January 23, 2004

Which Theologian Are You?

I came across this amusing little what-xxxx-are-you quiz courtesy of the Biblical Theology Weblog. I'm not so surprised at the outcome as the fact that I guessed it correctly beforehand:

"Sin is incurable by the strength of man, nor does free will have any validity here, so that even the saints say: 'The evil which I do not wish, this I do.' 'You are not doing the things which you wish.' 'Since my loins are filled with illusions,' etc."
You are Martin Luther!
Yeah, you have a way of letting everyone know how you feel, usually with Bible quotes attached, and will think your way through the issues, although sometimes you make no sense! You aren't always sure of yourself, and you can change your mind about things, something you actually consider a strength. You can take solitude, especially with some music.

January 22, 2004

Monkeying around

Happy New Year to all my friends (and readers, if you're out there) of Chinese descent.

January 20, 2004

Now you know he's innocent

As I write this, the friend of Michael Jackson, "psychic" spoon-bender Uri Geller is on CNN defending Jackson's innocence on child molestation charges.

Supposedly Michael said under "hypnosis" that the charges were fabricated.

On Jackson's display outside the courtroom following his arraignment, Geller gives him the same pass as all his sycophants: "Sure it wasn't the right thing to do, but it's Michael Jackson. . . . He thinks with his heart instead of his head."

Gee . . . thanks Uri. We can just dispense with the court case now.

January 18, 2004

Mommy's Funny Medicine

Recently published by two local authors: Mommy's Funny Medicine, a children's book about medical marijuana, of all things.

The book features artwork that looks like something that got rejected by the makers of Yellow Submarine and dispenses such wisdom as:

Sometimes Mommy laughs when she has her medicine. Mommy says the medicine makes the pain better, and makes her want to eat more. Boy, does Mommy ever eat!

And sometimes Mommy says things like "Whoah . . . dude!" or giggles for no readily apparent reason.

Is there any other medical treatment whose most vocal advocates are users (and wannabe users), or which requires a book to justify itself to children? Why do I get the feeling that "medical marijuana" activism is just the "legalize pot" activism of yesteryear, with a "scientific" angle to give it the appearance of legitimacy?

On the other hand, the Roald Dahl storybook George's Marvelous Medicine is cruelly hilarious, and a must-read for children of all ages . . .

Jacobus contra mundum

In recent days there has been an ongoing debate between apologist James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and blogger Tim Enloe over the merits of the "New Perspective on Paul" of E. P. Sanders and N. T. Wright. It has apparently turned into a bit of a dogpile: White's blog on one side, and according to my last count, the Societas Christiana, 40 Bicycles, Purging Out the Tares, Upsaid blogs, and, inexplicably, Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong on the other.

The outcome? So far, White is wiping the floor with all of them by sticking with exegesis of the biblical text and insisting that his opponents do likewise.

Eternal life through cheap magnets

Yet another spammer graced the Bible Versions Discussion Board with his presence yesterday peddling Alex Chiu's "Immortality Devices." Spammers are the scum of the earth to begin with, and these nitwits hawking Chiu's magnetic rings are especially pernicious since they are also apparently motivated by the promise of free products if they can convince enough people to click on their clickthru banners. So, complaints were sent to the usual suspects.

Alex Chiu, for those unfamiliar with him, is a Chinese-American "inventor" who sells ring-shaped clamps containing small magnets. Properly worn on the fourth fingers of each hand while the user sleeps, Chiu claims they will extend life indefinitely because "your fingers are the transistors of your body"; the little energy introduced by the magnets results in a huge flow of energy through the body. He also claims that:

The reason why a person gets healthier if his or her magnetic flux increases is that blood circulation is directly proportional to magnetic flux. Our body circulates blood with its natural turbine, magnet flux, which consists of no moving parts but yet still propels blood into the blood circulatory system.

This is abject nonsense. Blood is not affected by magnetic fields. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine generates a powerful enough magnetic field to suck large metal objects into its chamber. In fact there was a [PDF] fatal accident in 2001 in which an oxygen bottle pulled loose by an MRI smashed the head of a child in the machine. If blood were circulated by magnetism, a magnetic field this powerful would surely suck the blood out of the body - but its effect on the body is negligible.

