You may have noticed that there was no expository blogging post last Monday. Part of that was so I could talk about my trip to Louisville. The other part was that I intended to move the series to Saturdays. But life happens, and my plans to post this Saturday did not materialize, so here we are.

You may also notice I am offering a title rather than just a reference. Part of this is because you can tell what it is now without me announcing it. The other part is I just thought it would be better to give the posts in the series more interesting titles. And so here we are.

Exodus 4:1-9

When we last checked in on Moses, he was talking to God via the medium of a flaming shrubbery. God had announced his intentions to show Pharaoh what’s up, and in the process save Israel from their oppression. This is all well and good, but Moses has a key pragmatic concerns:

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.'” (4:1)

In response, God offers Moses 3 distinct signs he can use to validate his prophetic message:

The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (4:2-9)

Some of the significance of these signs can be lost on us 3000 years later. Concerning the staff to snake and back trick, Alec Motyer explains:

The kings of Egypt wore crowns adorned with the ‘uraeus,’ a cobra with raised hood threatening Egypt’s enemies. The cobra crown was also associated with the sun god Re [Ra], the ‘Living King,’ who, when united with Amon [or Amun], was the most powerful deity in Egypt. Victory over the serpent was, therefore, a comprehensive motif for challenging and overthrowing the central realities of Egyptian religion and sovereignty, and thus by this sign, Egypt’s power, whether divine or royal, is shown to be under the Lord’s sovereign sway. Moses may well have fled from it in the past, but by obedience he can also subdue it.” 1

As far as being able to conjure leprosy, one could see this as the most significant physical disease in that culture. Being able to manifest it and then get it rid of demonstrated a power of the body that would be similar to being able to summon skin cancer onto a person and then just as easily “cure” it.

Although mentioned as an almost last resort, the sign involving the Nile is actually a prominent foreshadowing of the eventual first plague. Stuart explains that this is sign is “hinting at the fact that God had in store some serious threats to unleash upon the Egyptians, which he would first demonstrate, through this sample, to his own people. The third sign, in other words, was not so much about Moses as it was about Egypt, and specifically the Nile. For God’s servant Moses to demonstrate through this simple act God’s power over the Nile would be to demonstrate God’s power generally over Egypt and the Egyptians a fortiori.” 2 Furthermore, if you keep in mind that Egyptian religion would have considered the Nile to be a personification of a certain god, turning it to blood implied that god had been killed. The primary source of life in the region was now dripping death.


I imagine most of us would have been content to head on back to Egypt at this point. But not Moses. Though you can read this as cowardice on Moses’ part, it is also kind of ballsy to argue with God about whether you should do what he says. If God was speaking you audibly from a fire in your backyard, how comfortable would you be pushing back on what he’s asking you do to? Moses it seems was pretty comfortable:

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” (4:10-17)

If you’re keeping score, this is Moses’ 2nd and 3rd objections, with the 3rd one finally getting to the root problem: Moses just doesn’t want to go. In his anger, God makes a concession which will come back to haunt Moses. Since Moses isn’t keen on being the spokesman for God to Pharaoh, Aaron will do all the talking with Moses being the go-between. In this sense, the word of God comes to Moses, who relays it to Aaron, who relays it to Pharaoh. This is a rather cumbersome setup and Aaron will prove to be a liability, but we see God accommodate Moses’ insecurities. While this is gracious on God’s part, we can also see that it would have probably been better had Moses simply acquiesced to God’s initial request.

For many of us, God won’t ask us to lead a nation out of centuries long slavery. Most of us also aren’t wanted fugitives in our hometown either. But, God has callings for each of us that may involve missions that are not our first choice of a lifestyle. When that calling becomes clear, we should learn from Moses’ story that a certain level dialogue with God is acceptable. But after a certain point, God’s accommodation might not prove to be what we think it is in the long run. It would be better for us to obey and go when God has made himself clear. The clarity might not be as brilliant as an audible voice from a bush that burns but is not consumed. But if God is calling us to something specific, he has his ways of making sure we get the memo. While we have our ways of playing Jonah, we’ll be far better off to respond in faith rather than fear and take the next step toward whatever Egypt or Ninevah God has called us to pursue.

In the end, if you feel God is calling you toward a specific mission, is it perfectly ok to ask questions about it. You can ask God for clarification, you can push back on the nature of the mission and your role in it. But, what you shouldn’t do is say, “Hey God, thanks for the offer, but can you find someone else?” God’s specific calling for you to join his mission is not a job offer you can take or leave. It is a vital part of your purpose in the body of Christ. Take your cues from Isaiah instead of Moses and say “Here I am, send me” not “Here I am, send someone else.”


  1. J. A. Motyer, The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage. Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005, 77
  2. Douglas K Stuart, Exodus. Vol. 2. NAC. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006, 131


Step 1: Start With Yourself

Prior to Descartes, philosophy typically started with metaphysics. It was, in a way, metaphysics seeking epistemology. Truth was considered objective in itself, while a person’s reason was understood to be subjective. In Christian terms, this worked out to faith seeking understanding. What Descartes decided to do was turn this on its head and start with epistemology. What he hoped to accomplish was to construct a philosophy built on clear and distinct ideas. He would systematically doubt everything he could until he got to the bottom of his thinking. In the midst of this, he realized that his own doubting was proof of his existence, and so he found his first clear and distinct idea and we all remember that by cogito ergo sum.

From this point on, philosophy began to proceed not from a metaphysical starting point, but an epistemological one. It was now understanding seeking faith. This created an epistemic gap that no one has successfully closed. Descartes, along with Leibniz and Spinoza were the in the rationalistic school of philosophy and all relied on formulating their epistemology on the basis of clear and distinct ideas. What is baffling is that they all supposedly started from “clear and distinct” ideas and proceeded logically to the conclusions that followed from those; yet each had a radically different outcome. It seemed then that the ideas were not quite so clear or so distinct.

Rationalism was still more or less following a correspondence theory of truth, assuming that truth is what corresponds to reality. The problem became how to bring ideas and reality itself into fruitful contact. It was believed that truth was objective, but contra pre-modernism, now it was assumed that rationality was objective too. It was simply a matter of following the right steps to get to the truth. It was now believe possible to gain a “God’s eye” objective view of any subject at hand. By starting with yourself, you could build a non-religious, rational philosophy of yourself.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Senses

Rationalism was not the only approach. The other option on the table was empiricism. Philosophers in this school include John Locke first, but later George Berkeley and David Hume. This approach, first formulated by Locke relied on sense perception as a starting point. In Locke’s account, we have substances and properties. Substances are the more basic of the two, and are capable of having certain attributes attached to them (i.e. properties). I can formulate the truth about the chair, to use an example, by bringing my ideas of the chair and the chair itself into spatio-temporal union. I must examine the chair in detail to make sure my ideas of it correspond to how it really is.

