February 2013


In the Beginning We Misunderstood by Soden & MillerWhen it comes to interpreting Genesis 1 within the last few hundred years, much of the debate for Christians has centered on the interpret the days of creation. Are they literal 24 hour periods of time as we experience them now? Are they undefined long periods of time? Or, are they a literary device used to communicate a theological message? Everyone rightly proclaims that context is the key and yet there are varied interpretations based on each person’s understanding of what exactly the context is. Herein lies the problem – what is the context of the creation account in Genesis 1? Is it just the exegesis of the Hebrew text or is it to include the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) background as well? How far do we extend the immediate context?

As the debate carries on currently the center of discussion has moved to focus on the ANE cultural background. ANE studies have been on a rise for the last several decades and their findings have caused numerous Christians from the scholar to the layman to question some of the long standing and popular interpretations of Genesis 1. The view that has been questioned the most in light of these ANE findings is the literal 24 hour view which sees the days of creation as 24 hour periods of time as we experience them today. This view is held by those described as Young Earth Creationists (YEC).

One of the most recent books to hit the shelves seeking to question this view is In the Beginning…We Misunderstood: Interpreting genesis 1 in Its Original Context by Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden. Both are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary and have been or are pastors and teachers.

The Goal of the Book

The title of the book clearly communicates to the reader that the church by in large has misunderstood Genesis 1 and therefore misinterpreted it. After briefly explaining both of their journeys in their understanding of Genesis 1 and creation, Miller and Soden state their purpose in writing the book clearly as their effort to challenge

The belief that the six days of creation were literal twenty-four-hour days and that believing the Bible requires holding this interpretation. It also includes questioning the assumption that Genesis 1 is primarily about the physical origins of an ancient universe. The assumption that a scientific reading of Genesis 1 is the only way, or even a necessary way, of reading the Bible has to be challenged. And the assumption that the people who read it any other way don’t believe the Bible has to be challenged. (p. 31-32)

For Miller and Soden (and no doubt others like them), the problem they have with what they would term a ‘literalistic’ interpretation of Genesis 1 is that it is seen through  the eyes of a modern person and not that of the original readers (p. 21 & 37). This is where we begin to discuss the context of Genesis 1. Did the original readers think in terms of material creation like we do today? If not, then how did they think about creation and how does their thinking of creation effect our interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1?

The Exegetical/Hermeneutical Considerations

With context in mind Miller and Soden make the following statements that guide their interpretation:

To understand it fully, one must read it first in its original language and try to understand it in relation to its original author (Moses), in relation to its original readers (Israel recently released from slavery in Egypt), and in relation to the culture, worldview, and literary genre of the text.

We believe that understanding Genesis 1 in its original language and setting leads us to conclude that it is a broadly figurative presentation of literal truths; it is highly stylized and highly selective. It does not report history as a journalist might do. (p. 48)

With the aforementioned statements as a foundation, the authors then show from their perspective how the text of Genesis 1 does not exegetically support what the YEC interpretation purports it does (p. 49-57). Amidst a number of exegetical considerations there are two that would garner the most attention. First, the authors point out that while in most English translations of the Hebrew text the word “the” is placed before each day (“on the first day”, etc.) this is to add what is not there and take away from the importance of the sixth and seventh days which does have the article “the”. Adding it in English distracts the reader from what is happening on the sixth and seventh day (p. 49-50). To Miller and Soden this indicates exegetically that the view is not on a sequence of creation but the object of creation on those given days. Second, while their perspective is not necessarily new, Miller & Soden see the phrase “evening and morning” not as referring to literal days since they appear at day one which is three days before the sun is created (p. 52). Further, the Egyptian texts indicate that they believed a battle occurred between gods for the rising of the sun, and thus, the beginning of a new day. To Miller & Soden this sheds light on the significance of the phrase “evening and morning” as showing a lack of struggle between gods since there is only one God who has all creation under control. They state,

The transition between days shows no struggle, but instead exhibits a sequential building of order, effortlessly moving from day to day, from one to seven, without any reference to a time lapse. (p. 108)

