I believe I’m going to turn off the comment feature of this weblog. I’m announcing it here because I don’t want anyone to think it’s because I don’t like his or her comments. I mean you, Rob, since you are the main commenter.
The reason is because I think the comment model is not something that works for me. I don’t comment a lot on other blogs.
The model of interaction that I like is more like a conversation. If you see a post you want to interact with, send me a tweet or an email. Or better yet, right your own blog post to continue the conversation. But let me know about it so I can return the favor.
Thanks, dear readers. Lights out.
Jonathan Watson has a nice endorsement of Runge’s work.
Since Paul was using a Greek convention, I wondered how we would accomplish the same thing in English. What if Paul had reframed the conditions as yes/no questions? Would that have the same effect? Take a look:
Is there any encouragement in Christ? (Well, yes, I suppose there is.)
Is there any consolation of love? (Well, yes, I guess so.)
Is there any fellowship of the Spirit? (OK, that too.)
Is there any affection and compassion? (Yes, I suppose so.)
Big Idea: If all of these things are true, then complete my joy by agreeing!
Paul’s goal was not to make us question these things, but to remind us that they are present.
via How to Make Adverbial Conditional Conjunctions Interesting.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that Matthew does not end his gospel with the story of the ascension. His gospel is about God being with us in Christ, and it ends with… God being with us in Christ. He stands there and says, “I am with you always.” Wouldn’t it be a little silly if he had said this and then had flown away? Wouldn’t that be the wrong way to conclude? Wouldn’t that be a worse ending for a gospel that has emphasized how God is present among us in the person of Jesus? Doesn’t Matthew have to end with Jesus standing exactly there, as the narration just stops?
via With the Current, Not Across It
With the coming of the Spirit, the church has a foretaste of the salvation of the kingdom: the kingdom “banquet” has been prepared by the work of Christ, but it waits for a future time, when all the guests have been assembled (Luke 14:15–24). Yet those who follow Christ have already begun to taste the power of salvation that will accomplish the renewal of all things. As the church enjoys this foretaste of the banquet to come, it becomes the prime exhibit of what the future kingdom will look like. Think here of a film preview, a few minutes of actual footage from a film not yet released. This trailer is shown so that the potential audience can catch a glimpse of what the whole film will look like once it is ready to be shown in its entirety. One important function of the church is thus to be a picture, a brief representation, a sample of what the future in God’s kingdom will be.
— Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 200.
That’s a bit of responsibility, yes?
So we need to be listening more carefully in our churches to this question: How do church folks read the Bible? Some people read the Bible formationally, and they read with the heart open to receive from God at a spiritual, intuitive, devotional, and relational level. Others read the Bible informationally, and they read the Bible to know what it said – and many such people have acquired the original languages so they can examine tenses and cases and sentence structure. Others read the Bible canonically so they can read the Bible with their ears open to the rest of the Bible. Others read the Bible historically and only want to know what Jesus’ intent was in his world or what Matthew’s intent was in his context. Others read the Bible socio-pragmatically, and they read the Bible to foster and further their own political, theological, ideological or social agenda. Others read the Bible according to what their guru says, and they read the Bible – usually in a group, or a church, a sect, or a school of thought – according to how their favorite teacher or prophet or charismatic leaders teaches the Bible. Thus, a “Catholic” or a “Calvinist” or an “Arminian” or a “Barthian” or a “Hauerwasian” or a “N.T. Wrightian” or a “John Piperian” reading of the Bible, so they say, would look like this … and again you can fill in the blank.
Is there a right way? Or are there only ways of reading the Bible? Are some ways better than others or do we simply read the Bible for ourselves? We can learn to transcend our own readings of the Bible by focusing on how Jesus read the Bible. What does he say?…
via How to Read the Bible as Jesus Did
Celebrity leadership is the death knell of the evangelical church in America. It’s killing us. And so I believe it’s of utmost importance that everyone under the age of 35 reject celebrity leadership. Realize that once beliefs, products, preaching, leadership is extracted from the local life of the local concretely engaged church, it tends to quickly devolve into ideology. And we then are just a short period away from the death of that church in a swirl of inevitable contradictions, hypocrisy and moral failures that inevitably attend celebrity leadership.
via The Lesson of Driscoll’s Plagiarism: A Rant On Rejecting Celebrity Leadership | Reclaiming the Mission/ David Fitch
The world of the Bible is our world, and its story of redemption is also our story. This story is waiting for an ending—in part because we ourselves have a role to play before all is concluded. We must therefore pay attention to the continuing biblical story of redemption. We must resist the temptation to read the Scriptures as if they were a religious flea market, with a basket of history and old doctrines here, a shelf full of pious stories there, promises and commands scattered from one end to the other. Some readers of the Bible turn it into little more than an anthology of proof texts assembled to support a system of theology. Others seek only ethical guidance, ransacking the Old Testament for stories of moral instruction. Still others look just for inspirational or devotional messages, for comforting promises and lessons for daily living. The result may be that we lose sight of the Bible’s essential unity and instead find only those theological, moral, devotional, or historical fragments we are looking for.
But all human communities, including our own, live out of some comprehensive story that suggests the meaning and goal of history and that gives shape and direction to human life. We may neglect the biblical story, God’s comprehensive account of the shape and direction of cosmic history and the meaning of all that he has done in our world. If we do so, the fragments of the Bible that we do preserve are in danger of being absorbed piecemeal into the dominant cultural story of our modern European and North American democracies. And the dominant story of modern culture is rooted in idolatry: an ultimate confidence in humanity to achieve its own salvation. Thus, instead of allowing the Bible to shape us, we may in fact be allowing our culture to shape the Bible for us. Our view of the world and even our faith will be molded by one or the other: either the biblical story is our foundation, or the Bible itself becomes subsumed within the modern story of the secular Western world. If our lives are to be shaped and formed by Scripture, we need to know the biblical story well, to feel it in our bones. To do this, we must also know our own place within it—where we are in the story.
Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 196–197.
I’m distracted by my interests, but that’s fine. What’s not fine is that I’m also distracted by things I might think are interesting at the time, but are really just opportunities to procrastinate.
— Matt Gemmel, “Letting Go”, The Loop Magazine, Issue 15
I was in awe every time I walked onto the ﬁeld. That’s respect. Make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases… . These guys sitting up here [in the Baseball Hall of Fame] did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.
Ryne Sandberg, 2005 Hall of Fame speech, as quoted by Jeff Haanen in “Baseball, Business, and Beyond: Thinking Outside Yourself”, a review of On Thinking Institutionally by Hugh Heclo, reviewed in Comment Magazine, Fall 2013.
Ryno must be appalled by all the chest thumping and homer gazing that accompanies the game today. Let’s see if he can curb any of that with the Phillies next year.
More than ever before scholarship has come to appreciate how the circumstances surrounding the production of a letter help to contribute to our understanding of its contents. In short, the greater our knowledge of precisely how and why the apostle Paul (or, perhaps one of his followers, in the case of the so-called Deutero-Pauline letters) came to write a given letter, the better our chances of understanding not only its original message, but of interpreting the meaning for us today.
Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 255.
Both Scot McKnight and Cliff Kvidahl quote extensively today from Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I need to get going on it. I feel like I’m being left out of an important conversation.
… it’s an interesting parallel to the questions and controversies over the “historical Jesus.” There are, it would seem “historical Buddha” inquiries as well. But the story also offers a reason and basis for gaining some perspective. In the case of Jesus, we’re not entirely sure what year he was born (arguments typically ranging between ca. 4-7 BCE), or what year precisely to date his execution (between 28-34 CE). In the case of Gautama, it appears that scholars dispute which century in which to place him.
via On Getting Some Perspective: The “Historical Buddha” | Larry Hurtado’s Blog
I kinda think Bryan Duncan wrote this song about me. It’s been one of my favorites through the years.
I know this respectable individual with a great personality
Struggles on the inside,
A really nice guy, but I’m afraid he lacks conviction,
Got these mental reservations concerning his own life, let alone…
Why? He doesn’t know why!
Ooo, guess I’m lookin’ for some changes for my lunatic friend
You see, he’s been accosted by the local self-righteous vigilantes
In the name of God, with a scripture or two
And he believes, but he’s not sure who his friends are
Or if they’d still be hangin’ around with him,
Boy, if they ever really knew.
Ooo, guess I’m lookin’ for some understanding for my lunatic friend
Sometimes I wonder if there’s any help for my lunatic friend
Yeah! Sometimes I cry for the love he’s abusing.
My lunatic friend
Ooo, lookin’ for a healing for a lunatic!
I’ve got this lunatic friend!
Altogether now, with feeling, once more, shall we sing!
I’ve got this lunatic friend!
I’ve got this lunatic friend!
Be careful what you say, who you say it to
Don’t give yourself away! Yeah, ah!
(Lots of hysterical laughing) Wow!
Now there’s an attractive inner circle in the eye of a hurricane
A kind of peace on the inside, but it moves with the storm
And it’s a quiet strength in the midst of this raging desperation
All around me, I’d like to find, but I find myself torn
Ooo, I’m not lookin’ for me, you understand,
It’s for my lunatic friend
Sometimes I wonder if there’s any help for my lunatic friend!
Yeah! Sometimes I cry for the love he’s abusing,
My lunatic friend, yeah, alright!
Oh, oh! My lunatic friend!
I’ve got this lunatic friend!
Bryan Duncan, “Lunatic Friend” – Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend
When you’re determined that everything in the Bible must be literally true, your interpretation of scripture is likely to be narrow and shallow. If everything is purely literal, the range of application is severely limited.
via More meaning, not less | Faith Meets World
Rob is both rocking and rolling.
I apologize for the post having been released without proper attribution of the quote. It’s too good to be me, so you know it was Rob that said that.
This piece by Richard Beck helped me understand Advent a lot better.
Because advent is a groaning, the time of being in exile and longing for liberation. In this Advent is to Christmas as Lent is to Easter.
via Experimental Theology: The Practice of Advent
Often we wonder why God does not seem to be answering our prayers. But I learned an important insight from some older members in African-American churches that I was a part of: “God may not come when you want him to, but he’s always right on time.”
via Bible Background » The unexpected deliverer—Exodus 2
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that God’s deliverance always takes an unexpected form at a surprising time.
I cannot adequately express how tired I am of Christians fighting the culture wars. It is exhausting to hear about Christians wrapping the cross in the flag, rallying for the Republican Party, and demanding their “rights.” By listening to some, you’d think that that the right to bear arms is a gospel issue. You’d also think that the Democratic Party is the spawn of Satan himself. I’m disgusted by the amount of energy and emotion so many believers spend on these sorts of issues.
The Kingdom of God is not about secular politics.
via A Pilgrim’s Progress: The Kingdom is Not About Guns, Republicans, and Limited Government
This is a good podcast. I don’t know about any other episodes, but this one is great.
I fear I’ve been a bit of a misery in recent years when it comes to Advent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas itself – not so much for the gifts, the parties, the Christmas meals and the fuss, but rather for the deep and mysterious truth of the incarnation. And it’s because I love the real significance of Christmas that I’ve allowed myself to become a bit of a humbug about the season that precedes it.
via Getting into Advent | Faith Meets World
If you believe that following Jesus involves you in a world-transforming mission, the church can sometimes be a pretty disappointing place. It’s slow to understand a changing world and slower to respond. When it does respond it often builds a fortress instead of a bridge. It keeps things safe and predictable. This leaves many Christians feeling stranded in a no man’s land between an institution that seems out of touch and a complex world they feel called to understand and inﬂuence. This cross-pressure is too much for some and they disconnect altogether from church. Others simply lower their expectations and accept the church’s insigniﬁcance in their life. Some respond by seeking to entirely deconstruct and de-institutionalize church. I don’t believe the answer is to give up on church or to seek its de-institutionalization. To the contrary, it is only because it is an institution that the church has relevance in our lives.