This still maintained the epistemic gap, and the issue arose as to how to know whether or not we know the substances themselves, or merely the properties that they have as attributes. The question of whether or not I know the “chairness” of the chair apart from its specific attributes is what Locke was wrestling with to some extent, but was certainly what those after him would pick up on. Hume jumped all over this, and eventually acknowledged that given the empirical approach, we are all basically “Locked” up in our own perceptions. We can’t actually know reality itself. For Hume, all we have are bundled of properties, there are no substances.

Taking this further, one can see it affects our understanding of causation. Fundamental to Hume’s philosophy is his account of causation. He argued that our minds are conditioned to perceive causation, but we don’t actually apprehend it directly. We see temporal sequences of events, and then infer causality, but we don’t actually “see” causality. I may see the cue stick strike a cue ball that then strikes the 8 ball sending it into the corner pocket and infer that my opponent just caused all of that to happen but I don’t actually see, in an empirical sense of actually witnessing with my senses, the actual causation. If all I can perceive then are bundles of properties, and I can’t link validate that events are linked through causation, I really can’t know much of anything.

So, after Hume there is not only an epistemic gap between appearance and reality, there is no way to bridge it, although it could be argued that wasn’t Hume’s goal in the first place. Hume would eventually get frustrated with all of this and instead of writing more books opt for backgammon with his friends. It was around this time though that Immanuel Kant arose from his dogmatic slumber and decided to move things on to step 3.

Step 3: Create Your Own Reality

Kant, like Plato was a synthesizer. Whereas Plato synthesized two different streams of pre-Socratic thought, Kant attempted to synthesize the rational and empirical approach. Kant, like Berkeley saw reality as mind dependent, but with one huge difference. Berkeley saw reality as mind dependent and structured by God, and we merely sought to think God’s thoughts after Him. For Kant though, reality is mind dependent but structured by the individual. In a sense, you create your own reality by structuring your perceptions of reality into some kind of coherent system of thought. In a way, this shifted the burden of truth from corresponding to reality to merely cohering with the rest of one’s knowledge. Truth was now in some ways what cohered to my way of thinking, whether or not it actually corresponded to external reality.

In critiquing pure reason, he proposed there are 4 types of judgments:

  • Analytic (subject contains predicate)
  • Synthetic (subject neither contains nor denies predicate)
  • A priori (independent of experience)
  • A posteriori (dependent on experience).

Each kind of judgment is to be one of the first two, and one of the second two. The prize was synthetic a priori judgments, those that brought us new information, yet were not dependent on experience. Kant also made the distinction between what he called the noumenal realm which is reality as it is in itself, and the phenomenal realm, which is reality as I perceive it. God may well exist, but if he does, it is in the noumenal realm of which we don’t have direct access (except for Kant).

How Kant knew there was such a distinction is curious. In essence, Kant proposed to have god-like knowledge of the limits of reason and thus must have transcended human knowing in order gain this understanding. The only way to really critique his proposal of the limits of reason would be to transcend his transcendence. This of course isn’t possible, so ironically, philosophy has somewhat taken Kant’s word final, and many postmodern philosophers are basically just hyper-Kantians. However, before getting there, someone needed to come along and simplify Kant’s two structured reality (noumenal/phenomenal) into a simpler form.

Step 4: Get Rid of the True Creator

Enter Nietzsche. Unlike the previously mentioned philosopher (except for maybe Hume), Nietzsche didn’t see a need to salvage the belief in God. In fact, for Nietzsche, belief in God had become unbelievable and rather than arguing against it, he assumed it as a starting point. “God is dead, and we have killed him,” the madman in Nietzsche’s writing would proclaim. As I understand it, Nietzsche basically sought to go ahead and just dispense with the noumenal realm altogether. If we can’t know it, let’s just get rid of it. Nietzsche doesn’t seem as preoccupied with epistemology as the previous philosophers surveyed do, but he did have a bent toward naturalizing everything. Interestingly, in this process the self gets deified to some extent as once God is removed from the picture the aseity vacuum has to suck something into place. If God is not in that position, man will occupy it.

Nietzsche in effect helped shift the definition of truth further away from corresponding to reality on to what “works.” Truth in this sense is what gets me to my goals. Nietzsche rightly understood that without God in the picture, there is no foundation for meaning, for morals, or for logic. There is only the power play left. We are to celebrate the joy inherent in this revelation. While we may not be able to truly know reality in itself, that is no matter, we need to rush headlong into creating a beautiful life for ourselves that we would be content to relive over and over again. It seems by the time we get to Nietzsche, we have gone from faith seeking understanding, to understanding seeking faith, to now just understanding, and an understanding that exerts power. As we embrace this joyful wisdom, we are all on our way to becoming Übermenschen in our own unique ways.



We’re continuing on our journey through Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction. You can refer back to the introduction to see the table of contents for the upcoming review sections. Today we’re looking at his section on eschatology.

§ 3.1 Gospel and Kingdom

In an interesting turn, Bird places his section on eschatology right after the doctrine of God, rather than at the end of the study. As he explains, he thinks it should be pushed up earlier in the theological curriculum. Because eschatology has its emphasis on the final kingdom of God, and that it both an important motif in biblical theology and in Jesus’ preaching and teaching, Bird thinks we should situate it prior to soteriology.

I think this is a bold move, but it fits with Bird’s overall structure. If he is truly producing a “gospel-centered” systematic theology, then the introduction of the kingdom comes pretty early. Interestingly enough, when I was taking Eschatology at Dallas Seminary, we spent the bulk of the class in Genesis, both looking at what was lost in the fall, and what was promised to Abraham. We didn’t get into what people think of as the stereotypical eschatological discussion (rapture, tribulation, millennium) until fairly late in the course. The context setting proved invaluable. Bird seems to be doing much this same thing with his discussion of where redemption history is headed taking place before the discussion of redemption itself.

§ 3.2 Apocalypse Now and Not Yet!

Having the importance of the kingdom stressed, the second section turns to a brief discussion of different ways the church has understood the “apocalyptic.” Worth keeping in mind is that “apocalypse” technically means “revealing” not “end of the world as we know it.” So the book of Revelation is the “Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.” Accordingly, Bird sketches out in this section a concise rundown of biblical eschatology. Key to this is his presentation of the overlap of the ages in eschatological thinking. Regardless of one’s understanding of the end times, all pretty much agree there is certain element of already but not yet when it comes to the inauguration of the kingdom of God. It gets parsed out differently as the views are explained, but Bird is still pretty focused on big picture issues here.

§ 3.3 The Return of Jesus Christ

In addition to the overlap of ages, all orthodox Christians believe in a bodily return of Jesus. Here Bird gets into issues related to how you understand the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 (as well as Mark 13), and how the destruction of Jerusalem is related to what Jesus says in those passages. Bird takes a preterist view that sees AD 70 destruction as a fulfillment of what is spoken of in the Olivet Discourse (265). He avoids however a hyper-preterist view which would see no relevance beyond AD 70 (267). He sees rather the destruction of Jerusalem as the beginning of the final judgment (266).

Within this section, Bird gives a bullet pointed “in a nutshell” rundown of the return of Jesus (269). This provides a good summary of the essential takeaways about Christ’s return:

  • His return will be accompanied with angels (1 Thess 3:13; Jude 14; cf. Zech 14:5).
  • Reference to a trumpet at his return is symbolic for the royal nature of the event (Isa 27:13; Joel 2:1; Zeph 1:14-16; Matt 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16; Rev 11:15). The trumpets mark the arrival of the day of the Lord and are a rallying sound for the gathering of God’s people.
  • Around the time of Jesus’ return “all Israel” will be saved, meaning a large segment of ethnic or empirical Israel (Rom 11:26).
  • Jesus’ return will involve a resurrection of believers (1 Cor 15:20-23, 52; Phil 3:21; 1 Thess 4:14-17; Rev 20:4).
  • At his return Jesus will judge and subjugate all of his enemies (1 Cor 15:24-28; Rev 19:11-21)

§ 3.4 Millennium and Tribulation

Having covered the essentials, Bird turns to the different millennial views. Bird himself is a historic premillennialist, but he gives very fair treatment to both amillennials and postmillennials. He notes at one point that were it not for Revelation 20, he’d be an amillennial. Parentheically, he even suggests he almost changed his mind while writing this section, and concurs with Craig Keener’s statement that “Theologically I am amillennial, but exegetically I am premillennial” (280).

He interestingly does not give much detail or treatment to dispensational premillennialism, but does at least note its existence. While he may not agree with dispensationalists, he gives very strong arguments in this chapter for a premillennial understanding of the return of Christ as being the earliest view. He suggests towards the end of his presentation of the evidence that a chiliasm (belief in a literal millennium) fell out of fashion once Constantine made Christianity the official religion, making postmillennialism seem more likely (though we should note that term is anachronistic).

Having discussed the different approaches to the millennium and sided with a historic premil position, Bird now has to discuss views of the tribulation (something not particularly necessary in other schemes). He is somewhat predictably post-trib, but explains pre-trib well. Unmentioned is the mid-trib option, mainly because almost no one holds to it.

§ 3.5 The Final Judgment

Beyond the millennial views are views of the final judgment. Once again though, there is a certain level or harmony across Christian views in that every orthodox person holds to a future physical judgment. There is a question of whether believers will be judged, and if so, on what basis. Bird says yes, and follows N. T. Wright in arguing that our works will be judged to show that they are the necessary evidences the saving faith the Spirit has produced in us. Interestingly, this is more less Tom Schreiner’s position as well, as outlined in the Four Views of The Role of Works in The Final Judgment.

Resonating Jim Hamilton, Bird says that “God’s glory is revealed when creation is purified from evil and the exile from Eden comes to an end” (307-308). Judgment then serves to manifest the glory of God, in addition to it being a triumph of grace and means of retribution toward the wicked. It is the final culmination of the victory that Christ won, and when faced with the evil in this present world, we can look forward in hope to the day of eternal reckoning.

§ 3.6 The Intermediate State: What Happens When You Die?

At this point, Bird turns to personal eschatology after having covered dealt with cosmic eschatology (309). He sketches out death as the final enemy, and the explores the options for understanding the intermediate state. He argues against the idea of the immortatlity of the soul, or of soul sleep. I’ll admit I’ve been in favor of a kind of understanding that your consciousness is tied to having a physical body, but Bird has convinced me otherwise. Instead, death introduces a disunity that is not dealt with until the final resurrection (314).

He then parses the afterlife according to the biblical categories. Bird sees Sheol/Hades as a single place having two divisions prior to Christ’s death/resurrection/ascension. Whereas prior both the righteous and the wicked were there, now it is just the place of the wicked with the righteous having been brought to heaven with Christ. He sees “paradise” as referring to the division of Sheol for the righteous, and therefore an intermediate state that is neither heaven nor hell (319). The thief on the cross then went there when he died, was met by Christ, but then brought up to heaven with the other righteous souls upon Christ’s ascension.

§ 3.7 The Final State: Heaven, Hell, and New Creation

Finally, Bird turns to the eternal state. He argues for a fairly traditional understanding of heaven, hell, and the new creation. He does rely on Wright a bit more, specifically Surprised By Hope, and the idea that the final state is heaven on earth, not some disembodied existence with clouds and harps.

With that, Bird is now poised to discuss the Gospel of God’s Son. Christology is a strong suit of Bird’s and this next section is one of the longer ones. I might split it in two, but I guess we’ll see once I’ve read it.


Yesterday, I posted this picture of Matt Perman’s just released book, What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done. I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a while, and now it’s finally arrived (You can read a sample here).

In the preface of the book, Matt lays out 12 myths about productivity that many of us may have unwittingly bought into (13-16). Originally, I thought I’d list these out for you followed by the corresponding truths that Matt explains in his book.

Instead, I thought it would be interesting to quiz yourself and see how God/gospel centered your view of getting things done is. At the end I’ll list the myths and truths in total. Let’s see how you do:


  1. Productivity is about getting more done faster
  2. The way to be productive is to have the right techniques and tools
  3. It is not essential to give consideration to what God has to say about productivity
  4. It is not essential to make the gospel central in our view of productivity
  5. The way to be productive is to tightly manage yourself (and others!)
  6. The aim of time management should be our peace of mind
  7. The way to succeed is to put yourself first
  8. We will have peace of mind if we can get everything under control
  9. To-do lists are enough
  10. Productivity is best defined by tangible outcomes
  11. The time we spend working is a good measure of our productivity
  12. Having to work really hard or even suffer in our work means our priorities are screwed up or we are doing something wrong.


