Friday, June 23, 2017

[BTT023] How Does the Bible Interpret Prophecy?

[BT023] Doing A Better Job

When we look at the Scriptures, we see two ways in which the meaning of a prophecy is revealed:

1). Prophecies which have their meanings revealed almost immediately afterwards.

In other words, the prophet Abrabimilechaham has a dream or vision, he can’t understand it, and God reveals the meaning of the dream within the same chapter.

A good example of this is in Daniel 2, where Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In that case, Nebuchadnezzar has a prophetic dream, and Daniel provides the interpretation almost immediately after. There can be no doubt of what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar, because the interpretation follows in the text immediately.

2). Prophecies which do not have their meaning revealed until much later.

In other words, the prophet Enochathan has a dream or vision, writes it down, and it is not until hundreds or thousands of years later that the meaning is revealed.

An example of this is Jeremiah 31:31-34, where Jeremiah prophecies of a day in which God will write His law on the hearts of His people, which Hebrews 10:15-18 says is fulfilled in Jesus. There's a fairly significant gap between these two, so there were hundreds of years where it was not fully understood.

Now naturally, the first type of prophecy takes care of itself. There’s no need to interpret a prophecy that comes with its own interpretation! It’s the second type that we’re concerned with.

For that reason, we’re going to focus on a very, very specific type of prophecy: Old Testament prophecies that are explicitly quoted as being "fulfilled" in the New Testament. This is to filter out literary allusions and references to the Old Testament, leaving only indisputable fulfillments of prophecy.

These limitations were chosen because the New Testament authors were interpreting prophecies from a book – the Torah. This closely resembles our situation today. We are not interpreting new dreams and prophecies received from God directly, but prophecies that have been written down and passed through the ages. We want to see how New Testament authors dealt with this same situation.

Additionally, since we believe that both the Old and New Testament are the inspired word of God, we can have full assurance that when the New Testament says 'this was in fulfillment of prophecy,' this interpretation is correct.

In order to do this, we will limit our study to New Testament passages that use the Greek verb plēroō (πληρόω, "to fulfill") in conjunction with a direct quotation of Old Testament prophecy. Plēroō can also be used in the sense of "fulfilling" or "filling" other things – Jesus fulfilling the requirements of the law, Christians being filled with love/grace/the Holy Spirit. Since we are only interested in prophecy at the moment, we will not look at verses that use plēroō in these other senses.

Additionally, we will not be looking at isolated verses, but the passages in which they appear. This is necessary to understand precisely what actions and events are fulfilling the prophecy in question. We will also look at the Old Testament prophecy in its original context and compare how the New Testament fulfillment compares.

By my count, there are 17 passages in which a specific Old Testament prophecy is explicitly fulfilled (plēroō) in the New Testament. Before looking at these passages, we will look at some examples of passages that were rejected to better explain why we are looking at these 17 passages in particular.

[BTT024] Cut Passages 001

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

[BTT022] Doing a Better Job

Previous: [BTT021] Nothing New Under the Sun

It’s not that Christians get everything wrong when it comes to prophecy. We do a pretty good job with prophecies that have already come to pass. That "born of a Virgin" stuff? Yeah, we got it. "Bruised for our transgressions"? Okay, figured it out. But stuff that hasn't happened yet? We have a pretty terrible track record.

There are many reasons for this, one of which is that it’s easier to understand in hindsight things that have already happened compared to understanding things that have not yet happened. That’s a problem in many fields other than Bible prophecy.

Have you ever played around with day trading? It’s not easy to pick which stocks are going to do well and which ones are going to drop. Economists have very elaborate, convincing models for explaining financial history, but the moment you ask them to pick future winners, the models stop working.

Or take history – it’s easy to look back into history and say, “of course that’s why Rome became a great imperial power” or “Of course the Nazis were bad.” It’s not so easy to predict who the next President will be or who we should choose as allies.

This difficulty is natural in secular disciplines. No one expects a historian to predict the future. But when you’re making claims about future events like prophecy, it’s kind of important to get them right. Otherwise, we punch ourselves in the face – publicly and embarrassingly.

So the question becomes, how do we do a better job?

The good news is, we already know what a bad job looks like – it’s the scattershot, schizophrenic model-less model of the TV preacher and the street corner messiah.

You know what we're talking about. It's the advanced calculus needed to equate "Adolph Hitler" or “Barack Obama” with "666." It’s seeing Armageddon in ever border skirmish and the Bowl Judgments in every hurricane. It’s the desperate desire for any sign of the end that leads well-meaning Christians to match random Bible verses random current events.

