Because I Say SO!!

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Leadership

I appeal to the reader to consider and respond to the issue I am addressing. That issue is, in the language of Theology and Apologetics, “Empirical Adequacy”. Empirical Adequacy is the content, validity, organization and compelling substance of the data presented in representing an issue.  For a Theologian that substance must include a solid exegetical demonstration that supports the premise being set forth and defended. I make this appeal because the historical incident which precipitated my writing this article evokes much ‘heat’ and so far,  not much ‘light’. Thanks for digesting this introductory material as it is vital to my purpose in writing.

I am not going to identify people. I do so because I am asking my reader to consider the issue, not personalities. I will be more than happy to identify the players in this drama if you choose to contact me. I also want to add that the particular issue under consideration is NOT my primary focus. The issue of which I speak is the offering of Imprecatory Prayer directed at the current occupant of the White House by a Denominational personage. In response, the current President of that Denomination posted a BLOG article saying the individual offering such prayers is simply wrong.

That is the essence of the history shaping my appeal in this article. Neither individual to my knowledge offered any evidence or data to support their case. The media latches on to the “heat” and fans the flames. This kind of tripe sells. Controversy sizzles! People love a good fight. I have been called by the Editors of our newspaper to comment on issues they are writing about (Video Poker, Public Education, etc.). I have adopted the posture of not providing comment. The reason – - they are not interested in the Truth. They are only interested in controversy. They refuse to grant an editorial review prior to publication. They simply want to take a sentence or two from here or there and the result is often far from the true substance of my response to them in discussing the issue. It demeans Christ and the Gospel.

I am well aware that not every venue lends itself to the editorial space required to provide a full-orbed perspective. In that case, we would do well to opt for silence. Jesus found it quite acceptable to remain silent in the face of scurrilous and vicious attacks on His person and positions on a variety of topics.

Turning to the specific case at hand. There are Imprecatory Psalms. There are in fact ‘enemies of God’ today just as there were at the time the Psalmist recorded those Psalms. Consider the introduction to the Dissertation written by John Day at Dallas Theological Seminary (2001).

In this dissertation, I attempt plausibly to demonstrate that the utterance of imprecations (including the appeal for divine vengeance) against the recalcitrant enemies of God and his people—as is found in the Imprecatory Psalms—is consistent with the ethics of the Old Testament and finds corresponding (albeit somewhat lessened) echo in the New. This thesis is rooted (1) in the establishment of the psalms’ theology of imprecation in the very essence of the Torah—especially seen in the promise of divine vengeance expressed in the Song of Moses, the principle of divine justice outlined in the lex talionis, and the assurance of divine cursing as well as blessing articulated in the inaugural covenant of God with his people; and (2) in the presence of this theology carried, in essence, unchanged through to the end of the Christian Canon, and likewise utilized as the foundation for the infrequent imprecations in the New Testament. There is indeed a degree of difference in the progress of the testaments, but it is a difference in degree not a difference in kind. Thus, it is argued that whereas “love and blessing” is the dominant tone and characteristic ethic of the believer of both testaments, “cursing and calling for divine vengeance” is the believer’s extreme ethic—legitimately utilized in extreme circumstances, against sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression.

I offer this simply to demonstrate that a credible author writing in a recognized Doctoral program at an Evangelical Seminary of significant historical impact in Evangelical circles states that there is legitimacy in praying Imprecatory Psalms. Therefore, what justifies the response by individual #2 that individual #1 is simply “wrong” in offering such prayers?  It is this kind of bravado and less than credible exegesis and apologetic that gives the serious representation of Truth in the marketplace a bad name.

I appeal to my fellow Pastor/Leaders to improve on this profile. We are called to proclaim and defend the Truth (Acts 20:28-30). If the case you make lacks substance, be silent. If the case you make has substance but the venue for presentation denies adequate expression of all the facts, be silent.

One of the greatest needs of the hour is the restoration in the Marketplace of the Authority of Scripture. Presenting a compelling and exegetically sound profile on any given issue aids in that restoration. Polemics without exegesis is often entertaining but grossly inadequate. Heat without light is counter-productive, sophmoric and detrimental to the promotion of Truth in the Marketplace.

So my conclusion is this – - “Because I Say SO” is a travesty that does harm and not good for the cause of Christ. Speak with compelling exegetical substance, grace and dignity or remain silent. The ultimate resolution of each and every cause or case must be – “What does the text say?”

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