Theological Trajectories from Eden & Sinai in Habakkuk 3 continued….

As the Song of Moses celebrates the defeat of the Egyptian slave masters, this psalm-like prayer contains a broad recollection of the Lord’s past powerful deeds of judgment for the salvation of His people. O. Palmer Robertson describes it as

a collage, a collecting of many images to convey an impression both of past experience and of future expectation is the medium of the prophet. Moses’ song, Deborah’s song, David’s song blend to provide a framework for anticipating the future.[1]

It is composed with an eye to the impending conquest of the captors of God’s people (the Babylonians). James Hamilton, Jr., in his aptly-titled work of biblical theology, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, concurs on this point:

Habakkuk’s psalm of praise rehearses Yahweh’s past acts of salvation through judgment in order to assure his audience that they can trust Yahweh, in spite of the faith-threatening nature of their circumstances.[2]

What are the actual points of connection in the text of these two songs? There are many terms and significant images in Habakkuk 3 that recall the Exodus, the Red Sea event, and specifically, the Song of Moses.[3] Certainly to the ancient Israelite’s ear, finding these in the climax of the book of Habakkuk would trigger a connection with the great, prototypical salvation event of the Old Testament — in some cases creating vivid contrasts.

The listing that follows is a brief overview of these connections, with comments, drawn from more detailed observations in the Hebrew text.

  • God, the Holy One, comes from a far mountain to powerfully interact with men… The Lord is the primary actor in both the psalm of Habakkuk and the Song of Moses, and He is the one celebrated for the display of His character, His power and the great salvation (through judgment) which He affects. Both use His covenant name, Yahweh, and both mention His holiness/distinctness from other beings.
  • the glory of the Lord covers [overwhelms] creation, to His praise… The verb for cover, used earlier (Habakkuk 2:17) to state how God will “overwhelm” His enemies, is also part the fulfillment of the great goal of Habakkuk 2:14. The widespread cover of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord certainly includes the execution of just judgments on His enemies, as well as the display of His redeemed grace to His people. The flood-victory over Egypt was but a foretaste of the coming defeat of the Chaldeans — and the ultimate victory over Babylon in Revelation.
  • His coming is attended by “pestilence” and “plague”… These particular terms which occur early in the Habakkuk psalm narrow the hearers recollection to the period of the great signs and wonders of the Exodus.
  • imagery of rivers,waters, and seas as sites of powerful conflict… Certainly the references of Habakkuk’s psalm could be pointing to several events in the Old Testament besides the Exodus deliverance at the Red Sea. Yet the reader’s mind is drawn to the scenes at the Nile River (where wonders were performed) and the Red Sea (at the supernatural climax of the deliverance), especially when taken in concert with the other terms and images presented by Habakkuk.
  • images of horses, chariots in conquest… While these are common elements of Old Testament battle scenarios, when mentioned by Habakkuk they add further impetus to recall the Exodus conflagration. The unforgettable refrain from the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1, 21) rushes to mind:  “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” Notice, however, that this is a contrasting connection between the two passages. In the Song of Moses, it is the man-made chariots of superpower Egypt which are destroyed by the Lord; whereas in Habakkuk’s psalm it is the Lord who rode a figurative chariot of salvation — referring to forces of physical forces of creation harnessed against His enemies at the day of judgment. This contrast does not undo the link, but strengthens the designs of Habakkuk, exalting the superior ways of God.
  • specific graphic actions involving the deep, trampling, and arrows… Among the key action verbs found in both passages, Habakkuk’s reference to the deep connects not only with the death-by-flood event of the Exodus, as described in the Song of Moses, but also with the great flood of Genesis. This world, and its heights and its depths are the Lord’s possession — and all are designed to function within the great blueprint of God for creation. In the hands of the Creator, the forces of nature are the greatest of all tools or weapons.
  • personal words of trust, hope, and praise at the closing… The opening and closing elements of both the psalm of Habakkuk and the Song of Moses convey the related purpose for the passages — to exalt and praise the Lord for past deliverances, as well as to express faith and trust in Him for full salvation in the future. The closing confession of Habakkuk (3:18-19) arrives with similar, profound power as does the refrain of Miriam at the close of the Song of Moses. What do the people of God need to fear, when He is such a powerful and faithful conqueror over the greatest armies and warriors of men?


