Monday, August 31, 2009
The website further reports that the translation "will be used in the teaching and worship practices of congregations in at least the following traditions: Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, and the United Church of Christ." The range of translators is very ecumenical.
The rationale for this new translation is similar to many others I've read. They say, "Music and worship practices have shifted significantly in the previous 15 years, with more emphasis on image and metaphor. A new translation must attend to evocative language that is more engaging emotionally than precise, systematic syntax. Further, due to globalization, technology, and the internet, enormous changes have occurred in the English language since the major translations were prepared a generation or two in the past. The vocabulary of the English language has tripled in size to more than one million words. It is time for a new translation that responds to the more recent needs and idioms of Bible readers."
I'm not sure English has changed that much to warrant an entirely new translation. I'll wait to see what this new emphasis on "image and metaphor" looks like. As with most contemporary translations this one will be dynamic equivalent in nature.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Charles and Sally Wesley had eight children. Of those eight only three survived infancy. On one occasion Charles received a letter from Sally informing him of the death of their son John James. She wrote, "This comes to acquaint you that our dear little babe is no more, his agony is over, but it was a hard struggle before he could depart. He was dying all yesterday from ten o'clock; about nine last night he departed." Charles wrote back for Sally to pray "Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt." In this he said, "God, who knoweth whereof we are made, and considereth that we are but dust, will, for Christ's sake, accept our weakest, most imperfect, desires of resignation. I know, the surest way to preserve our children, is to trust them with Him who loves them infinitely better than we do." (209) To read this too quickly would be a tragedy. No doubt the pain went deep. But not so deep as to shake the faith of this father who believed that God still loved his children better than he did. I could only imagine him holding this letter in his hand with a tear- stained face and the added pain of not being able to be there to console his dear wife. For some what Charles wrote will seem as little more than platitudes. But they are not. They are the thoughts of a man who was deeply entrenched in the love of God and, perhaps more importantly, his knowledge of God's for him. The saints of God are not immune to the deepest pain this world has to offer.
Frequently separated from Sally the letters between them are a living testimony of their love and devotion. Charles was sometimes frustrated that Sally did not write as much as he did. They agreed to pray for each other daily at 5:00 p.m. (202) Charles did feel a tension between his work and being separated from Sally and the kids and wrote about it often. And true to course Charles wrote hymns on virtually everything--on the occasion of their anniversary to children cutting teeth. (202 & 206) He even wrote a hymn about a family cat! (207) I was disappointed to read that he "apparently believed that to show the children his favor would spoil them." (209) But love them he did. When Charles Wesley Jr. began to show interest in music he encouraged him to pursue his desires in spite of protests from those who thought this was inappropriate and worldly. He encouraged his daughter in her poetry (but expressed concern about her wearing high heels since they made her "more liable to fall"). (212)
Wesley's marriage was a happy one. The same could not be said of John. Charles struggled with the balance of the needs of the ministry and his families needs. It became a source on tension between the two brothers. But another issue would threaten to separate the brothers even more--the issue of the Church of England.
The issue of whether the Methodist should separate from the Church of England was a source of tension between Charles and John. The issue of separation for Charles was a non-negotiable. Tyson notes that "he considered support for the Church of England an implicit requirement for membership in the Methodist societies." (215) At the heart of the issue was the desire on the part of the lay preachers to distribute the sacraments. This they could not do without the proper ordination from the Church. Charles began to refer to them as "Melchisedechians," that is, "an order of priesthood without lineage or genealogy." (218-19) In time Charles seriously contemplated leaving Methodism if they were to separate from the Church. (224 & 227) Through all of this John was convinced that his brother was "overreacting about the potential for schism" and even said Charles was guilty of bigotry. (224 & 226) For some, however, a schism with the Church already existed. The mere existence of lay preachers was itself a form of separation.
Tyson summarizes this chapter with the words of one early Methodist preacher, Adam Clarke, who said, "Mr. J. Wesley mildly recommended the people to go to the Church and Sacrament. Mr. C. Wesley threatened them with damnation if they did not." ( emphasis his, 229)
At the end of the day I saw Charles as a man of passion for both his family and his church. He loved them both and desired the best for both. He was not blind to the faults of the church but "his criticisms were usually tinged with compassion and love." (216) Current criticisms of the church today could learn much from Wesley.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I look forward to reading Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering because I think there is some wisdom in a properly formulated doctrine of impassibility. My thoughts have been mostly shaped by Thomas G. Weinandy. I read his book Does God Suffer? a couple of years ago and was very impressed with his reasoning. This new book from Eerdmans, edited by James F. Keating and Thomas Joseph White, brings together a spectrum of opinions from Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions. For those seeking to understand this doctrine and see arguments both for and against this will be a must-read volume.