Another question that provides some hermeneutical guidance is, what is the purpose of Genesis? Why did Moses write it? The authors rightly point out that the literary phrase “the generations of….” provide us with the structure of Genesis through which we are to see its purpose. The eleven toledoths show us that the purpose of Genesis is to provide Israel with their identity as the people of God. This in turn leads them conclude that Genesis

Was written for the people of God after their exodus from Egypt to (re) acquaint them with the God of their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and with His calling on their national life, giving them a purpose (to bring blessing to the nations) and a future in a land (the physical platform from which to show the nations the source of blessing; Gen. 12:1-3). (p. 64)

ANE Background as Context for Genesis 1

The second part of the book deals with the ANE creations accounts as the historical and cultural context of Genesis 1. This is the real meat of the book. The authors cover the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Canaanite creation accounts. The authors walk through each ANE account of creation by both comparing and contrasting them with the Genesis account. They deal with topics such as how they account for the beginning of everything, the initial conditions of creation, the means of creation, the sequence of the events and the purpose of creation.

If these three ANE creations accounts form the background into which Moses wrote Genesis 1 then we see each having a purpose for which it is responded too: (1) Canaan because it was the home of Israel’s fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, (2) Egypt because it was where Israel had just been freed from and (3) Mesopotamia because it was where Israel was going to. No doubt, God and Moses knew these other creation accounts would have influenced Israel’s understanding of God and His creation. Given the three ANE cultural influences upon Israel, the authors rightly contend that the Egyptian cultural context is the one which would have had the most influence on Moses as he wrote Genesis and on Israel as they grappled with their identity as God’s people. After all, they had just come out of Egypt.

By comparing and contrasting the three ANE creations with Genesis the authors are trying to help contemporary readers of Genesis appreciate the historical and cultural context of Genesis 1. Thus, they are arguing that a true exegesis of the text will take into account the ANE cultural and historical context in which Genesis 1 was written and to which it was written against. In regards to the parallels between the biblical and ANE accounts the authors are not suggesting that Moses was simply borrowing from them. Rather, he was using similar language, concepts and motifs that the Israelites would have been familiar with and recast the events of creation in order to correct Israel’s theology of creation and its God. They are a reference point rather than the foundation.

Since it is the Egyptian context that would be the greatest target for Moses there is naturally the most comparisons and contrasts. It is here that YEC’ers will have to grapple with the most. The authors provide very compelling cases for how Israel would have understood the days, evening and morning and sequence of events in creation. The comparisons and contrasts are both striking and revealing as to how the original audience of Israel would have read Genesis 1. The authors are not trying to argue against God having created all material existence. They heartily agree that He did. Rather, they are trying to properly interpret Genesis 1 in context, allowing it to say what God and Moses intended – no less but also no more.

Conclusion

I have always interpreted Genesis 1 as describing creation in material terms. I am not ignorant of some of the difficulties of this interpretation both exegetically and contextually in regards to the ANE accounts. I am not of the stripe that all of the creation interpretations by Christians are mutually exclusive. There are clear literary patterns in the text and even more clear theological considerations in light of the ANE accounts. They have given me much to think about.

What Miller and Soden have done is give a compelling case for another way of reading the creation account in Genesis 1 that is contextually aware and honest through both exegesis of the Hebrew text and proper consideration of the ANE cultural and historical backgrounds.

I highly recommend In the Beginning….We Misunderstood. It is written at the lay level without sacrificing depth and scholarly analysis of the relevant material. The authors are under no illusion that their book will end the debate but they have certainly given us something to think about. Greg Koukl always says that his goal is not to convert everyone to his position that he meets. Rather, he has a more modest goal of putting a rock in a person’s shoe and giving them something to think about as they go their way. That is what Miller and Soden have done. They have given us something compelling to think about.

NOTE: This book was provided for free from Kregel in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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Mapping the Origins Debate by RauOne constant issue addressed within the scientific and philosophical communities has been the subject of origins. How did we get here? When did we get here? Why are we here? From the man on the street to the published scholar, mankind has been trying to answer these questions and more as it pertains to the origins of life. When it comes to answering these questions you will not doubt find a myriad of answers even within the same belief systems such as atheism and theism. The task of sifting through all of the data and answers can be overwhelming and indeed it is.

While there are many books on the subject of origins it is hard for the average reader to take the time to read them all, let alone understand what they are reading. What would be most beneficial is to have a book that lays each view side by side objectively as possible. With this goal in mind Gerald Rau has written Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything by IVP. Rau has degrees in science and theology, was a teacher at Wheaton College and is the founder and chief editor at Professional English International, Inc. in Taiwan where he currently works. Rau has produced a book that is aimed at high school and college age students but can be beneficial for adults as well.

Worldviews Influence Science?

One of the unfortunate things that are wrongly purported within the scientific world is that one’s worldview or philosophical views do not and should not have any bearing on one’s science. But this is to confuse the difference between evidence and interpretation. Naturally the questions arises, “How can we all see the same evidence and yet come to completely different opinions as to its meaning?” Thus, Rau’s thesis enters in:

Although everyone has access to the same evidence, the presuppositions implicit in a person’s philosophy determine the perspective from which he or she views the data, leading to different logical conclusions about which explanation best fits the evidence. (p. 20)

Evidence is not self-interpreting. If it were, we would simply be observers who all share the same understanding of the evidence. This is not the case and I appreciate that Rau has brought this out in the open. This recognition of underlying philosophical/worldview beliefs which influence our interpretation of the scientific evidence lies at the heart of Rau’s overview and analysis of each of the six models he presents.

The Spectrum of Models

Rau has put together six different models about the origins of the universe: one naturalistic and five supernaturalistic. These six models can be seen as follows:

  1. Naturalistic Evolution – This is based on philosophical naturalism which states that everything can be explained naturally without appeal to anything supernatural, that is, outside what is natural.
  2. Nonteleological Evolution – This view believes that while a supernatural being got creation started it has no subsequent interaction with it. This is essentially deism. Nonteleology (no teleology) it holds that there is no plan for the universe. After the initial creation act natural forces take over until the end.
  3. Planned Evolution – This view believes that God began creation and built into it a plan and the mechanism(s) with which to accomplish that plan. Thus, God does not have to intervene within creation. There are natural explanations for everything since that is how God planned it.
  4. Directed Evolution – This view believes God not only created everything with a purpose but continues to interact with his creation throughout time in order to bring about his plans. Here, science and religion are interacting domains of knowledge.
  5. Old-Earth Creationism – While agreeing with DE that science and religion are interacting domains of knowledge, they differ in that they believe the Genesis account of creation has scientific value. God has revealed himself through the Bible and creation and both are used to interpret the other. As its name indicates, it believes the earth, and thus creation, is very old and science can help us determine how old.
  6. Young-Earth Creationism – This view differs from OEC in that they believe the creation account in Genesis 1 gives detailed explanation of the material creation of everything. They interpret the days of Genesis as literal 24 days as we experience them presently. With a “literal” reading of the biblical creation account coupled with the genealogies they believe the earth is 6-10k years old. In regards to science and religion they are overlapping domains of knowledge in which the Bible comes out on the top over science if science seems to contradict what is believed to be taught in the Bible concerning creation.

Rau furnishes the reader with twelve pages of charts that condense the four chapters presenting each views understanding of the origins of the universe, life, species and humans. Each of these four chapters follows the same pattern: (1) presents the evidence for said origins (i.e. life), (2) then presents how each of the six views interprets the evidence and (3) concludes with answering the question, “What difference does it make as to what model we view the evidence from?” Again, Rau points out how the underlying philosophical/worldview beliefs of each view effect how one interprets the evidence and in turn how that yields different results for the concluding difference each view makes.

What some readers will find both interesting and troubling is that Rau believes there are both positive and negative contributions from all six models he presents. I can agree with this but YEC’ers and naturalists will no doubt have a hard time seeing any positive contributions from the other side. Further, Rau believes that while each model is trying to deal with as much data as possible, none of them has all the pieces to the puzzle on their board to put together.

Conclusion

A book like this is hard to review. It is not a multiple views book with proponents of each view trying to convince the rest of us with their view. It is a book written by a single author who is trying to objectively as possible present each view. Further, Rau is trying to objectively critique each view and give equal critiques of each model without trying to show us his hand by leaning to one view over the others. Rau has tried to present each view fairly and in such a way that anyone who holds to any given view would agree with and recognize it as their view.

I think in the end Rau has reached the goal of his book in terms of presenting the views. What might be hard for some readers is the ability to track with some of the scientific ideas he discusses. A background in science will definitely help to get more from the book. A good grasp of biology would be a must as well as a working knowledge of chemistry and some basic astronomy. What I think Rau has done the best is show how ones philosophical commitments influence how a person interprets the scientific evidence. In each of the four main chapters Rau does a masterful job of weaving these together for the reader. That is the biggest take away from the book and makes it well worth reading.

NOTE: I received this book for free from IVP in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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He is There and He is not Silent by SchaefferWe have now moved through the first two books in what is considered the Schaeffer Trilogy: The God Who is There and Escape from Reason. The final book is He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In the title of the book Schaeffer tips his hat to the content of the book: that God exists and that He has spoken. For those familiar with apologetics you will recognize that these two statements are the fundamental building blocks to the apologetic method presuppositionalism: God exists and He has revealed Himself. He is there and He is not silent the title states. These two simple truths are the fundamental building blocks to all of life.

The basic aim of He Is There and He Is Not Silent is to show “the philosophical necessity of God’s being there and not being silent – in the areas of metaphysics, morals, and epistemology.” (p. 277) That is to say, for these three categories to even exist, let alone be discussed and have some foundation, it is required that God exist and have spoken. These concepts are heavy. Schaeffer addresses metaphysics and morals in one chapter each and epistemology in two chapters. This post will deal with a basic introduction to the concepts, the next will deal with the first two and a third will deal with the last. Let’s briefly introduce them.

  1. Metaphysics  – This deals with existence or being. It deals with what is. This deals with the basic philosophical question why is there something rather than nothing?
  2. Morals  – Here, Schaeffer addresses the dilemma of man as seen through the fact that man is personal, yet finite. That he has nobility (he is made in the image of God), yet he is cruel. Schaeffer sums it up as “the alienation of man from himself and from all other men in the area of morals.” (p. 279)
  3. Epistemology – This deals with the area of knowing. That is to ask, how do we know and how do we know we know? God’s existence and self-revelation are tied to how we know things and how we know we know things. We’ll explain this more later.

With these basic ideas in place Schaeffer lays some preliminary groundwork in the area of philosophy before he begins to look at how to address the three above areas. Schaeffer is very insistent upon Christians understanding that philosophy is not an enemy of Christianity. They both address the same questions though they have different vocabulary and can have different answers. They should not be thought of as Christianity vs philosophy but rather working together.

What can help us understand this relationship is to see philosophy from two angles. First, philosophy is a discipline in that it is a field of study and those who study it are called philosophers. There are few people in this category. Second, there is philosophy as a worldview. That is, a world and life view. Just as everyone is a theologian so is everyone a philosopher in the sense that everyone has a worldview (whether or not they realize it). In regards to the attitude of Christians to philosophy, Schaeffer rightly notes,

Christians have tended to despise the concept of philosophy. This has been one of the weaknesses of evangelical, orthodox Christianity – we have been proud in despising philosophy, and we have been exceedingly proud in despising the intellect. Our theological seminaries hardly ever relate their theology to philosophy, and specifically to current philosophy. Thus, students go out from the theological seminaries not knowing how to relate Christianity to the surrounding world-view. It is not that they do not know the answers. My observation is that most students graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions. (p. 279)

When it comes to addressing the three areas above, Schaeffer points out that there are two ways of answering them. First, one can say that there is no logical rational answer. But any thinking person can realize that this position is impossible to live. In fact, livability is a test criteria for the validity of a worldview. Schaeffer notes, “The first reason the irrational position cannot be held consistently in practice is the fact that the external world is there and it has form and order. It is not a chaotic world.” (p. 280) The second kind of answer is that there is one that is logical and rational.

On a final note to the introductory material for He is There and He is Not Silent, Schaeffer will rightly argue that there is not a range of possible answers to the areas of metaphysics, morals and epistemology but that there is only one answer – Christianity. Next week we will look at metaphysics and morals and then follow up with epistemology in the following week.

Good Mood Bad Mood by HodgeIs it possible that almost 90% of the people in American who are diagnosed with clinical depression are diagnosed incorrectly? It is possible that most of these people are really just going through a natural process of normal sadness that happens to most people when they suffer loss of one kind or another? The stakes in a massive misdiagnosis of thousands of people for the same illness are huge.

The section of the drug industry that produces medication related to helping people cope with medical depression, bipolar and the like is vast, well-funded and has a lot at stake in the continual diagnosis of these diseases. Through varied sorts of advertisements, one could draw the conclusion that a lot of people could be, and are suffering from medical depression and the like. In fact, it is estimated that over 25% of Americans at any given time are believed to be suffering from depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. (p. 20)

No doubt there are people who genuinely suffer from an abnormal type of sadness that is sometimes unexplained such that it is proper to call it a disease and treat it accordingly. I know of three family members and long-time friends who have dealt with depression and bipolar. This issue is very real to me and I have put a lot of thought into understanding the disease, diagnosis and treatments.

If it is true that the majority of people diagnosed with depression and the like are not truly clinically depressed then what hope is there to offer them outside of medical and psychological treatments? In his new book, Good Mood Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depressed and Bipolar Disorder, medical doctor and counselor Charles D. Hodge offers his insights and experience on these sensitive diagnosis’.

To say that the history of depression is peppered with obscurity and subjectivity is to ignore it all together. Prior to 1980 manic depression was the closest diagnosis to depression. Then, depression entered the picture in the DSM 3rd Ed. and now one in four people are diagnosed with it. There is something amiss.

Sadness vs Depression

The crux of the issue for Hodge and others is two-fold: (1) there are no clear criteria to establish the difference between clinical depression and normal sadness associated with loss and (2) if many people with normal sadness are misdiagnosed as having clinical depression then what else might be the cause and potential treatments?

In dealing with the first issue Hodge points out that “there is an important difference between sadness that came with adversity and sadness that appeared without any cause.” (p. 63) What Hodge calls “normal sadness” is the kind of sadness that is a natural result of dealing with loss in life which is connected with adversity. True clinical depression would be defined as sadness that is not connected with adversity in a person’s life and is therefore apparently without cause.

There are three features of normal sadness. First, the sadness one feels fits the situation. The loss of a child or job can trigger sadness. Second, the intensity and duration of the sadness are related to the size and duration of the loss. The loss of a child can bring about very intense sadness and the length of being without a job can determine the length of time a person feels sadness. Finally, normal sadness goes away when the trigger that set it off goes away. With the loss of a child, sadness can carry on throughout a person’s life. When a person gets a new job after losing their previous one then their sadness should go as well. (p. 62) With clinical depression there is no apparent trigger in the person’s life, no explanation for any intense feelings of sadness for a duration of time and there is no apparent end in sight.

The problem with the diagnosis criteria for clinical depression is that there are no built in guidelines to distinguish between normal sadness and apparently unexplainable sadness. Thus, there is a significant over diagnosis for the wrong problem and many people are not receiving the treatments that could most likely help them through their normal experiences of sadness. To be misdiagnosed can have devastating consequences. Hodge writes,

Being labeled has its own set of difficulties. It makes a person feel as if he is a victim of disease. The label (or rather the diagnosis) means that the bearer is ill and cannot recover without help. The label means that I must depend on someone else to fix me. (p. 154)

What is the Hope for the Naturally Sad?