Think you did pretty good? I’m hoping you guessed that #3, #4, and #7 are definitely myths. The truth is though that these are all productivity myths in one way or another. Matt sheds light on this by presenting the corresponding truth for each of the above myths:

  1. Productivity is about effectiveness first, not efficiency
  2. Productivity comes first from character, not techniques
  3. We cannot be truly productive unless all our activity stems from love for God and the acknowledgment that he is sovereign over all our plans
  4. The only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be productive
  5. Productivity comes from engagement, not tight control; when we are motivated, we don’t need to tightly control ourselves (or others)
  6. Productivity is first about doing good for others to the glory of God
  7. We become most productive by putting others first, not ourselves
  8. Basing our peace of mind on our ability to control everything will never work
  9. Time is like space, and we need to see lists as support material for our activity zones, not as sufficient in themselves to keep track of what we have to do
  10. The greatest evidence of productivity comes from intangibles, not tangibles
  11. We need to measure productivity by results, not by time spent working
  12. We will (sometimes) suffer from our work, and it is not sin

If some of these truths seem counter-intuitive, or liberating to the way you approach your daily work, you should probably check out What’s Best Next. You should probably read this post by Matt explaining more about why he wrote the book. If you’re interested in trying to secure a free copy, there are other bloggers offering giveaways, here, here, and here. As always, Justin Taylor has a good write-up too.

Hopefully, I’ll have a fully review of my own by next week. So far, it’s a very beneficial read that I’m hoping will reshape the way I approach juggling my current schedule. I’m definitely tempted to believe that efficiency is more important than it is and that tangible results are most important. I expect to have a better understand of why that’s not the case as I continue reading and applying the wisdom in this book.


Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr., eds., The Psalms: Language For All Seasons of The Soul. Chicago: Moody Publishers, November 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $26.99.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Moody Publishers for the review copy!

Every few months, I focus on just the Psalms in my devotions. This exclusive psalmody usually lasts a month since I read 5 a day. I realized a while back that I didn’t know Psalms all that well. So, I decided to remedy that and immerse myself in the book several times a year.

In addition to reading the Psalms more often, I’ve found several resources helpful for understanding the book better. One such book is The Psalms: Language For All Seasons of The Soul. Edited by Andrew Schmutzer and David Howard Jr., this collection runs the full gamut of material. The collection of essays grows out the Psalms and Hebrew Poetry section of the Evangelical Theological Society (est. 2009). The present book is all the papers read in the the first three years of the section, as well as four sermons to round out the material.

The book is split into 5 parts. The first has three essays that set the context for Psalms studies in the recent past. Bruce Waltke exposes the connections to biblical theology. Willem VanGemeren explores the different routes of literary analysis. C. Hassell Bullock explores the role the book plays in our faith and traditions. These opening essays, as well as the closing sermons, are the most accessible and give readers a good understanding of where Psalms studies are situated these days.

The 2nd and 3rd parts go into detailed analysis of select psalms of praise and psalms of lament respectively. In the first, we are treated to in depth exegesis of Psalm 46 (Francis Kimmitt), 91 (Andrew Schmutzer), and the 74/89 (Robert Chisholm Jr.). The section on laments covers broader sections more so than individual Psalms, although perhaps the most technical paper is the examination of the Septuagint version of Psalm 54 (Randall Gauthier). In addition, Walt Kaiser compares the laments of Lamentation to that of the Psalter. Allen Ross looks at select “Thou” sections in lament psalms (with emphasis on their boldness). Daniel Estes goes into detail on individual laments, while Michael Travers focuses on how laments confessing sin transform into praise.

The 4th part of the book moves into considerations of canon. Robert Cole examines the opening 2 psalms and their role introducing everything that follows. David Howard Jr. traces the organizing motif of divine and human kingship. Michael Snearly looks specifically at the 5th book of the psalter and its emphasis on the returning king/Messiah. Tremper Longman then rounds out the section by focusing on the last psalm and its role in concluding the psalter.

The book closes with a section of 4 sermons. The first is on Psalms 16 and 23 (Mark Futato). This is followed by sermons on Psalm 84 (David Ridder), 88 (David Howard Jr.), and finally Psalm 117 by none other than John Piper. These concluding sermons give the book an overall nice balance between more in-depth exegetical analysis and practical applications.

Since the collection of essays springs from a section at ETS, it’s not necessarily the most practical book on Psalms coming down the pike. However, there is pretty much something for everyone in these essays. Like most essay collections, the quality is not uniform throughout. I found Chisholm, Waltke, Kaiser, and Ross most interesting. On the whole, I found parts 1 and 3 to be the most helpful for my understanding, but some of this is compared to what I already knew or had read in previous books. In the end, if you’re really serious about Psalms study, you might want to check this out, and to make that easier I’m offering you an opportunity to win a copy for yourself. Just follow the steps in the PunchTab widget (click thru if your’e in RSS).


This is Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, just before 8 last Friday morning. There is a set of windows at the bast of the tree that is somewhat centered in the shot. Through those windows is the classroom where I took a Ph.D entrance exam. Taking the exam is no real guarantee you’ll get in. It’s really the last phase of your overall application. That, and the faculty interview (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

The exam was at 9 in the morning. You had (or at least the philosophy exam had) two questions. You picked one, and spent the better part of the next 2 hours trying to answer it well. Somewhere within my 10 page response, I think I did ok. I guess we’ll see once it is graded. I’ll find out sometime late March or early April whether I got in, got wait listed, or got denied. You could also get invited to the Th.M program, but I already have one of those, so that’d be kind of pointless.

Over the course of my time in Louisville I was able to reconnect with my good friend Todd and his wife Megan (and their 16 month old Simon, who I think likes me). Todd and I go way back to like 2006 or so. He attended Boyce briefly, then worked at Apple, met a great girl, got married, and is now fairly settled down. He works for Forest Giant, a mobile app and web develop you should probably check out if you have needs in that area. He is also quite the photographer and has his own photo company, ABNY, you should also check out. Thanks to his handiwork, I now have a newer headshot, which you may or may not have noticed around the interwebs.

