Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bible Reading Like An Apostle: Reading for the Purpose of Allegory

In my previous two posts in this series, I've briefly looked at how the apostles read the Bible for purposes of application and allusion. In this post, I hope to give a summary exploration of how the Apostle Paul read the Bible for allegory to explain spiritual concepts.

Allegory is basically a form of literature in which objects and persons represent ideas or qualities. In allegory the ideas or qualities are the focus rather than the objects and persons. In speaking of allegory, a word of caution must be given. At different times in church history, certain groups have utilized allegory as an interpretive framework for Scripture. So, for example, during the Patristic Era (c. A.D. 100-590), the group of theologians now known as the Alexandrian school would attempt to find underlying spiritual meanings in historical narratives; thus, the account of Jesus' changing the water to wine at the wedding in Cana would be taken to symbolize the need for those weak like water to be changed and become steadfast like wine, etc. [S.J. Wellum, 22100: Hermeneutics Handouts, 2006. 4] As an interpretive framework, allegory is unacceptable because it downplays the historicity of the the text, and either leads to a purely arbitrary system of interpretation where anyone can read anything into the text or else leads to the need for an elite group of interpreters to explain the deeper meaning of the Scriptural text [Wellum, 5].

Given this caution, we still must observe that there is at least one instance where the Apostle Paul read the Old Testament allegorically, namely Galatians 4:21-31:

21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written, "REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND." 28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. (NASB)

The word in verse 24 that the NASB translates "allegorically" is allhgorew, the word from which the English "allegory" directly derives. In the section above, the Apostle uses a combination of allusion and allegory to illustrate the spiritual truth that he has been establishing throughout the epistle- that salvation and sanctification are perfected not by the works of the old testament Law, but by hearing with faith. Notice two things about the Apostle's use of allegory in this section:
  1. He specifically indicates his use of allegory: This is not his typical style of biblical instruction, i.e. he is not giving us a framework by which to read our entire Bible, rather he is making a point through using a figure of speech, and he alerts readers to this fact.
  2. The way that the Apostle uses allegory is specifically dependent upon the historical reality of the primary events. Though the Apostle makes allegorical connections ("Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia," etc.) this allegory would be meaningless if there was never a slave-woman named Hagar and powerless if there was never a child of promise named Isaac.
The Apostle uses allegory, not as an interpretive framework for all Scripture, and not obscuring the historical realities involved, but as an illustration of teaching he is giving, as also directly taught in other passages of Scripture. And this is how we should use allegory as well. Pastor John MacArthur has noted that when he gives illustrations of Bible truth, he will sometime use personal stories, but much more often he will first turn to Scripture to find examples from God's Word. In this he is following the example of Paul, the example we should follow as well.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Christian Response to the Virginia Tech Massacre

The most thorough, Christ-honoring response to the horror that occurred at Virginia Tech has been provided thus far by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler has written an article, Facing the Reality of Evil, posted on the On Faith blog forum sponsored by Newsweek and the Washington Post. Dr. Mohler had also addressed this issue on his radio program the past two days, with shows titled, Tragedy in Blacksburg: Explaining Evil in a Morally Confused Age and Questions from Virginia Tech: Where Was God? I praise God for giving the Church men like Dr. Mohler, who are so ready to give a response for our hope, when so many of us are still in shock, aghast at the news we are hearing.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Bible Reading Like An Apostle: Reading for the Purpose of Allusion

In my previous post in this series, I briefly commented on the fact that the apostles read the Bible for the purpose of application. In this post, I hope to give a summary exploration of how the apostles used allusions to the biblical text to cast light on their current situation and how we should do the same.

Allusion “is an implied or indirect reference [through specific words or short phrases] to something or someone assumed to be in the common body of knowledge.” If you own a chain-reference Bible, you may have been surprised at the number of very specific words and phrases repeated throughout the Scriptures. You may also have noticed that when you look up the references down the center column, the subject matter for the overall passages surrounding some of the verses linked by particular words or phrases seem to have almost nothing to do with each other. This is because when using an allusion, an author is only trying to recall one specific aspect of a previous work to his readers’ minds. (So, for example, if you make an allusion to “David and Goliath” while speaking, you may not be indicating the overall spiritual teaching of the passage– that David defeated the giant based on faith in God and trust in His Word rather than is own strength, etc.– you may just mean that a little guy was able to, in some way, defeat a big guy.) When the human authors of the Bible used allusions, they did so for the same reason authors today use them. That is, they used allusions to communicate with their audience, drawing upon a “common body of knowledge” shared by both author and reader. For this reason, the Apostle Paul not only drew allusions from the Bible, but also from a pagan poets (Acts 17:28) and a pagan prophet (Tit. 1:12). Thus, we have warrant for referencing popular ideas known from the culture at large when we are trying to communicate truths from God’s Word. On the other hand, the vast majority of allusions contained in the New Testament, whether the human authors were writing to Jews or Greeks, are from the Scriptures– what we now know as the Old Testament. This is true when James, writing to a mostly Jewish audience alludes to Job in James 5:11 and to Elijah in James 5:17-18; this is also true when Paul, writing to a mostly Gentile audience, makes several allusions to the Exodus story in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11. Converts to Christianity were taught the Scriptures early and taught the Scriptures well, and so it could be assumed that allusions to the Scripture would facilitate communication of other spiritual truths.

We should follow this example by encouraging others in our congregations to read through their Bibles systematically, so that we all have, at least, a general awareness of what God has said, no matter how new we may be to the Faith. We should also follow the apostles' example of reading the Bible for allusion, supporting understanding of spiritual truths through references to other portions of Scripture.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Attitude '07

I just registered Abby and myself for the New Attitude: Humble Orthodoxy Conference that will take place here in Louisville on Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-29).

We're very much looking forward to this conference, although we've heard very little about it (presumably because it seems to be primarily focused on churches affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries).

This conference looks to be almost like another Together for the Gospel conference, with speakers including Josh Harris, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, John Piper, and Louisville's own Dr. Albert Mohler. A major difference is that participants are divided into community groups at registration, which groups will discuss how we can apply what we learn in the context of our local churches. When conference-time comes, I hope to blog some end-of-day thoughts after returning home from the sessions.

Check out the conference promo video here:

Also, due to the name of the conference, I can't resist linking the following video: