Posts Tagged ‘David Murray’
David Murray has been looking at the issue of evangelistic preaching, in the following sequence:
- What is evangelistic preaching?
- Four kinds of evangelistic sermon.
- Why is evangelistic preaching so rare?
- Four characteristics of evangelistic preaching.
- Four (more) characteristics of evangelistic preaching.
It is a discussion both helpful and necessary. Head over and join in.
This twinterview turns to two bloggers who are technologically-engaged, known for their attempts to bring Christian principle to bear on this brave new world, and who act as gateways for all manner of material that sits at the intersection of these and many other issues. I particularly appreciate, in both of these gentlemen, their readiness to plough their own furrow, not bullishly and arrogantly, but faithfully and humbly, writing out of conviction and not jumping on bandwagons because those bandwagons happen to be flying past with lights flashing. They also help others guard their time and their priorities from the often enslaving attractions of technological tools.
So, we welcome Tim Challies of überblog Challies.com fame and David Murray of HeadHeartHand (preacher, lecturer, blogger, film-maker, author, etc.) to the world of the twinterview. There are fewer questions than usual – a trade-off required before my invitations were accepted – but I hope that you will the answers sufficiently penetrating and full to make it more than worthwhile. I am grateful to these brothers for sparing their time for this exercise.
As usual, neither interviewee saw the other’s answers until both sets of responses were in, and there was no collaboration or collusion. The answers are as given, and I have not commented on them, either in terms of interest, agreement or disagreement. The responses are edited only lightly for form, and the content is the responder’s own. Please feel free to engage politely in the comments section.
Previous twinterviews can be enjoyed at the links below:
- Brits abroad: Derek Thomas & Carl Trueman
- The London Welsh: Gary Brady & Paul Levy
- Louisville pastors: Brian Croft & Jim Savastio
- Reformed Baptist church planters: Lewis Allen & Rich Barcellos
1. How did you get to know one another? What do you most appreciate about one another as friends and fellow-bloggers?
Tim Challies: David will probably have a different story to tell, but I believe that he and I interacted a little bit via social media, but then first met when I made a business trip out to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary to discuss a new web site. Obviously this was a few years ago when I was still in the web design business. I met David at that meeting and I guess we pretty much hit it off right away.
There is a lot I appreciate about David as a friend. He is one of the most caring people I have met, one who is genuinely thoughtful and compassionate. He is also humble, a guy who is far more widely-read and far more capable than he tends to let on. And he is serious but not too serious; he has a zany and understated kind of humor that surfaces now and again. And then there is that amazing accent.
David Murray: I was not long in the USA when I heard of some popular Christian blogger called Challies. I started reading and enjoying his writing, and found his daily A la Carte selection of links especially helpful in getting to know the North American church scene and culture.
When Puritan Seminary decided to re-vamp our website, Tim’s name came up and we invited him to do the work. When he came to Grand Rapids to get the website specs, we met face to face for the first time, and got on well. We also found out that Tim’s Dad and I had studied in the same Seminary in Edinburgh.
We next met up at The Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago in 2009 I think, had a meal together and I interviewed him for the Seminary blog. We kept in touch regularly after that, mainly over email and Skype, and a few times face-to-face including a meal we shared together with our wives in Canada.
Although Tim and I are quite different in many ways (Baptist v Presbyterian, 30-ish v 40-ish, Newish Calvinist v Oldish Calvinist, Canadian v Scottish, etc.), we do share a number of things in common – including our interest in how to use and not abuse technology, a passion for practical theology, and a deep concern to see the New Calvinist movement continue to grow and mature (as well as learn from it ourselves).
I have a deep respect for Tim as a believer, as a husband, as a father, as a Pastor, as a writer, and in other ways too. I’ve probably learned far more from him than he ever has from me. I admire his doctrinal clarity, his writing gifts, his focus on the church, his care for his wife and family, and his love for Christ. I’ve learned most from him in the area of being transparent and vulnerable. That kind of honest openness is risky, and doesn’t come easy for a Scot, but it’s a beautiful trait that requires a lot of faith to exercise in such a public way.