The church we discover in the New Testament is institutional. It has a public and visible presence in the world. It has structures that regulate and shape the communal life of believers. It is marked by repetitive rituals and practices, doctrinal standards, ofﬁces of ministry, traditions of worship that connect one generation to the next, correction of erring members, teaching of dogma, and regular meetings. The pressing question is not whether the church is an institution, but rather what kind of institution is the church?
Chris Ganski, “The Church Upward and Outward: Implications of the Ascension”, Comment Magazine, Fall 2013
Good stuff for me to think about. I mean, I’ve been everywhere on this spectrum. I’ve tried to disconnect altogether, I’ve lowered expectations, and I’ve advocated the deinstitutionalization of the church. None of those has met the inner need I have.
We are now back into a local fellowship. Maybe it’s time to work in it.
It is important to understand the significance of that place described as “the right hand of God.” Though many Jews believe that the Messiah will share the throne of God, they expect God’s throne to be in Jerusalem, from which the Messiah will rule a worldwide Jewish empire. However, the throne of the Messiah as Peter describes is not in Jerusalem at all: it stands entirely above the world, in heaven at the right hand of God. This is the place of highest authority and honor. God’s kingdom has no boundaries of any kind. Jesus does not merely sit on the throne of our hearts and reign there: that is much too narrow a concept of his authority. Jesus reigns over all of human life, all history, and all nations.
Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 172.
And also Pauline Perspectives. I won’t run out of reading material any time soon.
Jesus hung out with revenuers.
Jesus hung out with prostitutes.
Jesus worked on the sabbath.
Jesus pronounced the religious system to be corrupt.
Jesus demonstrated the religious leaders to be misguided and/or corrupt.
Jesus had a higher authority than the religious leaders.
Jesus eschewed the “literal” interpretation of scripture.
The religious leaders of his day forced the political leaders of his day to kill him because of these indiscretions.
If he walked into our evangelical church today — incognito — we would probably not kill him. We would hope he didn’t come back. Or we might impose on him a regimen of church discipline. We most certainly would not follow him.
Probably my most important point is that many Christians need to redefine what they mean by “truth” when it comes to reading the Bible. There is a widespread belief that for something in the Bible to be true, it must be literally true. The flip side of this belief is that many Christians perceive any attempt to interpret portions of scripture as being true in some non-literal way as a wholesale abandonment of the truth of scripture. This is, as I think we’ve begun to show in this series, nonsense.
via On understanding the Bible: part 4 | Faith Meets World
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying people who believe in process theology cannot be Christians. Lots of people are Christians whose theology is profoundly messed up. Maybe the majority of Christians’ theology is profoundly messed up!
What I am saying is that insofar as a person believes in process theology they are Christian in spite of their theology, not because of it. But, again, I would say the same about lots of Christians and their theologies. Don’t get me started…
via Why I Am Not a Process Theologian
In the cross, Jesus acts to accomplish his purposes for all of history—to save the creation. Too often we reduce the significance of the cross to the fact that “Jesus died for me.” Believers do share in the accomplishments of his death, and so we can say this with joy and confidence. Yet God’s purposes move beyond the salvation of individuals. In the death of Jesus, God acts to accomplish the salvation of the entire creation: Jesus dies for the world.
Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 164.
Want to hear what the gospel really is?
Along the way, you’ll also discover why I never, ever read anything from the so-called Gospel Coalition.
Here is a nice little summary from Rachel Quan:
Renovaré – The Advent Wreath