Babelic Judgment in Psalm 55

Hello again,

“Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls, and iniquity and trouble are within it; ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.” – Psalm 55:9-11

Immediately before this, David exclaims, “And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness…'” Psalm 55:6

So what we see are two things:

David wants to be like a dove and flee and find rest. The dove brings a Noahic image of the dove released from the ark to see if the waters had receded so it was safe to disembark onto the new creation. Also, the concept/word “rest” carries Noahic overtures, as it is the word from which “Noah” is derived in Hebrew.

Of course, this Psalm goes on to speak of the fact that his enemies “in the city” (v.9) are not enemies out there, but rather are his former friends. He also is declaring that the city they have made has become a Babel of sort. David wants God to judge them by “dividing their tongues” (v.9) which is the same judgment as at Babel (as is nowhere else in the Bible except Pentecost (next post!). I think this Psalm tells us something about Babel, also, because this judgment seems to be tied with the sort of sins being perpetrated in the “city”. Genesis doesn’t give us much information on the sins of Babel, but I think it is safe to assume that these sorts of evils were present in that corrupt enterprise.

What I am seeing here, by way of allusion, in summary is:

David is speaking of the ark/city that is the capital of Israel (most likely Jerusalem, but possibly Saul’s court at Gibeah, depending on the timeline). And how he used to be friendly with these current enemies. They were his counselors and friends, members of God’s people (v.12-15). Yet they have turned that ark/city into another Babel. Within the Ark, in Noah’s day, there lay the seeds of Babelic tyranny in his son Ham, but no information is given to us regarding it. The Ark was still the safe place. But as soon as they disembarked into the new creation, the Babel project began. David sees another Ark, the people of God surrounding the Lord’s Anointed, and they have turned that Ark into another Babel. David wants to be the dove released into the wilderness (v.7) (perhaps the wilderness of the sea?) so that rest is gained. This is a shadow of Jesus’ great replay of this narrative in the Gospels and Acts and throughout Church history.

The theological implications are pretty clear: There is a way of understanding the Exile as God’s “dividing of tongues” at the Babel of Jerusalem. Combined with Cyril’s edict that every nation have its own tongue, and the “Jerusalem without walls” of Zechariah, we have a pretty solid case for God’s diverse politeuma within the world that is the normal post-exilic state of affairs for the people of God. When the Jews went back to Jerusalem and then started acting as they did in Jesus’ day, you can see how another Babel was forming/had already formed with a Nimrod (Herod the Great) building another Temple to the Heavens by human hands. And Pentecost and the events of A.D. 70, the destruction of that Temple, were instrumental in God’s hands for the final and complete spiritual reversal of the Babel project within the historia salutis.

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Ministry of Reconciliation in 2 Cor. 5:18-21

Hello all, long time no post!

“All this is from God, who through Christ [A] reconciled us to himself [B] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation [C].”

“that is, in Christ God [A] was reconciling the world to himself [B], (not counting their trespasses against them), and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation [C].”

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us [A], We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God [B]. (For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God [C].”

The parenthesis statements are explanatory for the preceding [B] section. We see a clear triple repetition of the same structure being repeated (assuming N.T. Wright got this whole “righteousness of God” thing right in this case, which is, admittedly, a lot to assume).

Nice to speak to you all again!

Updated BCP/Horner Bible Reading Plan

After roughly two weeks of experimentation, here is an updated version of the reading plan posted earlier.

BCP-Horner Bible Reading Plan – v4.2

If you’re interested, the changes were motivated primarily by the fact that reading John and Matthew simultaneously is unnecessarily confusing when you’re trying to keep track of Jesus’s life; being at two points in the same story at the same time does not lend itself to clarity. So, we changed things up a bit. We’ll see how long this version lasts before we make more changes!

***UPDATE, 3/1/2013***

Further updates can be found here.

Book of Common Prayer/Grant Horner Bible Reading Schedule

This is a plan for reading the Bible, geared toward starting with the new year. With a few adjustments, it adapts Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (for more information, and because I don’t know of a better link, see here) to the pattern of the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. There are Psalms, an Old Testament lesson, and a New Testament lesson for every morning and every evening. The Psalms are read through every month, strictly beginning at Psalm 1 on the first day of every month. The rest of the Bible is divided into groups, and one chapter from each group of books is read each day. When the end of a group of books is reached, the group simply begins again. So, while the Psalms repeat each month, the rest of the Bible repeats at varying intervals, causing the set of chapters read each day to change continually. The list of books in each group is fairly tentative, so feel free to change them around as you see fit. These readings can be used in place of the lectionary readings in the BCP’s Morning and Evening Prayer, or they can be read on their own. The main idea is to become familiar with the Bible as a whole, allowing the Bible to interpret itself as you master large portions of it. Here are a few suggestions, mainly from Prof. Horner:

  1. Read quickly; don’t focus on understanding every little detail. That will come with time.
  2. Use the same physical Bible every day. Over time, this allows you to become familiar with where in the book and where on the page a particular passage is located.
  3. Be flexible with your readings. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Just keep going. Do whatever works best for you.

So, without further ado, here is the reading plan for your consideration:

BCP-Horner Bible Reading Plan – v3

***UPDATE, 12/31/2012***

We made a few changes, which you can find here.

***UPDATE, 3/1/2013***

And, further changes can be found here.

Scattered Thoughts on the Uniqueness of the Gospel

Must one believe in Jesus to be saved? Can people who have never heard of Christ be saved somehow “through Christ” without believing in him? Here are some of my thoughts:

It seems fairly clear to me that faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10), and this is the major motivating factor behind missions and evangelism. While I agree that salvation does not require a perfect theology, it seems that there is some bare minimum set of propositions which one must believe to be saved (i.e., the gospel is propositional as well as relational). “Jesus is Lord” or “Christ and him crucified” would be good places to start. I agree that all men have knowledge of God (Rom. 1), but it seems to me that Paul’s argument is that all men have enough knowledge of God to make them accountable but have rejected God and therefore cannot be saved by this knowledge. Men (even remote tribesmen who have lived and died without hearing the gospel) are not condemned for failing to believe the gospel; they are condemned because they have rejected God and are sinners. We don’t risk condemning people by evangelizing them and thus making them responsible for the gospel; they were condemned already, and we are providing them the only hope of salvation. It seems like a fundamental part of the good news of the New Testament is that the gospel is for all men, Jew and Gentile alike. It is in this sense that I interpret “all men” in verses like Titus 2:11 (“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”); the verse is not referring to every single person who ever lived. If it were, then every single person would be saved.

Do Jews pray to the same God we do? That’s certainly an interesting question, but it seems to me that we believe in a Trinitarian God. If Jews deny the divinity of Christ, not only have they rejected God’s means of salvation and his revelation in the New Testament (i.e. they no longer possess the oracles of God), but they have rejected the very nature of God himself. I am not advocating any kind of anti-Semitism; rather, I am advocating the best way in which we can show love to Jews: sharing the good news with them.

[NB: This is adapted from a note I wrote to someone about a previous discussion, in case it sounds slightly out-of-context.]

The Dreadful New Testament

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

— Søren Kierkegaard [ ← Free e-book here!]

HT: Joe Carter

Dead to sin?

Today in our class on Romans, we were asked if we agree with the apostle Paul when he says that we have died to sin (Rom. 6:2) and, if so, what we mean by that. Since I’m a slacker of a Presbyterian, I didn’t have my catechism nice and sharpened to shoot from the hip, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor. What I should have said is something like the following:

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A 29-31, 87

And, for good measure:

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

So, basically, union with Christ is awesome.