These connections from Habakkuk 3 to the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 are readily spotted reading an English translation of text. But how much more, would a native Hebrew speaker react to Habakkuk’s chosen terms and images to recall the Song of Moses and events of the Exodus.

[1] O. Palmer Robertson, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, (William B. Eerdmans, 1990). 219.

[2] James Hamilton, Jr., 252-3.

[3] Thomas Schreiner, 413.

posted on behalf of Pastor Dave Bissett

C.M. Granger

Theological Trajectories from Eden & Sinai in Habakkuk 3

What follows is Dave’s paper (in sections) which was presented at the recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  It’s also going to be published in the July issue of the Puritan Reformed Theological Journal….


I.  Introduction

The trajectory of the various biblical motifs and themes woven within both the Old and the New Testaments reaches a climax in the book of Revelation. For instance, the garden-like temple-city of Revelation 21 is the climax of a major theme first evidenced in Genesis by the Garden of Eden, where “humans were created to build for God a temple-city on the earth.”

Additional themes from the creation account (e.g., man’s status as the Lord’s vice-regent) are developed in the story of the Bible, even as the fall of mankind into sin created significant twists and turns. The book of Exodus further develops these, as well as unique sub-themes (e.g., how God can continue to dwell among His people after their fall into sin). The tabernacle, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem in the promised land, all play very important roles in the grand theme of God’s design to dwell on earth with His people, and set the stage for the specific developments of the New Testament — the coming of Jesus Christ, the church, and ultimately, the “New Jerusalem” of Revelation 21.

This paper identifies a few of the key theological trajectories from Genesis and Exodus as they appear in the minor prophet Habakkuk, specifically focusing on chapter 3 — the “prayer of Habakkuk the prophet” — the final, climactic chapter of that book.

II.  Overview of Habakkuk

The book of Habakkuk is the eighth of twelve minor prophets found at the end of the Old Testament. These three short chapters were composed in Judah during the last days of Josiah and the regime of Jehoiakim, sometime prior to invasion by the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and the exile of Judah, c.605–587 BC.  Habakkuk himself is a main character of his book, yet little is known about him other than his title “prophet” (1:1). “Less is stated in the Bible concerning Habakkuk than almost any other prophet” says David Baker.  He was likely a contemporary of Jeremiah, as well as other minor prophets Nahum and Zephaniah. The minor prophets are often called The Twelve to stress their shared emphases and their collective unity. Stephen Dempster observes they all typically emphasize three things:  the sin of Israel, the just judgment of God, and, the hope after the judgment. Habakkuk focuses primarily on the first two of those common elements, while the third element is implied in several spots, as we will see.

Not every prophet in this collection predicts all these events, but the entire combination (12 minor prophets) presents a more panoramic view of the future than found in the previous prophets. … All announce coming judgment.

The times in which Habakkuk lived were filled with violence, and gross disobedience towards God and His law. “The fabric of national life had begun to come apart at the seams.”  God would chasten His people with the invasion of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem and exile from the land — all as “the result of covenantal defection, of a failure to trust in and obey the Lord.”

The theme of the book of Habakkuk typically magnifies the pivotal verse, 2:4b, the righteous shall live by his faith.   R.K. Harrison provides a summary-like statement of the theme, while F.F. Bruce highlights Habakkuk’s personal application.

Spiritual rectitude is an absolute necessity for both individuals and nations; that wealth is at best a teachers foundation for a secure life; that evil is bound to fail ultimately even though it may experience temporary triumphs at the expense of good; and that trust in the power of God is the only sure basis of strength … whatever the external circumstances may be.

[Habakkuk’s theme is the] preservation of loyal trust in God in face of the challenge to faith presented by the bitter experience of foreign invasion. …Habakkuk, in hardship and privation, comes to know God more fully and to rejoice in Him for His own sake and not for the benefits He bestows.

Immediate context for Habakkuk

The book of Habakkuk is easily divided in two, with chapters one and two forming the first part — presenting a unique dialogue-of-sorts between the prophet and the Lord. The dialogue is initially about the sins of the people of Jerusalem and the seeming inattention of the Lord to the situation, but then quickly shifts, driven by the prophet’s concerns over the Lord’s harsh plan to deal those sins (invasion and exile at the hand of a wicked nation). Chapter three forms the second part — a prayer in the form of a psalm-like poem  presenting the prophet’s final response of faith in the Lord’s plans.