2. What would make you stop blogging? Do you see any technology or platform that is likely to render the blog obsolete any time soon?
TC: I have thought about this one a fair bit over the years, and at this point cannot imagine too many scenarios in which I would give it up altogether. However, if I found that blogging was having a negative effect on my family or on my ministry to my local church, I know I would feel compelled to quit or at least to scale back. I prioritize those things far higher than blogging and hope I would have the strength and integrity to follow through. I trust my wife and my fellow elders to keep me accountable and to ensure that my priorities remain in place.
As for blogging, it is not going away in the near future. I suppose we may give up the term blogging at some point, but the simple act of common folk writing down their ideas and posting them to the Internet is not going anywhere. The little people have a voice and they are not going to give that up. Not only that, but we have learned that we do not need and do not want professionals to shape all of our ideas; we want to have a voice of our own.
DM: I do pray about the place of blogging in my life. Although it’s been a huge blessing to me to have to write something edifying most days of the week, and I hope it’s impacted others for good too, I am often concerned about the amount of time it takes each day. I’m conscious of the need to keep it in the right place, and as with everything make sure that it is the Lord’s will for me to do. I do ask the Lord to show me if He wants me to stop it or to reduce its place in my life.
Obviously it’s very difficult to predict Technology. However, I think that blogging will continue to grow, though more slowly. Whatever happens to our culture, I can’t ever see human beings losing the impulse to put words into the public arena, even if only to be read by a few people.
If Facebook ever gets round to writing some decent software that will be more hospitable to blogging, that could have a significant impact on independent blogging sites. However, as they can’t even design good software for their core service, I think blogging is safe for the foreseeable future.
3. You are both fairly intimately involved in aspects of the Reformed and evangelical world of America, yet perhaps standing slightly outside of it by virtue of your origins. What do you think are the challenges of the American context and assumptions of so much theological and practical discussion? To what extent do you discern the existence of a gap between that and different (European/Canadian/other) contexts, and what might be the effect of that gap?
TC: I always get in trouble when I speak to America, so you’re putting me in an awkward spot. But here I go. America has justly deserved her reputation as a nation that believes it knows what is best, not just for itself but for others as well. America is known to walk with a bit of a swagger, whether politically, militarily or spiritually. And to be fair, America has a lot to commend it in all of those regards. Still, when a Canadian hears that a group of Americans is coming to Canada to do a service project or to plant a church there’s often a bit of hesitation, wondering what drama will come from it. What I mean is that America has brought to the world a lot of assumptions that reflect herself, but not necessarily the church in other places; America assumes that American Christianity is the purest, normative form, that it is the real deal and that the rest of the world ought to do things the same way.
I can testify that the church in Canada, a country that shares a border with the United States and which is culturally downstream from the United States, is very, very different. In general, American church planting movements have not seen a lot of success in Canada because they fail to understand just how different we are. We need indigenous church planters just as much as any other country.
Let me offering a peace-making word before I move on: I think we may be seeing a humbling in these areas, especially as we begin to see the failure or displacement of Western Christianity and the rise of Christians in the global south and east.
DM: I feel hugely privileged to live and work in America. I and my family love it here, and hope to spend the rest of our lives here, if God wills. The sermons and books of American pastors have played a huge role in my own Christian life and in my ministry. The major challenge in the American context is to avoid extremes. I think America is a very practical nation, Americans are a can-do people, and like solving problems. However, problems are rarely solved at the extremities. Simpler solutions are found there, but usually not the right ones. The challenge is often to live in the messy middle, feeling the tension of truth, and being prepared to live with the stress of that balancing act. I’m thinking especially here of the tensions in counselling (e.g. what place do we give to the sciences), in preaching (e.g. balance of consecutive-expository, evangelistic, redemptive-historical, application, law and Gospel), and in Christian living (balance of external v internal, activism v piety, law v Gospel, etc).
