Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Eschatological in Proverbs

One of the commenters over at Steve Camp's blog offered up John Piper as an example of one who encourages civil disobedience (and ultimately, it is supposed, to the political involvement of pastors... civil disobedience and the "political" environment in which it functions are inseparable) in the matter of abortion. Piper does seemingly encourage civil disobedience in a chapter entitled "Brothers, Blow the Trumpet for the Unborn" in his book "Brothers, We are not Professionals". On page 212 Piper says: "I believe pastors should put their lives and their ministries on the line in this issue."

I won't dissect the pros and cons of what Piper presents in this chapter. Piper makes a good case that the unborn represent the helpless and the vulnerable in our society and therefore, deserve our attention to justice on their behalf. What caught my attention was use of Proverbs 24:11,12 among the various proof texts for "rescuing" unborn children.

I would posit that the primary exegesis of the passages quoted by Piper is Christological/eschatological, not individual (Psalm 82:3,4, on the other hand, is more concerned with social justice, although it too is messianic/eschatological. It is probably no accident that the language of Psalm 82 and Proverbs 24 is similar, and thus have much to do with each other). The Proverbs passage is not speaking of those who are physically weak, primarily but those who are spiritually weak. This is not to say that the physical and spiritual have nothing to do with each other. The question is one of primacy in the text and in our thinking.

The eschatological struggle being described in Proverbs 24 is that between evil and good, or in Israel's immediate context, covenantal unfaithfulness vs. covenantal faithfulness (or as Hebrews describes it, apostasy vs. "sharing in Christ"). The parallelism of "to rescue" is to "find wisdom" and "eat honey" and "(find) your hope". When we encourage each other in our perseverence we are "rescuing" each other from death. It is those who "shrink back" (Hebrews 10:39) who are "stumbling to the slaughter" (for more on our mutual redemptive rescuing in this passage see Clearcreek Chapel Pastor Dan Turner's sermon).

And we engage in this perpetual rescuing of each other from apostasy *because* Christ, The Rescuer, rescued us. In back of the "rescue" of vs. 11 is a Redeemer who fends off death on behalf of those whose ultimate fate would otherwise be death and those who are stumbling toward it. We rescue the errant one from the apostasy of the antiChrist, because he first rescued us (1 John 4:19).

To the point: We have to be careful to make sure that we account for the Messianic nature of Old Testament texts before we apply a flatly literal hermeneutic to them. Which is *why* Goldsworthy says, "...the relationship of an Old Testament passage to Christ is the precondition for knowing how the passage applies to us as twentieth-century Christians". -- Goldsworthy, "The Tree of Life: Reading Proverbs Today", p. 5.


SJ Camp said...


Very well done--excellent post. I as well have a deep respect and love for John Piper.

But at the same time, I am concerned over how many well versed pastors theologically fall to social pragmatics or political means to addess these important issues of culture, like abortion, and not make "the battle" one that is dependant upon the heralding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Civil disobedience in our free society is permissible--and therefore, is allowed even for believers. But I would contend, that our civil disobedience is not rooted in the political, but the biblical. When Peter in Acts 4 and 5 was confronted about "not speaking any longer in the name of Jesus", he refused to honor their request. But yet he still honored the governing authorities by saying, "but you decide what our punishment should be.'

Point is, Christians can disobey goernment when they prohibit us from doing what God commands (sharing the gospel as in Peter's case); and commanding us to do what Scritpure prohibits (if our governement ever commanded every mother with two children already to have an abortion). But otherwise, let us make our voices known through legal means (voting, writing our legislators, neighborhood discussion groups, and lawful assembly) and then trust the Lord and His sovereign rule over the heads of state (Roms. 13:1-7).

The gospel must be the greater emphasis in overcoming the moral ills of our day. Amen?

Grace and peace to you brother,

PS - Good to have you in the blogosphere... "blogentating."