The third chapter, then, is the climax of the book, the result of the prophet’s dialogue with his Lord, and his digestion of that revelation.  Chapter three is titled a prayer (3:1), yet packaged and apparently presented to the people for use as a psalm in public worship (see 3:19c).  The intended audience was not limited to the doomed residents of Judah, but included any who would face similar, stark circumstances from the hand of the Lord.

In this prayer, Habakkuk asserts that he will do what Yahweh calls the righteous to do in 2:4, namely, he will trust Yahweh and rejoice in Him even if it seems that Yahweh’s promises of a prosperous land — blossoming fig trees, fruit on the vines, flocks in the fold, herds in the stalls — are not seen (3:17–19).

III.  Habakkuk 3 in the Bible’s Historical-Redemptive Story

The book of Habakkuk has several points of contact with the Bible’s central historical-redemptive storyline; the text of chapter 3, in particular, playing a crucial role. This section of the paper looks, first, at two broad connections with the Bible’s grand storyline in Habakkuk. It then narrows to examine the text chapter three in light of key trajectories from Eden and Sinai.

Connections to the Dominion Mandate.

Perhaps the strongest point of contact is found in the declaration of the prophet in Habakkuk 2:14, at the center of the “vision” (2:2) which he was instructed to write plainly and distribute widely:  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. This verse is anchored to the very purposes of creation, and displays God’s design behind the placement of mankind in the garden, as stated in the “Dominion Mandate” of Genesis 1:28 — And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

At creation, Yahweh designed a cosmic theater for His glory. On the cosmic stage God constructed a garden-temple, and He put His image in the temple. The image of God, man, was to extend the borders of the garden-temple by ruling over the earth and subduing it.

The grand design of God for establishing His dwelling with men on the earth took a great turn at the Fall of Adam and Eve and their exile from the garden (Genesis 3). When the wickedness of mankind grew great, the Lord permanently exiled all but eight souls from the face of the earth in the flood (Genesis 6–9). As the descendants of Noah increased and disobeyed the Creator’s commands, they attempted to build for themselves a man-made mountain-city named Babel, (Genesis 11) — revealing that “by instinct, men are city builders” who would “attempt to access heaven and avoid filling the earth.”

Nevertheless, God’s plan and purpose to fill the earth with His glorious presence remain. They are reiterated in Habakkuk 2:14, which speaks of “God’s purpose to establish and expand His presence in a new Edenic temple even after the exile.”  Whether God’s people were living east of Eden, or in Egypt as slaves, or in the southern half of a divided kingdom, or exiled from Jerusalem to the land of Babylon, the goal of our Creator’s Dominion Mandate — to fill the earth with His presence and the knowledge of His glory — will be passionately pursued.

The Lord’s commitment to be present with His people is overwhelming — strong enough to conquer sin and death. Nothing can thwart God’s plan to be with His people in a relationship that surpasses the intimacy of Eden. God’s goal to be with His people still directs the flow and outcome of salvation history as God providentially brings His redemptive mission to completion, a mission accomplished through covenants.

Connections to Babel–Babylon

This city of Babel not only “casts a long shadow over the whole of the biblical narrative”  but is particularly significant to the content of the book of Habakkuk. Babel is more widely known in the Old and New Testaments by its other name, Babylon. It represents the determined, rebellious efforts of man’s opposition to dwelling with God on His terms. It will only be finally destroyed in the last day (Rev. 18) at the return of Christ and the coming of the New Jerusalem.

The book of Habakkuk connects with the Babylon theme in two ways:  first, in the middle “woe” of the five announced in chapter two; and then, more generally in the rapidly-rising Babylonian empire (“Chaldeans” in 1:6), whom God raises up to destroy the holy city and take its residents into captivity!   The particular woe of Habakkuk 2:12-13 is clearly against those who live and labor as did the first Babylonians:  12 Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! 13 Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing?

Tellingly, Habakkuk’s comments highlight the futility of building Babylon through the oppression of others, for ultimately when the New Jerusalem comes, the earth will be filled with God’s glory (2:14).

In the days of Habakkuk, although the northern kingdom had gone into exile, there were people of God dwelling in Jerusalem, with the temple of God in their midst. And as her prophets faithfully labored, “the importance of Jerusalem [began] to grow in prophetic eschatology.”   But the people were living in sin and spiritual rebellion even after witnessing the exile of the northern kingdom a century earlier.

