What About Dreams? A Biblical and Pastoral Consideration

illuminated neon sign

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

In the Bible, we come across a number of places where dreams play a role in advancing the story of God’s people. For instance,

  • In Genesis 20 God protected Abimelech, king of Gerar, from sleeping with Sarah by means of a dream.
  • In Genesis 28 God met Jacob in a dream, revealing to him his presence in the land of Canaan.
  • In Genesis 31 the Angel of God told Jacob to leave Laban and return to Canaan.
  • In Genesis 37 Joseph has multiple dreams that foretell his future rise to power; in Genesis 40 Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker; and in Genesis 41 he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh.

In reading these dream accounts, the thoughtful reader may ask—Does God still speak through dreams today? Indeed, throughout the Scripture we find God leading his people with dreams. And today, we hear rumbles that Muslims and others are coming to faith in Christ by dreams.

Put this altogether and we might wonder, what should we think of dreams—in the Bible and today? The answer requires nuance, a full look at Scripture, and especially attention to the changes between the old covenant and the new. Yet, when we keep an eye on all those factors, we can give an open-handed answer to this question. Continue reading

From the First Adam to the Last Adam: 15 Quotations from ‘Christ from Beginning to End’

christ.jpegWhen one of my closest friends (Trent Hunter) and my doctoral supervisor (Stephen Wellum) write a book together on biblical theology, it is not surprising I’d commend it. In fact, I did that months before it came out and as soon as it came out, I assigned our “Theology Thursday” book study, a men’s group at our church, to discuss Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of ChristWe’ll do that Thursday, but before then let me say a couple things about this new book.

In this biblical theology the reader will find a well-crafted but non-technical summary of the Bible which helps people understand how to read the Bible and what is in the Bible. Following the trajectory of the biblical covenants (with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and Christ), Christ from Beginning to End incorporates a biblical vision which I have shared with them in personal discussions and teaching for the last decade.

In fact, the book itself comes from the teaching ministry of Dr. Wellum at Southern Seminary and Ninth & O Baptist Church, where Trent worked with Dr. Wellum in his Sunday School class. This is where I met them both, and I rejoice in the publication of this book, as it so well-expresses the way I hold the Bible—as a result, no doubt, of my time spent with Dr. Wellum. Still in reading this book, one feature stood out above the rest, and one I want to highlight it here.

From beginning to end, Wellum and Hunter make a strong connection between the first and last Adam. In fact, somewhere in the middle of reading, I realized that I can’t think of another biblical theology that does as a good a job of connecting Adam to the rest of the Bible. With meticulous consistency, they show how each biblical covenant mediates the gap between Adam and Christ, and how figures like Abraham, Israel, and David both repeat Adam and anticipate the Second Adam (Christ).

Indeed, without having read the book I was already giving it away, because of my close friendship with both of these brothers. But now having read it, I commend it for a fresh reason. If you want to understand the Bible’s Adam-Christ typology, a framework that fills Paul’s letters (e.g., Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) and the rest of the New Testament (e.g., Hebrews 1–2), Wellum and Hunter’s book is the place to begin.

In addition to giving a biblical framework for the world (i.e., creation-fall-redemption-new creation) and expounding how the biblical covenants work their way towards Jesus Christ, this attention to Adam helps us understand how Christ is more than a New Israel or a Savior of our own making. He is the true man (Adam) and the one who is both God and the Son of God, according to the biblical covenants, who has come to bring redemption to all the nations—just as God promised Adam (Genesis 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3), Israel (Exodus 19:5–6), and David (1 Samuel 7:19; cf. Psalm 72).

In what follows, therefore, I share 15 quotes from Christ from Beginning to End which I pray may help you see the role of Adam in the Scripture. At the same time, if these quotes pique your interest in biblical theology and Adam’s role in God’s redemptive history, I encourage you to pick up this book and read through it. Better yet, pick up a handful of copies, share them with friends, and then meet to discuss. That’s what we are doing on Thursday. You should do the same. Continue reading

On Typology: Ten Axioms from God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants

ktcIn the opening pages of their “concise biblical theology,” God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants (GKTGC), Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry lay out a description of typology that is worth considering. In what follows, I’ve synthesized their discussion into ten axioms. All of the quotations are from GKTGC; the references to other authors are found in their discussion (pp. 38–43). I’ve also taken the liberty comment and expand their thoughts in a few places.