It is a paperback with 357 pages and sells for $45.00.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
"Christopher Hall invites us to accompany the fathers as they enter the sanctuary for worship and the chapel for prayer. He also takes us to the wilderness, where we learn from the early monastics as they draw close to God in their solitary discipline.
The focus of this book is not liturgy but more broadly worship in its corporate and individual dimensions. We enter into the patristic understanding of baptism and the Eucharist. And we come under the instruction and discipline of great spiritual teachers of prayer.
In two previous books, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers and Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, Christopher Hall has ushered us alongside the church fathers as they study the Scriptures and plumb the depths of theology. In this survey of the spiritual life of worship he informs and challenges Christians in faithful living today. Hall weaves his own experiences into his observations of the fathers' practices and teachings and so helps us close the gap of the centuries. Readers will enjoy a rich and rare schooling in developing their spiritual life."
Fair warning: an orthodox priest once told me, "Once you start reading the fathers of the church your road to Orthodoxy is a short one." A sentiment I think The Voice of Stefan would agree with.
These are valuable resources and they are at a most reasonable price of only $20.00 Look for this newest volume in January 2010. It will be paperback with 312 pages.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ah! gentle, gracious Dove;
And art Thou grieved in me,
That sinners should restrain Thy love,
and say, "It is not free;
It is not free for all";
The most Thou passt by,
And mockest with a fruitless call
Whom Thou has doom'd to die.
Tyson notes two figures during this controversy: John Cennick and George Whitefield. Cennick had been sent by John Wesley to be the master of the Kingswood School. As it turned out Cennick was a "closest Calvinist." When this was discovered Charles lamented, "we have set the wolf to keep the sheep." (104) Charles tried to come to some kind of understanding with Cennick but to no avail. He sent for John (who was still dealing with the "still ones") to come and help him. But it was too late. The Methodism eventually divided into Calvinist Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists. Tyson notes that this might have been the end of it if it hadn't already spread to some of their closest friends and allies in the revival--most notably George Whitefield.
George Whitefield had enjoyed great success in open air evangelism and was drawing large crowds. Charles was a man of peace and wrote to Whitefield offering an olive branch. He wrote, "My soul is set upon peace, and drawn out after you by love stronger than death." (106) Charles knew that people would have loved to drive a wedge between the two parties. Whitefield wrote back asking Charles to "never speak against election in your sermons." (106) He too desired peace as he wrote "I think I would rather die than see a division between us; and yet how can we walk together if we oppose each other?" (107) Letters were exchanged, books and hymns written and the controversy only escalated. By 1741 things began to settle and "[t]hey agreed not to preach or publish against each other with respect to this controversial doctrine." (114)
As with the "stillness" doctrine this controversy helped shape and solidify some vital elements of Wesleyan doctrine. Tyson explains, "Where he [Charles] had formerly advocated for universal salvation as one of the 'grand truths of the everlasting gospel,' now he insisted upon it. To that extent, the Calvinistic controversy found a resounding echo in almost every hymn Charles Wesley wrote after it; the Wesleyan 'all' became standard parlance in his hymns and preaching." (115)
As a Calvinist this was a hard chapter to read. To have doctrines that are so meaningful to me described as hellish blasphemy cuts to the quick. But I have seen similar rhetoric employed against my Arminian brothers and sisters. It is my prayer that the events of history can help us learn to disagree with Christian civility and love. To genuinely listen to the heart beat which lies underneath our doctrine and engage in debate which is dignified and profitable for growth.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
"Buying books at a bookstore, however, means getting something for your money. It isn’t just a form of donation to the college or seminary.
We pay to have books right there on the shelves to buy now, not in a few days or weeks.
We pay to have books available to pick up, inspect, and decide about purchasing in a way websites can never emulate, no matter what cool features they add.
We pay for the wisdom and taste of professional theological booksellers who pick out the good books from the many, many bad ones. (Anyone up for some serious religious book buying at Barnes & Noble or Borders? At Wal-Mart?)
We pay for staff to advise us on what else might interest us on a topic, and also what might interest Uncle Fred or Cousin Wilma or Nephew Barney or Reverend Betty for a birthday or graduation or study leave or retirement.
We pay for information on why a book is not currently available, and perhaps on other ways of getting it (e.g., from the U.K. when it’s not available over here, particularly if it’s been published under a different title elsewhere).
We pay to be able to return things easily and confidently.
And we pay for the serendipity—not a trivial thing—of coming across books we never knew existed and for which we would never have thought to search on a website."
Thank you Dr. Stackhouse for seeing the value of our industry and giving expression to it so well. And, while I'm at it, thanks to all our customers who have kept us alive and well for 70 years. May the Lord give us 70 more.
"If the Bible teaches something that’s a logical contradiction you should disbelieve the Bible."
"Shame on you, if you claim to love Jesus, if you don’t care enough to learn what our brothers did for four centuries so that we would not affirm a contradiction. So committed was the church to the supremacy of logic."
Monday, August 24, 2009
The mystery was solved by an Anglican Priest named Kenneth Newport. It took him nine years to break the code. Some of the issues discussed were John's marriage to Grace Murray and Charles' strong opposition to any idea of the Methodists separating from the Anglican church. Newport is reported as saying, "At one point in the journal he is talking to the society at Grimsby and goes into block capitals and says 'I told them I would remain with them as long as they remained with the Church of England but should they ever turn their back on the Church they turn their back on me'." To be fair these issues were already well known to students of Wesley so it's hard to say if there is anything really new to be learned. Both of the above issues are discussed in the biography by Tyson. But it does show Wesley's concern to be discreet when discussing these things even in his own diary.
Some reports have tried to fabricate some kind of hidden "sex scandal." More responsible treatments have tried to keep things in perspective.
My post on Charles Wesley and "The Poison of Calvinism" will be up on Wednesday.
Two of the most interesting chapters were on "The Snare of Stillness" and "The Poison of Calvin." I will cover the Stillness doctrine today and "The Poison of Calvin" in a later post. In 1739 a controversy broke out over the issue of "stillness." Stillness was a thought associated with the English Moravians. As John Wesley described it the Moravians did not want anything to do with what is traditionally called the "means of grace." He says they simply "wait for Christ and be still." "Not to go to church; not to communicate, not to fast, not use so much private prayer, not to read the Scriptures . . . not to do temporal good, not to attempt doing spiritual good." (86) The Moravians thought that these outward expressions could be a "hindrance to inner piety--if one depended upon them for their salvation." (84) Some of Charles' closest friends were drawn into this and it strained more than one dear friendship. One of those was John Bray. Bray was instrumental in "Wesley's evangelical conversion" and so held a close place in the heart of Wesley. (91) At first both brothers, but especially Charles, thought some sort of union might be possible but these illusions were quickly dissipated. The lessons of this controversy were important and helped shape the priorities of early Methodism. Tyson summarizes it well:
"The 'stillness controversy' taught the Methodist movement the value of its Anglican roots. It would have been easy enough to go with the 'still ones' down the road that led to a more private and more radical evangelical faith. But this controversy showed how deeply the Methodists were tied to the Anglican 'means of grace,' and how deep their desire was for 'social holiness' that made a difference in the world around them. The controversy refined the Methodists' commitment to spiritual disciplines, the Lord's Supper, and the importance of good works as fruits of their justification. In part as a result of this controversy the 'means of grace' became enshrined in all the formative documents of the Methodist societies, classes, and bands. And the Methodists continued to be committed to an Anglican understanding of the Lord's Supper. Their practical theology about 'the means of grace' was hammered out and set in place in the context of their emphasis upon sanctification and Christian perfection." (97)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
1. Jesus at the Vanishing Point - Robert M. Price
2. Jesus and the Challenge of Collaborative Eschatology - John Dominic Crossan
3. Learning the Human Jesus: Historical Criticism and Literary Criticism - Luke Timothy Johnson
4. Remembering Jesus: How the Quest of the Historical Jesus Lost its Way - James D. G. Dunn
5. The Historical Jesus: An Evangelical View - Darrell Bock
I find it interesting that we have two members of the Jesus Seminar as contributors. I am familiar with all but Robert Price and though I have several disagreements with Johnson and Dunn I have learned much from them. Dunn has written a book for Baker Academic entitled A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed. As with all the books of this genre the best part are the responses. My own views are, not surprisingly, aligned with Bock. The responses to his essay will be most interesting.
Look for it this November. It will be paperback with 288 pages and sell for $26.00.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Part One: God Is
1 Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God
William Lane Craig
2 The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism
J. P. Moreland
3 Evidence of a Morally Perfect God
Part Two: God Is Great
4 God and Physics
5 God and Evolution
6 Evolutionary Explanations of Religion?
Michael J. Murray
Part Three: God Is Good
7 God, Evil and Morality
8 Is Religion Evil?
9 Are Old Testament Laws Evil?
10 How Could God Create Hell?
Part Four: Why It Matters
11 Recognizing Divine Revelation
12 The Messiah You Never Expected
13 Tracing the Resurrection of Jesus
14 Why Faith in Jesus Matters
Postscript: My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Belief in God
Antony Flew (with Gary Habermas)
Appendix A: The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism "Ad Absurdum": Review of
Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion
Look for it this November. It will be paperback with 272 pages and sell for $19.00.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."
