Iron Ketchup

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So apparently we’re getting the band back together: Johnny McMahon has announced the relaunch of Iron Show Live later this summer. In preparation for that, he’s re-running the old shows that he, Matthew Miller, and I did last year as Iron Ketchup! (And I thought my puns were bad.)

So, if you missed out on the original run of shows, here’s your chance to get caught up.

Our Usual Warning: The Iron Show is not recommended for listeners who like their Bible teaching quiet and inoffensive. Side effects of listening to the Iron Show include conviction, repentance, obsession with ancient texts, a desire to learn Hebrew, loss of sleep for those on the East Coast, reverence, irreverence, being on the fringe, wearing fringes, rocking out, irritating your pastor with weird questions, loving sinners, hating sin, tipping better, sharing the Gospel, philo-Semitism, a craving for matzah, the sudden desire to make a pilgrimage to Israel, believing in Yeshua the Messiah, being born again, receiving the Holy Spirit, and a changed life. Women who may be pregnant should not listen to The Iron Show unless they want their sons to have hair on their chests. If you experience sudden bleeding from the ears, turn down the volume and consult your doctor after you finish listening to the show.

“Conditional” Prophecy? A Response to Dr. Heiser

417i-jxItJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As readers of this blog know, I’m a great fan of Dr. Michael Heiser and recommend his books, particularly The Unseen Realmto my readers. That’s by no means to say that I always agree with him; in fact, when he’s out of his specialty and talking about, say, prophecy, there is a lot of room to disagree with him.

For a long time, Dr. Heiser presented his view of prophecy as being basically dissatisfied with all of the common prophetic viewpoints and questioning everything. That’s all well and good, and I’ve enjoyed working my way through his questions and challenges for the popular pre-millennial viewpoint. However, over time he’s come down more solidly on the side of supersessionism. Whether that’s simply because he gets a lot of questions and arguments from the pre-mill side that he’s answering, whether because his views are solidifying in that direction, or whether he was always in the replacement theology camp and is simply becoming more open about it, I don’t know.

Traditionally, supersessionists have simply attacked the dispensational, pro-Israel viewpoint as being a “woodenly literal” reading of the Scriptures. John MacArthur, while still critical of a lot of what goes around in the dispensational camp, posted an excellent sermon in 2007 in which he castigated the amillennial camp for the sin of special pleading  (hat-tip to the Rosh Pina Project for finding it):

Floyd Hamilton in his book, The Basis of Millennial Faithsays, and I quote, “Now we must frankly admit the literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the pre-millennialist pictures.” Now that’s a fate worse than death. What he is saying is, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament is going to lead you to a pre-millennial view. And since we don’t want to get there, we can’t use a literal approach. Anything to avoid premillennialism, even if you change the rules of interpretation. . . Why do we want to run from that? Why do we want to change the rules in interpretation to avoid that?

The preconception is that we can’t allow this to happen. We can’t have those prophecies come to pass with regard to Israel with an earthly, literal Kingdom the way the Old Testament seems to be saying it. So, set aside normal, natural, literal interpretation. But let me tell you something. Normal, natural, literal interpretation is the only way to stop abuse of Scripture. As soon as you abandon that, then it’s fair game for anybody’s craziness

More recently, however, Dr. Heiser and a few others have argued a different approach:

Even this snippet reveals some things any real, academic, textually-informed articulation of eschatology will reveal. Prophecy is often conditional and, as the last two episodes of the Naked Bible podcast overviewed, it is certainly tied to the Christian mission.

When I interacted with him on the subject, he directed me to an article he had previously reposted on his blogRobert B. Chisholm, Jr.’s, “Making Sense of Prophecy: Recognizing the Presence of Contingency” (ETS Far West Regional Meeting, April 2007). I had scanned over it then, and hadn’t been that impressed. Since I was being directed to it again as a defense of Dr. Heiser’s view that prophecy is “often” conditional, I decided to have a go at it, point-by-point.