She herself had not learned, however, that repeated violation of the covenant with God on her own part would not be left unpunished forever. She would not, according to the prophet, be faced with a similar fate herself.

The Lord will not let the residents of Jerusalem continue to live as if they were residents of Babylon — and so He ordains through Habakkuk that He will exile them to that very place (1:6ff). “Israel sinned like Adam and was exiled from God’s presence and out of the land, and God withdrew His presence from their temple.”  Such a corrective move was vital to the larger mission of God, because “only by Israel being distinct from the nations was there any purpose in being Israel at all or any hope for the nations themselves eventually.”

It is a grand theme indeed, that Babel-Babylon — the “archetypal god-less city”  which represented the first rebellious effort to compete with the proper establishment of God’s dwelling with men on earth — would arise centuries later as a swift, merciless, military empire to overrun the holy city of Jerusalem during the lifetime of Habakkuk. Yet, as the book of Revelation makes clear, the Lord will destroy Babylon in the end, as the New Jerusalem arrives.

Connections to the Exodus and the “Song of Moses”

Perhaps the most exciting discovery in this study of Habakkuk is how the psalm-like prayer of chapter three makes use of the “Song of Moses” in Exodus 15. We will unpack those connections after first recalling the context of the Song of Moses, and showing how Habakkuk 3 is to be understood as a song.

After 400 years in slavery in Egypt, the LORD delivered His people from Pharaoh by powerful signs and wonders. Arie Leder reduces the theme of Exodus to one sentence:  “By mighty signs of power the Lord rescues Israel from Pharaoh and brings her to His presence at Sinai in order to dwell in her midst by means of the tabernacle.”[1]  To honor the Lord and to celebrate that great deliverance, Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD (Exodus 15:1).

This song reminds the reader of the wider perspective of the biblical narrative:  The nations will tremble at the passing of God’s people (15:14-16), and the establishing of the Lord’s dwelling place (15:13, 17).[2]

Blackburn concurs, that not only the Song of Moses but the entire book of Exodus sees “the Lord’s missionary commitment to make Himself know to the nations as the central theological concern.”[3]

But is the third chapter of Habakkuk also such a song? It is considered to be a psalm-like piece with designs for liturgical use in the temple[4] or by worshippers in the coming exile. There are clues that point the reader in this direction.

First, the presence of a formal title — which is explicitly a “prayer” but similar to many such titles in the Psalter used for poetic, liturgical prayer.[5]  Second, the liturgical term Shigionoth — which may refer to an instrument or a type of psalm (the term appears only here and at Psalm 7:1).  Third, we notice the repeated presence of the musical term Selah in 3:3, 9 and 13.  Finally, unique in the prophetic writings, there is an explicitly musical postscript, To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments (3:19c).

[1] Arie Leder, Reading Exodus to Learn and Learning to Read Exodus, Calvin Theological Journal 34 (1999), 35.

[2] Arie Leder, The Coherence of Exodus:  Narrative Unity and Meaning, Calvin Theological Journal 36 (2001), 258.

[3] W. Ross Blackburn, The God Who Makes Himself Known, NSBT 28, (Apollos/InterVarsity Press, 2012), 15.

[4] Daniel I. Block, 20.

[5] See Pss 17; 55:1; 61:1-2; 86; 90;102; 141:2; 142; and, 143:1. [Also, c.f., Ps. 72:20, The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.]

posted on behalf of Pastor Dave Bissett

C.M. Granger

Adam and the Unbearable Lightness of Non-Being

Shadow Man (9)

The first two posts responding to Denis Lamoureux’s contribution to Four Views on the Historical Adam can be found here and here. Taking up where I left off, Dr Lamoureux cites a Barna Group study “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church” in which it is stated, “One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science…” I believe that such research has value, and not having read the study I’m not in a position to respond to it. However, considering the way Dr. Lamoureux is using it to defend his thesis, if young adults are leaving the church because of this tension it’s because of something inherent in Christianity—it’s supernatural revelation. Isn’t there “tension” between creation ex nihilo and “science”, or between the Resurrection and “science”? Of course there is, and there always will be in this life. Supernatural events are square pegs that don’t fit neatly into naturalism’s round holes. The existence of a real Adam in time and space, created directly by God’s hand, is one of those square pegs.