The post has drawn 285(!) comments to date and it is a storm in itself. As expected the comments range from very volatile to complete support. I did not read many of them before I realized my time is too valuable to read a lot of hot-headed thoughtless reactions to one pastor's observation. You don't have to agree with Piper (I expect most will not) but too many that differed resorted to ad hominem arguments or no argument at all--just venting. I have read Piper for years and respect him greatly but I'll admit to a certain amount of discomfort with his "interpretation of this Providence." But within a strong Calvinistic framework can there be "coincidences?" One commenter asked why God did not bring a similar disaster when the Episcopalians were discussing the issue. At first blush this may seem to be a fair question. But God has not struck down all those who have "lied to the Holy Spirit" as he did with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Without the benefit of divine revelation we would have looked at this event as an interesting coincidence of a man and wife dying on the same day. If God takes action against a sin in some fashion on one occasion is he obligated to repeat that on the next occasion of that sin? Obviously not. So why am I uneasy with Piper's conclusion?
John Woodbridge once described himself in class as a "weak-kneed Calvinist." I think that describes me here. I understand Piper's comments and they are consistent with a Calvinist theology but I don't know if I could have gone that far. Or perhaps to be more honest--I may have thought it but would not have verbalized it.
D. A. Carson makes similar statements in his book How Long, O Lord with regard to divine judgment and AIDS and the arrogance of medical science. Consider these two statements:
"The plain fact of the matter is that if there were no sexual promiscuity and no intravenous drug use, there would be no AIDS; and those who are most sexually promiscuous are at greatest risk. It is exceedingly difficult--not to say morally and biblically irresponsible--not to see a connection." (231)
"It is exceedingly difficult for anyone steeped in Scripture not to see in AIDS a firm rebuke of the arrogance of medical science." (232)
Now these statements are not made in a vacuum. Carson has his reasons and arguments which I can't rehearse here. But nonetheless he is clearly saying that some connections of divine providence and events in current society should be fairly obvious to those "steeped in Scripture." Critics will quickly respond that others who are "steeped in Scripture" disagree with Carson so what he should have said was "those who are steeped in a certain form of Calvinism" will not fail to see a connection.
Whatever you may think I believe it is worth discussing. But we need to leave off the invectives which produce nothing but heated emotions. Where do we start? Well, after I'm done with my biography on Wesley I will pick up Steven J. Keillor's book God's Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. Funny how things can rearrange you reading priorities.
A year ago Eerdmans published a biography of Charles Wesley by John R. Tyson called Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley. I started it once and was soon distracted by the lure of other titles. I've decided to pick it up again and finish it this time. I won't completely break from my other reading (I can never just read one book) but will make this my primary reading for the next week or so. I'll let you know what I think when I'm done.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The early endorsements are many and some from very unexpected sources. Consider this from Kevin Vanhoozer:
"Scott Hahn here renders an important service in so clearly setting forth the hermeneutical principles, biblical framework, and doctrinal positions of Pope Benedict XVI, arguably the world's most important contemporary theologian. The parallels between the biblical theology of the pope and of evangelicals, together with their respective attempts to interpret Scripture theologically in an age marked by modern biblical criticism, are particularly fascinating." (emphasis mine)
Tremper Longman says:
"As a Protestant biblical scholar, I found Scott Hahn's exposition of Pope Benedict's biblical theology both informative and inspiring. In spite of differences, Protestants need to read this book to understand how deeply we can agree on the primacy of Christ and the Word. Through Hahn, I have a new appreciation for the mind and heart of Pope Benedict."
And you don't get more Reformed than Michael Horton who says:
"Biblical theology--that is, the work of tracing major scriptural themes from promise to fulfillment--is essential for the life and health of the Church. Long before his election as pope, Benedict XVI brought his wide-ranging gifts to bear in this field in a Christ-centered exposition. Even when one disagrees with some of his conclusions, Benedict's insights, as well as his engagement with critical scholarship, offer a wealth of reflection. In this remarkable book, Scott Hahn has drawn out the central themes of Benedict's teaching in a highly readable summary that includes not only the pope's published works but also his less-accessible homilies and addresses. This is an eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time."
You can find all the endorsements here. I have come to have a deep respect for Pope Benedict XVI and can only anticipate that this work will not disappoint.