The more patient and nerdy can read my full response as a Google Doc, “The Importance of the Yods and Tittles: A Response to Chisholm’s View of Prophetic Contingency.” But here’s the short version:

I’m really not impressed. Actually, I’m downright disappointed that a noted scholar who is having such an influence in the prophetically-minded Christian community is hanging his eschatology on an article that is so poor in exegesis and so self-contradictory. That sounds like a dig at Chisholm, but the article itself strikes me as more exploratory than anything else, offering up an alternative explanation for some Scriptural difficulties. In that sense, it’s an interesting article, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny well enough for anyone to use as the foundation for their eschatology the way Heiser does.

The basic thesis of the article is that there are prophecies in the Scripture which we have to regard as having “failed” on one or more points. Chisholm puts forth the thesis, based on Jeremiah 18, that all prophecies have a built-in contingency by which a judgment may be annulled by repentance or a blessing annulled by disobedience:

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. (Jer. 18:7-10)

That’s fair as far as it goes. So why do I say that the exegesis is poor? Simply put, every single one of the examples that Chisholm gives of a failed prophecy was either fulfilled in terms of the actual words of the prophet (requiring that he read into the text to declare it “failed”) or else looks forward to a more distant future (i.e., Messiah’s first or second coming).

The one exception is Ezekiel 29-30, the oracle against Egypt, which is admittedly difficult to pin down an exact fulfillment on. That is, we know Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, but there’s no evidence that he was able to hold it in the fashion that the prophecy seems to suggest. This might make a good example for Chisholm’s thesis. However, he does not provide any evidence at all that the Egyptians repented due to the prophetic utterance against them–or that they repented at all. This means that he is begging the question of whether this might be a conditional (if-then) prophecy.

So why do I say that it’s self-contradictory? Simply put, Chisholm recognizes that having many or most prophecies with a built-in but unspoken condition would negate the test of a prophet described in Deuteronomy 18:20-21, which says that if a prophet’s word does not come to pass, then Hashem did not send him. He argues that this test must only apply to prophecies meant to be fulfilled in the near-term, since there would be no way for an immediate audience to test a prophet on a prophecy that would only be fulfilled centuries later.

But here’s where the self-contradiction kicks on: Almost every single one of the examples Chisholm gives he interprets to be a near-term prophecy. This means that by his own interpretation of Deuteronomy 18, Micah, Elisha, Haggai, et.al. would be false prophets.

This is what Dr. Heiser considers a “real, academic, textually-informed articulation of eschatology”?

There’s a further problem with the “prophetic contingency” view that’s far worse:

replacement-theology-no-thanks1If this view is true, then in what sense can we trust the prophetic promises in the NT? Are they equally contingent on the Church’s obedience? Heiser himself has stated (albeit through an author-avatar in a work of fiction) that “if Jesus were to apply for a divorce from the Church on the grounds of adultery and desertion, he’d get one.” (The Portent, (Lexham Press, 2014), p. 144) If prophetic contingency can be used to annul promises in the Hebrew Scriptures, then what about in the New Testament? Is not the sauce for the goose sauce for the gander as well?

The preterist argument (which Dr. Heiser recently echoed) has always been that the NT authors spoke in terms of prophetic imminence of the parousia of Messiah, and therefore we should not believe that God would let millennia pass before those prophecies were fulfilled. Well then, if we apply prophetic contingency as Heiser would have us do so, perhaps the Church simply failed in its task due to a lack of obedience (and we see the Apostles speaking often of the lack of obedience and faith in the early Christian community) and we can no longer expect any parousia at all. Perhaps God decided to start over with yet another body, one which would be willing to spread his dominion over the whole earth, by the sword if necessary . . .

The implications of prophetic contingency, especially if applied to covenant promises, are horrifying for the Church, to say the least. Yet, if we say that the promises to Israel were contingent on obedience, we commit the sin of special pleading to exempt the Church from that same level of obedience to receive its promises. This is especially true since the Church has had the additional advantage of the Spirit poured out on “all flesh” to complete its task.