Also during my time in Louisville, I was able to meet up with of guys I knew from Dallas that are now in the SBTS Ph.D program, as well as connect in real life with several people I’ve known digitally. One was a guy named Garrick Bailey who is also hoping to get into the Ph.D program after he graduates DTS. We had lunch with J.T. English, Coleman Ford, and Sam Tyson, all DTS grads who overlapped with us in one way or another.

Another is Richard Clark who is co-founder and editor in chief over at Christ and Pop Culture. They just did a sweet re-launch, and now have an interesting podcast to go with their online magazine and stellar weekly blog posts. We were able to sit down and have coffee (for Rich) and Ale-8 (for me) in the seminary coffeeshop. During our talk, I happened to Matt Smethurst as well, who is an associate editor over at The Gospel Coalition, and whose inbox I will be sending book reviews to in the future.

While waiting on my faculty interview, I bumped into Andrew Walker, who works with the ERLC and is also applying to the program. Later, because my interview ran late, I missed meeting up with Mike Leake, but we were able to connect on Saturday after many Twitter @ replies. Along with Tim Challies, he is spearheading a 31 Day Purity Challenge right now that you should probably be involved in. It started Saturday, so you’re not too late if you haven’t heard (plus there will probably be an app later just like Pray For Your Wife).

In the end, it was a pretty great trip. Even I don’t get in this go around, I’m glad I was able to connect with people and spend time with my good buddy Todd. I got pretty good (it’s not Texas) BBQ two meals in a row, and went to Indiana two days in a row, which is a personal record. I also got to check out some pretty sweet indie coffeeshops, eat the best burger in town (at The Holy Grail), and find a nice Mexican dive for next time I’m there.

Plus, I picked the early flight out yesterday morning, and so beat the Icepocalypse that apparently followed shortly behind me. And, I even surprised myself by having the longest conversation with someone on a plane I can remember. Turns out it was a guy who is a town councilman in Louisville, heading with his wife to Houston to M.D. Anderson for her checkup. They go to Southeast Christian in Louisville, which is the church Kyle Idleman (Not A Fan, Gods at War) is at. They were really hospitable and basically offered for me to stay with them next time in town, and even for the 3 week stretches that I would need to be in town if I get into the Ph.D program.

That pretty much puts all the pieces in play, but I’m still not holding my breath. I’ll be slightly anxious until I get something in the mail, and then we’ll just take it from there. First things first though. I need to sit outside and read all day tomorrow and thank God that it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not whatever is going on in Louisville today. Based on the picture below, I’m guessing it won’t involve tanning.


9780830839605_p0_v1_s260x420Mark W. Foreman, Prelude to Philosophy: An Introduction for Christians. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, November 2013. 208 pp. Paperback, $20.00.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

When I started at Liberty University, had already completed two years of Bible college, earning essentially an associates of Bible (if there was such a thing). I intended to major in psychology, so one of the first classes I took was developmental psychology. 1 The other class was introduction to philosophy. The instructor was Mark Foreman.

My first foray into philosophy was literally 2 mind-blowing. I probably would have changed majors, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, it became a background interest that when would then get ignited further during my second semester of seminary, and then come full circle to where we are now. In that sense, I owe quite a bit to Mark Foreman’s teaching, and I’m glad to see him producing a popular level book introducing others to the wonders of philosophy.

Rather than an actual introduction, this is just what the title says (always a good thing): a prelude. The typical divisions of philosophy are not discussed in detail until chapter 4, and then the final three chapters after that are focused on logic and rational argumentation. Before getting to those divisions, Foreman spends time explaining in general terms, what philosophy is (and is not), why it is an important field of study, and most importantly, why it is important for Christians. Each of these topics occupy an entire chapter, and I thought provided good reasons for studying philosophy (though I am biased), as well as fending off objections to it as subject for Christian attention. That makes this a good book for a) people wanting to get their feet wet in the streams of philosophical thought, as well as b) anyone wanting to think clearly about any topic.

In the course of his discussion, Foreman defines philosophy as “the critical examination of our foundational beliefs concerning the nature of reality, knowledge, and truth, and our moral and social values” (24). After unpacking this a little further, Foreman lists 6 distinguishing features of philosophy and philosophical study (29-41, my formulations):

  • It helps define the criteria we use to study facts
  • It regulates the nature and method of studies
  • It relentlessly seeks clarity of thought
  • It examines and evaluates everything
  • It focuses on foundational issues and perennial questions
  • It is based on principles and guidelines of sound argumentation

With a definition and description in mind, Foreman then explains why philosophy is important. Though more could be said, Foreman highlights the importance of living an examined life, clarifying our thinking, cultivating a worldview, and refining our ethical decisions. This provides a transition to the chapter on why philosophy is important for Christians. Foreman suggests five ways it plays a vital role (89-93):

  • It plays a large role in the task of interpreting Scripture (hermeneutics)
  • It provides the principles of systematizing utilized in theology and helps draw out and express theological concepts
  • It heavily utilized in apologetics, as in presenting a rational case for the Christian faith
  • It can help with polemics against objections to Christian orthodoxy
  • It is useful in evangelism, especially in the point of contact with differing worldviews

Building off the first item listed, Foreman goes into greater detail about the role philosophy plays in biblical interpretation. One extreme is to keep the two thoroughly isolated. There is philosophical study, and biblical studies, and never the two shall meet. The other extreme is to disregard the role of philosophy altogether. This extreme looks at Scripture as solo scriptura, and therefore sees no need for philosophical study at all. Without some of the fruits of philosophy to inform their thinking, people who take this approach often end up misusing the Scripture they think is all they need. The solution isn’t to exalted philosophy, but to be willing to utilize insights and harness it to help one be a better Bible interpreter.

At this point, Foreman presents the divisions of philosophy, and it is pretty standard fare. The final three chapters, as mentioned, are on logic and argumentation. Very helpfully, Foreman includes a few brief exercises to limber up the mind. Worth mentioning as well are the seven virtues of the Christian philosopher listed in the epilogue (191-197):

  • Love of truth
  • Diligence
  • Intellectual honesty
  • Fairness and respect
  • Intellectual fortitude
  • Epistemic humility
  • Teachableness

I would say those are all attributes I would live to strive for, and even if you don’t plan to be a philosopher, 3 they are virtues we should all strive for in our lives.

