Thursday, May 31, 2018

Patterson Lament and More on Perspicuity

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;[1]

Proverbs 24:17 (NASB)

Though I am not a part of the SBC anymore (but I have many family members that are), I lament for the congregation I use to call home. As the headlines today say, Paige Patterson has been relieved of any position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary including no compensation by the Executive Committee of the trustees. Dr. Patterson apparently did not handle the tragic situation with a rape victim in the most ideal fashion. Actually, if all the reports are true, it probably was outright wrong how he handled it. The SBC needs reform here, but I cannot directly take part in such reforms because I am no longer apart of the SBC, but I will probably indirectly with conversations with pastor-apologists who I still call my brothers in Christ and friends. However, I have other moderately-heavy important issues that have not been addressed so far in this debate.

wrote a few weeks ago, to counter Patterson’s views on perspicuity (clarity) of divorce as being a “clear” teaching in the Bible. I had one Facebook friend on my wall who said that Malachi 2:16a is clear on what God thinks about divorce. Translated in the NASB, it says ‘“For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel,…”[2] However, as one of the ESV translators, OT scholar Gordon Wenham (who is against almost all divorces), states, “This is one of the most difficult passages in the whole Bible to translate, so no one can be sure about what the text means precisely.”[3] He goes onto admit, “…it is unwise to build a case on this problematic text.” [4]  To see this translation difficulty, notice how the Southern Baptist affiliated CSB translation handles it stating, “’If he hates and divorces his wife’ says the Lord God of Israel…”[5] “For I [God] hate divorce” (NASB, NKJV) is changed to “If he hates and divorces his wife” Similar to the CSB, ESV states, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel.”[6]  This translation, along with the CSB, is probably more justifiable, because as biblical scholar William Heth states, “In the Hebrew text, the subject of ‘he hates’ is probably not Yahweh but the man, and so the reference is to an unjustifiable divorce (based on ‘hate’).”[7] Moreover, if one considers the rest of the context, Richard A. Taylor and E. Ray Clendenen conclude (SBC printed commentary), “we should note that Mal 2:10–16 is primarily directed against a man who breaks his marriage vows. The issue of breaking faith is made explicit in vv. 10, 11, 14, 15, and 16”[8], thus the application of this verse is narrower.
That being said, the point is that this verse is not “clear” either. It is at least partially obscure and needs to be interpreted along with other verses that are clearer. All in all, I think the 1986 Chicago Statement on Biblical Application Article VII is pretty close to getting it right. It states, in part:

We affirm that God hates divorce, however motivated.
We affirm that although God hates divorce, in a sinful world separation is sometimes advisable and divorce is sometimes inevitable.

As far as the perspicuity of Scripture goes, Patterson (along with many others) signed the 1982 Chicago Statement of Biblical Hermeneutics, which states in Article 23: 

We affirm the clarity of Scripture and specifically of its message about salvation from sin.

We deny that all passages of Scripture are equally clear or have equal bearing on the message of redemption. (emphasis added)

Thus, as my original post stated, this echos Westminister Confession, London Baptist Confession, and Philadelphia Confession. Much of Scripture is not clear and understandable at the surface. Along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, much of Scripture takes some to allot (this is a spectrum) of homework to start to properly understand. 

Many individuals may not care what these confessions say, but there is no real need for Lone Ranger theology or semi-Lone Ranger conclusions. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. But I will leave that for another day. Thank you for reading.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Pr 24:17.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mal 2:16.
[3]  Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) (p. 86). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[4] Ibid.
[5] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Mal 2:16.
[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Mal 2:16.
[7]  . Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) (p. 65). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[8] Richard A. Taylor and E. Ray Clendenen, Haggai, Malachi, vol. 21A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 359.
See also Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 28:0 (NA 1996)
Article: Divorce And Violence: Synonymous Parallelism In Malachi 2:16
Author: Elaine A. Heath

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