Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review of What Happen in the Garden

Abner Chou (Editor), WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GARDEN, Grand Rapids MI, Kregel Academic, 2016, 301 pages.

It was with anticipation that I looked to and wanted to read this book. In recent years a renewed effort among evangelicals questions the historical reliability of Adam, the garden, and the fall. The book reasons for the importance of the beginning chapters of the Bible; it is foundational for the whole Bible and the reliance on theology to life itself. This book answers the issues and defends the orthodox view of these three chapters of Genesis. It is a work by the faculty of The Master’s College. In light of the allegations by some evangelicals in the recent debate, a new defense is necessary.

The book is divided into three sections. These sections deal with the historicity, theology, and scientific elements of the revelation of these chapters section by section.

Section 1: Reality of Genesis 2-3. This is divided into four chapters. In this section the foundation of the book is being laid. Chapter 1 deals with Hermeneutic and History in Genesis 3. Abner Chou does a good job of identifying the issues involved. The issues revolve around exegetical issues; issues of history and theology, which he identifies the thesis that history is the ground of theology.  It is the way theology works. He debunks the mythology view.  Chapter 2 and 3 (by Todd Charles Wood and Joseph W. Francis), deals with Adam and the Animals and the Genetics of Adam.  In regard to Adam and the animals the authors make clear Adam was a product of special creation in the image of God, and for the purpose of dominion over the earth. They deal with this in contrast to evolution. They bring out the distinction between humans and the higher forms of life in the animals (i.e. apes). Creation of kinds can be distinguished. We need to recognize the difference between as well as within evolution and creation. They continue to examine evolution and creation with a chapter of Genetics of Adam. In this chapter they argue for the young earth model of creation and history. This chapter is one of the most difficult for understanding of the problem and not reader friendly. However, they do show their intended purpose that evolution is not the only way that changes in the human race could take place. Chapter 4 is on Map of Misreading’s (by Grant Horner). This chapter brings us back to basics, which is understanding the text correctly. This is vital for it is the core of understanding of the Bible, theology, and its practice. He suggests that the text is not the problem; it is in the explanation of the text that misreading occurs. Because of our sin, our tendency is to explain away, de- historicize, and misread Genesis 3.  We must read the text features as a story, told simply and clearly, meaning exactly what it says.

Section 2 deals with Theological Ramification of the Creation and Fall. This section contains only two chapters. First is Genesis 3 and original sin by Paul R. Thorell. He approaches the subject in what I would regard in reverse order—beginning with the historical church view; to Paul’s view of Genesis 3; back to the prophets; and ending with Pentateuchal context. All the areas uphold that Adam’s transgression had universal consequences on his posterity—sin, death, and judgment. The second is on the Seed and Schaeffer by William Varner.  Francis Schaeffer advocated that dualism of history (lower story) and faith (upper story) strongly influenced religious thought. That faith does not need some objective verifiable events in space-time history. He views Schaeffer’s philosophy in the context of Genesis 3. Varner upholds the Messianic promise of Genesis 3:15, and the reality of Adam and Eve as historical. One needs to read this chapter on Genesis 3:15 in regard to the promise.

Section 3 is the largest section of the book. It consists of seven chapters. The section deals with the reality of sin and its effects upon this world and mankind. Each chapter looks at the fall through different lenses. R.W. Mackey deals with three effects on Human enterprise (Chapter 7). Taylor Jones has an excellent chapter of the effects of the curse through the lense of thermodynamics (Chapter 8). This chapter will speak to those that have a  orientation.  For those of legal minds, George Crawford looks at the legal aspects of the fall (Chapter 9). Ernie Baker through the line of psychology (Chapter 10).  Jo Suzuki deals with the subject through the lense of the topic of gender. Alexander Granados of the importance of the Historical Adam in education and our Christian curriculum. John MacArthur concludes this section by upholding the doctrine of original sin.

The book centers around the important and vital issues of Genesis 3 (mainly). In light of developments in theology, history, and the world events. This book is timely and important. It upholds the historical interpretation of this key chapter. In reality, our interpretation of the events of the garden influence our whole theological viewpoint. The details do matter. Therefore, this book is a must in everyone’s library. It is coherent, clear, and compelling. One of the best books I read this year.