Look for it this October. It will be a paperback with 208 pages and sell for $21.99.
To see how a Protestant and a Catholic can engage in healthy dialogue yet disagree see the blog post by Kevin DeYoung on "Is the Mass Idolatrous?" with responses from Scott Hahn. Very interesting.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Here's the catalog description:
"Glo is a new interactive Bible that brings God’s Word to life through HD video, photographs, animations, maps, reading plans, 360-degree virtual tours, and a unique zoomable interface for fast, easy, visual navigation on PC computers and smart phones. Glo unpacks the Bible through 5 main lenses: Bible —The most read, most trusted NIV translation of the Bible in its natural order, with resources and media related to each verse. Atlas—See where major stories of the Bible happened geographically alongside map overlays, tours, photos, and HD video. Timeline—View when the events happened chronologically and visually through a zoomable interface. Topical—Address major life questions through relevant verses on thousands of subjects from leading pastors, scholars and other experts. Media—Browse biblical content by media type, including a huge collection of HD video, virtual tours, articles, photos, art, and more."
It should be out this October and will sell for $79.99. I placed an order for 30 for the store so we will have plenty when they come out. This could make a great Christmas gift.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The Calvinist View: Paul Helm
The Amyraldian View: Michael Jensen
The Arminian View: Ben Witherington
This should prove to be very interesting, or as Michael puts it "a ripper."
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The catalog description follows:
"Lynn Cohick provides an accurate and full picture of the earliest Christian women by examining a wide variety of first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman documents that illuminate their lives. She organizes the book around three major spheres of life: family (daughter, wife, mother, widow), religious community (including both official and unofficial activities), and society in general (work, slavery, prostitution, benefaction). Cohick shows that although women during this period were active at all levels within their religious communities, their influence was not always identified by leadership titles nor did their gender always determine their level of participation.
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians corrects our understanding of early Christian women by offering an authentic and descriptive historical picture of their lives. The book includes black-and-white illustrations from the ancient world."
The book will be a paperback with 352 pages and sell for $26.99.
Cohick is associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. She previously taught at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I have benefited greatly from Carson's writings and it was one of the high points of my seminary education to sit through one of his classes.
If you're not familiar with Carson there is a great biography of him written by Andreas Kostenberger here.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler used to encourage people to read books that were over their head. Adler in this YouTube clip says it this way, "The art of reading, I’d like to say, consists in having the skills required for lifting your mind up with a book, and nothing but a book in your hand, from understanding less to understanding more." What was the last book you read that forced you out of your comfort zone and made you think hard? For me, it is Signature in the Cell. I must say the effort, while arduous, is sheer delight.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Coming this January is a book from C. Marvin Pate on the various views of the millennium called What Does the Future Hold: Exploring Various Views on the End Times.
Prior to this volume I have recommended two works on this issue. The one in the Counterpoint series called Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond and another by a single author, Millard Erickson's A Basic Guide to Eschatology: Making Sense of the Millennium.
The catalog description follows on Pate's book:
"'It's the end of the world as we know it,' proclaims the popular song. And sometimes the daily news appears to confirm that forecast. The signs of the times hailing Christ's return seem to be all around. Or so it appears. But, is it really the end of the world? Christians through the ages have held to a variety of understandings of the millennium--the belief that a 1,000-year period of utopia will one day come. In this book, prophecy expert and biblical scholar Marvin Pate helpfully highlights the three major views of when Christ will return--premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism--as well as a fourth skeptical interpretation, expertly analyzing them all. This timely treatment provides a reader-friendly, accessible overview of the ongoing debate over end-times viewpoints."
I am curious about this "fourth skeptical interpretation." The book will be 160 pages and sell for $12.99. (Contrast this with Erickson's work which has 200 pages and sells for $20.00 and the Zondervan book which has 336 pages and sells for $17.99.)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Presenting and Arguing for Multi-Site Church
Theological Defense of Multi-Site by Greg R. Allison
A seminary professor examines the multi-site phenomenon and offers a biblical, theological, historical, and missional argument for the multi-site church.
A Pastor Defends his Multi-Site Church by J. D. Greehar
A multi-site pastor provides a biblical, practical, and pastoral defense of his multi-site church.
Identifying and Locating the Multi-Site Church
What is this Thing Anyway? A Multi-Site Taxonomy by Greg Gilbert
Can multi-site churches be congregational? What kind of polity does a multi-site church have?
Have We Ever Seen This Before? Multi-Sites Precedents by John S. Hammett
Another seminary professor looks for multi-site churches before 1980. Here's what he finds.
