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Sanctification: Overlap and Differences between Wesleyan and Reformed understandings

As this series of reviews on Michael Allen's Sanctification heads to a conclusion, a couple windows into areas where Wesleyan theology[1]  overlaps with Allen’s Reformed presentation and where it differs from his presentation may be appropriate.

1.Areas a Wesleyan-Arminian Biblical Theology of Sanctification overlaps with Allen’s Presentation in affirming 1.1.union with Christ as the ground of all salvific benefits, including sanctification. 1.2.positional sanctification through union with Christ. 1.3.progressive sanctification—one’s character becoming increasingly like Christ and the potential for increasing relational intimacy to God 1.4.the ongoing sanctification of those who have been made perfect positionally (τετελείωκεν Heb. 10:14). 1.5.the NT describes believers as holy ones who testify on the basis of a good conscience (2 Cor. 1:12; Acts 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:19) rather than describing them with terms that focus on what remains to be transformed (e.g., “sinners”; “sinners saved by gr…

If thou hast done foolishly ... (Proverbs 30:32)

WTT Proverbs 30:32 אִם־נָבַ֥לְתָּ בְהִתְנַשֵּׂ֑א וְאִם־זַ֜מּ֗וֹתָ יָ֣ד לְפֶֽה׃
KJV Proverbs 30:32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
APB Proverbs 30:32 If you have been foolish* by exalting yourself Or if you have schemed**, put your hand on your mouth.
*The verb ‘have been foolish’ is nabalta and is the only occurrence of the Qal form of this verb (nabal II). The Piel has the sense of ‘treat s.one disdainfully’ (Holladay). See Isa. 32:6-7 for an extended description of the nabal. Waltke says, “Verse 32a presents the foolish situation of plotting one’s self-exaltation through boasting.”
**The word ‘schemed’ (zamam)can mean ‘plan, think’ and occurs 13x in the OT )Gen. 11:6, Deut. 19:19, Ps. 17:3, Ps. 31:14, Ps. 37:12, Prov. 30:32, Prov. 31:16, Jer. 4:28, Jer. 51:12, Lam. 2:17, Zech. 1:6, Zech. 8:14, Zech. 8:15). NASB: plot evil; ESV: devising evil; LEB: devised evil. It normally requires a complementary infinitiv…

Proverbs 14:17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly

Proverbs 14:17 קְֽצַר־אַ֭פַּיִם יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה אִוֶּ֑לֶת וְאִ֥ישׁ מְ֜זִמּ֗וֹת יִשָּׂנֵֽא׃
APB Proverbs 14:17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil schemes is hated.
Exegesis The word translated ‘evil schemes’ (mezimmah) can be positive (prudence, 1:4; 8:12; discretion, 2:11; 3:21; 5:2) or negative (12:2; 14:17; 24:8). It is the context that determines its reference. The phrase ‘ish mezimmot ‘man of schemes’ occurs twice in Proverbs (12:2; 14:17). In Proverbs 12:2, Yahweh delights in a good man but He condemns a ‘ish mezimmot. This requires us to understand the ‘ish mezimmot as someone who is not a good man and is worthy of Yahweh’s condemnation. Given that background, ‘ish mezimmot in 14:17 is not merely hated by people, but also by Yahweh. In Prov. 24:8, the ‘master of mezimmot’ is one who “plans to do evil.” So then, in every instance in which mezimmah is in a construct-absolute relationship with a term referring to a person, it means ‘evil schemes.’
Theological Reflection

A wise man fears ... a fool is careless (Proverbs 14:16)

Proverbs 14:16 חָכָ֣ם יָ֭רֵא וְסָ֣ר מֵרָ֑ע וּ֜כְסִ֗יל מִתְעַבֵּ֥ר וּבוֹטֵֽחַ׃
Proverbs 14:16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. (NASB)
Translation Notes The NASB seems to have unnecessarily downshifted the sense of yare’ to ‘be cautious. ’ Elsewhere, when used with turning aside from evil, the NASB consistently renders it  ‘fears,’ since it usually has God/Yahweh as the object (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; 28:28; Prov. 3:7; 14:16; 16:6).
Further, this is the only place the NASB translates מִתְעַבֵּ֥ר as ‘arrogant,’ following BDB which offers only this passage for that sense. All other clear instances mean “be enraged, full of wrath” (Deut. 3:26; Psa. 78:21, 59, 62; 89:39; Prov. 20:2). Prov. 26:17 could mean this, but there are textual issues there. It seems more reasonable, therefore, to translate it here as ‘full of wrath.’
Keil & Delitzsch reason similarly: “Most interpreters translate 16b: the fool is over-confident (Zöckler), or the fool rus…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 9: Chapter Eight - Grace and Nature

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Chapter 8: Grace and Nature Chapter 8 considers “two realities: the promise of the new creation and the nature of the new creation” (200). Allen addresses “how the grace of new creation relates to the nature we have been granted, namely, how regeneration pertains to and informs our thinking of the relationship of grace and nature” (200). He concludes that “the dynamic of biblical sanctification … can only be described fittingly in eschatological terms: the moral tension involved here is neither sequential (as if holiness means the simple transversal from sinfulness to righteousness, with no remainder), nor partitive(as if some portion of the self were holy, with others remaining depraved), but redemptive-historical (wherein the Christian is marked by the sign of the pilgrim, no longer captive in Egypt yet still sojourning to Canaan)” (211).
Affirmation Allen uses Hebrews 3-4, 8, and 12 to frame a realized eschatology in terms of Israel’s journey to Canaan. I applaud his avoidance of t…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 8: Chapter Seven - Justification