My own view is that God is very careful with the wording of the prophecies of the Bible. For example, Micah’s prophecy was certainly understood by the prophet’s contemporaries to have prophesied that the Assyrians would destroy Jerusalem (Jer. 26:16-19). However, the remarkable thing is that the prophecy itself doesn’t actually say that! Instead, it talks about Judah being carried away to Babylon (Mic. 4:10). Hashem knew that Hezekiah would repent but that later kings would not, and so carefully worded the response to avoid the problem of Micah being falsified!

The problem is that there is a strong current of unbelief in the academic community. While Heiser and Crisholm themselves are strong believers, they’ve still (IMHO) been influenced by those who do not take the Bible seriously as prophetic literature, those who prefer to read into the Biblical prophecies what they suppose the historical circumstances of the prophecy to be. It’s very easy to call Micah’s prophecy “falsified” if you assume that it must be speaking of the Assyrian invasion, and equally easy to call Yeshua’s prophecies in the Olivet Discourse falsified if you assume that he thought his second coming would be in conjunction with the destruction of the temple.

There’s a saying about what happens when you assume . . .

I posted a short version of the above with a link to the Google Doc (so that I could not be accused of trying to use his forum to promote my own blog) to Dr. Heiser’s comments, but the post has since been removed, giving the impression that I simply dropped the argument after he directed me to Chisholm’s argument. Obviously, either he thought my response too sarcastic, or else the good doctor does not want any serious dissent on his forum. Fair enough, it belongs to him.

Update 6/26: It appears that I spoke too soon in the previous paragraph. Dr. Heiser has reinstated my comments and the link to the Google Doc of my response and has actually encouraged me to engage with Dr. Chisholm directly on the subject. I’ll be taking him up on that suggestion.

Again, I like Dr. Michael Heiser, and I appreciate his work on the Divine Council paradigm. But when it comes to Biblical prophecy, his vision is not as clear. I think he’s the first to admit that, and I do hope that Hashem opens his eyes to the miracle that is the resurrection of Israel.

Shalom

Hope and Assurance in Ruth

This is definitely one of those posts where I speak from the heart rather than teach from the head.

I was up in the mountains spending Shavuot (Pentecost for my Sunday-brethren) with some friends, and didn’t hear about the Orlando shooting until I dropped in on my current synagogue’s Shavuot picnic. I can say with all honesty that I’m very sorry for those who died and for those who must now live on with the grief of having lost their loved ones and friends.

I can say more cynically that I expect the Regressive Left to use this to flog their usual hobby horses of gun control and “organized religion” (by which they really mean Christianity). I hope that they will resist the temptation.

I write this from the perspective of one who has more than one gay family member, all of whom I love dearly and would lay down my life for without hesitation. Having spent a fair amount of time with people of the gay persuasion, I believe that many (I will not say all) are sad clowns, hiding deep wounds beneath an air of childlike enthusiasm. And, unfortunately, the Christian and Messianic communities have not done a very good job of showing love to them–the general attitude seems to be, “Repent of being gay, and then the Lord might accept you,” which is a legalistic reversal of the true Gospel.

Look at Ruth of Moab, for example: “”No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you” (Deu. 23:3-4). And yet, Ruth was accepted by Boaz and his people simply because she was kind in taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth Gleaning

Many years ago, I was between jobs and freelancing to make ends meet. I did everything from building spreadsheets and databases for small businesses to house-cleaning to make ends meet. One of my house-cleaning contracts was a gay couple. They were very picky about how their house was kept, but they were also very good to me, such as giving me videotapes of sci-fi movies when they discovered I was a geek. (And doesn’t the format of those movies date me!) They knew I was a Christian (this being before I knew Messianic Judaism was a thing), but we were on really good terms regardless. The mutual respect across what is normally a hard boundary gave me a chance to give the Gospel by my actions as much or more than by my words.

While I don’t like the way “homophobia” is tossed around in a name-calling attempt to silence critics of the homosexual movement, there is a real element of truth to the charge: Christians and Messianics who have no trouble witnessing and being kind to alcoholics, porn-addicts, or that really bitter guy who you have to work with are all-too-often squicked-out by the thought of homosexuality. “It’s an abominiation!” they say, quoting Leviticus 18:22.