Richard Baxter and the Multi-Site Movement by Jeffery Riddle
What's Richard Baxter's problem with the multi-site church? One word: shepherding.
Clouds on the Horizon by Matt Chandler
A multi-site pastor weighs in on the current state of the multi-site conversation and raises concerns about the future of multi-site churches.
Arguing Against the Multi-Site Church
Nine Reasons I Don't Like Multi-Site Churches, from a Guy Who Should by Thomas White
A young, tech-savvy seminary professor explains why he's not getting on board the
Exegetical Critique of Multi-Site: Disassembling the Church? by Grant Gaines
A pastor-scholar weighs the exegetical arguments in favor of the multi-site church and finds them wanting.
Theological Critique of Multi-Site: Leadership is the Church by Jonathan Leeman
The local church on earth is constituted by a gathering of Christians, which means the multi-site and multi-service “church” is not a church, but an association of churches.
Historical Critique of Multi-Site: Over My Dead Body by Bobby Jamieson
Regardless of the fact that multi-site churches haven't existed for most of the past four hundred years, historic Congregationalists and Baptists have a lot to say against them.
The Alternative to Multi-Site: Why Don't We Plant? by Jonathan Leeman
The multi-site church phenomenon looks like a capitulation to consumeristic culture. We should plant instead.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings--when the mortgage we've applied for comes through, or when we first turn on the ignition in a car we've just purchased. We may sigh a prayer of sweaty thanks after a near miss on the highway; we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.
That is why, when we turn to Paul's thanksgivings, they may startle us; they may even seem alien, for they do not focus on what many of us habitually cherish. Paul gives thanks for signs of grace among Christians, among the Christians whom he is addressing." (40-41)
What most layman don't realize is that this is nothing new. Oh, sure they know that liberals don't believe in the virgin birth but most are not as familiar with how much the doctrine is increasingly being undermined by Christian scholars. One example is James D. G. Dunn in his book Jesus Remembered.
In Dunn's discussion of the virgin birth he is careful to note that while Jesus' birth was "special--'from the Holy Spirit' (Matt. 1.20), by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1.35). That of itself need not imply a virginal conception, but a virginal conception could well have been an elaboration of the basic affirmation, especially when Isa. 7:14 was brought into play." (347, emphasis mine). He further comments that the notion of an illegitimate birth cannot be excluded as a "historical judgment" though the inference for this is "exceedingly thin." (346) In a footnote Dunn says we "also need to be aware of the biological and theological corollaries on insisting that the virginal conception/birth was a historical fact." (347 n.48) What does this mean? He follows this with a quote, which Dunn describes as nothing more than being "blunt" from Arthur Peacocke. It reads, "For Jesus to be fully human he had, for both biological and theological reasons, to have a human father as well as a human mother and the weight of the historical evidence strongly indicates that this was so--and that it was probably Joseph. Any theology for a scientific age which is concerned with the significance of Jesus of Nazareth now has to start at this point." (347 n.48)
It is true Dunn himself never comes right out and says "the virgin birth didn't happen" but there isn't much here to give confidence in the historical veracity of the virgin birth. In fact, he offers many reasons why it would be reasonable and justifiable to deny its historicity. So, you might be thinking "who's going to read this book of 900+ pages anyway?" Answer: students who will soon be filling the pulpits of tomorrows churches. Dunn is professor of divinity at the University of Durham, England. It takes a while for the fruits of scholarship to filter into the pew. But it will come.
Those interested in learning more about the virgin birth should consult J. Gresham Machen's classic The Virgin Birth of Christ. One final thought. In my initial quote from Bell he mentions that the "followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults" had gods who were also born of a virgin. This is a myth that seems to perpetuate itself in the popular skeptic materials. I'm not saying Bell believes this to be true. He was just making an illustration. But let's set the record straight: according to Edwin Yamauchi, a specialist in Mithraism, Mithras was born "out of a rock." (In "Christianity's Beliefs about Jesus were Copied from Pagan Religions" in The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel, p. 171). As for Dionysus, Yamauchi says, "There's no evidence of a virgin birth for Dionysus." (180) Christians have nothing to fear from the alleged parallels to pagan religions and have better reasons than those afforded by Dunn in accepting the virgin birth.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Doubts about Christianity
Dealing with Doubt
Saturday, August 8, 2009
He says, "The Bible is clear. Christians are called to be mortared into the life of a church where the Word is proclaimed, the sacraments are properly administered, and discipline is practiced. Indeed, it is characteristic of the regenerate that they will be part of a local church. Quacking doesn’t make you a duck. But, ducks do quack. A commitment to a local church doesn’t make a Christian, but Christians are committed to a church."