4. Taking into account any nuances from the previous question, what do you see as particular dangers or challenges to the church in the West at this time? Would you care to suggest potential remedies?
TC: I would suggest that one of the greatest dangers to the church today is thoughtlessness. The first book I wrote was about discernment and that remains a burning topic to me. It continues to surprise me how many Christians there are who have not been taught how to think biblically and who may never even have been told that there is such a thing as biblical thinking. That’s tragic. We can only live like Christians if we think like Christians.
After I wrote my book on discernment I wrote on technology and came to see that there’s a growing danger hidden in our technology that may lead us to even more thoughtlessness by way of busyness and distraction and obsession. It seems that just as many Christians have begun to identify the problem—we need to think like Christians—we’ve filled our lives with gadgets and gizmos that are going to likely to keep us from the kind of deep thinking we need.
DM: (1) Antinomianism. Can only be fixed by a Christ-centred covenantal understanding of the Old Testament. (2) Preaching becoming too academic and less evangelistic. Remedy is to remember that unless hearers are born again they are going to hell forever. We need much more of a “burden for the lost.” I think on the whole that Pastors are spending too much time with books (and the Internet) and not enough with sheep. Solution is simple – get out of the study and visit the sheep – and seek the lost ones too. (3) Militant homosexuality is not going away. The trajectory of media, educational, political, and judicial, intimidation is worrying. Acceptance of gay marriage is usually followed by hate-crime legislation that eventually is interpreted to prevent any criticism of homosexuality. The church will need to hold firmly hold to the immorality of homosexuality without unnecessarily provoking legal and other consequences, as well as learning how to reach out to homosexuals with the Gospel.
5. Without wishing to go “Miss World” on you esteemed gentlemen, what three things would you be particularly grateful to see happening in your particular sphere of operation and influence over the coming year?
TC: Let me address that by looking to three different spheres of operation:
As a father and husband I want to see my children profess faith, be baptized, and live as if their profession is legitimate. I want to continue to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord and to build a real friendship with each one of them—a friendship that will last far longer than my role as dad. As a husband I want to more and more internalize the command to be toward my wife as Christ is toward his church, to understand what that means and how it ought to work itself out in the way I relate to her.
As a pastor I want to serve my church well and to lead them in holiness and godliness and prayerfulness and other godly character qualities. I won’t ever be the most dynamic preacher and won’t ever have the theological depth of so many men whose career path has taken them through seminary and post-graduate work, but I know I can lead them in those things that do not require a degree or formal training. I can, that is, if I set my heart and mind in that direction.
As a writer I want to be careful to avoid writing books for the sake of writing books. I want to be content to write only when I have the kind of idea that just won’t let me not write about it. And I want to continue to use my web site as a place to think publicly, to wrestle through the issues that are important to the church in this time and this place, to draw attention to good resources and to warn people away from the ones that are unbiblical. And as I do those things, I want to ensure that I am always speaking truth in love.
DM: (1) I’d love to see more racial diversity in our Reformed churches. I think that can only happen by majorities reaching out to minorities, rather than majorities expecting minorities to come to them. (2) I’d like to see more Christians re-discovering the joy of keeping the Lord’s Day holy. The main obstacle to that is sport-idolatry. (3) I’d like to see more evangelistic preaching; expository preaching that is regularly and specifically focussed on the conversion of unbelievers in our congregations.
6. You are both writers. What place does more developed writing with a view to formal publication have in your commitments of time and energy? Do you enjoy it or feel obliged to do it? Do you feel a sense of compulsion with regard to particular topics, or are you pushed into areas of expertise which, under God, you have developed?
TC: I feel no great compulsion to write books. As I have just said, I want to be content to be the guy who publishes a book every few years and not feel like I need to crank out a new title every six months or every year. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve got the time or energy or brain space to do much more than a book every few years.
I do not want to ever write a book under compulsion. Soon after I began writing formally a wise man who has seen many of his books be published warned me against two things: signing multi-book contracts and writing the book that someone else wants me to write. Both things, he warned, will produce low-quality works that you write even though they do not excite you. Looking back, that seems like sage advice.
DM: I’m trying to write something for publication every 18 months or so. When I started writing a few years ago, I hated it – I was more of a speaker. But now I love it and really look forward to writing time. Blogging has really helped me in that regard. It’s helped me find my “voice,” strive for clarity and brevity, and try to present truth in an engaging and enjoyable way.
I can’t imagine writing a book on something I wasn’t passionate about. I believe that’s part of God’s leading – He gives you a passion or a burden for a subject and you cannot but speak or write the things you have seen and heard!
7. Are there any particular books you wish you had read, but have never got round to?
TC: There are more than I could easily list, which is exactly why I began the Reading Classics Together effort at my web site. Reading Classics Together gives me the context and accountability to read some of those great works from days gone by.
I would also like to read more reference and academic works. The problem I face is that I may put weeks into reading a dense academic work, print a review, and see that only a very few people are interested in it. If I read and review The Shack, I will see hundreds of thousands of people be interested in it. In that way I find myself dedicating a lot of my reading efforts to lighter reading. However, even with that being true, I am trying to dedicate more of my time to reading good, dense, difficult, high-return books.
DM: I’d love to have read more of the huge biblical theologies that have been published in recent years. I’ve read one or two, but there are a number of others I’ve just not been able to find time for. I’d also like to read more of the Puritans. My favourite Puritan is John Flavel and it’s still my ambition to read through his works. I’ve also only dipped into Jonathan Edwards – I’d like to submerge myself in his thought over a period of time.
8. What are the best and the worst things about being a preacher, in your experience?
TC: My preaching experience is still rather limited compared to David’s or compared to most other preachers, so you may want to keep that in mind.
The best thing about being a preacher is being set aside and even paid to study and apply God’s Word. That may sound selfish, I suppose, but it is a great honor and privilege to be called to do what every Christian wants to do—study the Bible. While that study is often gruelling and more work than pleasure, it always bears fruit.
The worst thing is all that preaching takes out of you. Preaching is soul-baring and exposing and that brings about a kind of fatigue, a kind of post-performance weakening, that I haven’t ever experienced elsewhere. People who haven’t prepared and preached a sermon probably just do not understand how cutting even a small comment can be or how encouraging a small praise can be. Preaching must easily be one of the most difficult tasks in the world; but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
DM: Best: Getting to study God’s Word as my calling, the felt guidance of God in preparation, the joy of experiencing divine help in the pulpit, the potential of seeing souls saved, comforting God’s afflicted people.
Worst: Monday morning, sometimes having to prepare sermons with too little time to do it as I would like.
David P. Murray
Evangelical Press, 2011, 160pp., paperback, £5.99
With his customary clarity and precision of style and structure, David Murray provides us with a preacher’s toolbox – not a full pastoral theology per se but rather a practical homiletical help. As a toolbox, it is well stocked with just the kind of instruments and tools that a preacher needs in order to construct a well-ordered, well-balanced, well-directed sermon. But, as Murray would acknowledge, this is not a mechanistic process, and so the apprentice preacher must learn to select and employ his tools wisely and well through diligent practice and in prayerful dependence on the Spirit. As such, anyone who preaches and teaches would do well to take up Murray’s toolbox with a view to learning the use of the tools; the well-practiced preacher might readily survey the collection to see whether he has mislaid or neglected any of the tools of his trade; the sermon-hearer will learn some of what lies behind the hour of ministry he hears in the Sunday services. The proper use of this little book would be of genuine benefit to preachers and their congregations.
All pastoral theology reviews can be viewed here.
David’s book also benefits from a superb video trailer:
David Murray provides links to the recordings and the notes of his course on pastoral ministry during the last semester at PRTS. You may not have time to listen to all the audio, but the quotes in his notes are gold dust in their own right.
David Murray has some very helpful interaction with Tullian Tchividjian on the substance of his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In three parts, he considers the confusion of justification with sanctification; the confusion from making our own experience the norm for others; and, the confusion of our standing with God and our experience and enjoyment of God.