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Chapter 7: Justification and Sanctification Chapter 7 focuses on “the distinction between the justification and the sanctification that we possess in [Christ]” (170). Allen traces Calvin’s “double grace” of “reconcilation through Christ’s blamelessness” and of “sanctification by Christ’s Spirit” (171-75), and then briefly notes that the Reformed tradition’s twofold-grace language has roots in Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (175-76). He explores this new covenant distinction in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36-37, and Hebrews 8. He deploys Romans 6 and 12 in particular against various Reformed challenges to the distinction between justification and sanctification. He wraps up with a fascinating application of Hebrews to the topic.
Affirmation I appreciate that Allen notes that Scriptures speaks of justification in ways other than righteousness (dikaiosune) terminology (e.g., forgiveness, pardon, reconciliation) and warns against narrowing our consideration of this topic to forensic language …

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 7: Chapter Six - In Christ

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Chapter 6: In Christ Allen surveys the biblical data, metaphors, and broader canonical themes which inform the doctrine of union with Christ only briefly (143-47). Calvin’s synthesis of this biblical data receives extended attention (147-55).[1] Allen then turns to the wider Reformed evaluation of union with Christ, noting particularly the idea of participation in God and giving special attention to the Westminster Confession’s treatment.Karl Barth and T. F. Torrance’s critique of Rationalistic vs Evangelical Calvinism serve as foils for his argument for a traditional understanding of particular redemption. He concludes by affirming that all blessings as well as the being of believers come through union with Christ. “In that gracious and life-giving union, ... all he has is ours: his name, his inheritance, his glory, his righteousness, and even his holiness.”

Affirmation My agreement here is both wide and deep, as befits the reality that Wesleyan-Arminianism shares a great deal of comm…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 6: Chapter Five - Incarnation

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Chapter 5: Incarnation The first Adam both fell and failed, committing sins of commission and omission, and thus broke the covenant of creation. The second Adam “fulfills the two-fold need of those who have broken the covenant of works”: cleanness and holiness. He accomplishes not only “the work of purification but also the task of sacralization” (140). Allen identifies the exegetical roots of this Christological tenent in Leviticus and its fulfillment in the gospel of Matthew. The dogmatic components of Christ’s work include distinguishing the active and passive obedience of Christ which takes the form of humiliation and exaltation. Christ’s humiliation redeems nature, and His exaltation glorifies it.
Affirmation Allen’s reading of Leviticus is marvelous (118-123). He puts together cleanliness and holiness beautifully. For example, “Leviticus portrays a world whereby one must be actively set apart by consecration even after one has avoided impurity or had one’s impurities purged by a…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 5: Chapter Four - Covenant

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Chapter 4: Covenant Allen surveys Rudolph Otto’s phenomenological and Mary Douglas’s cultural anthropological approaches (91-93). He tips his hat to their potential benefits but insists we must read Scripture as “instances and instruments of divine action--as the very word of God” which “bears a prescriptive force and not merely a descriptive opportunity” (93). Scripture teaches that “fellowship or communion with God is the fundamental basis and goal” and the “canon’s central episode. Jesus is Immanuel.” (94, 96). While fellowship is the telos of the gospel, covenant frames that communion. Within Reformed tradition, the “covenant of works” describes “this relational order and vocational telos of human existence before God” (100). Consequently, James Torrance’s seven critiques of federal theology are addressed at length (101-110). He concludes that the covenant of works informs our understanding of the course of creaturely holiness and sanctification in four ways: 1) Humans were create…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 4: Chapter Three - Creation

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Chapter 3: Creation Chapter three begins with human creaturehood. Allen rejects Barth’s incarnational anthropology and concludes that we should “think the doctrine canonically,” and then christologically (77). Allen then takes up the implications of “imaging of God.” He critiques four standard views of the imago dei[1] as 1) limiting the divine image to “one facet of human existence” rather than seeing that “it is the totality of the human that images God” (81), and 2) wrongly regarding “similarity between humanity and God” as the primary implication of the term image (82). Rather, the imago dei underscores the Trinity’s “intrinsically self-communicating” nature and highlights a) man’s difference from and b) man's dependence upon God (82). The implications of his view of the imago dei for “thinking sanctification” are first, creation attests to “the participatory nature of creaturely holiness” (85), and second, “all creaturely holiness is communicated holiness in the same way tha…

Whoever touches her will not go unpunished (Proverbs 6:27-29)

‎ WTT Proverbs 6:27-29 הֲיַחְתֶּ֤ה אִ֓ישׁ אֵ֬שׁ בְּחֵיק֑וֹ וּ֜בְגָדָ֗יו לֹ֣א תִשָּׂרַֽפְנָה׃28 אִם־יְהַלֵּ֣ךְ אִ֭ישׁ עַל־הַגֶּחָלִ֑ים וְ֜רַגְלָ֗יו לֹ֣א תִכָּוֶֽינָה׃29 כֵּ֗ן הַ֭בָּא אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֵ֑הוּ לֹ֥א יִ֜נָּקֶ֗ה כָּֽל־הַנֹּגֵ֥עַ בָּֽהּ׃
Proverbs 6:27-29 Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned? 28Or can a man walk on hot coals And his feet not be scorched? 29So is the one who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.
v. 27 Father, the agony and damage of physical burns is a sign of the agony and damage of soul that the folly of adultery brings. As v. 32 says, “he who would destroy himself does it.”
Yahweh, your perspective is that adultery is like dumping fire in the lap or walking barefoot across burning coals. I will get burned. I cannot dodge the bullet. Any appearance of “getting away with it” is illusory. You state, “he will not go unpunished” = he will not be remain blameless (HALOT), be free, exempt from punishment…