A couple of the comments pushed right back and Brauns agreed that the nuances provided were appropriate but that the post "was pushing on one side of the issue." Those who need to hear Brauns most are those who are cavalier about the importance of joining a church. For any number of reasons believers can find themselves without membership in a particular church. Those who commented gave some good examples. Having said that there are too many who have discarded church as having any real importance in their lives.
Brauns quotes David Wells on the doctrine of the "invisible church" which said, in part, the intent of the doctrine was never to "make what was visible unimportant." Well said.
For another perspective see the comments by Jeff on Scripture Zealot here. Also, see the comments by Mike Wittmer on Evangelical Ecclesiology and his new found love for a new book from Brazos Press by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger called Exploring Ecclesiology.
UPDATE 8/8/08 - Brauns has provided a second post which helps clarify his position in the light of the "exceptions" which exist.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Where: Baker Book House, 2768 E. Paris Ave, SE Grand Rapids, MI 494546
When: Thursday, August 13th at 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Contact us: 616-957-3110; toll free 1-866-241-6733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Naselli's review of the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB) is available online. Naselli is currently a student in a PhD program at my alma mater Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and he is a research assistant to D. A. Carson. If you have been following my posts on Study Bibles Compared (under "Blog Categories" as "Study Bibles") you will know that I like a study Bible that offers a variety of views on controversial passages. This is a very important feature for me when it comes to a study Bible. Naselli lists some passages where the ESV Study Bible offers a variety of views without favoring one particular interpretation. Among those are: "Ezekiel 40-48; Dan 9:24-27; 1 Cor 11:24; 13:8; 2 Thess 2:5-7; 1 Tim 2:4; Heb 6:4-8; 1 Pet 3:19; and the book of Revelation." He then gives a "sampling of how the ESVSB handles some controversial issues (including when it does favor a particular view)." Here's just a few:
• Genesis 1-2 neither requires nor precludes an ordinary day interpretation.
• Both the early and late dates for the exodus are viable options.
• Pharaoh is responsible for his hardened heart, but the Lord's sovereign hand ultimately governs the hardening (Exod 4:21; etc.).
• Both the single and double fulfillment views of Isa 7:14 are viable options.
• Peter is "the rock" in Matt 16:18.
• In Matthew 24-25, Jesus "apparently intertwines prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and his second coming."
• John 6:40 "implies that no true believer will ever lose his or her salvation."
• The miracle of tongues fulfills Joel 2:28-32, "though not all of it was yet fulfilled"
• "In the early church, baptism was probably by immersion, at least as a general rule, though Christians dispute whether such a practice must always be followed literally today" (Rom 6:4).
• Salvation "is not ultimately based on human free will or effort but depends entirely on God's merciful will" (Rom 9:16).
• Rom 11:26 refers to "the salvation of the end-time generation of the Jewish people in the future."
• Paul teaches that men are women are equal in dignity and essence but distinct in their roles (e.g. 1 Cor 11:7-9, 14; 14:34-35; Gal 3:28; Eph 5:22-33; 1 Tim 2:12-13).
• NT prophecy "can have mistakes and must be tested or evaluated" (1 Cor 12:10).
• Regeneration logically precedes faith (Eph 2:5; 1 John 5:1).
• The verb "to meet" in 1 Thess 4:17 "may indicate that the subsequent movement of the saints after meeting Christ 'in the air' conforms to Christ's direction, thus in a downward motion toward the earth." This suggests a posttribulational view, but the notes do not explain the major rapture views (though the introduction to Revelation does).
• Good works are the necessary result of justification (Jas 2:14-26).
• "Jesus' sacrifice is offered and made available to everyone in 'the whole world,' not just to John and his current readers" (1 John 2:2).
• Genuine Christians "have been so transformed that they cannot live in a pattern of continual sin-though this does not mean that Christians are ever completely free from sin in this life" (1 John 3:9-10).
Naselli concludes, "No other study Bible matches the ESVSB in quantity or quality." I'm not sure I would go that far. The NIV Study Bible is still an impressive study Bible and now that it is available from Cambridge in a goatskin leather you can have a premium binding that is Smyth-sewn with high quality paper to match the ESVSB. Having said that I have enjoyed using my own ESV Study Bible and would recommend it.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The catalog description follows:
"In this book Graham A. Cole seeks to answer this question by setting the atoning work of the cross in the broad framework of God's grand plan to restore the created order, and places the story of Jesus, his cross and empty tomb within it. Since we have become paradoxically the glory and garbage of the universe, our great need is peace with God and not just with God, but also with one another. Atonement brings shalom by defeating the enemies of peace, overcoming both the barriers to reconciliation and to the restoration of creation through the sacrifice of Christ. The 'peace dividend' that atonement brings ranges from the forgiveness of sins for the individual to adoption into the family of God."