1. Typology is not allegory.

This is an important distinction, one that is often confused. Wellum and Gentry write, “The major difference is that typology is grounded in history, the text, and intertextual development, where various ‘persons, events, and institutions’ are intended by God to correspond to each other, while allegory assumes none of these things.” Moreover, “‘allegorical interpretation’ depends on some kind of extratextual grid to warrant its explanation.” (38)

2. Typology is textual-historical.

Citing Richard Davidson,  Wellum and Gentry explain, “Typology is symbolism rooted in historical and textual realities.” But more than isolated (synchronic) symbols scattered in Scripture, biblical types (i.e., redemptive events explained by inspired Scripture) fit into a larger system of revelation. Richard Lints defines this when he says, “The typological relationship is a central means by which particular epochal and textual horizons are linked to later horizons in redemptive revelation.” (39) Continue reading

An Explanation and Evaluation of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Last year, our Systematic Theology Colloquium at SBTS discussed the growing movement among evangelical scholars called Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS).  Since our class was comprised of students committed to the full inerrancy of Scripture, it was skeptical because of  the movement’s uncertain Scriptural foundation. You can see my evaluation here.

This summer in a far more comprehensive fashion, the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) published a series of articles explaining and evaluating TIS.  Online you can find Steve Wellum’s introductory editorial where he raises a number of questions that must be answered concerning TIS.  In his introduction he describes TIS “as a broad and diverse movement comprised of biblical scholars and theologians who are mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and evangelicals and who are attempting to recover the authority of the Bible and to return it to the church. Obviously this raises the question as to what TIS is recovering the Bible from and the answer to this question helps describe why it has arisen.”

He notes that “a majority of those in the TIS movement arise out of non-evangelical circles since, like Karl Barth before them (who is often viewed as the “founder” of the movement), they are attempting to recover the Bible’s voice by rejecting the liberalism they were taught and raised in.”  With such ambiguity on the Bible, it raises questions (for me at least) as to how long this movement can last without an agreement on Scripture, or how long “evangelical” pastor-scholars, who affirm inerrancy, can remain in their circles.

As this movement is having increasing impact in scholarship (which always trickles down to the church) and is attracting many evangelicals (e.g. Kevin Vanhoozer, Daniel Treier, Jonathan Pennington), its develop should be watched and analyzed.

If you are interested in tracking down the journal, here is what you will find.

Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum, “Reflecting upon the ‘Theological Interpretation of Scripture‘”

Daniel J. Treier and Uche Anizor, “Theological Interpretation of Scripture and Evangelical Systematic Theology: Iron Sharpening Iron?”

Stephen Dempster, “‘A Light in a Dark Place’: A Tale of Two Kings and Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament”

Gregg R. Allison, “Theological Interpretation of Scripture: An Introduction and Preliminary Evaluation”

Keith Goad, “Gregory as a Model of Theological Interpretation”

Robert L. Plummer, “Righteousness and Peace Kiss: The Reconciliation of Authorial Intent and Biblical Typology”

James M. Hamilton Jr., “John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch: A Review Essay”

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Psalm 137:9 and the Imprecatory Psalms

Here is a post from Wellum’s Couples“Wednesday Word.”  It is a summary of Dr. Wellum’s biblical-theological consideration of the Imprecatory Psalms from Sunday, August 31, 2008.

The imprecatory psalms are some of the most shocking words in the Bible. Take Psalm 137:9: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” This week, Dr. Wellum walked through these challenging verses in the Psalter and encouraged students of the Bible to read these verses in the full context of God’s revelation.

A Christ-Centered Interpretation
Due to the shocking nature of many of these imprecatory psalms, three primary interpretive responses have been proffered. Some have attempted to dismiss the imprecatory psalms as vengeful cries from a primitive people. Unfortunately, in making this assertion they disregard Scripture’s unity and authority, and they make themselves self-sufficient arbiters of God’s Word. A second approach is similar. In the progress of redemption and revelation, the New Testament imperative to love your enemies has trumped this Old Testament ethic of retribution. While acknowledging the place of these psalms in history, they make them out to be obsolete. The problem again is that this method disjoints the Bible, when in fact the NT interprets these psalms in light of Christ.

A third approach, advocated by Dr. Wellum, is to read these imprecations in the light of Christ. As we put these Davidic words in Jesus’ mouth, we begin to understand his pleas from the cross. Likewise, we better understand the purpose of these troubled psalms. On this side of the cross, we can read these psalms fearfully as we consider the eschatological retribution that will be poured out on Christ’s aggressors, who have not trusted in his own wrath-bearing atonement. This nuanced approach is most faithful to the Bible and most in accord with the progress of revelation.

A Biblical-Historical Context
To understand these wrathful psalms it is necessary to put them in their proper place in redemptive history. Since the uprising in the garden, all creation has been sentenced under a curse to receive the judgment of God (Gen. 3:14-19; cf. Rom. 8:19-22). Appropriately, the imprecatory psalms excoriate those persons, nations, and societies that wage war with God—in truth, this is all humanity. Simultaneously, the imprecatory psalms assert the coming vindication of God. In Genesis 3:15, a ray of light shines in the cursed skies, “a seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent.” This promise is embedded in the context of cosmic conflict—the serpent’s offspring will rage against the children of God (cf. Ps. 2). This spiritual warfare must be seen as the underlining context of the imprecatory psalms.