Beginning on page 39 of the book, Lamoureux shares some of his personal testimony, how he came to know the Lord and some of the struggles he had as he pursued advanced degrees in theology and biology. He advises the reader that he was a thoroughly committed Young Earth Creationist and left medical school to become a Creation Scientist with the intention of disproving evolution. However, over the course of his studies he came to view the evidence for evolution to be overwhelming. In a short treatise like this, I don’t expect a detailed defense of this overwhelming evidence, but he could have at least addressed a few of the most common (and powerful) criticisms of evolution. Be that as it may, space constraints or a word limit may have prevented this.

Lamoureux concludes this section by asserting that he embraces the time-honored complementary relationship between Scripture and science, what he refers to as “God’s two divine books”–the book of God’s Word and the book of His Works. This, I suggest, is the point at which the author has veered off the tracks. God only has one book of special revelation in which He explains His works, such as creation, redemption, resurrection, etc. Whenever we place a second source on par with the Scriptures it is that second source which will take the place of preeminence—every time. It becomes the conduit through which we interpret Scripture, when in fact we should be understanding science in light of Scripture. God doesn’t give us scientific explanations, therefore the Bible isn’t a science textbook. However we do not interpret the sacred text via the modern spectacles of scientific consensus. Doing so narrows revelation to a handful of “theological points”.

For Lamoureux, Adam did not exist because according to our current understanding of “science” he could not exist. What are we to do with him then? Alter our approach to divine revelation? Assert that Jesus and Paul were wrong about him? Downplay or disregard his theological significance in the history of redemption? Make him nothing more than a shadow on the ancient pages of a divine story told long ago? A historical Adam isn’t a burden Christians are obliged to take care of, but an integral part of God’s plan and purpose.

We’ll examine this further in the days ahead.

C.M. Granger


Timely Bonus:  Comparing Blueprints

Adam–The Man Who Wasn’t There

Adam Continuing to interact with Denis Lamoureux’s contribution to Zondervan’s Four Views on the Historical Adam, Professor Lamoureux informs us that his pastoral concern is that young men and women know there is a Christian view of origins that accepts evolution and recognizes that our faith does not rest on the existence of Adam (pg. 38). He asserts that our faith is based only on Jesus Christ, His sacrifice on the Cross, and His bodily resurrection from the dead.

Firstly, the biblical narrative is organically woven together. You can’t uproot one doctrine and expect that it won’t affect another. This kind of compartmentalization of Scripture separates what God has joined together. It disassembles the connections.

It’s analogous to a novel in which character development, theme, and plot are said to be of little importance. It’s only the climax that really matters. However, it’s the back story that sets up the climax. They’re tied together. Adam is the fountainhead of the human race and his fall into sin necessitates the incarnation, the crucifixion, the atonement, and the resurrection if salvation is to come to a broken world.

Secondly, if Jesus Himself was wrong about there being a historical Adam how do we know He wasn’t wrong about other matters, like His own person, work, and mission? How do we discern when Jesus is fallible and when He’s infallible? What’s the criteria? When modern scientific consensus disagrees with Him? Modern scientific consensus doesn’t take into account the supernatural, nor should it. The creation of man transcends naturalism.

Thirdly, why does Dr. Lamoureux insist upon the historical necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but deny the existence of Adam and original sin? What makes one more of a historical necessity than the other? Of course, as Professor Lamoureux states, “our faith is based only on Jesus”, but Jesus Himself asserts the historicity of Adam. If the author is to be consistent, he should hold the position that Jesus didn’t really exist either. His life, like the account of Adam, was a little story God told ancient man to communicate spiritual truths. Yet, our author insists, Jesus did and said what is recorded in the Gospels. He will have to explain how doing so is not arbitrary.

We’ll look at his work further in our next post.

C.M. Granger

The Curious Case of the First Man

historical adam You may be familiar with the Counterpoints series published by Zondervan. Some editions are more useful than others, but they’re worth having if just to get a better understanding of various and opposing viewpoints on an array of theological topics.

I wish to interact with Denis Lamoureux’s contribution in “Four Views on the Historical Adam”. He holds to an evolutionary creation view, which is the belief that “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life, including humans, through an ordained, sustained, and intelligent design-reflecting natural process.” This view also denies the existence of a historical Adam. I’m not going to deal with his contribution to the book in its entirety in this post, but hope to in the days (well, in my case, probably weeks) ahead.