And in fact it's factually wrong. Blood doesn't circulate because of magnetic flux. The human body has a mechanical pump. It's called the heart.

Stephen Barrett of QuackWatch notes that some peddlers of medical magnets have been shut down by the FDA and FTC for making far lesser claims than immortality. Maybe Alex is off the hook because his claims are untestable, at least until he is in the grave and immune from any fraud litigation. How do you know whether anyone will live forever?

Then again, maybe it can be tested. Give a pair of magnetic pinky rings to someone who has gone beyond his threescore and ten - say, someone 110 years old and still alive and kicking. See how long they stay that way. The question is: Would Chiu take the challenge if posed?

January 15, 2004

Sit down and shut up

The hard-left activist organization MoveOn.org announced the winners of its "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest in which various contestants competed to produce the best anti-George W. Bush ad. Entertainment was provided by the usual cadre of second-rate and has-been talent (including such notable political pundits as "comedienne" Margaret Cho, writer Al Franken, and rapper Chuck D) in the form of profanity-ridden commentary, of which Matt Drudge procured a partial transcript.

This from actress Julia Stiles proves the adage that brains times beauty equals a constant:

I was worried that some soldiers over in Iraq who are actually younger than I am would see some salacious report on MSNBC and think that I was attacking them and not the government that put them there. And I was afraid that Bill O'Reilly would come and, with a shotgun at my front door and shoot me for being unpatriotic.

Unfortunately, that same adage doesn't appear to explain Margaret Cho's vulgar babblings, as she appears to possess neither brains nor beauty.

January 06, 2004

Biblical Metanarrative II: The Entire Bible

It's over! My General Biblical Introduction course taken through Heritage Seminary ended just before Christmas.

As I had anticipated, the final exam included another essay question asking for a Biblical metanarrative, this time of the entire Bible rather than merely the Old Testament. My contribution is as follows.

The Bible begins with God creating the heavens and the earth and all within it; the pinnacle of this creation was man. God declared creation "very good." But immediately, through an act of disobedience, man fell from God's favour. Sin and death were introduced into the world. However, God promised that in the future a descendant of Adam and Eve would accomplish redemption for sins.

Nine generations later, the world was so wicked that God destroyed it in a flood, saving only Noah and his family. When the waters subsided God made a covenant with Noah, promising never again to destroy the world by flood, and singling out his son Shem for a special blessing.

In approximately 2100 B.C., a descendant of Shem, Abraham, was called by God to move from his home to the land of Canaan. Because of his faith, God counted Abraham righteous and made a covenant with him that he would have an heir (despite his age) from whom a great nation and kings would arise. This promise was renewed with Abraham's son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whom God renamed "Israel."

Jacob's sons envied their brother Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later God raised him from a slave to prime minister, enabling him to bring his family into Egypt to escape famine. Jacob died in Egypt, passing on a special blessing to his son Judah that his descendants would be great.

400 years later, the family of Israel lived in Egypt as slaves to the Pharaohs. God raised up a leader, Moses, to deliver them from slavery. Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai where they received a covenant from God, promising rest in the land of Canaan if they would remain faithful. Moses eventually brought Israel to the borders of Canaan, but it was his successor Joshua who led them into the land.

After Joshua's death, Israel was ruled for 400 years by God's servants the judges. Because Joshua failed to remove the pagan inhabitants of the land completely, they remained a constant stumblingblock to Israel and the history of this period is consists of cycles of disobedience, resulting in trouble from the other nations, followed by deliverance by the judges.

The last judge of Israel was Samuel the priest. His sons were so corrupt that the Israelites demanded a monarch like the other nations. The first king of Israel was Saul, but because of his moral failures God removed his family from the throne and gave it instead to David, a descendant of Judah. David was a model king, a man after God's heart, who unified Israel and expanded his kingdom's borders to the extents promised to Abraham. God made another covenant with David promising him that one of his descendants would be on the throne in perpetuity. Unfortunately he did not rule his family well and as a result his successors divided the unified kingdom and lapsed into compromise and wickedness. Not even reforms instituted late in the kingdom period could avert God's judgment; in 722 B.C. the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, and in 586 the southern kingdom of Judah was overrun by Babylon and its inhabitants taken into exile, where they remained for 70 years.

