BOOK REVIEW: The Ultimate Proof of Creation

The Ultimate Proof of Creation

“It is time to get to the real heart of the issue and rationally resolve the origins debate.” Dr. Jason Lisle

Overview: It is a bold claim, Dr. Lisle confesses in his introduction, to assert to be in possession of the ultimate proof of creationism. Does such a proof even exist in that it can claim to be ultimate? Dr. Lisle’s book sets out to prove biblically, rationally, logically, and scientifically that there is such a thing as this proof. This book is a wonderful primer to presuppositional apologetics, and whether you are educated, curious, or skeptical about presuppositionalism, this work serves as an extensive introduction to the methodology and reasoning behind this more hotly-contested apologetical approach.

Appraisal: I would be remiss if I did not mention the easy-to-read style with which Dr. Lisle writes. One of the most immediate things that struck me while reading was the style and eloquence that so visibly flows from his pen. He presents the aspects of presuppositionalism in a manner that the newest inductee to apologetics may comprehensively grasp the points of his writing. If the reader in himself contains the slightest ability or desire to think rationally and logically about his beliefs, this book’s clarity and conciseness is a treasure. Among the writing, Dr. Lisle also includes several graphics that also help to condense the themes of that section or chapter into an easy-to-remember visual. In my opinion, the two most beneficial sections of this book are his two chapters upon logical fallacies that the evolutionist often commits (and sometimes even the creationist). He provides many examples and ways of recognizing and refuting both formal and informal logical fallacies in conversation or debate. These sections were an eye-opener for me, and his lists and explanations of fallacies are sure to be useful to me in my future apologetics. The end of the book was also incredibly helpful, as Dr. Lisle includes a wealth of examples of threads of emails from actual critics and his responses to them. Reading these, I was able to practice identifying almost every sort of fallacious thinking the unbeliever will commit, along with learning how to respond in a firm yet righteous manner.

Criticism: I understand that this book is not meant to be an explanation of all the existing methods of apologetics that have ever existed. However, one thing that I wish had been included in this work is perhaps a chapter on other types of existing apologetics that are employed by other believers. Besides evidentialism, there is not much explanation or refute of other ideologies. However, I recognize that in his deep analyzation of presuppositionalism, other method’s inconsistencies and failures can be logically inferred. I simply wish that these other forms and types (such as classical apologetics) had been identified and described on at least a surface level.

Recommendation: Nevertheless, there is an abundant trove of other resources on the countless methodological approaches to evangelism and apologetics, and Dr. Lisle did not set out to provide an encyclopedia covering them. His work is a marvelous introduction to presuppositional apologetics, and can easily serve as a primer into other presuppositional heavy thinkers such as Greg Bahnsen or Cornelius Van Til. If you are interested about the mindset behind, or are looking to improve your apologetic skills, this book will not let you down. I with utmost clarity recommend Dr. Lisle’s book, and firmly believe it will be a relied upon resource of mine for years to come.

Grade: 9/10


Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Proof-Creation-Jason-Lisle/dp/0890515689


PC: Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

The Death of God and the Birth of Idols: Nietzsche’s Pronouncement and Christian Theism

A Life Without God, A Life Without Value

“Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the marketplace calling out unceasingly: ‘I seek God! I seek God!’ As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! Is he lost? Said one. Has he strayed away like a child? Said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? The people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. ‘Where is God gone?’ he called out.

I mean to tell you! We have killed him—you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How are we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on uncertainty? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as though infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the voice of the gravediggers who are bearing God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? For even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murders? The holiest and mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife—who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what scared games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event—and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 103.)

If God is dead, what becomes of the world? Can a world make sense without God? Will not everything have to be turned upside down? Does any part of this world remain unaffected? Can there be a sacred piece unshaken by the fall of the Almighty? Can there be a world without God? Has mankind by their crime undone all meaning? What is man without God? Is he even a man? What is man? Can creation declare independence from its creator? In rejecting God can he keep himself? If God is dead, what becomes of the world in which he once existed? This is where Nietzsche comes in.

