All posts by Dave

The Impossibility of “Fire Insurance” Faith

You take out fire insurance so that if, in the unlikely event that your house burns down, you’ll get your house back. You don’t really believe your house will burn down but you admit the possibility and prepare for the worse.

Sometimes you’ll hear Christians argue for “fire insurance” faith. What does it look like? You might try persuading your neighbor to become a Christian just in case there is a God. “What harm could it do,” you ask, “just to be safe?”

This is the modern-day outworking of Pascal’s wager: Continue reading

Reading from my pastoral counseling course:

Why was such an awesome miracle necessary? Because sin not only reduces us to fools, but also inflicts us with a profound blindness. This spiritual blindness affects us in many ways, by ultimately it obscures our God as He has revealed Himself. Yes, God as a Spirit is physically hidden, but sin blinds us from Him in a much more profoundly spiritual sense. Like the people in the days of Christ, we don’t see God even when He is right in front of our eyes. The troubling thing about Sara’s story of her divorce is not just that it is a sad story of rejection and abandonment. It’s that her recounting of the story is utterly godless. In her heart-wrenching narrative there is no recognition of God’s presence, plan, or active love. Sara suffers not only from the consequences of a nasty divorce, but from a fundamental inability to see God. This aggravates and distorts the impact of the divorce on her heart and behavior. The hope and help that Sara really needs begins with seeing God.
Listen when people tell you their stories. Usually their stories will be devoid of any functional recognition of God’s presence, power, goodness, and grace. When they don’t see God, they become dazzled and captured by other glories—the fading glories of relationships, position, possessions, appearance, and achievement. They get worried or depressed or terrified by the wrong things. When they do not see the glory of God, they treat their problems with more problems! Failures in human wisdom, character, and strength will be treated with another dose of human wisdom, character and strength, rather than a cry to the God of real rescue.

Paul David Tripp, “A Community of Counselors: The Fruit of Good Preaching,” ed. David A. Powlison, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 2, Winter 2003 21 (2003): 48.

What’s our biggest problem? A lack of God.

Jonathan Edwards and the Typology of Nature

nature

Typology is a sticky subject. Which passages can we consider typological? Which can’t we?

Jonathan Edwards liked typology so much that he extended it beyond Scripture and into the natural world. He assumed that if the world was made by the God of the Bible we would see things in the world and its created order that pointed us to truths about God.

Some examples:

“Children’s coming into the world naked and filthy, and in their blood, and crying and impotent, is to signify the spiritual nakedness, pollution of nature and wretchedness of condition with which they are born.”

Is it true that childbirth is a messy, ugly business? Yes. Is it true that children are born sinners? Yes. Does the one point to the other? I’m not convinced.

“The serpent’s charming of birds and other animals into their mouths, and the spider’s taking of the fly in his snare, are lively representations of the devil’s catching our souls by his temptations.”

Do serpents and spiders lure and snare their prey? Absolutely. Does the enemy lure and snare his prey? Absolutely. Does the one point to the other? Where’s the proof?

“The sun’s so perpetually, for so many ages, sending forth his rays in such vast profusion, without any dimunition of his light and heat, is a bright image of the all-sufficiency and everlastingness of God’s bounty and goodness.”

Does the sun shine seemingly forever? Surely. Is God all-sufficient and good? Surely. Does the one point to the other? Possibly.

The real problem with nature typology is that it’s so imprecise. Where can we verify its findings? How can we tell that the sun points to Yahweh and not Allah? At most it is corroboration of the truths revealed in the Bible.

My recommendation is to stick to typology within the Bible. It’s much more clear and it’s much more precise.


All three citations are from page 54 of the Yale edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards vol 11, Typological Writings.

Is Strong’s Concordance Reliable?

Is it reliable?

The most-visited page on my website remains How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance. It’s slightly frustrating that a page which has essentially nothing to do with this site’s central message is it’s all-time leader in views, pulling in more than quadruple the amount of search traffic as most other sections of the site. I’m not too frustrated however because the gospel-centered hermeneutic I’m dedicated to here is a much narrower niche. So I thought I’d pause a moment and answer a question I see a lot about Strong’s concordance: Is it reliable?


This is the final entry in a series of posts on the use of Strong’s Concordance:

How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance
How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance Part 2
How To Properly Use Strong’s Concordance
A Good Example of Using Strong’s Concordance
Is Strong’s Concordance Reliable?