Throughout the kingdom and exile periods the prophets announced the word of God to the people. They warned of coming judgment and called for the people to repent and return to faithfulness. But they also promised that God's judgment would not be permanent and that he would again restore them to fellowship. One prophet, Jeremiah, promised that God would establish a new, unbreakable covenant with his people. The prophet Isaiah announced a Messiah, an anointed messenger of God who would deliver his people as a conquering king and a suffering servant.

Following the exile the people of Israel returned to Palestine where they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and the Temple and restored worship of God.

For 400 years there was no further revelation.

Then, during the reign of Augustus Caesar, Jesus was born to the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph of the family of David, in Bethlehem. As an adult he ministered to the Jews, heralding the imminent coming of God's Kingdom and calling the people to believe in him. He claimed to be the unique Son of God and identified himself with the Messianic title "Son of Man." The miraculous signs accompanying his teaching confirmed that he was indeed the Messiah foretold in the prophets.

Jesus' escalating conflicts with the religious authorities led them to seek his death. On the night he was betrayed by one of his disciples, he celebrated a Passover meal with them and redefined the traditional elements of the meal as ratification of the new covenant promised by Jeremiah. Then he was arrested, tried on false charges, and crucified.

But on the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared bodily to his disciples. By his atoning death Jesus, descendant of David, Judah, Abraham, Shem, and Adam, conquered the power of sin; by his resurrection, he conquered the power of death.

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples to spread the news of the Kingdom throughout the world. This they did, announcing that God accepted everyone who put their faith in the risen Christ. In Christ was true rest. To this day no power can stop the good news from spreading throughout the world.

Someday in the future Christ will return to earth and rule over his Kingdom. He will decisively defeat the evil one. The present heaven and earth will be destroyed, not by flood, but by fire. All men will be judged and the wicked destroyed. Heaven and earth will be restored to their created state, and the people of God will enjoy perfect fellowship with him forever.

Merry Christmas to any readers who happen to be Orthodox or otherwise observing the Julian calendar. I should get to know some of you; between you, me, and my Oriental friends, I could be celebrating Christmas or the New Year practically every week of January.

And now . . . this

From Great Britain, apparently attempting to compete with the United States as silly lawsuit capital of the world, comes the newest poster boy for a loser-pay model of tort law:

A chef who cut his finger is suing a hotel for £25,000 compensation by claiming no-one warned him about the danger posed by an avocado.

Michael McCarthy, 21, sliced into his hand when the unripened avocado he was trying to cut slipped and he lost control of his kitchen knife.

He claims he had been shown how to cut the fruit, but had not been told the avocado might not be ripe.

[Full Story]

I am not a chef, and I can count the number of avocados I have prepared in my life on the fingers of one hand. I lack experience with these clearly dangerous fruit. Without proper training, then, how could I ever have figured out that a rock-hard avocado isn't ripe?

January 05, 2004

Howard Dean and Job

By now U.S. Presidential candidate Howard Dean's latest effort to prostitute himself to the evangelical Christian voter is pretty common knowledge. But for those who don't follow American politics as closely (especially this early in the campaign), the story goes like this: Last week Dean, stumping somewhere in the Bible belt, was asked by a reporter what his favourite book of the New Testament was. His fuzzy-headed reply: Job, which is odd right away because Job is a book of the Old Testament, not the New (which correction he made a while later). He went on, in a sort of muddled and confused fashion, to say that he didn't like its optimistic ending, remarking that there are scholars who believe the last chapter of Job was tacked on later, and that without it the book is about "the power of God . . . it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed," and that originally "Job ends up completely destitute and ruined."

(Someone really ought to give Dean lessons in PR. You do not ingratiate yourself to the evangelical voter by telling him someone has been tampering with the Word of God.)