Okay, sure. But guess what? So is eating pork (at least for a Jew, Deu. 14:3ff), or reading a horoscope (Due. 18:10-12), or even being dishonest in business (Deu. 25:13-16)!

And what the Moabites did to Israel, calling in a prophet to cause the children of Israel to stumble, was so abominable that God said that it would take at least ten generations for any of them to be acceptable in the temple–or else, that they could never be accepted in the temple (Deu. 23:3-6)!

And yet, we have Ruth.

Ruth, who like Rahab before her and Bathsheba (literally, the “daughter of Sheba”) after her became part of the Davidic (and Messianic) line (Mat. 1:5-6).

Nobody told Ruth that she should magically change her heritage to become part of Israel. She simply said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She didn’t somehow stop speaking Hebrew with a Moabite accent before Boaz married her. All she did was accept his marriage covenant.

Someone who is gay doesn’t have to stop “being gay” before the Lord will accept them. No, first the Lord accepts them as cleansed by the Messiah Yeshua’s blood, then he puts his Holy Spirit into them, and then they are transformed by that Spirit. To use Protestant terms, you aren’t sanctified before you are justified.

A few months ago, I was able to share the Gospel with a young man who was so addicted to alcohol that he was drinking gin from a 64-ounce Styrofoam cup. I didn’t tell him that he had to get rid of the cup first. I talked with him without condemnation and brought him to the point where he willingly prayed the sinners prayer with me. Only then I asked him, “Would you like me to get rid of that for you?” He willingly, and gratefully, handed over the cup of booze, and I tossed it in the nearest trash can.

That young man will probably always struggle with addiction, and have to avoid taking even the smallest drop of wine to avoid being drawn back in. And yet, his willingness to act in faith will be honored and his life will be fundamentally transformed.

A person who has been homosexual who comes to the Lord will probably always be attracted to those of the same sex. And yet, I’ve heard the testimony of those who have been given over to that lifestyle, and how the Spirit has transformed them.

Ruth probably always struggled with a sense of uncertainty of her place in Israeli society. (You can get that sense just from how she speaks, particularly in the Hebrew.) It’s possible that in some sense that she was always something of an outsider. And yet, her faithfulness first to Naomi and then to Boaz fundamentally transformed her and her whole life.

We see this pattern all throughout Scripture. Yeshua didn’t tell Matthew and Zacchias to stop being tax collectors or to stop ripping off their clients first. He called them first, and then they spontaneously left their old ways in response. Nor did the Holy One tell Israel to keep the Torah in Egypt before he redeemed them. No, first Israel was redeemed and brought to Sinai, and then they learned the Torah–on Shavuot.

Shavuot is a time when we celebrate that those redeemed in Passover are given God’s word and are empowered by the Spirit to carry out the word. While we need to discipline in love those who are “in the camp,” so to speak, we must not try to impose such discipline on those who do not claim to be members of the Messiah’s body (1Co. 5:9-13). Rather, we should be like Boaz, showing kindness to those who are outside of God’s kingdom so that they may be brought near. When they are redeemed from slavery, they may be taught God’s ways–not before. In the meantime, we must show them love.

Shalom

Which Bible Translation Is Best? All the Good Ones. | LogosTalk

I came across this article today, and I think the final paragraphs neatly sum up my view on KJV-Onlyism–or any translation “onlyism” for that matter:

Imagine there was only one English Bible translation and that it had never occurred to you that there might be another. The truth is that even if we were stuck with your and my least favorite translation on the chart above, we’d still have an inestimable treasure. We would still have God’s words. The KJV translators, in a sadly neglected but eerily prescient preface to the KJV, said the following:

“We do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession…containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God: as the King’s speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere.”

The KJV translators had no qualms saying that even relatively poor translations don’t just contain God’s words but are God’s word. They were not Bible translation tribalists. Perhaps we should take a page out of their book.

via Which Bible Translation Is Best? All the Good Ones. | LogosTalk