But is this the only method of interpreting prophecy available to us? Are Christians forever doomed to arranged marriages between random Jerusalem and Reuters? I'm going to argue that the answer is "no." And we're going to find a different way of doing things by looking at the Bible itself.

This is the question we are going to ask: How did the authors of the New Testament interpret prophecies from the Old Testament?

Next: [BT023] How Does the Bible Interpret Prophecy?

Monday, June 19, 2017

[BTT021] Nothing New Under the Sun

Previous: [BTT020] All Things Made New

Part V: Towards a Model of Prophecy


Nothing New Under the Sun

You’ve probably seen this scene – a bully grabs a smaller child, twists his arm, and starts punching him with his own hand. What does the bully yell out? “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!”

Of course, the smaller child isn’t hitting himself, though he is being struck with his own hand. The bully is forcing him to. It’s an old joke, as old as it is cruel. Maybe Cain did it to Abel – “stop murdering yourself!”

If you saw this happening in front of you, you’d probably break it up, right? Any decent human would pull them apart. But if you pulled the bully and bullied apart, and the bullied child just kept punching themselves in the face, what would you think then?

The bullied punches himself for one year. Four five years. For ten years, thirty years – he’s not a child anymore, but he keeps hitting himself. One hundred years, two thousand years. There’s something wrong with this kid, and not just the fact that he’s apparently immortal.

It’s ridiculous to punch yourself in the face for two seconds, let alone two thousand years. And yet, this is what many Christians do when it comes to New Testament prophecy. No one is forcing us to get prophecy desperately and terribly wrong, harming our testimony in the eyes of the world, and yet we love to do it to ourselves.

I’m sure you already know some examples of this, or at least, I’m sure you can think of some. How many times was the world definitely certainly without a doubt supposed to end within your lifetime? How many “prophecy experts” had definite conclusive biblical proof that the Anti-Christ was living among us?

Unless you’re a newly formed zygote, you can probably think of a few. Within the last decade, we’ve had Ronald Weinland, Jack Van Impe, and Mark Biltz all fail publicly and spectacularly to predict the date of the Second Coming. Go back a few decades and you have books like 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 and 1994? (proposed subtitle: No).

And this is far from a recent development in Christendom. The world was supposed to end in 1972, 1935, 1901, 1891, 1861, 1844, 1700, 1673, 1533, 1370, 1260, 1000, 793, and 500. And that’s the short list.

But Christians have been getting the words of Jesus wrong all the back from the beginning, even in the Bible itself. Check out this exchange from the gospel of John:

Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
-John 21:21-23

There were so many people who thought John would live until the Second Coming in the early church that John had to write in a note about how that wasn’t true in the Bible itself. This means that stupid theories about the Second Coming are older than the New Testament. In fact, given the timing of this conversation, it’s entirely possible Christians were formulating bad theories about the Second Coming before they were called “Christians” (see Acts 11:26).


Next: [BTT022] Doing a Better Job

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Distributed Thoughtware: Southern Baptists vs. The Alt-Right

On The Anti-Gospel Of Alt-Right White Supremacy

I'm not going to dive into the text of the Southern Baptist Convention's recent resolution against the Alt-Right/White Supremacy, but if you want to read it for yourself, the link's up there.

Here's my summary:

1). We are not racists.
2). Boy, we sure are not racists.
3). Okay, so we were racists for a while there, but we have a lot of black friends.
4). But boy, White Supremacists and Alt-Righters sure are racists.
5). Boy, are they ever racists.
6). That's bad.
7). But not us.
8). We are not racists.

Note the bait-and-switch in the resolution, though. The title leads with "Alt-Right" with "White Supremacy" being a subset of the Alt-Right. But the resolution itself mentions the "Alt-Right" specifically only twice and "White Supremacy" five times and "Racism" eleven times."

In other words, the title claims this is a resolution on the Alt-Right, but the text is mostly about racism and White Supremacy.

It's a resolution on racism being bad that claims to be a resolution on the Alt-Right. Why? Because the point of the resolution is to paint the entirety of the Alt-Right as goose-stepping 1488ers. Why? So that the Alt-Right might be driven forth from the SBC without trial or (God forbid!) a chance for Alt-Righters to explain their positions.

There's a hilarity in the resolutions listing of all the previous resolutions (1995, 2014, 2016) that have already made their stance on race abundantly clear. The only reason for the 2017 resolution is to attack the Alt-Right, an amorphous entity that they do not even attempt to describe (other than as White Supremacists).

