Scissors and Library Paste

And now we come to a cautionary tale about what happens when a theologian is left alone with scissors, library paste, and a Bible. Greg Boyd is done with the hard work of letting the ski boat of hermeneutical silliness get him up on the surface, and he is now jumping the wake and doing flips. I mean, look.

Let me say just two things, and I will be succinct. I think.

First, look at how Boyd sets two portions of Scripture at odds with one another, and consider how unnecessary that capitulation is. In ancient times, private vengeance was mediated through the system of the blood avenger. The Mosaic code placed restrictions on this system by establishing cities of refuge. The old system was further restricted by the “eye for eye” code, by the lex talionis. When vengeance was in private hands, it frequently became a life for an eye, a life for a tooth. So the magistrate was required to execute strict justice in judgment himself, and this would remove a great deal of the emotional motivations for private vengeance. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11).

Got that? Eye for eye was required of the magistrate. In the Lord’s day, that phrase was being used to justify private vengenace — in much the same way that someone today might use it. “He hit me so I hit him, Eye for eye.” The Lord was plainly correcting an abusive interpretation of Moses. He was not correcting Moses himself.

The Lord’s teaching, and Paul’s, is entirely and completely consistent with what was required of Moses by a holy God. Paul tells the Romans, for example, not to take private vengeance, but to leave room for the vengeance of God, which was going to be delivered by the magistrate with a sword (Rom. 12:19; 13:4).

But Boyd is not just muddled, although he is that. He has ascended the Mount of All Impudence, on the sides of the north, to walk amidst the stones of fire. His heart has been lifted up, and lo! he has there declared himself to be in charge of reversing black and white, inverting up and down, and substituting satin panties for plaid boxers (Is. 5:20).

“As shocking as it is, this episode clearly suggests that Jesus regarded Elijah’s enemy-destroying supernatural feat to be ungodly, if not demonic.”

I see. Marcion, call your office.

Stare at those words, and wonder mildly to yourself why fire from Heaven has not come down upon Woodland Hills — no, no, you mistake me. I am not falling into the trap the disciples fell into when they did not know what spirit they were of (Luke 9:55). I want fire to fall upon Woodland Hills the same way it happened at Pentecost. You know, to turn them into Christians.

Because the way it is now, their pastor just wrote that the Spirit that was upon Elijah, and was upon Elisha in double measure, and which came upon John the Baptist, the one who came in the Spirit and power of Elijah, in order to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah . . . was demonic.

Friends, that is not what I would call a denominational difference.

All In the Institutes . . .

“Susan was not killed in that last railway accident, and we should not speculate about her final destiny unless we want Aslan to growl at us for impudent guesswork about somebody else’s story. And besides, if anybody wants to argue that the ultimate Cair Paravel in the center of the ultimate Narnia only had three thrones in it, well, I wish them luck. Bless me, it’s all in the Institutes — bless me, what do they teach them in these schools?” (From The Romantic Rationalist, p. 74).

Can’t Pour From the Jug What Isn’t In It

“My earnest advice to you is that you never make the attempt to extemporize without being sure of your matter. Of all the defects of utterance I have ever known the most serious is having nothing to utter” (Alexander from Thoughts on Preaching, as quoted in Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 442).

Three Feet of Partly Cloudy

The real losers last night — not that anyone is likely to take real notice — were the pollsters. This is not the case because we had a wave election, because a number of people were predicting that. The surprises all came in the margins.


“What I drink and what I tell the pollsters I drink are two different things.”

Races that were not supposed to be close, like Warner and Gillespie in Virginia, were close. Races that were supposed to be close, like Kentucky, weren’t close at all. This kind of thing happened in state after state, in race after race. Now when this happens from time to time, as it does, the one-off surprise is chalked up to the electorate having wild mood swings. The twenty point spread between the poll results the week before the election and the actual election results is attributed to a whole bunch of people making up or changing their minds. But it is actually the result of the very nature of polling itself.

What happens in a poll is that 2,000 people are asked their views, the necessary “scientific” adjustments are made, and this is then assumed to be the mindset of three million people. The reasoning process is called induction, where you are going from the particular to the general. Whether or not that reasoning is strong or weak depends entirely on whether your sample size is representative. Of course, you don’t know whether it is representative or not until after the election, at which point you should calibrate your methods. But we have now gotten to the point where the poll results are treated as mini-elections, with settled results, and the elections are treated as big elections, also with settled results.

What ought to happen is that our pollsters should be on television this morning, acting like a local teevee weatherman who has had to deal with multiple irate callers who had to shovel three feet of partly cloudy off their driveways. “Folks, this is not an exact science . . .” At its best, polling is educated guessing. At its worst, it is wish fulfillment therapy. At its best, polling is having thousands of conversations with people in the run-up to an election. At its worst, it is little better than telling the king which way he should go because your guild is the best haruspicy firm in the business.

Only God knows the end from the beginning. Mortal men want to know the future and they cannot. Mortal men want to know the future so badly that they are willing to pay big money for any plausible account. And much of the time, it can all seem pretty plausible — because the voting public is following the polls also and many times a reinforcement theme is created. Polls can and do create real momentum, and really can affect the outcome. But of course, if a bald eagle happened to land on a general’s helmet right before the battle, that could affect the outcome as well.

In all this, we should remember Isaiah’s taunt. “Shew the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that ye are gods. Yea, do good, or do evil, That we may be dismayed, and behold it together” (Is. 41:23). Whatever else we may say about the political results of this election — and I would want to say that the unraveling of Obama’s apotheosis is almost complete — we can also take comfort in the fact that many of our nation’s soothsayers had their pointy cone hat knocked off, the one with the stars and crescent moons on it.

Tongues as the Back of Our Hand

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #170

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1 Cor. 14:23–25).

Paul has just finished telling us that to have a bunch of people chattering in a language that you don’t understand is represented by Isaiah as a sign of judgment. He then moves on into application. If an unbeliever or an untutored person comes into your assembly, you should want the service to be edifying to them. But if everybody is speaking in tongues, the ungifted or unbelieving will simply dismiss you as being crazy. But this dismissal would indicate that they are under judgment—as we see with the people who dismissed the Christians on Pentecost as being drunk. But Paul does say that for the believers to pray in tongues in church together is a provocation—and that is not our calling.

On the other hand, if the words spoken in the service of words of intelligible prophecy, then unbeliever comes under the judgment of his own conscience, which is the way we avoid coming under the judgment of God. The secrets of his heart are laid bare by intelligible speech, and causes him to confess that God is indeed present.

This is why an assembly of Christians all speaking together in an unintelligible way is simply a way of telling non-Christians to go to Hell. And while a worship service is not structured in order to cater to non-believers, it should anticipate their presence, and not place needless obstacles in front of them.