With that, Foreman’s prelude comes to an end. Along the way he is clear and concise, and demonstrates the virtues he extols at the end. It is an ideal book for an intro to philosophy class at say, the high school level. Because there is no extended discussion of the major thinkers, it couldn’t be a stand alone philosophy textbook, but it doesn’t aim to be, so that’s ok. I could see it being used profitably in tandem with Bartholomew and Goheen’s Christian Philosophy. As a prelude, it really whets the appetite for the fugue that is higher level philosophical study. I’ve been onboard since I took philosophy with Foreman 8 years ago this month. If you’re interesting in diving in, this is a good book to help you do so.


  1. Fun fact: I never took general psychology. At Liberty you could take developmental or general psychology first and then you could take the other required classes from there. I completed all the required classes for a psych major except general psychology, and then just Clepped out of it. This adds an irony within an irony given that I am a home schooled high school teacher who teaches general psychology as an elective.
  2. Not literally
  3. You are one whether or not you plan to, the question is whether you do it well or not


While we were clued in at the end of Exodus 2 that God’s attention is now fully focused on Pharaoh and the plight of Israel in Egypt, Moses missed that memo. Content, or at least semi-content to be a shepherd in Midian, Moses’ life has moved on. But God has not moved on, and that life gets interrupted in at the beginning of chapter 3:

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord 1 appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” (3:1-3)

Believe it or not, it was actual possible for bushes in this region to spontaneously combust. But in this case, the fire stayed on just the one bush, and that bush was not consumed. Moses was intrigued, and clearly being a man, needed to investigate this strange fire. 2

Thinking it might just be a good story to tell Zipporah when he returned with the flock, Moses edged closer, and that’s when God makes his move:

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (3:4-6)

Readers who have been reading since Genesis will now recognize this God talking to Moses is the same God who dialogued with Abraham, promised Isaac, and wrestled Jacob. Here, he reveals himself to Moses, and begins one of the many recorded conversations they will have throughout the Pentateuch.

Attentive readers here may have noticed that in v. 1-3, it is the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Moses, but starting in v. 4, it is the Lord who speaks. There is clearly then a close identification between the Angel of the Lord and the Lord himself. So much so that many have argued that the Angel of the Lord is a preincarnate Christ. On this issue, I think Enns is perceptive:

“This close relationship has led many to suggest that the angel of the Lord is an Old Testament manifestation of the incarnate Christ. This notion is worth considering. It is, if anything, certainly true from a theological point of view. The notion of the close relationship in the Old Testament between the messenger/angel of the Lord and Yahweh himself is something that is fully manifested in the person of Christ, who is both one with the Father yet distinct from him as the second person of the Trinity. This [is] not to say, however, that the angel of the Lord is a preincarnate manifestation of Christ. Rather, the angel of the Lord foreshadows Christ in the same way that Moses, the priesthood, or the sacrificial system do (see Heb. 3:1-6, 8:1-10:18). In the final analysis, the angel of the Lord remains a mysterious but prominent figure in the context of God’s self-revelation to his people, and his role is ultimately fulfilled in Christ.” 3

We could wrestle further with the Angel of the Lord here, but the day will break eventually, and we have more verses to cover. Suffice it to say, the Angel of the Lord reveals the Lord and speaks for the Lord. I don’t want to detract from the uniqueness of the incarnation to use “preincarnate” to describe what’s going on, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world when other people do. 4

Turning to the actual conversation, God has identified himself through the Angel of the Lord, and Moses has responded with reverence and awe. Moses now gets the memo we got in the end of chapter 2, but with more detail:

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 5 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (3:7-12)

Rather than saying, “Ok, sounds like a plan,” Moses raises more questions. Already, we are seeing fortitude on Moses’ part, though you could also read it at reticence to lead the nation. However, it is worth noting that it takes a pretty strong figure to question God in this manner. I think if God appeared to us in a flaming shrubbery and started telling us stuff to do, we’d either a) turn tail and run off or b) get started as soon as possible out of sheer terror. Moses on the other hand negotiates with God (something patriarchs seem to do regularly):

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (3:13-14)

In addition to identifying himself with the God of the patriarchs, God now reveals his name to Moses. The significance of this actually takes the rest of the book to unpack. As Blackburn comments, “If Exodus 1-2 presents the problem, that the name of the Lord is not known, Exodus 3 begins the solution, where the Lord makes his name known.” 6The rest of his book unpacks how the revelation and making known of the name of God is what Exodus is all about. I will actually talk about more as we go on. For now, let’s close with the plan that God then gives to Moses:

Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” (3:15-22)

Here we are given more or less a roadmap for the rest of the book up through chapter 15. Moses still doesn’t jump on the plan and run with it, but we’ll talk about that next post. It is worth noting as we close out that this encounter sets a template for God’s calling his prophets. There is a sense of inadequacy, but as we can see with Moses’ willingness to push back on God’s requests (in a good way), it is maybe better thought of as humility. Moses, through God’s empowerment, proved to be a capable leader. He wasn’t perfect, but he towers over Israelite history as the greatest prophet until One came who finally surpassed him by actually being perfect.


  1. “The term malʾāk yahweh, usually translated ‘the Angel of the Lord,’ appears sixty-seven times in the Old Testament. Exodus 3:2 is its only occurrence in Exodus, though it was already prominent in both Gen 16, the story of Hagar, and Gen 22, the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac. Grammatically, malʾāk yahweh is a construct (also called bound form, genitive construction) and according to the rule of constructs, both elements must be either definite or indefinite. Since the proper noun ‘Yahweh’ is intrinsically definite, the noun that precedes it musts also be definite; so the phrase cannot therefore mean ‘an angel of the Lord’ but must connote greater definiteness, in other words, ‘the Angel of the Lord.’” (Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus. Vol. 2. NAC. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006, 110)
  2. I phrased it this way on purpose, in case you were wondering.
  3. Peter Enns, Exodus. NIVAC. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 96
  4. Like for instance David Murray in his Jesus on Every Page
  5. Really attentive readers will recognize this list of peoples from Genesis 15. Their land is promised to Abraham’s ancestors, and the book of Joshua shows Israel cutting them off from it
  6. W. Ross Blackburn, The God Who Makes Himself Known: The Missionary Heart of The Book of Exodus. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012, 34-35

I’ve been going back and reading through my long abandoned philosophy series. Some of it aged well. Some did not. I was definitely doing a lot of thinking at loud, as opposed now, when I mostly think to myself.