I mentioned in an old post (okay, two or three posts) that church splits were coming. I was probably incorrect in assigning too much emphasis to Trump's performance as a variable. I also was incorrect in assuming the push for division would come from below. It's coming from above, and this is the first major manifestation of it.

How many SBC members voted for Trump? How many identify with the Alt-Right (in its Alt-Light form in particular)? I'd be willing to bet the answer to the first question is "close to, but less than 80%" (reflecting the percentage of White Evangelicals who voted for Trump). The second is harder to say, but low enough that the SBC felt comfortable enough to attack the Alt-Right, but not comfortable enough to go after Trump directly.

Two last comments:

1). I'm sure that the SBC can now look forward to waves of hardened atheists embracing faith in Christ and flocking to their churches now that the SBC has bravely proclaimed that they are quadruple not racists.

2). I will be truly shocked if this ends here. Remember, as Alinsky told us, victory is the worst thing that can happen to these people since their power comes from conflict.

[Update]

Also of interest: the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America, one of the groups that split off from the PCUSA when they went crazy with ordaining lesbian abortion doctors)  is taking steps towards opening ministry roles for women. As usual, it's being pushed from the top. God have mercy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The State of the Blog (06/09/17)

You may have noticed that I'm not particularly feeling it lately.

Now that the Rules for Radicals series has finished, I'm going to post a series on Bible Prophecy. There may be some occasional Archetypes Vs. Women stuff. But it was the culture wars stuff that was drawing most of you to this blog, and that's something I've lost my appetite for (at least, for writing about). I think it's right to be upfront about that.

-The Rev

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Rev Reads It For You: The Way Ahead in 1971 (Rules for Radicals)

As we reach the end of Saul Alinsky's 1971 work, we also reach his take on the future. So the fun here lies in seeing how 2017 stacks up with 1971.
"With rare exceptions, our activists and radicals are products of and rebels against our middle-class society."
This was largely true through the mid 2000s, but with the falling out of the Middle Class, it would be more accurate in our times to say "products of and those denied our middle-class society." Those who were raised in the middle class but are unable to achieve that life-style. There's also a fine layer of upper-class shitlibs on top and a crust of lower-class rioters at the bottom.
"...it is useless self-indulgence for an activist to put his past behind him. Instead, he should realize the priceless value of his middle-class experience...Instead of the infantile dramatics of rejection, he will now begin to dissect and examine that way of life as he never has before. He will know that a "square" is no longer to be dismissed as such—instead, his own approach must be "square" enough to get the action started."
I'm torn on this one. There's definitely still an attitude of "infantile dramatics," but that itself has become part of the middle-class experience. It is dramatics for attention-grabbing rather than rejection of middle-class values. What values are really left with the middle-class anyway?

"Turning back to the middle class as an organizer, he will find that everything now has a different meaning and purpose. He learns to view actions outside of the experience of people as serving only to confuse and antagonize them others. He will view with strategic sensitivity the nature of middle-class behavior with its hangups over rudeness or aggressive, insulting, profane actions. All this and more must be grasped and used to radicalize parts of the middle class."
If anything, effectively communicating with the middle class requires skillful manipulation of rudeness, aggression, insults, and profanity. You want just enough to seem urbane but not so much as to seem uneducated.

We'll continue with the White working class after the jump.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Rev Reads It For You: Lock, Stock, and Proxies (Rules for Radicals)

In this chapter, Alinsky tackles two subjects: first, thinking on your feet; second, using stock shares to put pressure on corporations. This will be a shorter post than usual, as will be the next and final.

Why? Two reasons. First, because thinking on your feet is something that can't be fully taught in a logical manner because at a certain point, you're going to have to go beyond logic. So there's a limit to what you can say on the subject! Second, because proxies are simply one example of many different forms of improvosational tactics one can employ. The point isn't "buy stock to push your social agenda," the point is "have your eyes open for holes to exploit."

"The greatest barrier to communication between myself and would be organizers arises when I try to get across the concept that tactics are not the product of careful cold reason, that they do not follow a table of organization or plan of attack...the tactic itself comes out of the free flow of action and reaction, and requires on the part of the organizer an easy acceptance of apparent disorganization."
Cold reason is wonderful when you have time to plan and prepare and tweak, but it's mostly useless in the heat of battle. Having a manual of Accepted Tactics that you learn by rote and perform by rote is a great way to get your robot ass killed. Think of it in video game terms - no matter how powerful the boss, once you observe and understand their attack patterns, they're basically dead. When you can't think intuitively, you become the boss monster with the flashing red weakness.

So remember, if Alinsky could teach any one thing to your enemies, it is the value of coming up with tactics on the fly.

We continue after the jump.