“‘God is dead,’ Nietzsche proclaimed. But he did not say this in triumph (Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 195). “Rather he said it in the anguished tones of the most powerful and delicate piety deprived of its proper object. Man, who loved and needed God, has lost his Father and Savoir without possibility of resurrection.” (Bloom, 196). “Nietzsche replaces easygoing or self-satisfied atheism with agonized atheism, suffering its human consequences” (Bloom 197). Emancipation came at a cost. One in which the Enlightenment writers didn’t foresee. The reasonableness that incited the Enlightenment proved unreasonable to those subjected to it. The Age of Reason promised redemption from the old and outdated, without ever giving thought to the cruel realities that were lying in wait for all who believed. An entire generation of revolutionaries, reasonable men, passionately seized, converted, then driven to a man made paradise just out of reach. The demise came before the ascent. Nietzsche saw that the Enlightenment’s defeat was mankind’s failure to grasp the situation. They were so busy butchering religious authority to ask what would be left after the deed was done.

Their fatal flaw was the very thing they renounced—the necessity of God. Rejecting God meant also rejecting God’s world. But what was lost in the process? God created the world out of nothing. God established the heavens and the earth. God gave man morality. God separated darkness from light, good from evil, heaven from hell. God created order and gave meaning. Rationality found its grounding in God; Causation its intelligibility; Man his identity, the world its purpose. All was dependent on God. “The men of the Enlightenment did not know that the cosmos would rebel at the deed, and the world became ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’” (Bloom, 196). “Behold what has happened,” the Madman cried.

By Nietzsche’s time, metaphysics had long become an ancient ruin. Epistemology was mortally ill and ethics had been so defiled and maltreated it was hardly recognizable. French genocide was the outcome of Enlightenment rationality. Nietzsche concluded that rationalism was unable to rule the soul (Bloom, 196), “that it cannot defend itself theoretically and that its human consequences are intolerable” (Bloom, 196). “Modern man is longing, or has lost, the capacity to value, and therewith his humanity” (Bloom 197-198).

The Encompassing Void

Now, remember how the unbelievers responded to the madman in the story? They laughed and made jokes about what the man was saying. What happened next is extremely insightful, “Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. ‘I have come too early,’ he then said, ‘I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling— it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars need time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star—and yet they have done it!’” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 104). 

The Madman saw the condition and diagnosed the situation as terminal. Enlightenment Rationality had no epistemic foundation and lacked metaphysical footing. Man has untied himself from certainty to drift aimlessly in doubt. Clutching for meaning the Madman cries, “Do we not dash on uncertainty?” Can one be enlightened in the dark? He asks, “Has it not become colder?” Has not the rejection of God, brought the dejection of man? Has not everything taken on a gray meaninglessness? The world has dulled till gray. Exhausted, man settles into a moribund apathy. Nihilism has always welcomed the crippled, broken and vulnerable. “Man can not live under these withering conditions,” the Madman cries. It breaks a man before it devours him.

The crowd around that Madman is the dilemma. They are still blind to their own doing. They take the death of God lightly because they see no need for him. They feel no distress—but the madman knows there is more at stake than just abstract philosophical theories. He knows “Religion, or the sacred, is the most important human phenomenon” (Bloom, 195) Man is by nature religious. Even the men of the Enlightenment who claimed to have no religion were religious about what they believed. The Madman knew to be without religion is to be without value. The dead of God is the dead of value

“Nietzsche says that modern man is losing, or has lost, the capacity to value, and therewith his humanity” (Bloom, 197-198). Man believes himself to be in an irreligious world; yet haunted by a need to be religious. “Longing to believe, along with intransigent refusal to satisfy that longing, is, according to Nietzsche, the profound response to our entire spiritual condition” (Bloom, 196).  

A Purported Hope

Nietzsche’s solution to man’s problem is to reject Enlightenment philosophy and to bring man into a new Religion. The Enlightenment killed the Christian God but deserted man soon after the exodus. The great revolution was better at tearing down the old than building the new. Nihilism has been housing mankind ever since. Though it is deadly, Nietzsche saw it as a necessary stage in human history.

Nihilism breaks a man but man must leave its dwelling before it devours him. Nihilism is only a go-between that prepares man for a new religious awakening. Man must do what mankind has always done when their religion dies, they must build a new one. This religion will bring with it new morality and meaning so that man can be fully human, if he doesn’t, he will waste away under the cruel tyranny of Nihilism.