A poster on the Bible Versions Discussion Board directed my attention to today's New York Times op-ed piece by William Safire, titled "Job and Dean," rightly noting that you don't often see this kind of discussion in the major media. Safire writes, concerning the controversy:

Despite his fuzziness, Dean is on to something. The moral excitement in the Book of Job is the sufferer's outrage at God's refusal to do justice. We are told at the outset that this pious, wealthy and powerful man is the subject of a wager between God and the Satan about whether Job's piety was merely the result of his prosperity. When afflicted, Job scandalizes his comforters by damning the day that he was born, calling for a redeemer who could take God to court on a charge of moral mismanagement.

God hears this incessant dissidence and, in the Voice from the Whirlwind, blows Job's whining away in the longest direct quotation of the Lord in Scripture, beginning "Who is this that darkeneth knowledge." In magnificent imagery and biting sarcasm, God answers Job's challenge by rebuking him for presuming to question the wisdom of the Creator of the Universe.

Where does that amazing diatribe leave sufferers seeking solace, or victims seeking retributive justice? Holocaust witness Elie Wiesel has written that he was dismayed by this non-response. The author Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "I read the Book of Job last night - I don't think God comes well out of it." Others say the book proves that suffering is no evidence of sin, and may even be a blessing in disguise - that it is beyond human understanding to know God's ways or discern his ultimate purpose.

Job, having succeeded in making direct contact with his Creator, reacts to God's awesome rebuke by putting his hand over his mouth and accepting the limits of his knowledge. In the ending that some find incongruous, he is forgiven and rewarded.

But is the ending of Job really all that incongruous? I had the privilege a little over two years ago to hear theologian Donald Carson deliver a lecture on wisdom literature in the Bible at Heritage Theological Seminary in Cambridge. In his survey of the wisdom books of the Old Testament, he took us on a whirlwind tour of Job.

Job is made to suffer by God, first losing his goods, then his family, then his own health. Through all this, he does not accuse God of injustice. His three friends - poor comforters, all - argue that God is totally, absolutely, just, and therefore, if Job is suffering, it must be because he is the unjust one.

Not so, Job says. He isn't unjust. The irony of the story is that the reader has read chapter 1, so they know Job is right: He doesn't deserve this. And so the drama goes on through all of Job's unsympathetic friends trying to comfort him, and Job insisting that if he had a Redeemer he could plead his case before God and make him understand. Job comes to a hair's breadth of accusing God himself of injustice.

Finally, God himself appears on the scene and confronts Job: "Stand up like a man!" he orders. God asks Job rhetorical question after rhetorical question: "See that animal? Could you have done that? Where were you when I hung Orion in the sky?" At the end of it, Job doesn't say, "Now I understand"; rather, his only response is, "I repent." Not of some sin that supposedly brought his suffering upon him, but of valuing his own justice so much that he nearly accuses God himself of injustice instead. At the end of this, God announces that it is Job, and not his friends, who has spoken rightly.

And so what are we supposed to make of that last chapter? Safire is right - if it weren't for the resolution of chapter 42, all that moral ambiguity in the rest of the story would be an existentialist's wet dream. But these people can't stand chapter 42, because it's such a happy, Pollyannic ending: Job gets has the same number of children again, plus twice the number of his original livestock. Poor Howard Dean; whatever happened to Job ending up "completely destitute and ruined"?

The last chapter of Job is the most important lesson of all. The point is eschatological, not existential. This is a book about God's justice, and chapter 42 tells us that, despite the unjust suffering we may receive in the present day, in the last day, God's justice will be done, but it will also be seen to be done.

In the final analysis Job is a book of hope, not despair. The existentialists, Dean, and to an extent Safire, all miss the point.

January 03, 2004

Mac OS X Developer Tools - found!

I have been trying to learn to program in C for a number of years. I've been held up by a number of factors - lack of time, lack of commitment, lack of a sufficiently powerful computer, lack of a compiler - well, you get the idea.

Well, when I bought a Mac iBook a year ago, I was elated to discover that OS X shipped with a suite of applications for program development. Only problem was - they weren't installed.