So if many people with normal sadness are not receiving the help they need, what is it that they need? For these people Hodge states,

The labels they receive and the prescriptions they are given might only result in more labels and prescriptions without a cure and at some expense. This opens a door of opportunity for us to look at depression from a different angle. (p. 35)

Drawing heavily on the story in Luke 8 where Jesus healed the women with the hemorrhage after the doctors could find not cure, Hodge teases out from Scripture how the sadness we can experience from the adversity in our lives can be addressed through the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to us in Scripture. Throughout the main portion of the book Hodge seeks to offer help for those dealing with sadness by answering three questions:

  1. Where does sadness come from?
  2. What benefit can come from it?
  3. What can we do as Christians to bring it to a useful end? (p. 75)

In answering these three questions Hodge digs deeply in Scripture through the lives of many people saddened for one reason or another and from many passages in Scripture that offer freedom from the sadness that life in a sin cursed world can bring. There is hope for the sad. We are not a helpless and hopeless victim of our circumstances or genetics. We must see the redemptive blessings that God wants to draw us to through our suffering. What is best is that God understands our suffering in sadness in Christ. Jesus experienced loss and sadness throughout his life leading up to the cross. This is encouraging and freeing. There is hope for the sad in Christ.

Conclusion

While Hodge is trying to help us rightly distinguish between natural sadness and genuine depression, the reader must not come away thinking he does not believe there is no one who suffers from clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Hodge is sanely open minded to the reality that there are those whose sadness is apparently unexplainable and that it is right for them to undergo medical treatments along with counseling for the accompanying spiritual and life struggles that will go with them.

In Good Mood Bad Mood Hodge takes the right perspective on the issue of depression. Hodge speaks with the experience of a medical doctor and counselor and with a true grasp of how Scripture speaks to our normal sadness. This is a sane book amidst the insane world of over diagnosis of depression. Don’t let a label keep you from help and hope.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Shepherd Press through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. The words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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Modest by Challies & GlennThe idea of modesty for Christians has been predominately cast within the framework of a set of rules about what kind of clothing (mainly for girls) is considered to be appropriate. Whether its shirts below the knees, dresses to the floor or necklines for shirts no lower than the collar bone, the list of do’s and don’ts can be long – really long. But is this kind of list what God intends for us to have and hold others accountable to when it comes to modesty? Where do we get such a list from anyways? Who gets to make it and by what criteria? Is there possibly another way to both define and live modestly?

Tim Challies and RW Glenn think there is. In their new book, Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel, Challies and Glenn pave a new road for understanding modesty that centers on the gospel and lacks a set of do’s and don’ts – no matter how bad they know you want one!

Feeling that the gospel has been largely silent in most discussions of modesty the authors set forth their plea:

We want to see your heart so gripped by the gospel of grace that modesty becomes beautiful and desirable to you, not just in your wardrobe but in all of life. We want you to understand that modesty isn’t just motivated by the gospel, it’s an entailment of the gospel – it flows naturally from a solid grasp of the good news of the gospel. (Loc. 99)

This plea for gospel-centered modesty  is a response to the legalism that has dominated the topic for far too long in far too many Christian circles. The consequences of a gospelless modesty are devastating. “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules….the regulations become our gospel – a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.” (Loc. 176) A view of modesty that is void of the gospel will have nothing more than the appearance of godliness. Thus, a rules based modesty for dress can produce a kind of spiritual immodesty. “Pursue modesty outside of the gospel and not only will you fail to be genuinely modest, but everything you do in the name of that supposed modesty will undermine the very gospel you profess to believe.” (Loc. 455)

Defining Modesty

So if modesty should not be defined by a set of rules then how is it to be defined? This is where it can begin to get sticky. For Challies and Glenn there are two aspects that play into defining modesty. First, there is the situational aspect. Here the idea is that what may be viewed as appropriate or modest in one context (like a one piece bathing suit for women at the beach) is not in another (a women wearing that one piece bathing suit to church on Sunday or to work at her fortune 500 job on Monday). Even the most diehard rules based proponents of modesty could agree with this.

The second criteria for defining modesty is where some are going to cheer and other will no doubt squirm. This aspect draws on the cultural context. That’s right, the authors believe that cultural norms regarding modesty are a big factor in defining modesty. For those who are flipping through their Bibles right now for verses to counter this claim, wait one minute. The authors are already ahead of you. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 Paul tells Timothy “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness— with good works.” (Loc. 232-46) There are two things that can be seen here. First, Paul does not define modesty. Second, whatever Paul does define as modest he is clearly using the contemporary culture as a reference point. The authors point out that no one is going to claim Paul’s words here as a claim upon every Christian for all ages. The reference to “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” is a clear reference to something within the culture. So wearing these items in Paul’s day would have been viewed as immodest and they were not to wear them at church. Notice also how Paul grounds his example of external immodesty first in internal modesty.

These two aspects of defining modesty boil down to three parts:

  1. Virtue. Modesty is first and foremost a virtue— an inner attitude that may be internalized and largely unconscious, or very intentional.
  2. Respect. This virtue is grounded in respect for an appropriate cultural standard (the broader, general context) and appropriate situational standards (the narrower, specific contexts).
  3. Result. This respect is ultimately made evident in dress, speech, and behavior that willingly conforms to these standards. (Loc. 291)

These three parts then boil down into one defining statement – “Modesty is that virtue which is respectful of a culture’s rules for appropriate and inappropriate dress, speech and behavior in a given situation.” (Loc. 291) From here the authors make the following statement:

When the gospel controls your modesty, everything changes. You want to be modest because God sent his son, Jesus, to die for your immodesty and especially because Jesus willingly died for it. When the gospel controls your modesty, you won’t see it as a way of putting God in your debt because you don’t need to twist God’s arm to accept you— he already accepts you freely and fully in Jesus Christ. This gives you both the ability and the desire to respond to him by joyfully being modest in appearance and character. (Loc. 447)

In the end, Challies and Glenn want the gospel to be the root from which modesty grows from. “Don’t see your immodesty as the root of the problem; see it as the fruit and go after the plant where you can do the most damage— the tangled roots of your idolatrous desires. (Loc. 834)

Conclusion

If I were to have written a book on modesty I would hope it would have been like this. Challies and Glenn have rightly taken the list of rules out of modesty and replaced them with the gospel. This is a book for both men and women because men struggle with modesty as much as women albeit in different ways. My only contention with the book is I think the authors have misunderstood Mark Driscoll and the discussion he tried to have with sex in his book (Loc. 572-98). Having read and reviewed the book myself, I don’t think he commits the error they think he does.

That difference aside, I would recommend Modest to anyone especially teens and their parents. The position offered by Challies and Glenn would help a lot of people be freed of the legalism and rules that have dominated the discussion on Christian modesty.

NOTE: Thanks for Cruciform Press for providing an e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Escape from Reason by SchaefferThis is the final post for the final three chapters of Schaeffer’s . In the previous chapters we saw how rise of natural philosophy, and thus the autonomy of man in human reasoning, influenced both the religious and philosophical enterprises. In chapter five Schaeffer looks at how the destruction of the universals/particulars and creator/creature distinction has influenced various other fields such as art, music, theater, poetry and television. Two example here can suffice. In regards to Picasso’s abstract art Schaeffer writes:

Abstraction had gone to such an extent that he had made his own universe on the canvas – in fact, he seemed at time to be successfully laying at being god on his canvas. But at the moment when he painted a universal and not a particular, he ran head-on into one of the dilemmas of modern man – the loss of communication. The person standing in front of the painting has lost communication with the painting – he does not know what the subject-matter is. What is the use of being god on a two-by-four surface when nobody know what you are talking about. (p. 247-48)

Another example can be seen in t.v. Schaeffer observes that both the popular BBC an American television fell prey to existentialism and entertained people to death. Schaeffer recounts an experience that is rather sobering:

I happened to hear the program on BBC when the famous four-letter word was first used. There was a tremendous outcry. Such usage was obviously a serious departure from old standards; yet I would say that if I were given a choice and had to choose, let us have ten thousand four-letter words rather than the almost subliminal presentation on English television of twentieth-century thinking without the four-letter words. The really dangerous thing is that our people are being taught this twentieth-century mentality without being able to understand what is happening to them. (p. 255)

In the final chapter Schaeffer concludes with some consequences of pitting faith against rationality, that is, putting Christianity within the upper story of the universals:

  1. This effects morality in that how can we establish a relationship between Christianity and morals? Because the separation of faith and reason has left nothing in the upstairs what good is it to put Christianity there?
  2. This effects law in the same manner as Christianity. If law is pushed into the upper story with nothing there then it becomes meaningless and cannot speak to the lower story of the particulars. Schaeffer points out that “the whole Reformation system of law was built on the fact that God had revealed something real down into the common things of life.” (p. 261)
  3. This effects the ability of Christianity to speak to the problem of evil. If there are no universals in the upper story, and Christianity is placed there, then it cannot speak to the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall in Genesis 3.
  4. This effects the ability of Christianity to evangelize to the modern man. If there are no universals from which to speak into the particulars, then Christians cannot speak the truth of God into the real spiritual needs of fallen man. There would be no unified field of knowledge with which to address mans deepest needs.