But where does one get a new religion? “Nietzsche was ineluctably led to meditation on the coming to be of God . . . for God is the highest value, on which others depend. God is not creative, for God is not. But God as made by man reflects what man is, unbeknownst to himself . . . man makes something, God out of nothing” (Bloom, 199). For Nietzsche, the creation of a religion is psychological. This creativity for making religion comes from the subconscious; from some place deep and hidden in the human psyche. Most men are not able to build a new religion. “The rarest of men is the creator, and all other men need and follow him . . . It is not the truth of their thought that distinguished them, but its capacity to generate culture. A value is only a value if it is life-preserving and life-enhancing” (Bloom 201). “Producing values and believing in them are acts of the will. Lack of will, not lack of understanding, becomes the crucial defect . . . Commitment is the equivalent of faith when the living God has been supplanted by self-provided values . . . Commitment values the values and makes them valuable.” It’s the “Will to Value” (Bloom 201).

Nietzsche’s understood that nihilism is all encompassing so the solution to Nihilism must be all encompassing. Man needs religion, this is true, but religion is not an end in itself. The goal of religion is the establishing of a culture. This culture is man’s highest good. Culture is what shapes and defines the world. “Man needs culture and must do what is necessary to create and maintain cultures . . . Culture is, from his point of view, the only framework within which to account for what is specifically human in man. Man is pure becoming, unlike any other being in nature; and it is in culture that he becomes something that transcends nature and has no other mode of existence and no other support than a particular culture” (Bloom, 202-203). The highest Standard in a man’s worldview is his culture. Man’s actuality is shaped by culture alone. All man’s reasoning, habits, rituals, customs and values are shaped by his culture. Even his thinking patterns are shaped by the culture a man is in. Rationally itself is culturally based. In Nietzsche’s eyes, the Enlightenment left man without, yes value, rationality and religion, but most of all it took away what man needs most—culture.

Christ Our Life, Better Than The Idols

Nietzsche understood that man needed a religion, but he didn’t think it had to be true. Religion was nothing more than a cultural value system made by a self-appointed authority to meet the psychological needs of the masses. Truth has nothing to do with it. It’s about one great man creating a new religion that he then imposes on other men who don’t have his same abilities. Nietzsche claims that all religions, yes, all ideologies are nothing more than the will to power—nothing more than a power game. What about Nietzsche’s own philosophy, is this a “will to power”? His answer is a bit surprising. He said it is. Yet, he still claims that the new philosopher is the people’s savoir because he saves them out of Nihilism. He brings to them new myths, religions and values—he establishes a culture that gives order to a meaningless existence.

The Madman’s conclusions were right but Nietzsche’s solutions were wrong.

The Madman shines his lantern on the problem of our day. The loss of value is not a neutral thing. That loss births an existential crisis. The death of God is devastating. The destruction of one’s worldview is overwhelming. Man cannot bear up under it.

When anyone experiences a drastic change in their worldview it is easy for them to fall into Nihilism. What they believed to be so certain and secure has crumbled before their very eyes. It is no wonder that many begin to doubt meaning and value altogether. Nietzsche’s form: Dead of the Old, Then Nihilism, then birth of the New is a powerful way to consider history, but it is not ultimate. One example of this form is the rise of the Third Reich. After World War I, Germany was reduced to a kind of cultural Nihilism. All that had meaning and worth was destroyed by foreign Nations. The old value system had died leaving the German people in ruin. Germany was religiously, politically and culturally bankrupt. Form the ashes of this Nihilism rose a man who proclaimed a new religion—this man was Adolf Hitler. His new ideology was all encompassing. Religion, politics and culture transformed. He was the German people’s savoir because he saved them out of Nihilistic existence. He gave to them new myths and values. He gave them a religion and a savoir. He establishes a culture that gave order to a their existence.

The Nazi party fulfills all that Nietzsche calls for in a new religion. It gave the German people a new culture, logic, value system and religion. What could be wrong? They were saved from their Nihilistic slavery. Hitler produced a life-preserving and life-enhancing culture for his people. Let history show that other nations even recognized this in the early years of the Third Reich. The economy was booming. In 1936, even the Olympic games were hosted by the Germany with the Nazi party. It was a time of thriving—just not for all.

The same man who was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine in 1938 was the same man who led the German people in a global war in 1939. The self-proclaimed Savoir was also committing mass genocide. It turns out that the same horrors committed in the Enlightenment are the same horrors committed under this new religion. This new religion destroyed the German people. Even what they had was taken away. After World War II, there was nothing left. The peoples’ new found culture went the same way as their leader—dead at their own hands. Nietzsche’s argument assumes that any movement that gives its people an ideology is better than Nihilism, but there is a fate worse than Nihilism.

Conclusion: Wisdom For The Asking

The Madman shares the same concern as the Christian. He sees what happens when men abandon their creator. Nihilism is the conclusion of rejecting God. All philosophy done apart from God is reduced to subjectivism. Subjectivism then is reduced to meaninglessness. Meaninglessness is Nihilism. The Madman argument should cause the crowd to stop and think. His argument calls men to return to God. Nietzsche’s solution is nothing more than the building of an idol. The thing about idolatry is that it degrades and destroys all who will follow it. It promises a new light but delivers a deathblow. End the final analysis, the Enlightenment and Nietzsche’s philosophy bring men to the same end because they are cut from the same cloth. Both are idolatry and both bring an idol’s fruit—death.

Citations
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Thomas Common, Paul V. Cohn, and Maude Dominica Petre. The Gay Science. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008.

Bloom, Allan David. Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Nietzsche, Friedrich, and Reginald J. Hollingdale. Beyond Good and Evil. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

The Greatest Story Ever Told: Defining Biblical Theology

Biblical theology has become a well ingrained field that is daily explored by many scholars, pastors, and those engrossed in biblical studies. It is such a common field that one will perhaps even encounter it in passing on an internet blog or a discussion after the church service. If only in passing, it almost seems self-evident what a person casually mentioning “biblical theology” means. Some think that the technical term “Biblical Theology” simply refers to a theology that is biblical. However, while all theology or any organized thought concerning God ought to be “biblical” in the sense that its core and foundation comes from Scripture, that is not what we mean when they we are talking about “Biblical Theology.” So just what is Biblical Theology?

There are many definitions provided by qualified pastors and teachers that an individual may consult (see below for recommended reading). For our purposes, Biblical Theology may be defined as a method of studying the Bible and organizing the many ideas it teaches from a literary, historical, and redemptive progression. Principally, it is a methodology for understanding Christ’s whole Word in a better and more organized fashion that flows from a narratival and progressive reading of the text. Thus, it is a literary approach because it is sensitive to the fact that Scripture is, as the late theologian Geerhardus Vos notes, “…largely a historical narrative filled with dramatic interest…” (Vos, 17). It is historical because it tries to understand how God gradually reveals himself and his purposes over the course of earth’s history. It focuses on the redemptive progression as the story of the Bible is witnessed through  God’s redemptive acts towards a fallen humanity and creation. In essence, Biblical Theology is used to see how everything in Scripture fits together as a progressive unfolding of history.

Generally, specific themes are picked as an organizing principle through which the biblical theologian will survey the progressive development of that theme from the beginning to the end of Scripture. Unlike Systematic Theology, which seeks to logically organize everything Scripture has to say about a given doctrine, Biblical Theology traces the historical progress of a particular doctrine or theme in order to properly appreciate how it is developed organically through the passing of time. Geerhardus Vos famously contrasts Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology with the imagery of a circle versus a line (Vos, 16). He notes that Systematic Theology’s organizing principle is “one of logical construction” of all the relevant Scriptural data, which creates a circle, presumably to show the overarching interconnectedness of all the Bible has to say about a particular doctrine (Vos, 16). For Biblical Theology, he suggests its organizing principle is the historical flow of Scripture, seen as a progression of a line (A ——- Z as it were) (Vos, 16).

Biblical Theology provides a constant reminder of the complexity of how we have learned what we know about our faith, as well as reminding our hearts afresh of the “depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” which He reveals over the span of millennia his plan to save a people unto himself. From this perspective, G. K. Beale (relying heavily upon Vos’ insights) notes that Biblical Theology examines each book in its literary context in light of where it is in redemptive history and then considers what came before it and what comes after it (Beale, 9). Thus, literary, historical, and redemptive-progressive aspects are essential to Biblical Theology . On account of this, one can better understand the “progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity” (Beale quoting Vos, 9). Or in other words, Biblical Theology allows one to appreciate the harmonious unity of Scripture’s overall story and pick up further upon its complex beauty.

Now, while I have contrasted Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology to help show how they are different methodologies, this should not be confused for separating the two disciplines. In an age where specialization is an inescapable fact of life and the university does nothing to universalize the various fields of study occurring within its halls, it is easy to isolate different theological methodologies from one another. The Biblical Theologian does their thing, the Historical Theologian does theirs, the Systematic Theologians does theirs, while the Practical Theologian and Missiologist are in their own worlds entirely. This is a tragic casualty of specialization, and while there is nothing wrong with having interests or strengths in one method over the other, it is detrimental to them all when they are not being harmonized. Biblical Theology needs Systematic Theology or it loses its orthodox moorings and degenerates into an allegorical free-for-all. Systematic Theology needs Biblical Theology or it risks ignoring less obvious parallels that would strengthen it as a whole, or at worse become a mere exercise of logical prowess without an ounce of poetic sentiment. With that necessary qualification aside, we must explore what Biblical Theology actually looks like in use.

An easily relatable example of Biblical Theology in action would be to ask, “How does Scripture reveal who God’s Messiah is going to be?” Of course, the Biblical Theologian already begins with the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ, but the many ways the New Testament proves this point come to greater light when one examines the unfolding revelation of the Messiah’s identity through the Old Testament. The easiest beginning to this would be Genesis 3.15, where God promises a single “he” will crush the head of the “serpent,” implying salvation for the offspring or children of the woman in contrast to the children of the serpent. From there, the Biblical Theologian will trace through the godly line where various figures exemplify a life lived through faith (Abel, Seth, Noah) until they arrive at Abraham. God promises to bless all the nations in his seed (Gen 12), which picks up the need for saving the nations because of Babel (Gen 11). Abraham is eventually promised a particular seed will bless the nations (Gal 3.16, Gen 17.7). Isaac is shown to be the child of promise (Gen 17), but then his line is narrowed with the coming of Jacob (Gen 25).  The line of promise seems to widen again with Jacob’s twelve sons (Gen 29-35). However, of his sons, only Judah is promised a scepter or kingship from his line (Gen 49.8-12). While Moses is a faithful servant in all God’s house (Heb 3.2), Aaron’s line within Levi is given the priesthood (Lev 8), and Joshua lives up to his forefather Joseph’s (the father of Ephraim) name (Josh 24.31), the kingly line is nevertheless confirmed by the rejection of Ephraim (Ps 78) and Benjamin (1 Sam 15) and given to the descendent of Judah, king David (2 Sam 7). David is then promised a dynasty that will never cease and that his “son” will build God a house (1 King 8, 2 Chron 7, John 2). Solomon’s house is later destroyed by Babylon (2 King 25), and the Davidic kingdom seems shattered. But, when Israel has been left without a voice for centuries, an angel appears to Mary, a descendant of David who is betrothed to a descendant of David, and promises that she, a virgin woman, will give birth to the Son of God and he will inherit his “father” David’s throne (Luke 1.26-37). Thus, Matthew’s genealogy highlights Jesus is the Son of David and the Son or seed of Abraham (Matt 1.1). The promised offspring of the woman, the “he” has come to crush the head of the serpent by offering himself (bruising of his heel) up as a perfect sacrifice to God. Thus, the historical unveiling of the Messiah is shown through the tracing of the genealogies of mankind.

Of course, just that examination alone could be greatly enhanced, but it must be observed that this interpretation is assisted by an illustrious history of theologians throughout church history (thus Historical Theology aided this). Systematic theology can also assist the biblical theologian by reminding them that the Messiah is understood in Scripture, summarized in the Creed of Chalcedon, as being the eternal Son of God, yet taking to himself a full human nature, body and soul. In exploring this truth, the systematic theologian would point out that John begins his gospel by discussing the preexistent divinity of the Son, while also noting that in Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, God speaks of appointing a “Son” and a “Lord” over the nations. They would also note that the plan for Christ to reconcile all things in himself stems from the eternal plan of God from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1). With these helpful contributions, the Biblical Theologian would then push their examination of the identity of the Messiah before Genesis 3.15 and begin with Genesis 1.1. The Son who will become the incarnate Messiah, through whom God is reconciling all things to himself, is creating all things through the Word before his incarnation. Thus, when they are considering the question of “the identity of the Messiah”, they will broaden their vision to see that the coming Messiah’s new creation activity flows from the fact he is already the one who created all things good before the Fall (Col 1.15-20).

Presumably, even for readers who are unfamiliar with the term “Biblical Theology”, they are used to reading and understanding the Bible from the vantage point of Biblical Theology. Thinking chronologically of a story is something everyone is used to by virtue of their own birth and growth. Some insights of Biblical Theology are at times startling upon first examining them, but make sense upon further reflection (if they are actually exegetically sound insights). Most people instinctively think of at least portions of their theology in a Biblical Theological manner. So, while it did not come into its own as a particularized field until the 1800s (and this under suspect intentions, see Vos’ introduction in his Biblical Theology), the work of Biblical Theology is as old as Scripture itself. The church father Irenaeus (2nd to 3rd century) in his work “On Apostolic Preaching” examines the Christian message as it is prophesied in the unfolding movement of the Old Testament. Even before Irenaeus, the authors of Scripture utilized Biblical Theology.

A superb example of a Biblical Theological method modeled is through Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7. There are several charges laid against him in Acts 6: he speaks words against the temple, the law, Moses, and he is a follower of Jesus. Thus, the “themes” are set before him: temple (and land), law, Moses, identity of the Messiah.

His response to these charges is to survey God’s faithful workings throughout the history of Israel in order to disprove these charges. Even beyond this, he utilizes his theological survey to point to the greater reality that Moses and the Temple were looking forward to: Jesus Christ. He begins by highlighting that the God of glory appeared to Abraham in the land of the Chaldeans (future day Babylon) which means Abraham began life as a Gentile before God came to him. He reminds them that Abraham went to the land they are presently standing upon, but he himself never owned any of it, save a tomb. This implies that the land itself, and the later physical temple it would be built upon, was not his ultimate reward. He was promised that his offspring would inherit it and they would receive the covenant of circumcision. He then jumps to Joseph, who starts a theme of “a chosen leader” who is persecuted and rejected by his fellow countrymen. Joseph is sold into an estate of humiliation with slavery, but raised to exaltation as the one who saves Egypt and his family. Jacob and all the others die and are buried in the tomb that Abraham bought in the promised land. Stephen then shows that God’s promises progress further as the Israelites multiply and Egypt oppresses them. Yet, Moses seeks to defend his brothers since God had sent him to be salvation to Israel, but again, he notes that his “chosen leader” is rejected by his fellow countrymen. Stephen is careful to highlight that Moses was “rejected” by them, but he was sent by God to be a ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This Moses performed wonders and promised that another prophet would be raised up from among the Israelites. Nevertheless, the Israelites continually rejected God’s chosen servant Moses and God’s choice of how he would be worshipped and approached.

Stephen then turns to the issue of the temple, saying it began as a wandering tent in the wilderness and was built according to a pattern Moses had been shown by God (thus a pattern of something greater). After Joshua gives them the land, they are without a temple until the days of David, but it was Solomon who built an earthly house. Stephen quotes Scripture saying God cannot be contained by a human house (Solomon says something similar). Finally, he brings this redemptive survey to a close by making his point: his opponents are descended from their forefathers who have always resisted the Holy Spirit. They have always rejected God’s chosen people, including Moses. They rejected the ones who prophesied the Righteous One (Jesus), and they who received the law have refused to keep it. Thus, in a 50 verse sweep of the Old Testament, Stephen proves that his opponents are the ones who have actually misunderstood Scripture and supremely so by their killing and rejecting of God’s promised Messiah, which is something their forefathers were always doing. Through this Biblical Theological survey, Stephen shows the true intent of the temple, the land, the law, Moses, and the Scriptures while proving that his audience, in spite of their external piety, are the ones who actually reject the true intent of the temple, land, law, Moses, and Scripture.

In brief, his highlighting of the deaths and burial of the patriarchs and prophets contrasts with the risen Jesus, whose resurrection proves he was the promised messiah. His constant emphasis that beloved leaders like Joseph and Moses were raised by God to be rulers and redeemers but were rejected by their brothers is ultimately fulfilled in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the prophet Moses predicted, and he did greater wonders. Finally, Jesus is the true temple (John 2) who fulfills the promises given to Abraham. Beginning to end, it is about Jesus.

Through Stephen’s example, we see Biblical Theology wisely used and faithfully applied. Based on his understanding of Scripture, he could see how it all was fulfilled in Christ. This emboldened him to faithfully serve widows at the table while also powerfully proclaiming the gospel to all his neighbors. His devotion to Christ led to his being the first martyr after the resurrection of Christ, but his faithful interpretation of Scripture was recorded for all the faithful to read and understand. Therefore, Biblical Theology, like all theological study, ought to produce a deeper and richer faith that manifests itself in love of God to the point of death and love of neighbor within and outside the church. Mindful of this, may all God’s followers seek to understand the depths and riches of Christ as revealed from the Law, Prophets, Writings, Gospels, and Epistles.

Charles Hodge on the Messianic Kingdom of Christ

Introduction

Theologians distinguish between God’s sovereign rule over the whole earth as king as abstracted from a particular historical context and Christ’s sovereign rule over a redeemed humanity and cosmos redemptive-historically. The former refers to God’s lordship over the world at all times and everywhere as the sovereign who possesses all authority and control. The latter refers to the incarnate manifestation of the messianic kingdom of Christ in time and space whereby Christ both secures and realizes his lordship redemptive-historically. In order to better understand the messianic, redemptive-historic kingdom of Christ, I explicate Charles Hodges’ doctrine below. Hodge was a systematic theologian at Princeton Seminary before its demise in succumbing to the sweeping tide of liberalism.  

The Old Testament Promise of the Messianic Kingdom

Promised in the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God, as a progressively inaugurated reality is a central theme in Biblical Theology. The center of that kingdom is Jesus Christ, the promised king. It was revealed that he would possess all dominion, authority, and power. Generating from the line of Solomon, and in accordance with that covenant given to Solomon, the Son is to be arrayed, finally, in all glory. His coming will be marked by judgment of all his enemies, the glorification of his church, and the consummation of his kingdom.

The Terminology Predicated of the Messianic Kingdom

This kingdom is revealed in the Scriptures through synonymous terms: the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of the Son of man. Gloriously described, the biblical writers and prophets grasp at its meaning through language reminiscent of the paradisiacal state of man in Eden and the theocratic glory of Solomon in his time of blessing.

Theanthropos: The Lord of the Messianic Kingdom

The Lord and sovereign of this kingdom is the magnificent Christ – the God-man – who rules over his kingdom, not as the Logos (the second person of the Trinity considered before the incarnation), but in his Theanthropic state. The word “Theanthropic” is composed of two root words, Theos (meaning God), and anthropos (meaning man). Together constituted, Hodge refers to the magnificent reign of the Lord Jesus over the kingdom of God as the God-man.   

The Foundation of the Messianic Kingdom

The foundation of this kingdom is two-fold: (1) The infinite glory of the Son of God as God and (2) the redemption of Christ realized through the incarnation. Due to the Logos’ infinite condescension in the incarnation and his perfect obedience in life, God has given him a name which is above every name. The infinite worthiness of Christ is the basis of his infinite condescension (the greater the glory, the greater the humility). This worthiness in relation to his condescension, even unto death on the cross, is the two-fold basis which constitutes his worthiness. Due to his worthiness, and the actual accomplishment of redemption for his people, he is fit to attain a glorious exaltation. This exaltation consists in his resurrection, ascension, enthronement, intercession, and, ultimately, his second coming.  Hodge writes,

“It is because He being equal with God ‘humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,’ that ‘God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (ST: Vol 3. 855).

Key Aspects of the Messianic Kingdom

Hodge describes this redemptive-historical kingdom as “being presented in different aspects in Scripture.” Referring to its extent over all creatures, Hodge refers to it as a “kingdom of power.”  Christ will deliver up to his father after finishing his present work of intercession (his work as a priest before God on the church’s behalf, always praying for them at the right hand of God, even now; 1 Cor 15:24). Referring to God’s people on Earth, the church militant, it is a kingdom characterized chiefly by grace. Hodge refers to Christ as the “absolute proprietor” and “sovereign.” “Proprietor” refers to an ultimate owner. For example, a sole owner of a local business would be its proprietor. “Sovereign”, on the other hand, is a title used in reference to a king. In this respect, Jesus is the Lord God almighty, reigning and ruling over his church as his kingdom even on earth. Finally, regarding the future consummation of that kingdom in the new heavens and earth, the kingdom is a kingdom of glory, an everlasting kingdom. Christ’s headship over his consummate kingdom will continue forever.