I hunted around the directory tree visible from the Aqua desktop. Nothing.

I opened up a terminal and tentatively typed gcc. Nothing happened.

I popped in the "Software Restore" CD-ROM and installed the Developer Tools. Nothing appeared. At this point, maximum frustration level was exceeded.

And, then, finally a few days ago I figured out the location where the elusive OS X Developer Tools were hiding. Bliss!

I hope these instructions (which to my recollection contain every keyword I used in my frustrating search for this information on the Web) save some people the aggravation I experienced. For what it's worth, I am using a 700 MHz G3 iBook running OS X 10.2.8. I believe those of you who have moved on to Panther have a different set of tools now.

  1. Open the OS X Applications folder.
  2. Open the Installers folder.
  3. Open the Developer Tools folder.
  4. Double-click on the file named Developer.mpkg.
  5. Go through the usual authentication rigamarole, grab a beer, and wait.

If the Developer Tools aren't at that location, instal them from the Software Restore CDs and try again.

Once installation is done, you should find a new subfolder called Developer in the Macintosh HD folder (assuming you haven't renamed it). This subfolder contains a number of graphical tools for project development. You will also find gcc and other GNU command-line tools in the /usr/bin/ subdirectory available from a Terminal window.

Now I don't have to sit at home at my tiny desk learning C when there's a coffee shop to hang out in . . .

Reprogramming the droids

A little over two years ago, my attention was directed to the Web site of Touchet Baptist Church. This church is also known as "Bible Believers Baptist Church," which marks it as a Ruckmandroid church, as though the lame "1611" in their URL, not to mention the "King James 1611" on their church sign, wasn't enough for that.

Specifically, I was made aware of a page titled "Questions Nobody will Answer," a list of ten or so questions that are supposed to stump users of modern-English Bible versions and thereby prove that KJV-onlyism is the One True Faith. Needless to say, I answered them. And when I emailed my answers to droid pastor Mike Paulson, he claimed he was "not interested." Go figure.

Well, I guess that two years is long enough to go before trying again.

1. Why would God inspire the originals and then not preserve them as promised - (note: I am talking about the words, not the papers, pieces, etc?)

This is a textook case of the "loaded question" that requires me to accept one of Paulson's premises before I can even answer it - that is, that God has failed to preserve the words of Scripture. My answer therefore is: God didn't fail to preserve them.

Me: 1. Droid: 0.

2. If you claim God has allowed some errors in the Bible today, why do you not afford Him for [sic] making some errors in the originals?

Another loaded question, forcing me to concede the false premise that God has allowed errors in the Bible. I say that the Bible is inerrant in all it affirms. My answer: God hasn't made errors.

Me: 2. Droid: 0.

3. Isn't the kind of faith you have "convenient" since it cannot be tested? After all, since all the perfect set of originals are LOST or either DESTROYED, you can rest safely in the fact that you can be challenged, but you will never be proven wrong since the EVIDENCE needed to prove you wrong (the "lost originals") is lost.

Another loaded question forcing me to assume a false premise: that my "faith" cannot be tested. The KJV-onlyists themselves belie this premise, as testing or challenging or pointing out what's wrong with my "faith" is what they do. My answer: No, it is not a "convenient" faith.

In fact, it's a downright inconvenient faith when you consider the amount of abuse you suffer at the hands of droids and other KJV-only pinheads. If I wanted a "convenient" faith, I would just give in so they would stop calling me names.

Me: 3. Droid: 0.

4. Are you afraid to dare put [sic] the same faith in a Bible available today?

Since this question builds on the same false premise as #3, it is again a loaded question undeserving of an answer. Nonetheless, my answer is: I am not afraid to put any faith in a Bible available today. In fact, I do it all the time.

Me: 4. Droid: 0.

5. Isn't it a fact that to believe in a perfect set of originals, but not believe in a perfect English Bible, is to believe NOTHING at all?

My answer: No, it is not a fact. This isn't a loaded question, just a nonsensical one. It's like asking, "Isn't it a fact that to believe in God, but not believe in the Tooth Fairy, is to believe NOTHING at all?" Judge for yourself whether either question proves anything.

Me: 5. Droid: 0.

6. To enforce a "convenient faith," would you go so far as to say, as others have said, that what God actually meant in Ps. 119:89 is that He preserved His perfect Bible in a library up in Heaven, and not on earth?

We're back to the loaded questions again, since question #6 assumes the same false premise as implied in questions #3-4. Nonetheless, my answer is: No, I don't believe that's what Psa. 119:89 means.

Me: 6. Droid: 0.

7. If this is true, then didn't God write a book to Himself, and not to man?

My answer: It isn't true; so no, he didn't.

Me: 7. Droid: 0.

8. What is Scripture?

My answer: Scripture is that which is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Specifically, it is those 66 books - Genesis, Exodus, etc. - which have been recognized by the people of God through the ages as being of divine origin and authoritative for all matters of faith and practice.

Me: 8. Droid: 0.

9. WHO taught you the King James Bible is not the word of God?

Well, back we go to the loaded question, this time a very transparent one of the "Have you stopped beating your wife" variety. My answer, nonetheless: Obviously, no one, since I do not believe this.

Me: 9. Droid: 0.

10. If Scripture(s) refers to the original manuscripts, then wasn't Jesus really being deceptive to His listeners? (Matt. 21:42; 22:29; Mk. 12:10,24; Lk. 24:27; Jn. 2:22; 7:38, 42; 19:37; 20:9 etc.) >

My answer: Since "Scripture" does not strictly refer to the autographs, then no, Jesus was not being deceptive.

Me: 10. Droid: 0.

11. If you claim the King James has errors, then I would have to conclude the King James Bible is not the inerrant Bible. What is? The NASV? The NKJV? The LB? The NEB? The ASV? The JB? The NAB? The NWT, etc. etc. etc.?

Yawn! Another loaded question expecting me to swallow a whole bunch of Paulson's ex cathedra assumptions.

My answer: Who says that there is one English translation of the Bible that must be inerrant? Or, who says that there can be one, and only one, English translation that can be said to be "inerrant"? I'll answer your question when you have answered mine satisfactorily.

Me: 11. Droid: 0.

12. Since most Bible colleges and insitutes believe only the originals are inspired, aren't they really teaching a form of Deism?

My answer: No. (Does droid-boy even know what "Deism" is?)

Final score: Me: 12. Droid: 0.

I sent the following to Paulson at the email address given on his Web site:

Dear Mr. Paulson:

Recently perusing your Web site, I see that you *still* have a list of questions posted there titled "Questions Nobody Will Answer," or words to that effect.

You may remember that I emailed you answers to all 12 questions about two years ago. Nonetheless, you still hang on to the illusion that your questions are indeed unanswerable.

I have again posted answers to your "unanswerable" questions on my blog, at:


We shall see whether truth and accuracy mean anything to you, or whether you are simply another mindless Ruckmandroid who blusters a lot but generally turns tail and flees when his facts are challenged.

And so the wait begins. Does Paulson rise to the challenge, or does he show us his droidy back vanishing over the horizon?

January 02, 2004

Interpreting the Bible

While doing some unrelated research, I copied this passage down from one of my parents' books while on Christmas break: The plain Truth About Armstrongism by Roger R. Chambers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972) pp. 83-86. The error of Armstrongism is long gone from the Worldwide Church of God, but these principles of Biblical interpretation are still practical and necessary. False prophets still offer the hidden "key" to understanding the Bible, whether it is the British-Israelism of Herbert W. Armstrong, or the "right divisions" of C. I. Scofield.

Footnotes are as in the original; boldface emphases are added by me. Any typos are strictly my own.

An understanding of sound principles of Biblical interpretation will keep a man out of Armstrongism. As opposed to the many keys offered by a long line of false prophets, the following universally available, common sense principles of interpretation make God's propositional revelation open to all, without benefit of clergy.