It will be paperback, 320 pages and sell for $26.00.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"The story behind Great is Thy Faithfulness should encourage every Christian who thinks of their life as ordinary. There’s no tragic story (think 'It Is Well' by Horatio Spafford) associated with this hymn. It’s just the fruit of a faithful man with a simple faith in a faithful God.
Thomas Chisholm, who sometimes described himself as 'just an old shoe,' was born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1866. He was converted when he was 27, became a pastor at 36, but had to retire one year later due to poor health. He spent the majority of the rest of his life as a life insurance agent in New Jersey. He died in 1960 at the age of 93. During his life he wrote over 1200 poems, most of which no one will ever hear.
But back in 1923, at the 'beyond his prime' age of 57, Thomas Chisholm sent a few of his poems to William Runyan at the Hope Publishing Company. One of them was Great is Thy Faithfulness, based on Lamentations 3:22-23."
Read the entire story here and be encouraged.
Monday, August 3, 2009
All of us in the store are very excited about our 70th birthday. Actually, we don't need much of an excuse to get excited but this just puts us over the top. I consider it a pleasure to work for such a great company. That may sound like a cliche but I assure you I mean it sincerely. Pictured here are Rich Baker, president of Baker Book House (on the left) and his son Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group. They are holding the book More Than Conquerors by William Hendrickson. It was the first book published by Baker in 1939 and it is still in print today. Rich is holding a first edition copy while Dwight is holding the current edition. I didn't make it into the picture, (Not sure how that happened. I kept walking behind them while she was snapping pictures.), but I will point out that my department is pictured in the background affectionately termed "The Deep End."
Read an article from The Grand Rapids Press complete with some really cool pictures. You can also read more about the history of Baker Book House here.
We are having some great sales in the store so if you are local or can get into town stop by and check it out. The sale is through the end of this week. Come in and join the celebration.
Bray's opinion is more than clear when he asserts "Bishop Wright has let us down badly." Bray is forceful in his expression and unbending in his certainty the Wright is wrong. I'm afraid that whatever points Bray has that may be valid will be ignored by readers who are turned off by his tone especially of the final two paragraphs.
Gerald Bray is Research Professor of Samford University and a Church of England minister. He also teaches specialized short courses for Beeson Divinity School.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
In a nutshell Helm argues that Wright "treats righteousness solely in terms of God's actions." He agrees with Piper that defining God's righteousness as covenant faithfulness does not go deep enough "because it does not start with the character of God, but with his actions." He recognizes the current fashion to think of theology in some sort of narrative form. He cites Horton (covenant), Vanhoozer (speech-act theory and 'theodrama') and Wright (history). The problem with all these narrative approaches is they cannot provide a doctrine of God. "Being, the being of God, must come first; acting is a consequence of being. . . In God's case, doing righteously follows from being righteous. Acting faithfully is a consequence of being faithful, of having a faithful character, or a character apt for being faithful."
I suspect the response from Wright could be that he is simply using terms, "righteousness" in particular, the same way that Scripture uses them and is not concerned to know if that word also refers to that quality of God's character which underlies his actions. This would be similar to an Eastern Orthodox understanding which says we only know God through his actions and can't know his nature. I'm not sure Wright would go that far but I'm only speculating on what his response to Helm would be. I think much of what Helm says bears hearing and can't be swept under the "that's just philosophical speculation" rug.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
"The most vivid illustration I know of careful prearrangement leading to extraordinary results is a commercial by the automobile manufacturer Honda. This commerical, a two-minute film called 'Cog,' records a complicated chain reaction of events (like dominoes falling, only much more spectacular). The film begins with a transmission bearing, which rolls into a synchro hub, which rolls into a gear wheel cog, which falls off a table and lands on a camshaft, and so on. . . Although the prearranged chain reaction in 'Cog' suggests full physical determinism, God's front-loading of information in the universe requires nothing of the sort."
The discussion is fascinating and made richer by wathcing the commercial. Take a look:
"So what is different about the new edition of my book? First, it’s about 15% longer. Particularly in the sections on social-scientific study of the ancient Mediterranean world, on literary criticism of the Gospels, on background to the Gospel of John, on the historicity of the Gospels more generally, on the quest of the historical Jesus, and on the Gnostic and other apocryphal Gospels, I have added extra material. These are areas on which there has been an intense flurry of scholarship in the last twelve years, since the first edition came out."