In thinking about thinking, I thought it might a good time to think out loud about logic. It’s kind of a prelude to philosophy (see my review Tuesday of a book by that title), and is important to have understand as we do some philosophical investigations.

Logic is the principles governing correct and reliable arguments. 1 An argument consists of presenting evidence with an inference (conclusion) drawn. Typically, arguments are divided into two categories:

  • Inductive (yields probable conclusions)
  • Deductive (yields certain conclusions)

Within these forms, three laws govern the actual arguing:

  • Law of identity (T is T and F is F)
  • Law of non-contradiction (No T and F)
  • Law of excluded middle (T or F)

Very few will deny these principles are true. This is because it would be making a claim about what is false, but destroying the ability to differentiate between truth and falsehood. These laws of logic are propositions that specify what truth-values other propositions can and cannot have.

Propositions themselves are language-independent, which means they can be expressed in language but are not reducible to language. This means the same true proposition can be effectively expressed in multiple languages. This also means that the laws of logic exist beyond specific language based expressions of them.

The word for this “existence beyond” is transcendence. Because the laws of logic are transcendent, they are said to apply to all possible statements in all possible languages. Laws of logic are truths, about truths, that exist independent of specific truth statements.

Because the laws of logic are also necessary for thinking, it is hard, if not practically impossible to deny their existence and still formulate a coherent worldview. Something necessary for for thinking itself is a preconditions for intelligibility (P. I.) P. I.’s are just what they sound like, the conditions necessary to make human experience intelligible. I would say by definition, any worldview that cannot account for P. I.’s is unlikely to be true.

In a discussion/argument, if a person appeals to something being “illogical” they are invoking the laws of logic . To credibly do so, they must be working from within a worldview that accounts for those laws. Otherwise, they are working off of “borrowed capital” and something critical to the expression of their worldview comes from another view they may even be trying to deny. This is illogical.

Now, because of all this, many people consider the laws of logic to necessarily exist. Everything that exists either exists contingently or necessarily. Something exists contingently if it is possible that it does not exist. Something necessarily exists if there is no possible world or scenario in which it could not exist. If the laws of logic exist necessarily, they must exist in all possible worlds in order for anybody to both know anything and to also be able explain what they know to anyone else. This makes the laws of logic a precondition for the intelligibility of knowledge, as well as the precondition for all arguments.

If laws of logic are truths that necessarily exist and transcend particular expressions of them, then the laws of logic must be non-physical, or immaterial. Things that exist necessarily, are by nature, non-physical since any physical or material object we could consider might not, or will not always exist. If something is not physical or material, it is mental, and this makes sense for classifying the laws of logic. In short, they are mental entities that exist as thoughts.

Thoughts are intentional, both in terms of what they are directed toward, and the specific content they have. As an example, I think Chipotle is delicious. My thought “Chipotle is delicious” is directed toward a the Chipotle restaurant in general, and my perception of their burritoes. While Chipotle physically exists, as does its delicious food, the thought where I draw them together intentionally does not have physical existence. You could measure the activity in my brain while I think the thought, but you cannot measure my brain activity and reconstruct the content of my thought (or the taste of the burrito). To think that is possible is not much different than thinking if you give a technological explanation of the pixels of the screen on which you are reading this post, and go into enough detail, you will be able to explain the content of my blog post. This is because information is non-physical in nature, and thoughts are about information. Information can be inscribed physically, but if the physical thing that contains the information is destroyed, the information still exists in mental form.

Earlier we noted every human is a contingent being, and therefore every human mind is contingent. If that’s the case, then the laws of logic must be thought by a necessarily existent mind. In other words, if we are all contingent and non-transcendent beings, we cannot, even collectively be the basis for something like the laws of logic. They must be thought first by a necessary and transcendent mind possessed by a necessary and transcendent being. To be necessary, this being must be non-physical. Additionally, this being must also be personal, and the only entity that fits all these criteria is the Truine God of the Bible.

Logic is therefore dependent on the existence of God. If this is true, then every logical argument presupposes the existence of God. Interestingly, this would apply to any argument constructed to disprove God’s existence. Atheism is therefore highly ironic for it must formulate its position by assuming the mind of God in order to then disprove God’s existence. This type of argument against atheism is called a reductio ad absurdum (a Harry Potter spell meaning “reduce to the absurd”) Remember earlier we talked about preconditions of intelligibility and how sometimes one worldview will smuggle in borrowed capital to bolster its claims. This is what atheism necessarily has to do.

That is rather illogical, though I haven’t found any atheists that agree with this conclusion. However, it is a deductive argument, so in order for the conclusion to not be certain, one or more of the premises must be proven false. But, in order to prove it false, an argument would need to be constructed that implicitly assumes the existence of God, and that is the horns of the dilemma so to speak. This argument could be expanded further (and it is in the article I mention in the notes), but I tried to put it as compactly as possible without listing it in bullet points. If I did though, here’s what it would look like:

  1. In order to prove anything, you must use the laws of logic
  2. The laws of logic therefore exist necessarily
  3. Necessary things exist non-physically
  4. The laws of logic are therefore non-physical (2 + 3)
  5. Non-physical things are mental things
  6. Mental things exist as thoughts
  7. Necessary thoughts must be thought by a necessary mind (2 + 4 + 6)
  8. The Triune God of the Bible possess a necessary mind
  9. Therefore the laws of logic are grounded in the mind of God (7 + 8)
  10. All arguments presuppose the existence of God


  1. Much of what I say here is heavily indebted to a Philosophia Christi article, “The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic” James N. Anderson and Greg Welty (13:2, 2011). I distilled the main argument from this article into a PowerPoint presentation, and now I am reforming it into a blog post. I came up with a similar, but less developed argument on my own prior to reading this article.

9781596382176A few weeks back, I introduced the review series for John Frame’s Systematic Theology. Today, we’ll get started in the review proper with the first section, “Introduction to Systematic Theology.” As far as sections go, it’s one of the shorter ones, clocking in at just under 50 pages. Much of that is because Frame deals with prolegomena issues in 4 separate sections. This one introduces the nature of theology and some distinctives of Frame’s approach. The next offers a covenantal framework for theology before section three covers the doctrine of God. Interestingly, Frame puts the doctrine of the Word of God and the doctrine of the knowledge of God after the doctrine of God. Typically, theses two discussions form the prolegomena, but hey, it’s John Frame, and he does thinks different. 1

What Is Theology?