With a restoration of the universals/particulars distinction Schaeffer offers the solution:

It is not sufficient to say only that God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, because there is not enough content in this if it is separated from the Scriptures. It then becomes only another contentess banner. All we know of what that revelation of Christ was, comes from Scriptures. Jesus Himself did not make a distinction between His authority and the authority of the written Scriptures. He acted upon the unity of His authority and the content of the Scriptures. (p. 263)

The fundamental idea we can see as we have journeyed from The God Who is There to the end of Escape From Reason is that unless we hold to the distinction between the universals/particulars and creator/creature then man will be without hope. He will, as Schaeffer described it, fall below the line of despair. If Christianity allows these two distinctions to effect its thought then it will have no basis for its own existence nor a rational or ability to speak into the despair of the modern man. Once again, though Schaeffer’s words were spoken decades ago they still ring true today. Twenty-first-century man is in no less of a disparity then was twentieth-century man.

Advice for Seekers by SpurgeonWithin religious contexts the idea of a “seeker” and a “seeker friendly” church can conjure up mixed responses. The whole seeker friendly church movement brought a new meaning to the idea of a religious seeker – for good and for ill. There are many who will argue that the gospel of the seeker friendly church movement was watered down in a effort to make the gospel more desirable to the seeker. But this has not always been the case.

In 1896 Charles Spurgeon wrote a book titled Words of Advice for Seekers. It was written to address the many stumbling blocks religious seekers had concerning Christ and the Bible. This year Attic Books has produced this original book under the title Advice for Seekers. It contains the exact contents of the original word for word and even has the outer edge of the pages worn to look like it was the original copy.

Advice for Seekers contains fourteen chapters which address a number of issues seekers have when considering the claims of the gospel. Far from a work of watering down the gospel, Spurgeon hits seekers head on with the saving truth of the gospel message. I wonder how many mega churches today would invite Spurgeon to address their congregation by reading one of his chapters?

What is wonderful about this book is that it is a challenge for both seekers and followers of Christ. It is an easy read and I recommend it for anyone. Here are some excerpts from the book to give you an idea for its content:

The self-righteous man knows that what he is doing cannot satisfy God, for it cannot satisfy himself; and though he may perhaps drug his conscience, there is generally enough left of the divine element within the man to make him feel and know that it is not satisfactory. (p. 10)

Jesus can heal you of your pride; he can deliver you from anger; he can cure you of sluggishness, he can purge you from envy, from lasciviousness, from malice, from gluttony, from every form of spiritual malady. And this he can do, not by the torturing process of penance, or the exhausting labors of superstitious performance, or the fiery ordeals of suffering; but the method is simply a word from him, and a look from you, and all is done. You have but to trust Jesus and you are saved. (p. 19-20)

But men will not look to the cross. No, they conspire to raise another cross; or they aspire to adorn that cross with jewels, or they labor to wreathe it with sweet flowers; but they will not give a simple look to the Saviour, and rely on him alone. Yet peace with God no soul can obtain by any other means; while this means is so effectual that it never did fail, and never shall. (p. 34)

There is nothing that thou canst need between her and heaven but what is provided in Jesus Christ, in his person and his work. All things are ready, life for thy death, forgiveness for thy sins, cleansing for thy filth, clothing for thy nakedness, joy for thy sorrow, strength for thy weakness, yea, more than all that ever thou canst want is stored up in the boundless nature and work of Christ. (p. 44)

The will to believe in Christ is as much as a work of grace as faith itself, and where the will is given and a strong desire, a measure of grace is already received, and with it the power to believe. (p. 128)

Many thanks to Attic books for reproducing this classic work of Spurgeon’s.

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