Thursday, December 27, 2007

That's Not Kosher

Way back in 1986 my best friend and new roommate asked me what kosher meant. I, not being educated in the Old Testament dietary rules, gave him the slang definition for kosher. I told him it meant it's cool, it's okay, or something like that. He immediately stated emphatically that it meant fit for Jews to eat. My reply to that was, "Sure! I knew that, but it also is slang for it's cool. Why did you ask me if you already knew what it meant.?" It was a frustrating conversation at the time, but it did demonstrate a truth.

If one fast forwards to about 2001 one will find me interested in theology and now several years later kosher has taken on a new meaning to me. One of the first books I read was Biblical Doctrines, which is Volume 2 of the Works of Benjamin B. Warfield. Chapter 10 is the chapter I wish to focus on. It is entitled "Redeemer and Redemption."

In it he discusses what the outcome would have been if instead of redeemer Christian emotion would have supported "ransom" and its derivatives rather than "redeem" and its derivatives.

"After all is said, the New Testament does not set forth the saving work of Christ as a redemption, but as a ransoming; and does not present Him to us therefore so much as our Redeemer as our Ransomer; and it is a pity that we have been diverted by the channels through which we have historically received our religious phraseology from the adoption and use in our familiar speech of the more exact terminology."

He discusses that by the adoption of the less exact term redeem we risk, "dissipating in our thought all that is distinctive in our Lord's saving action." He states, "The word (ransom) is essentially a modal word; it emphasizes the means by which the effect it intimates is accomplished, and does not exhaust itself merely in declaring the effect. The same, of course, may be said in principle of "redeem." But this word has suffered far more from attrition of meaning than "ransom," and indeed had already lost the power inevitably to suggest purchase before it was adopted into specifically Christian use."

He states further, "Men who have ceased to think of the work of Christ in terms of purchasing, and to whom the whole conception of His giving His life for us as a ransom, or of His pouring out His blood as a price paid for our sins, has become abhorrent, feel little difficulty, therefore in still speaking of Him as our Redeemer, and of His work as a Redemption, and of the Christianity which He founded as a Redemptive Religion."

So upon his writing this work he is speaking of a belief in Christ that does not involve a ransoming. He states, "Such an evacuation of these great words, the vehicles thus far of the fundamental Christian confession, of their whole content as such, is now actually going on about us."

He discusses how it is transpiring at a faster rate in Germany. He writes that in Germany the primary idea attached to the term is of a deliverance of some sort not implying a ransoming.

He states, "You see, that what we are doing today as we look out upon our current religious modes of speech, is assisting at the death bed of a word ... How many worthy words have already died under our very eyes, because we did not take care of them?"

"Tennyson calls our attention to one of them. "The grand old name of gentleman," he sings, "defamed by every charlatan, and soil'd with all ignoble use." If you persist in calling people who are not gentlemen by the name gentleman, you do not make them gentlemen by so calling them, but you end by making the word gentlemen mean that kind of people. The religious terrain is full of graves of good words which have died from lack of care."

"There is that good word "Evangelical." It is certainly moribund, if not already dead."

Warfield sums up the chapter with the following statement:

"I think you will agree with me that it is a sad thing to see words like these die like this. And I hope you will determine that, God helping you, you will not let them die thus, if any care on your part can preserve them in life and vigor. But the dying of the words is not the saddest thing which we see here. The saddest thing is the dying out of the hearts of men of the things for which the words stand. As ministers of Christ it will be your function to keep the things alive. If you can do that, the words whcih express the thing will take care of themselves. Either they will abide in vigor; or other good words and true will press in to take the place left vacant by them. The real thing for you to settle in your minds, therefore, is whether Christ is truly a Redeemer to you, and whether you find an actual Redemption in Him, or are you ready to deny the Master that bought you, and to count His blood an unholy thing? Do you realize that Christ is your Ransomer and has actually shed His blood for you as your ransom? Do you realize that your salvation has been bought, bought at a tremendous price, at the price of nothing less precious than blood, and that the blood of Christ, the Holy One of God? Or, go a step further: do you realize that this Christ who has thus shed His blood for you is Himself your God?"

May I always be cognizant of the fact that Christ who shed His blood for me as a ransom is Himself my God.

May I seek to express this to others with utmost care to protect the essentials of the Gospel.


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