The Definitive Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

Hodge affirms that, in a sense, God has always had a kingdom on earth. Yet, he distinguishes the general category of kingdom, which transcends all history, with the “messianic” kingdom of Christ. He believes the messianic aspect of this kingdom began at the incarnation of Christ. He bases this on our Lord’s own preaching of the kingdom in the Gospels (Luke 4:43, 8:1), Jesus’ own pronouncements that He is a king (John 18:37), and the apostolic proclamation consisting in the kingdom of God (Acts 23:23). Men are called to “seek the kingdom” as a present reality. For Hodge, those who receive Jesus truly constitute his earthly kingdom – those who profess allegiance to Christ as king constitute his visible church. Due to the present nature of the kingdom, Hodge pronounces a condemnation on modern eschatological systems denying Christ’s present reign. He states,

“Nothing, therefore, can be more opposed to the plain teaching of the New Testament, than that the kingdom of Christ is yet future and is not to be inaugurated until His second coming. This is to confound its consummation with its commencement.” (ST: Vol 3: 857)

The “Other-Worldly” Nature of the Messianic Kingdom

Central to biblical ethics is the notion of Hodge that this kingdom is essentially “other-worldly.” In other words, the kingdom differs substantially in the present age from the kingdoms of men. It is not a kingdom of earthly power, wealth, and success; rather, it is a kingdom consisting in righteousness, peace, and the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is primarily an internal reality which has external ramifications in the present age. For Hodge, the “conditions of admission” to this kingdom are regeneration (John 3:5), conversion (Matthew 18:3), and holiness of life (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

The Consummate Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

This presently inaugurated messianic kingdom will ultimately be consummated by Christ at the end of the age. Those who are alive on the earth and believe in Jesus will be transformed into his image and likeness. Having beheld the glory of the Lord, they will be beatifically transformed into his image. Other joys the saints will experience in heaven include the manifestation of the glory and love of God, “the indefinite enlargement of their faculties” (their entire person will be made stronger), exemption from sin and sorrow, increase in their knowledge and love of God, and being in the presence of the brethren forever.

The Progressive Aspect of the Messianic Kingdom

In addition to the present/final aspects of the kingdom of God, Hodge teaches that there is a foretaste of the ultimate kingdom which is progressively realized through history. In an “already/but not yet” sort of fashion, the kingdom “gradually progresses” like a “grain of mustard-seed, which is indeed the least of all seeds; but when it is grown…is the greatest among herbs…” (ST Vol 3: 856). For Hodge, the inward grace of regeneration made manifest through the church’s proclamation of the Gospel has practical ramifications regarding the day-to-day experience and enlargement of the kingdom of God on earth.

Postmillennialism

In this vein, Hodge is what theologians refer to as “Post-Millennial.” This means he believes that the second coming of Christ will follow a “thousand year” golden age of Gospel/Moral triumph on earth preceding the second coming of the Messiah. Though many theologians disagree with Hodge as to his views of the millenium, it is hard to disagree exegetically with the overall optimism of his eschatology. The view that there is going to be a future epoch wherein God’s blessings are poured out to a remarkable extent is called “golden age” Postmillenialism (the golden age refers to that epoch of great blessedness). “Golden Age” Postmillenialism is distinguished from a generally optimistic “Postmillenialism” which maintains Hodge’s optimism and kingdom focus, but rejects the so-called “golden age.” In support of the latter view, I would contend that when our Lord and Master bids us to pray that his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, he is not only referring to his ultimate consummate kingdom but also that the kingdom of heaven might be realized, progressively even now.

Conclusion

Hodges’ general eschatological thrust is that of glory regarding the kingdom in substance, righteousness regarding the kingdom morally, and hope regarding the kingdom in its progressively realized and ultimately consumated aspects. Hodge’s kingdom doctrine centers around the sovereign, definitively actualized, progressively realized, and ultimately consummated rule of Jesus Christ over all the world in power, his sheep in grace, and his heavenly delivered people in glory.

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  1. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2013.