I think David is making some important points that point us away from error and toward truth in our understanding of holiness and its pursuit.
David Murray’s excellent blog has moved, now being part of a larger website under the HeadHeartHand moniker. I warmly recommend subscribing to the HeadHeartHand blog, not least because those who do will enjoy a free download of one of David’s films if they do so swiftly.
So, please head over and check it out.
David P. Murray
Reformation Heritage Books, 2010, 126pp., paperback, $10 / £7.50
Born of deep pastoral concern, this deliberately slim volume sets out to provide, from a reformed Christian perspective, a Biblically balanced introduction to the issue of depression that will be helpful to sufferers and care providers alike. Its brevity, together with its methodical solidity and alliterative structures, may help those who cannot handle something weightier. Murray sets out the crisis regarding depression (its reality and effects) before moving on to its complexity (resisting unhelpfully simplistic and sweeping declarations about the nature of the beast, but taking into account various spiritual, physical and mental factors). The chapter on the condition itself takes in the sufferer’s circumstances, thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms and behaviour – the sections on thoughts and feelings are particularly helpful in terms of understanding more or less helpful tracks and tendencies in our attitudes (general spiritual health issues of which all saints should be aware). Again, in considering the cause Murray ranges over a number of potential contributors, as he does when looking at the cure. Finally, there is a chapter for the caregivers, offering some encouragements and counsels. In a book of such brief scope there is always a danger of over- or under-stating a case, or a lack of definition, but I was still impressed with the thoughtfulness and tenderness with which Murray writes, his careful use of Scripture to support and defend his assertions, and his awareness of the interplay of various factors in understanding and addressing depression. He interacts critically with a variety of literature. He does not gloss over sin in its relationship to depression (as cause, concomitant, or consequence) but neither does he simply default to sin (or anything else) as the catch-all explanation for all sorts and degrees of depression. It is very much an introductory piece, but will be sufficient for many in getting a healthy and accurate grip on the issue of depression among believers. If you need help on this issue, you would find a good start here.
As some readers will know, David Murray, with whom I have been enjoying a growing acquaintance, was recently struck down with multiple pulmonary emboli. Others may remember that a few weeks ago, I was battered with something called Ramsay-Hunt syndrome in conjunction with a few other trials. Like David, I felt that I was getting something of a wake-up call; like David, I wrestled with the profitability of trying to work through some of the challenges in public, before breaking cover with a few thoughts; unlike David, I was not particularly cogent.
David has now posted the key lessons from his own experience of being laid aside, and it is necessary reading for all Christians, and perhaps especially for pastors. In particular, David identifies a frightening but ever-present danger for the busy Christian:
Let me summarize where I believe I erred: ministry without spirituality. Perfunctory and spiritual disciplines and going from one ministry activity to another to another to another, with hardly a moment to feel dependence upon God, cry for help, and seek the Lord’s blessing before, during, or after. Cramming every waking moment with “productive” activity. And certainly not a second in the day to “be still and know that I am God.”
But now, in the enforced stillness, I hear a loving and concerned God say, “My son, give me your heart.” Not your sermons, not your lectures, not your blogs, not your books, not your meetings, etc. But your heart. YOU!
Again, like David, I had a wake-up call; sadly, I forget too quickly. I now have the benefit of David’s wake-up call as a reminder of the lessons I had not properly learned or fully remembered. Do read it all.
David P. Murray
What for many parents might be a bewildering landscape is for their children the norm: the digital revolution has had a profound impact on almost every part of our life in the West, and it is this brave new world in which today’s children are growing up. But how can our children be equipped to face these challenges and embrace these opportunities? To help us, David Murray provides a short but helpful treatment (see preview and trailer below), in which he gives four Biblical principles to help us understand the technology around us. Following on, he offers three possible responses: enthusiastic embrace, strict separation, or disciplined discernment. Eschewing the thoughtlessness of the first two, he embraces the third, offering seven helpful steps drawn from Scripture by means of which to negotiate this realm, and to equip our children, under God, to deal with it righteously. So prevalent are these pressures that it is often a case of master or be mastered. In such a context, Murray’s suggestions will direct parents to manage their own digital load, as well as help their children learn how to live to God’s glory in the dawn of the digital age. The concrete recommendations of useful software and websites are helpful. Individual families will profit from this, but the material would be just as useful in church and other settings where the battle lines need to be drawn and the appropriate spiritual equipment issued.
I have little idea what the finished product will look and sound like, and – most importantly – consist of, but I like this topic, enjoy a lot of David Murray’s stuff, appreciate his attitude, and am impressed by his evident abilities (not merely as a theologian). He asks:
Want to find and worship Christ in the Old Testament? Need a weekly Bible Study that’s doctrinal, devotional, and doable? Trying to help your children study the Bible on a Sunday afternoon, but they aren’t great readers? Looking for a Sunday school series that marries “old” theology with new technology. The CrossReference series of films from Head Heart Hand Media may be for you.
Find out more here.
On a related topic, David informs us about an app store missionary putting his newfound skills to good use.
David Murray returns to the issue of holy hip hop to review comments received. He holds his line graciously and winsomely, accepting certain corrections and elucidations, but pressing home the same issues. He concludes:
We will never all fully agree on what is allowable for Christians in the four venues (see above). However, we will surely all agree that Christians should be challenging and learning from one another on what is sinful or holy, and what is wise or unwise in these four venues.
I am sure we do all agree on the desperate need of the inner cities (see this heart-rending article from yesterday’s New York Times), and on the long-term failure of the Church, especially the Reformed Church, to meet that need. Gospel Rappers are doing more than me in this regard at this time in my life, and in that I salute them.
And though I wish them to re-consider some of the means they are using (or at least the extent to which they are using them), I also need much more of the spirit of Philippians 1:18 when trying to evaluate their approach.
Those wrestling with this and related issues will do well to read and ponder the professor’s posts.
UPDATE: Shai Linne got in touch and went to chat with David Murray. Read how it degenerated into a terrible brawl here.
David Murray asks some searching questions about the acceptance and promotion of rap and hip hop in some New Calvinist circles. To be fair, he asks some of himself as well:
Am I just expressing a cultural preference? Am I just being a traditionalist or a legalist? Am I making my sometimes-faulty conscience a rule for others? Am I threatening the precious gift of Christian liberty? I have to answer such challenging questions honestly and prayerfully when I write something like this. And I continue to examine my motives and aims.
Even so, he is ready to press on and ask some good questions of others also:
But may I not also challenge highly esteemed brothers in the Lord to ask themselves a few questions: Is your Christ-like longing for the salvation of lost souls in our inner cities, and maybe your personal friendships with some Christian rappers, hindering you from taking a sharp biblical lens to Hip-Hop and a consistent biblical approach to the worship of God? Have you perhaps at times mistaken the incredibly powerful effects of music and rhythm upon the human spirit for the powerful effects of the Holy Spirit? Is “Holy Hip Hop” leading Christians and non-Christians away from unholy Hip Hop and its culture or keeping them in it, and maybe even leading outsiders into it? Is there ever a line to be drawn where we say: this culture is so corrupted that separation rather than transformation may be the right Christian response? Are you at risk of unintentionally undermining the biblical, reformed, and God-glorifying dependence on plain preaching to save all souls, whatever the color of their skin? If the message really is more important and powerful than the music, would removing the music and leaving the bare words excite the same interest and produce the same effect? Why is it mainly white churches that are providing a platform for this, and why are so many African American churches so reluctant to welcome a genre of music that has done so much to destroy their communities and devastate young lives?
Doubtless this one is going to cause a little friction, but – as David says -
If the unqualified promotion of “Holy Hip Hop” had not become so public and prevalent over recent days and weeks, I would probably have tried to conduct a more private discussion about my concerns. Maybe the promoters of “Holy Hip Hop” might have been wiser to consult more widely and seriously dialogue with other Christians outside their circles before going so increasingly public with their fairly unquestioning support of what they must know will divide the reformed movement. Although I now feel conscience-bound to put this into the public domain, I do continue to welcome dialogue, both public and private.
I’m hopeful that the New Calvinist movement is now old and mature enough to seriously and prayerfully consider some concerns from other Christians outside their inner circles, from those who love them, appreciate them, and sincerely desire their long-term spiritual prosperity.
We watch with interest both the responses to David’s thoughtful, irenic and earnest piece, and the spirit in which the discussion will be conducted.
[For more on the new Calvinism, intended in the same spirit, try here.]
David Murray provides the full text of a series of blog posts on evangelistic preaching. There are many helpful principles and much sound reasoning here. It is worth reading, especially for preachers.
David Murray (Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) has put into one document his material on How Sermons Work. The material is relatively brief and helpfully clear, evidently drawing on the best models of pastoral theology past and present. I have yet to read through the whole thing in detail, but this looks like an excellent resource (either as introduction or refresher to the homiletical and hortatory side of pastoral theology), perhaps alongside something like Preaching Pure and Simple by Stuart Olyott. To download, click the photo or here.
Several men of note have been falling over themselves to commend John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch. David Murray applies a necessary brake to the adulation by identifying a significant problem. He quotes an early paragraph:
The Pentateuch is a lesson drawn from the lives of its two leading men, Abraham and Moses. The Pentateuch lays out two fundamentally dissimilar ways of “walking with God” (Deut. 29:1): one is to be like Moses under the Sinai law, and is called the “Sinai covenant”; the other, like that of Abraham (Gen.15:6), is by faith and apart from the law, and is called the “new covenant” (page 14).
I read the passage again and again, just to make sure I had not misunderstood. How can you write 600+ pages on the Pentateuch and go so wrong in such a fundamental way at the very outset? Sailhamer is saying that there were two ways to be saved in the Old Testament. Like Moses, you could be saved by obeying the law. Or, like Abraham, you could be saved by believing in the Gospel.
That leaves me with three possible conclusions. First, Moses is in hell, having tried and failed to be saved by keeping the law. Or, second, there are two groups of people in heaven who have been saved in totally opposite ways. There are those like Moses who were saved by the works of the law, and there are those like Abraham who were saved through faith in the Messiah. Hard to see how there can be much fellowship when some are praising themselves and others are praising Christ. The third possible conclusion is that Sailhamer is wrong.
Ouch. Murray runs with the third conclusion for a few more paragraphs, then concludes:
I’m going to force myself to keep reading, hopefully to the end of the book, as I’m sure that there is much to learn from Sailhamer’s extensive work. But it’s hard to see how Sailhamer can correct this fundamental error without contradicting himself or greatly confusing his readers.
I was hoping to get hold of Sailhamer. I may still do so, as there will doubtless be vast quantities for me to learn. However, I am not now half so eager, as this seems like a disastrous stance, and – as Murray says – surely such a fundamental error does not leave much to build on.
An excellent post from David Murray:
Why does heaven feel so far away? Why does Jesus seem so distant?
Recent research* by Emily Balcetis and David Dunning indicates that the desirability of an object influences its perceived distance. Thirsty students fed with pretzels perceived a water bottle to be nearer than those who had had their thirst quenched. Other students placed in front of a $100 bill they could win for themselves perceived it to be closer than those who were told that the bill belonged to the scientist conducting the test. A third set of students had their sense of humor graded and clipped to a stand in front of them. Those given positive feedback estimated the stand to be closer than those who could see their feedback was negative. Other similar experiments confirmed the finding that desire reduces the perception of distance.
Is this why heaven often seems so far away? We don’t desire it enough?
Is this why Jesus sometimes seems so distant? We don’t desire Him enough?
But if desire reduces the distance, “Lord Jesus, give the desire and reduce the distance.”
*Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2009). “Wishful Seeing: More Desired Objects Are Seen as Closer.” Psychological Science.