Carried out in the fullness of time, this head-crushing seed of the women is Jesus Christ. Contending in his life against the powers and principalities, he is hoisted on a cross to die. This act of weakness turns out to be his moment of triumph, for in his death delivers to Satan his death blow (cf. Col. 2:15; Rev. 12). The imprecatory psalms point to this eschatological event (Ps. 69; cf. Matt. 27:34; Jn. 19:28ff). On the cross, Jesus Christ endured the imprecatory wrath called down on the enemies of God, and he did this in order to reconcile enemies of God to the Father (cf. Rom. 5:10). In this light then, the destruction of the Babylonian children in Psalm 137 is seen as imagery depicting the serpent’s demise. Moreover, Psalm 137:9, written in under the skies of Babylon, retells the hope of the proto-evangelium, a seed-crushing son. This is also explains the counter-intuitive notion that the destroyer of reptilian infants is “blessed.”

Modern sensitivities may militate against such violent language, but the biblical notion of peace comes at the price of blood. The imprecatory psalms are cries of justice for the Righteous God to carry out his judgment. This was done through military conflict in the OT (i.e. the language of the imprecatory psalms), and in the NT it was finished on the cross. Today, as we read these challenging verses we are confronted to ask ourselves, “What Spirit shall we hear?” The spirit of this age tells us to dismiss these hard sayings as archaic folly, but the Spirit of Christ points us to swallow these bitter words and look to the cross and to the end of the age when Jesus will come again to put all things under his feet.

As we close, consider three applications: 1) Renewing our minds with the message of these psalms affirms in our own hearts the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of humanity; 2) Embracing these imprecations moves us to exalt God in his mercy and in his justice; and 3) Petitioning God according to these Psalms prepares us for the Day of Judgment, and prompts us to cling to the cross.

May we this week cry out to God, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! And may we tell everyone we know how to escape the coming wrath foretold in the imprecatory psalms.

Listen to the whole lesson: The Imprecatory Psalms

Biblical Theology: Word-driven, Kingdom-focused, Christ-centered

One month into my blogging at Via Emmaus, I have begun to consider, what is the overall aim and purpose of my writing. Why do I take time to sit at an impersonal computer screen and write thoughts that may never be read? If they are read, will they simply be deconstructive arguments against the fallen world in which we live, or will they be something more constructive and positive? Will they simply respond to events in the world at large and my world in particular, or will they endeavor to offer something substantive? Will they be an exercise in simply cataloging ideas from my studies at Southern and the array of weekly readings I am assigned, or will they offer anything fresh? Will they be a follow-up to lessons I have taught and/or sermons that I have preached, or will they consider other relevant matters of biblical thought? Well, perhaps they will include some or all of these elements, but as I have thought about it this week, I think the focus is becoming more clear. And my hope is to consider more intentionally a Word-driven, Kingdom-focused, Christ-centered Biblical Theology and how this vision of redemptive history and the gospel call intersects all of life.

Prior to coming to SBTS, Biblical Theology was a subject matter that I enjoyed and considered often. Since arriving in Louisville in 2004, it is something that has grown and developed–perhaps more than any other area of discipline in my academic life. Taking classes with Drs. Russell Moore, Thomas Schreiner, and Steve Wellum has stimulated this kind of thinking; reading books by these professors along with works by Graeme Goldsworthy, Edmund Clowney, Wiiliam Dumbrell, Geerhardus Vos, and others many has contributed significantly to this growing passion. Biblical Theology and its intersection with the church, ministry, and daily living is something that interests me greatly and something of worthy of greater consideration.

For instance, most recently a friend of mine mentioned how he currently serves in a position of administration at an evangelical school. It is something that he enjoys as he continues his education, but it is not something he sees himself doing forever. Similarly, I am working in a position of administration at Southern Seminary. And in hearing his thoughts, which resonate with mine, the thought(s) arose: What is a biblical theology of administration? How does administration fit in the plan of redemption and in the world that God created? How does a school administrator at a divinity school carry out the Great Commission? In what ways can my daily service be improved by a biblical understanding and vision of administration? In short, what does the Bible say about administration? Who were administrators in the Bible? Certainly Joseph, Daniel, and the seven deacons chosen in Acts 6 served in such a capacity. Who else?

All that to say, thinking biblical-theologically about all these things helps me understand the life that God has given me, the world in which I live, and the nuanced application of how I can participate in the Great Commission, and how we together are to do church and proclaim the gospel. These are all things that interest me and hopefully will receive much more specific attention on this website. As the old adage goes, if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. So in opposition to this danger, I take aim at thinking more about Biblical Theology and writing more intentionally about the subject.

May the Lord Jesus Christ be pleased to allow such conversation, discussion, and reflection on his all-wise plan of redemption–according to his Word, about His kingdom and His church, and for the glory of His name.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss