonstrate how Peter is a representative of all believers by binding and loosing in the kingdom for church discipline. Let us look at the two questions and the confession that Peter makes and how this implies my thesis.
The questions that Jesus asked in Matthew 16:13-20 are not just to Peter, but to his disciples and this gives us some reason to believer that if one disciple answers Jesus’ question then he would be speaking for all of the disciples. When Jesus asked his first question Matthews give us some preface narration by stating this in 16:13: hvrw,ta tou.j maqhta.j auvtou/ le,gwn. The word maqhta.j is plural for “disciples” which shows that for the first question Jesus intended it to be directed to all the disciples. The second question in 16:15 uses other plural words in the Greek when Jesus addresses the disciples such as auvtoi/j, u`mei/j, and le,gete. This suggests that when Peter answers that he answering Jesus’ question about what the disciples including Peter thought about Jesus’ identity. Hence, this gives us some indication that Peter seems to be representing what he and the other disciples thought by answering Jesus’ question.
When we look at Peter’s confession we see that Peter is being portrayed by Matthew as a representative because of what the disciples have previously professed. Peter answers Jesus’ question that he is the Christ the Son of the living God. But Peter is merely confessing what the disciples as a whole already previously professed in Matthew 14:33 which points to the fact that Peter is acting as a representative. Peter was speaking for all the disciples.
The phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma in Peter’s confession is synonymous with the term avnqrw,poj in Matthew’s Gospel. The phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma is a Semitic phrase that means an human nature or human agency (1 Cor.15:5; Gal. 1:16 Eph. 6:12; Heb. 2:14). This understanding is reinforced when one looks a few verses over in Matthew 16:23 when Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him that Peter’s flawed understanding of his mission as the Christ was not from fixing his mind on God, but rather by fixing his mind on avnqrw,pwn. This phrase about not fixing his mind on God but on avnqrw,pwn seems to antithetically parallel Jesus’ comments about Peter’s confession not coming from sa.rx kai. ai-ma, but the Father in heaven. There is good reason to affirm these antithetical parallels because there such parallels throughout Matthew 16. Since verses 17 and 23 seem to antithetically parallel each other in these two pericopes then the phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma is being paralleled with avnqrw,pwn like the phrase ta. tou/ qeou/ is being paralleled to o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ Hence, because the phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma with avnqrw,pwn is parallel antithetically and this suggests that they mean the same thing and then we have good reason for affirming that they are synonymous.
Matthew’s contrast in the confession between sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi and o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j is anticipated by the preceding context because there is an antithesis between the two questions that Jesus’ asks his disciples in Matthew 16:13-15. The first question that Jesus’ asks in verse 13 is what do a;nqrwpoi say about the identity of Jesus. What Jesus is saying is in effect is what do sa.rx kai. ai-ma say about me? This is the case because Matthew uses these terms synonymously as demonstrated in the above paragraph. Following this Jesus then asks his in verse 15 disciples what they say about his identity. In this verses Jesus does not use the term a;nqrwpoi to described his disciples but rather u`mei/j. There is a contrast here between a;nqrwpoi and the disciples just like there is a contrast between sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi and o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j.
This contrastive parallel between the questions and the confession suggests that the disciples have made this confession like Peter that is revealed from God and not from the opinions of men. The reason why this shows that disciples have made this confession is because they are distinguished from what the a;nqrwpoi say in verses 13-14. They are different than the a;nqrwpoi so they are in the category with Peter of those who have received the revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ.
This suggests that Peter then is acting as a representative for all the disciples when he confesses that Jesus is the Christ. But next we will see that he was a representative of all believers who receive the revelation from the Father.
The reason why this extends to all believers is because what Jesus said of Peter in Matthew 16:17 is similarly said of all believers in Matthew 11:25-30. In Matthew 11:25 Jesus begins referring to his disciples as those who have been given the avpokalu,ptw from the Father like little children. But in verses 27-28 this is applied more generally. Verse 27 states the general truth that when one knows the Father they know the Son and when one knows the Son they know the Father. This seems like a very general statement that applies to believers as whole. This passage has a connection to Matthew 16:17 in that the same Greek word avpokalu,ptw is used in both passages for the avpokalu,ptw given the believer is suggestive that Matthew is using Peter as representative. The fact Jesus states that he has given this avpokalu,ptw to the disciples in verse 25 and in verse 27 is applied to all believers shows the strong connection that believers have the disciples including Peter. Verse 28 gives a general call for all to rest on light burden of Christ. Clearly this verse is intended for all those who have rested on Christ and those for whom the son has chosen to reveal the Father. Therefore, since what occurs with Peter is not unique, but true of all believers that receive this avpokalu,ptw then there is reason to think that Peter is acting as a representative role as confessing the Christ.
The conclusion we can draw from the two questions and the confession was that Matthew intended to show that Peter was a representative of the disciples by showing that Peter spoke for them and that the disciples and believers have the same revelation given to them by the Father like Peter. Let us now see how remaining passages (18-19) show that Peter is a representative to all believers by administering church discipline.
The reason for believing that Matthew 16:19 is on church discipline is because there is exact parallel phrase in Matthew 18:18 that teach church discipline. It is clear that this phrase in Matthew 16:19 almost exactly parallels Matthew 18:18 as shown below:
Matthew 16:19 o] eva.n dh,shj evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/j( kai. o] eva.n lu,shj evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
Matthew 18:18 eva.n dh,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,na evn ouvranw/( kai. o[sa eva.n lu,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,na evn ouvranw/Å
It is abundantly clear that the preceding context of Matthew 18:19 is referring to church discipline because in verse 15 it speaks of how to deal with a brother who has sinned against and then verse 17 describes how to discipline him with reference to the church and this discipline consists of no longer treating that brother as a part of the church but rather as a tax collector and gentile. After this verse comes the passage that parallels with Matthew 16:19. All of this strongly suggests that Matthew 18:18 is related to Matthew 16:19 and since there two are related then there is good reason for thinking that 16:19 should be viewed of in terms of church discipline.
The fact that Matthew 16:19 is related to Matthew 18:18 shows that Peter was a representative of those who practice church discipline not only to the rest of the Apostles but to all believers. Matthew 18:19 applies the authority of binding and loosing to the Apostles when Jesus is speaking to them he tells them that when two of them agree on anything then it will be done by God in heaven. But Jesus goes on to apply this not only to the Apostles but all believers in general by stating it in a way that suggests a general timeless truth that when two or three are gathered in his name so also God will be among them (18:20). Therefore, the authority to bind and loose is not unique of Peter, but to all believers who share in his confession that Jesus is the Christ. The reason why Matthew singles him out is to use Peter as a representative not only for all the disciples, but to all those who name the name of Jesus Christ.
In this paper I have argued that the rock of the church is the confession and that Peter is representative for all believers. I have shown the former by arguing that the traditional view cannot account for the gender distinctions and that my position can account for them. I have also argued that my view fits in better with the larger purposes of Matthew and how he uses the pericope 16:13-20. I have shown the latter by arguing how Jesus’ question was intended for all of his disciples and that there are features of the pericope that indicate that the disciples were viewed in the same way as Peter. Finally, I have argued that there are parallel passages in Matthew that support the position that Peter is a representative of believers through his confession and by administering church discipline.
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