Because opening sentences are fun, here is how Frame’s systematic begins:

Theology is full of definitions of things. One of the useful features of a systematic theology is that you can turn there and get quick definitions of terms such as justification, glorification, or hypostatic union. Definitions are useful, but we should be warned that they are rarely, if ever, found in Scripture itself. Such definitions are themselves theology in that they are the work of human beings trying to understand Scripture. (3)

This presents one aspect of the task of theology. Frame goes on to say that theology is also application. That is, it is not just the study of God (it is), but a study of God as revealed in Scripture (5). But even this is not enough. It is true as far as it goes, but Frame wants to see theology defined with a purpose in mind, and he sees that purpose as edification (6). He grounds this exegetically with the biblical concept of sound doctrine (7) and proposes that we understand theology as synonymous with the biblical concept of teaching, which has an emphasis on edification. At the end of this discussion he concludes that “theology is the application of Scripture, by persons, to every area of life” (8).

From here Frame lays out the different kinds of theology:

  • Exegetical (interpreting the Bible verse by verse)
  • Biblical (traces the narrative of Scripture for application)
  • Systematic (summarizing the whole Bible’s teaching on a topic)
  • Historical (analysis of past theological work)
  • Practical (though he sees this as a department of systematics, focused on communication)

He goes into much more detail in The Doctrine of The Knowledge of God (DKG), but here he lays out his maps clearly enough. He then discusses theological method, which necessitates a mild rant about the importance of focusing on explaining Scripture in systematic theology and not so much on either the history of the doctrine, or what all the relevant other systematicians have said. Specifically he says,

I think, however, that theology today has become preoccupied with these auxilary disciplines to the extent of neglecting its primary responsibility: to apply Scripture itself. Theological literature today is focused, especially, on history of doctrine, and contemporary thought. Often this literature deals with theological questions by comparing various thinkers from the past and from the present, with a very minimal interaction with Scripture itself. (10)

It is worth weighing what Frame says here and coming to your own conclusions about how much of a problem it is in theological discourse today. He goes into much more detail in DKG, but still hammers home the point here. I agree to some extent, and personally do not care what someone like Karl Barth thought about much of anything. I realize he is influential and “important,” but I don’t think he needs to be an extended conversation partner for every systematic theologian writing today. 2

Still, I think Frame’s approach is open to weakness. I wouldn’t have thought this when I first got into Frame late in my seminary time. However, I’ve come to see the value of including the historical and contemporary dimensions in theological analysis. I think Frame is reacting against an over-emphasis, and his point is duly noted. However, I don’t think the solution is to focus only on Scripture or even predominately on Scripture to the exclusion of other sources. Bird in this regard represents what I think is a better approach, though Frame is refreshingly biblical in some respects. Readers do well to note here Frame’s method. While he might be open to criticism later, he is at least consistent with his intent to focus on Scripture to the exclusion of extended historical or contemporary conversation partners.

The Lord

In the second chapter, Frame presents his understanding of God’s lordship. As he sees it, it is known primarily through three attributes:

  • Control (21-22)
  • Authority (22-29)
  • Presence (29-31)

It is from here that Frame introduces his hallmark “triperspectivalism” approach to knowledge. Perspectives are not “parts” but are aspects of the same object of study (not saying God is an object). Our understanding is enhanced by viewing the same reality through different lenses, which in this case are the lens of norms, facts, and subjectivity. Frame then explains,

I have suggested that the three lordship attributes presuppose and imply one another. If God controls all things, then his commands are authoritative, and his presence is inescapable. If his commands are supremely authoritative, then God can command all things, thereby exercising control, and since we cannot escape from his authority (Ps. 139:7-12), he is necessarily present to us. Further, God’s presence is a presence of divine control and authority. So it is not as if God could be divided between three parts, each representing one attribute. Rather, each of the lordship attributes describes God as a whole, from a different perspective. (31)

In this way, triperspectivalism can be seen as a way of coming to grips with something we cannot fully understand (in this case God’s lordship over us, his creatures). By parsing it out into different aspects, our understanding is enhanced but not exhausted. This has important implications of our knowledge in general, which is a creature kind of knowledge that should be submitted to the lordship of Christ. Because He is Lord (32),

  1. The highest rules or norms of knowledge come from him
  2. The course of nature and history is under his control
  3. Our knowledge faculties are gifts of God and operate in his very presence

This suggests our knowledge corresponds to the three perspectives on God’s lordship, which Frame then explains using his names for the perspectives (32-33):

  • In the normative perspective, we understand the whole world as a revelation of God, governing our thought
  • In the situational perspective, we understand the whole world as the factual situations that God as controller has brought to pass
  • In the existential perspective, we understand the whole world as a set of personal experiences granted by God, who is present with us and within us

These three perspectives figure prominently throughout the book, and the most popular diagram, as you might imagine, is the triangle.

God’s Lordship as a Unique Worldview

In the final chapter of this section, Frame explains how this understanding of God’s lordship gives a unique worldview. He also introduces two key diagrams. The first is the “Rectangle of Opposition” which illustrates the different between transcendence and immanence in biblical perspective and in their opposing nonbiblical corruptions. It’s very similar to the kind of squares you get in logic differentiating modal statements. If that’s not helpful, just imagine a square where each vertical side represents either the biblical or nonbiblical position, and the top corners are the different understandings of transcendence and the bottom corners of the different understandings of immanence. That still might not help, so you better just pick up the book.

The second diagram is Van Til’s famous Creator/creature distinction. It is a circle with three dots in it (representing the Trinity) over another circle with lines connecting to the two. This illustrates the nature of reality, which in the Christian worldview is two tiered. Reality is not a single circle of which God and man both take part. Rather, there is a vital Creator/creature distinction, but God has bridged the gap through the incarnation.

Taken together, all of this provides a good framework (get it?) for studying theology, and though I was introduced to most everything vital here in Frame’s previous work (specifically, DKG), it was helpful to see him distill the distinction down to brass tacks and smooth out some of the rough edges. The next section covered somewhat newer ground, but you’ll have to wait until next time to hear about it.

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  1. But still uses a PC from what I can tell when I’ve dropped by his office.
  2. I realize most of them would disagree. The key word is “extended,” just to be clear. It’s not that I don’t think you should reference someone like Barth (although I wish you wouldn’t), just that I agree that the main focus should be Scripture, just not to the detriment of other sources of systematic theology.