Wednesday, January 07, 2004

But you Promised...

Wendy responded with comments to my When Proverbs mean Proverbs post below. To avoid the truncating problem I will respond here. By the way, thanks for visiting my site Wendy. I'll have to disagree with you on the idea that it may be a pre-conceived notion to consider the Proverbs being just proverbs. First and foremost, we need to understand what the book of Proverbs were intended to be: Promises?, or Proverbs? There are two big reasons why I believe it to be the latter. 1) It makes sense in literary terms and, 2) It is the overwhelming consensus. 1) The Bible is God's special revelation given to us in written form. We communicate through a variety of means, with the written form being one of them. Context matters. Genre matters. An author's intent may not be realized if we do not take into consideration the context and genre. Think of the concern we have here - is this verse (Proverbs 22:6) a promise or a proverb? In our own world, a contract is a literary form that carries with it an agreed upon (public) meaning - it is not taken to be just a wise saying or a happenstance statement. My point is that if something is called a proverb it is because it is a proverb. If it were a promise, it would be called a promise. It really can't get any simpler than that. Wishing it were different doesn't change it. It was given to us in a form that we are to read and receive, as given... we aren't to be in the business of altering its delivery. I've yet to see any evidence why a book that was originally titled, and continues to be titled, Proverbs, should be taken as Promises. 2) Now in reviewing the issue of Proverbs I did not do an exhaustive study, but I did attempt to reference a significant amount of various commentaries, from multiple denominations and time periods. I also spoke with several pastors and a Messianic Rabbi as well. I found no one - zip, zero, nada - that held to the viewpoint that the Proverbs, in general, and Proverbs 22:6, in particular, should be taken as Promises. Does this conclusively prove that the Proverbs are not Promises? No. But it sure does put a lot of weight on my side of the fence. I see that you rest on the Hope found in the Bible. Good. So do I. But let's be clear - a potential promise in one part of the Bible does not necessarily mandate that a verse in another part of the Bible be a promise as well. Are we clear on that? Even if there is a promise that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, that does not justify turning Proverbs 22:6 into a promise nor does it somehow validate any other passage that deals with parenting as now becoming guarantees from God. This brings up a side issue of God's Will and His desires. Maybe in the future I'll do a post on that topic, but we need to understand that there are two aspects to God's will - as just stated, His Sovereign Will and what He desires. Simply because God desires that all should be saved (not just our children) does not mandate that we can pray all people into Heaven. (is that my Calvinistic bent showing there?) I'd be very careful in stringing together verses from various parts of the Bible to make your point (e.g., "I don't really understand why this verse has to be debated when we are promised that the prayer of righteous man availeth much, that we can receive what we ask for when it's according to His will, and we know we're dealing with a God who appeals even to our earthly desires to do good to our children when He asks us if we'd give a stone to one asking for food."). Lifting one verse out of the Bible runs the risk of taking it out of context... lifting a series of verses out, and then stringing them together is, in my opinion, dangerous exegesis. I also disagree that the answer Focus on the Family gave (I don't think it was Dobson himself) is without hope. We have our Hope... it is Jesus Christ and Him raised from the dead. I suspect that the folks at FOTF also do not consider the Bible to give a guarantee to parent's that they can insure the salvation of their children. Think about it. If that were truly in the Bible, why isn't it plastered on the front page of every publication that FOTF issues? Why isn't every evangelical pastor leading off and closing with it to his flock every single Sunday? Could it be, just maybe, because it isn't there?

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