I received this book from Kregel Academic in return for a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review

Monday, September 19, 2016

Studies in Colossians #29

OUR CHRISTIAN APPAREL (3:5-11) continued

The third imperative: “do not lie.” (3:9-11).

The third imperative ends a section and begins one as well. It is transitional in nature. Do not lie is the clear command. Paul takes this third imperative to end on a positive note. The imperatives are incentives to lay aside the old, and to “put on the new self” (3:20). Both putting off and putting on are aorist participles, indicating completed actions in the past. Gromacki reminds us that we “did not put the new over the old. A believer has only one position before God, although he as two natures: the old sin nature and the new nature centered in the indwelling life of God. The new position guarantees heaven, and submission to the new nature brings spiritual victory (Gal. 5:16).”[1] Paul uses the term new in three senses:

  • Of being new creations in Christ (Gal. 6:15). Positionally the old man is crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). We have a new position in Christ.
  • In reference to the church, the body of Christ as the new man or mankind (Ephesians 2:15-16). It speaks of the joint-body of Jew and Gentile as one in Christ. It is in contrast to the old where Israel had the priority. 
  • As a new nature in contrast with the old, as in this present passage. The believer has two natures, otherwise the injunction to take off the old would be irrelevant (Eph. 4:22; 25; Rom 13:12). Moo calls the old and new “competing schemes of the Christian life.[2] This last point speaks of our sanctification. Between the two (old and new) there is an already—not yet tension. The new man is not simply new in time (neon), but is to be new (kainon) in quality or character.

How do we put off the old and put on the new? It is by the renewal of the mind and having the mind of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 2:5). This is indicated by the phrase, “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). The phrase modifies the new man. The Greek text could be translated “the one which is being renewed.” The structure can be diagramed as:

                Put on the new man

                                                | which is being renewed

                                                                | to true knowledge

                                                | according to the image of the One

It is clear that what is being renewed is the new man. The word renewed modifies the new which indicate continual by daily involvement of believers (cf. 2 Cor. 4:12). The new man is aorist indicating the past which is being renewed,  a present tense. Dunn observes that the aorist speaks of “the conversion-initiation past is qualified by an ongoing present: the new self is in process of being renewed.”[3] It denotes a tension between God’s work and man’s responsibility. It speaks of transformation through the work of Christ. The renewal is often spoken of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Titus 3:5, cf. Eph. 3:16). This process of renewal speaks of the mind as indicated by the reference to knowledge (Rom 12;1-2). The Greek proposition is eis, denoting motion unto an object, to the extent of, or with respect to an object. Harris lists possible understandings here:[4]

(1)    Expressing direction toward

(2)    Equivalent to a locative, in knowledge

(3)    Telic, for full knowledge

(4)    Consecutive, leading to

(5)    Temporal, until it obtains or reaches it goal.

While I think #1 is the best, it matters little because all of these have in common the idea of motion toward a goal. The idea of motion is vital to the understanding of being renewed to knowledge. The word renewed has the force in this context is that of becoming (as in 2 Cor. 4:16). Our new position in Christ is to separate us from the practices of our old way of life. This is the heart of progressive sanctification. It is becoming more like the image that God created us to be (cf. Gen. 1:26-28).[5] It speaks of the transforming power of God into Christ-likeness (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18; 4:16; Titus 3:5).

We are becoming more knowledgeable. The word knowledge indicates a personal and experiential knowledge. It is not to know about a person, but knowledge that come from a relationship. The knowledge also suggests the importance of the mind in the Christian life.

This knowledge is of what or whom? It is of Christ. This is reinforced by the phrase: “according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). It is the taking on of Christ that is important. This is a reference to Christ, the image of God (cf. 1:15, Eph. 4:24). We are being made into His image, both individually (Rom 8:29) and together as a body (Eph 4:7-16). Johnson observes that this gives a summary of the teaching of Paul in this epistle. He writes:

There are three realms, relevant to the Colossians, in which He is all. He is everything in salvation, there is no place for angelic mediation in God’s redemptive work (cf. 1:18-22; 2:18). He is everything in sanctification; hence legality and asceticism are out of place in the Christian life (cf. 2:16-23). He is our life (3:3-4).  Finally, He is everything necessary for human satisfaction, here there is no need for philosophy, or the deeds of the old man (1:26-28; 2:3, 9-10).[6]

The new man is one of a new environment without distinctions: “[a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythians, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and all” (3:11). The NASB adds the words that are in brackets; the KJV omits them as they should be. They really do not clarify the text and are unsupported by the Greek text. The Greek Majority text reads: “in which there is no Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarians, Scythian, slave, free person, but Christ is all things and in all things” (Author’s translation). As the image of Christ there are no distinctions either religious, social, national, economical, or racial. Notice that these distinctions run in contrasting terms:

Greek (gentile)/Jews



Slave/free person

Eadie points to two connotations of these distinctions:[7]

  • Such distinctions do not avert the putting-on the new man.
  • Having had the old does not alter the possession of the privilege and blessing found in the new man.

These contrast are consistent with Paul’s theology of universal inclusiveness. Some identify the new man with the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-23).[8] Others take is more broadly as simply positional—being in Christ (Gal. 3:27-29).[9] However, the context suggests some kind of corporate unit or unity. This is supported by Paul in his sister epistle—Eph 2:15. He is speaking of a new humanity. O’Brien notes: “The renewal refers not simply to an individual change of character but also to a corporate re-creation of humanity in the Creator’s image.[10]  Therefore, the new man is seen both in ethical and ecclesiastical terms.

The climax of the new man is that “Christ is all, and in all.” (3:11).  There is significance to the double reference to all. There are two distinct ideas of the word all as seen by the word and (kai). It is therefore a mistake to translate this phrase as “Christ is all in all,” as some do.[11] It seems to me that the first “all” speaks of the goal of the new man (relating back to 1:18), and the last all speaks of Christ as “in all” of the new man. The new man is the object of the redemptive and sanctifying work of Christ. He is working in us and Christ is all to us. To the believer Christ matters; He indwells all in His body. “The Christ who lives in each of his people is the Christ who binds them together in one.”[12]

To be continued…

[1]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 137.
[3]  Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 221. Also see Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 137.
[5]  Constable, NOTES ON COLOSSIANS, 38.
[6] S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “Christian Apparel,” BIBLOTHECA SACRA, January 1964, 28.
[7]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 237-239
[10]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 191.
[11] William Barclay, THE NEW TESTAMENT: A NEW TRANSLATION [LONDON; Collins, 1969]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Studies in Colossians #28

Our Christian Apparel (3:5-11)


The second imperative:put them all aside” (3:8-9).

Paul in this second imperative moves from the past (3:7) to the present.  This is clearly indicated by the words, “but now” (3:8). This “introduces temporal contrast, pointing to the fact that the Christian life must contrast with the person's former life (cf. l:21-22).[1] It sets up the phrase: “put them all aside.” The object of the image is metaphorical for taking off clothes and is a Greek rather than a Hebrew metaphor.[2] However, it has a long biblical use, especially by Paul. Paul may well have been thinking about the stoning of Stephen, whose clothes were laid at his feet. The word used in Acts 7:58 is the same Greek word (apotithemi) rendered “put off” in Colossians 3.[3]  It is an aorist middle imperative indicating a call for decisive and immediate action on our part. It denotes responsibility. The phrase does not refer so much back to the vices Paul already gave, but is an introduction to a new list. The word all points forward. If one compares the two lists, one can observe the first list refers to actions, but this new list refers to the attitudes of the mind, which is expressed through our speech. Jesus reminds us that out of the mouth comes the expression of the heart (or mind; attitude), Matthew 15:18. The list is then given. This list is similar to Ephesians 4:31. Most who view the list say there are five. I disagree. I see six attitudes of the natural mind:

·         Anger (orge) which speaks of one’s mental bent; thus has the meaning of anger, wrath, impulse, rage, vengeance, or temper. It is the same word used for wrath of God in 3:6. It speaks of chronic anger, one that is nursed and grows. 

·         Wrath (thumos) is related to anger, but is not quit the same. It pertains to the mind, and indicates a strong passion; fury, anger and/or wrath. Barclay tells us; “It can describe a quality with which no good character can flourish; it can describe a quality which is the wrecker of personal relationships, and the destruction of fellowship within the community.[4] Although the two words somewhat overlap anger is a somewhat settled feeling, while wrath speaks more of rage and a tumultuous outburst of passion.[5] It speaks of an explosive temper. It is like a flash in a pan, which flares up, and quickly subsides. We are to put off this type of anger.

·         Malice (kakia) meaning malicious spite, malignity, wickedness, evil, or depravity (cf. Romans 1:29). It denotes ill will toward someone. This ill force destroys fellowship within the church. It accompanies the unsaved life which we all experienced, even us who are saved (cf. Titus 3:3).

·         Slander (blasphemeo) which means blaspheme, slander, malign, or to defame (cf. Eph. 4:31). It can be directed toward God or man. It indicates the defaming of someone’s character. Many times it is in the form of bringing up past events and holding them against the person, not accounting for, or disregarding transformation that has taken place. 

·         Abusive {KJV;filthy communication) is the Greek word aischrologia, meaning vile or obscene language. The phrase “from your mouth,” is not altogether as clear to what it describes. The is mainly two reviews: First, is that it modifies all 5 vices as a group. Campbell holds this view, saying; “Paul is literally telling them to stop their angry, wrathful, malicious, slanderous and foul speaking.[6] This is the popular understanding among scholars. Their arguments have some merit. The two main are (1) since the final phrase of the first list (which is idolatry) modifies the whole list, so does this one. (2) They see support for this in Ephesians 5:4. Second is the view that it refers to slander and filthy speaking. I agree with Moo who holds this view.[7] The reasons are: (1) the phrase denotes the function of speaking, the action of the mouth. (2) Not all the list fulfills this definition or function. For example, anger, wrath, and malice are attitudes of the heart, which may or may not be expressed in speech, but action. Moo comments: “Anger, rage, and malice will then refer to verbal expressions of these emotion rather than the emotions themselves. But giving this extended meaning to these words does not have good lexical support. More likely, then, from your lips should be attached to the end of the list as a way of reinforcing the last two sins.”[8] To this I agree. Anger, rage, and malice may give rise to the abusive speech, but are not necessarily actual speech. (3) The phrase leads to the next item, which is given in the voice of a command.

·         Do not lie to one another (3:9). While most do not see this as a continuation of the vice list, I believe it does. Thus, it is the sixth vice. It is a natural continuation and summation of the vice list.[9]  To lie is to deliberately tell an untruth. Like slander and abusive speech, it comes from the mouth. It is also direct disobedience to the law (Exod. 20:16; Lev. 19:11, 18; Deut. 5:20). The act of lying is much deeper than telling a falsehood, to lie to deny the Truth of God (Rom. 1:25, 2:8). This speaks directly to members of the church, the body of Christ. By doing this, believers are denying the reality of their redemption and are hypocritical of who they are in Christ. Their life is a lie.

This list ends with this imperative. It is also transitional in nature for it gives a conclusion to the vice list, and introduces the next list (3:9-17). This ends the negative list and begins a positive list as seen by the words put off and put on. (3:9-10). It clearly marks the reasons for believer’s abandonment of the old ways and live in the new.  The phrase, “since you laid aside the old self with its practices” (3:9). This indicates that the believer is to have already taken off the old life or way of living; for he has passed from death to life, from being in Adam to being in Christ. He however must appropriate who he is in Christ and put off the practices of the old way of life. Yet, in spite of all this, Paul finds it necessary to command them to put off such practices. Paul recognized the reality of sin in the believer’s life, and tells them to do away with such sinful practices. Campbell reminds us that the “instructions to put off the old man would be irrelevant if believers have only one nature (Eph. 4:22 cf. Rom 13:12; Eph. 4:25).[10] Believers are not sinless, but we are to sin less; living more and more in the new way of life instruction by Paul.

To be continued…

[1]  H. Wayne House, “The Christian Life according to Colossians,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, December 1994, 450.
[3]  S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “Christian Apparel,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 1964, 26.
[4]  Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, 51.
[6]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 135. Also see O’Brien, 188; Pao, 223.
[7]  Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS, 262-264.
[8]  Ibid, 263.
[9]   Ibid, 264; O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 188
[10]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 136.