  1. Faith in Christ. If one rejects the Christ of the Scripture, he will be prejudiced in the choice of the meaning of words and significance of deeds and thoughts.2
  2. Respect for the Bible as the Word of God. The question of the reliability of Scripture is one; the question of the meaning of Scripture is another. When one has settled the question, from available evidence, of the inspiration of Scripture, he is then in a position to correctly intepret the content of Scripture.
  3. Harmonious with the whole. Truth is always consistent with truth. If a particular interpretation violates other parts of the revelation, then that interpretation is at fault.
  4. Literal unless otherwise indicated. The interpreter who wishes to read into a passage more of his own interests, will shy away from a literal treatment of the Bible. The duty of the interpreter is to determine the original intent of the author. A passage will be taken literally unless it, or portions of it, were not originally meant for it to be so understood.
  5. Figurative if obvious. Because the Bible deals with things beyond human experience or comprehension, figurative or symbolic language is necessary.
  6. Meaning from the context. The context may be adjoining verses, chapters, other Books, or the whole Bible itself. This principle is a preventative from "proof-texting."
  7. Retention of the spirit. Words are simply vehicles to carry ideas. It is "letterism" and not "literalism" that destroys the spirit of the content of Scripture by loading more ideas upon the words than they were meant to carry.
  8. Preserving the proper emphasis. A truth overemphasized can easily become error. The content of divine revelation has proportion and balance. For instance, the emphasis of the Bible is upon Jesus Christ and the cross. The emphasis of Armstrongism is upon the "government of God."
  9. Verification of interpretation. Nothing must be allowed to replace the Bible itself. But dictionaries, atlases, commentaries, introductions, background works, lexicons, and so forth, can contribute to each person's skill in Biblical interpretation.
  10. Application to self. Without this, Biblical interpretation becomes mere academic exercise.

Beyond the solid principles of Biblical interpretation which apply to all kinds of Scriptural material, particular principles must be recognized in the handling of futuristic prophecy.

  1. Prophecy can be infallibly interpreted only by an inspired interpreter. In I Corinthians 2:1-10 Paul affirms this principle.
  2. It is not an issue of "literalism" versus "spiritualism." The question is whether the original, intended meaning of a given prophecy has a temporal or spiritual fulfillment. If a prophecy has a spiritual meaning, then the spiritual or figurative application of it is a literal fulfillment.
  3. If an inspired New Testament speaker or writer affirms that a certain prophecy is fulfilled in a certain way, that should settle the matter.
  4. If Old or New Testament events have already fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, then those same prophecies cannot be changed to mean a future fulfillment.
  5. If prophecies that Scripture links to certain events are not fulfilled in those events, then those events fulfill nothing.
  6. To speak of the postponement of prophecy is nonsense. No prophecy can be taken centuries later to have a fulfillment in a way and at a time other than that which was intended when the prophecy was spoken or written. To say a fulfillment is deferred because of prevailing circumstances is to say that the prophecy is wrong,3, and makes a false prophet out of the one making it. A prophecy cannot be wrong about time and right in every other detail. It deprives the prophecy of the element of inspiration. Prophecy then becomes mere prediction. If circumstances force the postponement of fulfillment, then there is no assurance that circumstances will permit fulfillment at a later time.
  7. New Testament writers and speakers do not always quote the full prophecy or even quote verbatim. Often a paraphrase is used. Enough is given, however, so that one may know the source of the prophecy being explained.
  8. "Before His birth, and during the early part of His ministry, it was emphasized that Christ came to do a spiritual work, and that the cross was before Him from the very beginning. Any theory of the interpretation of prophecy which does not take these two facts into consideration is unscriptural."4

This last principle is critical. It is decisive. It is Scriptural:

Having therefore obtained the help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those things which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23).

2 Lewis Foster, "Biblical Interpretation and Contemporary Thought," The Restoration Herald (Cincinatti, Ohio, May, 1968), pp. 12-13. The list of ten basic principles here is essentially the one detailed by Foster.

3 See Foy E. Wallace Jr., God's Prophetic Word (Oklahoma City: Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1960). Wallace enunciates sound principles in detail.

4 James D. Bales, The New Testament Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecies of the Kingdom (Searcy, Ark.: Harding College Press, 1950) p. 1.