When asking questions about “reliability” and “accuracy” you need to first answer the question, “What are you trying to be accurate about?” If you want to measure the size of a book then a ruler is your best bet. If you want to measure the number of votes for a presidential election a ruler, however accurate, isn’t what you want. That task requires a ballot box.

So when we ask if Strong’s concordance is reliable we need to ask ourselves what we’re trying to do with it first. Remember the most important insight from the first article:

Strong’s is primarily a concordance, not a dictionary. A dictionary defines words. A concordance acts like an index.

What does that mean? Just like the ruler, it’s accurate for one thing and useless for another. Continue reading

In the next weeks I’m going to devote a bit of time to cleaning out the closet here at Armchair Theology. I have nearly 50 half-written, half-thought-out, half-crazy posts that I’ve worked on over the years.

Most I’ll throw out. Some I’ll post. Some of the articles I post won’t directly relate to our normal discussions of gospel-centered preaching and Bible study. So feel free to ignore them.

Gospel-Centered Links February 2014

This month there are two monumentally important links. One helps us see the reason for gospel-centered hermeneutics and the other helps us avoid an enormous corruption of gospel-centered hermeneutics. If you are concerned about the gospel-centered movement you must read them.

You must read these two links:

What We’re Saying When We Don’t Mention the Gospel

Cameron Cole explains the reason we must read the entire Bible in light of the gospel:

When we do not preach the Gospel, this is what we say: Everything is fine. We say that our problem with sin is not that severe; we can fix our problems with a little effort. We say that death is not a real thing; we can kick that can down the road. We say that the world is generally fine; it’s not in need of radical rescue. We say that our need for God’s redeeming love and power is not that great.

If there’s no gospel there’s no rescue. If there’s no rescue we must rationalize our way out of life’s troubles. When we do that our souls perish. This is the reason we need to read the entire Bible through a gospel lens.

This link is a purpose statement for the gospel-centered movement. If you want a how-to book, look at Christ-Centered Bible Study.

The Jesus Lens, or the Jesus Tea-Strainer?

If you’re going to read the Bible through a “Jesus lens” make sure it’s the right Jesus. Andrew Wilson shows us how one group is misinterpreting Jesus and when they apply that fake Jesus to the rest of Scripture they are missing the point.

I don’t think Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell and co are reading the Bible through a Jesus lens, as much as they are reading Jesus through a selective, progressive postmodern lens, and then reading the rest of the Bible through that. The end result, ironically, is that while the Jesus we find in the Gospels fits well with the rest of the scriptures – as you might expect, given that he inspired them – neither the Jesus of the Gospels, nor the Bible, fit particularly well with the pastiche of Jesus that the Red Letter guys want to promote. When all is said and done, the biblical Jesus cannot be squeezed thorough the fine mesh of the progressive Jesus tea-strainer.

Bear in mind that there are lots of ways to misinterpret Jesus. The example here is a postmodern misinterpretation of Jesus. There are conservative misinterpretations of Jesus. There are liberal misinterpretations of Jesus. There are all kinds of misinterpretations of Jesus.

If you’re going to read the Bible in light of Jesus make sure it’s the right Jesus.

The remaining links are good but optional. Continue reading

Did Moses Know the Passover was Prophetic?

The Passover and subsequent exodus was the most significant redemptive event in the history of Israel. It’s primary symbol was the lamb that was sacrificed to prevent the same destruction that hit the houses of Egypt from striking the houses of Israel. It’s no wonder that the New Testament writers made reference to the Passover lamb when writing about Christ and the greater redemption he accomplished for us:

Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Cor 5:7

It’s great to draw analogies between OT redemptive acts of God and NT redemptive acts of God. But is it legitimate to say that the OT redemptive act was prophetic (i.e. predicted) the greater NT action? Take for instance:

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
John 19:32–36.

John is referring to this description of the Passover lamb:

It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.
Ex 12:46

But the original context of Exodus 12 has no reference to a future event. It’s all about Israel’s situation in Egypt. So did John just pretend that it was a prophecy? Did he invent a new meaning for this text?

Why This Matters

This is a big deal because it could mean that John wasn’t being faithful to Scripture as he was writing Scripture. That would make us doubt at least John’s writings and then cast suspicion on the rest of the Bible as well.

It would also raise questions like: Continue reading