One must begin by asking why Dr. Lamoureux, with a Christian worldview, presupposes naturalism when it comes to human origins? Creation itself is not natural, it’s supernatural by definition. Yet the author asserts that, “similar to the way that the Lord used embryological mechanics to create each of us in our mother’s womb, He also employed evolutionary processes to create humanity.” (pg. 37) I would like to ask Dr. Lamoureux why the God who created the heavens and the earth is constrained to create mankind through an evolutionary process? Whatever one thinks about whether God revealed scientific facts in the Bible thousands of years before their discovery by modern science, He did reveal in the text of Scripture that He created man directly, personally, and supernaturally.

So how does Dr. Lamoureux deal with this thorny problem? By concluding that modern science reveals the Old Testament to be a divine accommodation to an ancient and ignorant people. God didn’t really create man directly, personally, or supernaturally. No, since ancient man could not understand modern science, God (as it were) told him a little story he could grasp. Now, I absolutely believe that God accommodates His revelation in such a way as to condescend to our understanding. However, this is not the kind of divine accommodation Lamoureux is talking about. This is, in my view, a wholesale undermining of the text. Was God only communicating with an ancient people when the opening chapters of Genesis were written down? Is it not divine revelation to a modern people as well? We’re just scientifically sophisticated enough to know that God really meant the opposite of what He said? Perhaps, in a later age, we will discover that God really meant what He said in the first place.


In the introduction, Professor Lamoureux asserts that the central conclusion of a previous book he penned on this subject is that Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” (pg. 38) I find this a curious statement in light of the historical nature of the Christian faith. Why is it necessary for the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ to be historical, but not the life and death of Adam to be so? If God has revealed an intimate historical and theological (not to mention organic) connection between the first man and the Son of Man in Scripture, why is it that Dr. Lamoureux dismisses it so easily?

The foundational belief he has in view is the fallen nature of mankind. He posits that this spiritual truth can be separated from any historical context. All we need to know, in the end, is that we are fallen, sinful human beings in need of redemption. There is no “original sin”, accept perhaps incidentally. This, in fact, illustrates something Lamoureux likes to assert frequently—that the Bible is a book which communicates spiritual truths divorced from historical or scientific truths. How does he know this? The spiritual truth squares nicely with his Christian worldview, the rest doesn’t square with his naturalism.

We’ll explore this further in our next installment.

BONUS: Happened to come across this review of Professor Lamoureux’s full length book I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution by Dr. James Anderson. Enjoy!

C.M. Granger

Northeast ETS Meeting, Featuring Dr. Al Mohler, March 29

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingPlease join us at the Clifton Park Community Church on Saturday, March 29, for the annual meeting of the Northeast Evangelical Theological Society.  This year’s featured speaker is Dr. Al Mohler.  In addition, there’ll be breakout sessions where position papers will be presented by theologians, pastors, and seminary students.  If you register before March 1, you’ll get a discount off the price of admission.  You can get more information and register here.

Did I mention the coffee is free?  All day.

There will also be lots of books for sale from our friends at Westminster Discount Books, as well as representatives from Zondervan, Baker, and other Christian publishers.

All of the contributors to this blog will be there, and our own Brian Spivey will be presenting a paper.  Hope you can make it!

C.M. Granger

When a Student Doesn’t Understand His Teacher

Tom ChantryJohn Frame








Tom Chantry has done a couple of posts at his blog, chantrynotes, in which he goes after theologian and seminary professor, John Frame.  Tom was a student of Dr. Frame’s back in the early 90’s at Westminster West (WSC).  His failure to adequately understand and re-state Dr. Frame’s theological formulations is unfortunately going to poison the well for some.  However, I hope that no one will be deterred from reading Frame directly themselves.

See Tom’s posts here and here.  His opening comments are over the top and his assertions of dishonesty with regard to John Frame are ungracious and placing him in the worst possible light.

You can read where Frame corrects Tom about his position here , and read a good post by Reformed Baptist pastor Fred Zaspel here.  And hey, since we’re linkin’, here’s a few more with analysis:

I was boning up for a blog series on Ephesians (that’s a semi-explanation for my blog neglect of late), but this has brought up some interesting topics I would like to delve into a bit, namely confessionalism, theological disagreement, and sola Scriptura.

Let’s see where we go from here 🙂

C.M. Granger

Is It Clear? Frame on the Perspicuity of Scripture

Boat on Clear WaterIn honor of receiving John Frame’s Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Christian Belief in the mail today, and in light of recent discussions, I’m going to quote Professor Frame on the clarity of Scripture.  Again, the quote is lengthy, but too good to shorten much.

“Since Scripture is God’s word, it is his communication to us.  In Scripture, God speaks, not primarily to himself or to the angels, or to the winds and waves, but to us human beings.  God cannot fail to accomplish his purpose, so his communication cannot be anything less than successful.  If words are unclear, they fail to communicate; they are not communication.  So Scripture must be clear.

Scripture represents that clarity by describing how near God is to us in his Word.  So the clarity of Scripture represents the existential perspective, the lordship attribute of divine presence.  God says to Israel:

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea , that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you.  It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deut. 30:11-14)

Paul paraphrases this passage to speak of the presence of Christ in the gospel:

But the righteousness based on faith says, Do no say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say?  ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim). (Rom. 10:6-8)

In these passages, the clarity of God’s word engages our responsibility.  If we disobey or disbelieve, we cannot complain that God hasn’t spoken clearly.  Like God’s word in nature (Rom. 1:20), the clarity of his word in the gospel implies that we are without excuse.  So the clarity of God’s word has an ethical thrust.

To speak this way, however, raises problems.  For it seems that in some respects Scripture is unclear.  Many people say that Scripture is too hard for them to understand, and that therefore it is unclear to them.  And Scripture itself notes certain kinds of unclarity:

1.  Scripture is unclear to the unregenerate.  As I indicated earlier, the Word hardens them, until the Spirit changes their heart.

2.  Some doctrines of the faith are mysterious (Job 38-42; Rom. 11:33-36).  Although we can speak of them, even regenerate people cannot understand them in depth.  This is the limitation of our finitude.

3.  All parts of Scripture are not equally clear.  Peter says of Paul’s letters, ‘There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures’ (2 Pet. 3:16)

How can we reconcile our confession of the clarity of Scripture with these senses in which Scripture is unclear?  The Confession answers this way:  [Frame cites WCF 1:7, as quoted in my previous post]

So the Confession makes a distinction between things that are ‘necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation’ and those that are not.  The former must be clear; the latter may not be.  And the Confession adds another limitation on the clarity of Scripture:  many things in Scripture, even among those necessary for salvation, cannot be understood by everybody without help.  Understanding in those cases comes through ‘a due use of the ordinary means.’  Those means presumably include the normal educational resources of the church, such as preaching, teaching, and prayer.  So if you are a regenerate person, and there is something in Scripture you don’t understand, that is either because (1) the matter is not necessary for salvation, or (2) you haven’t made a due use of the ordinary means.

As to the first possible reason, I hesitate to try to distinguish in Scripture between what is necessary for salvation and what is not.  Certainly the atonement is necessary for salvation in a way that the number of David’s troops is not…

The second reason reflects the polemics of the Reformation period…..The Confession does not deny the importance of teaching.  It presupposes teaching in its reference to ordinary means.  But it says that our need of teaching does not justify withholding the Scriptures from ordinary people.  Any adult of normal intelligence can understand the basics of the atonement, for example, if he is willing to undergo some simple instruction.

But I would add a third reason why believers sometimes find Scripture to be unclear.  That is that believers differ greatly from one another in their callings and responsibilities.  When a child is four years old, there is not much of the Bible that he understands, even if he makes maximum use of the ordinary means of grace available to him.  Even doctrines that are easily described as necessary for salvation, such as the doctrine of the atonement, may be obscure to our four-year-old believer.  How can it be that such a believer is baffled by the clear word of God?  The answer should be obvious:  a four-year-old child is not able to master the doctrine of the atonement, and he is not responsible to do that.  He is not called to that kind of reflection.  He is called to obey his parents, a biblical command that he can understand well enough, and with their guidance to grow in his knowledge of the Bible.

I noted earlier that the clarity of Scripture has an ethical application.  It takes away excuses and establishes our responsibility to grasp what God’s Word says.  But a four-year-old child has much less responsibility of this sort, than, say, a twenty-year-old with normal mental gifts.

That reflection suggests a principle:  the clarity of Scripture is relative to one’s responsibilities….

Scripture, then, is clear enough to make us responsible for carrying out our present duties to God.  That principle seems to me to summarize what the Bible implies about its own clarity.”

The Doctrine of the Christian Life, pp. 147-150

And to that I say “Amen”!

C.M. Granger



A Common Sense, Non-Technical Defense of the Perspicuity of Scripture


Perspicuity is one of those words rarely used outside of theology, and even then primarily with regard to Scripture.  It has to do with clarity, plainness, intelligibility.  The Scriptures are able to be understood by every generation in every age (with qualification, see below).  Christianity is a revelatory religion.  If, as some contend, the Bible cannot be properly understood since we are thousands of years removed from the events it records, or that it is so colored by the cultural constraints of the inspired writers that we cannot truly know the meaning of the text, then the Bible becomes a puzzle book.  Is this what God intended?

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes some helpful qualifications with regard to the perspicuity of Scripture in chapter 1, sec. 7, “All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

By defending the clarity of Scripture I am not asserting there is no spade work involved, it does take effort.  Some portions require more labor than others, some are not as plain as others.  However, the Scriptures are intelligible in the main.  If it were not so, why would the apostle Paul command that they be read publicly to the people of God (1 Tim. 4:13)?  And why would Philip ask the Ethiopian eunuch, while he was reading Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30) if they cannot be properly understood?

In this post I wish to focus on the public reading of Scripture in particular.  The command to do this when God’s people are gathered indicates at least three things:

1) The meaning of the text is not locked up to academics and theologians.  Literally, anyone can grasp that which is revealed.  Otherwise, this would be an act of religious futility.

2) Since the command is for the church in every age until the Lord come, it cannot be that a meaning which was available to the original recipients of the text has been cut off from the modern believer.

3) The God revealed in the Bible is the God who speaks, who communicates.  That communication cannot be confounded by circumstance.  If God’s Word is a lamp unto the feet of His people, and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105) then it must provide divine guidance for our lives.

Why would Christians want to assert otherwise?  What do you think?

C.M. Granger

When Half-Read Books Pile Up….the Reader’s Dilemma


You know how it is…..busy life, many books, little time.  You’ve skimmed through many a preface in your day, read a multitude of introductory chapters, even managed to reach page 100 (a milestone indeed) in several volumes you fully intended to complete.  But alas, you find that making real progress eludes you.  Too many choices, too much dabbling.  In your weaker moments, you think of it as a perusal paradise…but, more truthfully, it’s death by browsing.

What is the confounded reader to do?

Well, here are some principles that will help you stay on track.  None of them are laws which must never be broken.  So, if you don’t find them helpful, discard.  These are more narrowly for Christian readers, but the general principles apply to all readers as well.

1.  Know Thyself.  Self-knowledge will help you avoid the obvious pitfalls.  Don’t rationalize that you’re simply going to take a look at the new book you just got in the mail yesterday.  You know the routine.  Preface, chapter 1, part of chapter 2… mark perpetually stuck between pages 42 and 43.  Don’t do it!  Flee, my reader friend!

2.  Thoughtfully make a reading list, and stick to it.  Making the list is fun, but as with all things which involve words, it is much easier to speak or write them….much harder to live by them.  Try, as best you can, to stick to the list once you settle on the titles you should read.

3.  Focus on three or four books at one time and resist the temptation to add more.  Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, and you’re a disciplined reader, you will not make the necessary progress to feel like you’re getting anywhere.  Wheel-spinning will kill book reading.  Stay the course and plow ahead.  Books have an ebb and flow to them.  You will hit dry spots, but press on…the tide will (hopefully) be coming in.

4.  Know when to cut bait.  If a book is bad, you should know it before long.  No sense in wasting your time.  Fish elsewhere.

5.  With regard to theology, the writer is typically building his or her case for their thesis.  Flow of thought and argumentation is critical.  Don’t short change yourself by stopping and starting, read through consistently.  If you stalled in the middle with a long pause in your reading, start over from the beginning.

6.  Be a well-rounded reader.  Try to read a commentary, a biography, a topical study, a volume of church history, etc. every year.  Put more importance on reading something from the canon of western literature on a regular or semi-regular basis.  Don’t think reading fiction, or secular nonfiction is a waste of time.

7.  Never let your reading crowd out regular, systematic, intentional study of the Scriptures.  Always read the Bible, not only books about the Bible.  Keep your priorities straight.

Now you can approach that pile of half-read books with a renewed sense of direction and purpose.  Oh, and don’t forget the coffee.  That should have been principle # 8.  I suppose some principles, being universally accepted, don’t really need to be stated.

Happy Re-Reading!


C.M. Granger