Wednesday, December 31, 2014
He's definitely being too honest here, isn't he? We are great deceivers—especially of ourselves. That's why his second point is to be brutally honest with ourselves. And mind you, we can't even get there without the prompting of the Holy Spirit (which is his first point).
I dare you to preach/teach/share that! If you do, let me know the responses you get...
Indeed! When you walk out of a "service" what do you recall? What/whom are you talking about? Do you live differently as a result of that time? Or does the feeling fade and you go back to living as you did before?
That doesn't mean that God can't use those times of "worship." It just means that we need to realize that emotional experiences don't necessarily result in transformed lives. Transformation is a lot harder than dancing and singing. It requires saying yes to God and no to self on a moment-by-moment basis. It means not clicking on that link. It means not opening that cupboard door for one more (probably unneeded) snack. It means many little decisions that result in a life given over to God instead of self..."worship" is so much easier. But if it doesn't result in a transformed life, it isn't really worship; it's just an emotional high.
A 2012 Harvard University research study revealed that sharing personal information about ourselves is an intrinsically rewarding activity targeting the ‘nucleas accumbens’ area of the brain. This is the very same region of the brain that lights up when cocaine or other illicit drugs are digested. In a separate report, The University of Chicago determined that social media cravings rank higher, and are harder to resist than nicotine cravings. “If you look at people in a restaurant, nobody is having conversations anymore. They’re sitting at dinner looking at their phones because their brains are so addicted to it.” And why? Because we are both bent toward narcissism and bored with reality. ‘Like’ me, notice me, help me escape the here and now. The constant contact from status updates, ‘favorites’, re-tweets, and ‘likes’ attempts to fill the vacuum in our soul. But in reality, we are more isolated, alone and distracted than ever before. “This media we call social is anything but.”<idle musing>
They also note that "The average American spends over 11 hours a day online, three of those hours spent on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram." Eleven hours! When do they get anything else done?
It makes me wonder how they define "online." Does being online include being connected while doing other work? If that is the case, then I can understand it, but I would dispute the definition "online" in that case.
For example, while I am editing, I usually have a few windows open in my browser for checking bibliographical references—WorldCat, JSTOR, Google books, etc. I also have e-mail on, but don't check it unless I'm expecting an answer to a question. If I subscribed to Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster, then those would be open, too; currently I use the hard copy version of those (I really do prefer physical books).
All those thoughts aside, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to examine how we use our time. Maybe the Holy Spirit is prompting some of us to cut out at least some of our time surfing, browsing, tweeting, Facebooking, or posting pictures. Maybe God really is interested in who we really are instead of whom we want people to think we are. Maybe. Actually, that last one isn't a maybe. Maybe instead he's calling some of us to be more honest about who we are while we are online...I actually think that might even be harder, as it calls us to be honest with ourselves first.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Amen and amen! Bringing it into the light defuses its power. But that makes sense, doesn't it? While it is in the dark, it can seem huge; there's no real definition to it while it's hiding in the closet. It could be as big as Leviathan—of course, it is more likely to be about as big as a chihuahua is, but like a chihuahua it barks and barks, making you think it is huge.
Still the problem, isn't it? What percentage of divorces are the result of unforgiveness? I suspect a very high percentage. Hardness of heart, I want my own way and you want your own way. After all, isn't marriage about meeting my needs?
If that's your attitude going into marriage, then you are doomed to fail. Marriage is about dying to self, serving the other person because you love them. Not about getting them to serve you to prove that they love you! Oh, I know that sounds backwards. Maybe that's because it is backwards!
Footnote: Yes, I know there are instances of abuse. But Jesus wasn't addressing those here and neither am I. I'm addressing the vast majority of divorces that are the result of selfishness and unforgiveness...
Besides, it's my blog, and I can do what I want! (anyone sense the irony of that statement...)
Monday, December 29, 2014
So ends Fanning's magnum opus on aspect. Lots of good stuff to digest. I probably will be coming back to it in a year or so after I've digested it and read more by others, such as Comrie's Aspect. Unfortunately, because of Oxford's ridiculous pricing, I won't have it on my shelf, but will need to use interlibrary loan again...
And yet, that's our natural instinct, isn't it? Pretend you know what you're doing and where you are going. Put on a pretty face and pretend life is great. Pretend—right into your grave.
Confession is good for the soul. Bad for the pride, but good for the soul. But don't do it on the Internet! Find someone you can trust, who will support you and work with you, lovingly be honest with you.
As Protestants, we threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one...we need to recover confession. Not that I relish the idea, but I know it is better than the alternative. Put on the mask, pretend—and die and early (emotional, if not physical) death.
Amen and amen! If we are looking for loopholes we missed the point!
Sunday, December 28, 2014
It is because of this factual basis of the Christian's new life in Christ that Paul is influenced to call upon Christians to make a definite practical break with the past and to begin to live in practice as new people. It seems that this ingressive idea is the motivation for several of the Pauline aorists listed earlier.—Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, pages 360–61 (emphasis original)
Friday, December 26, 2014
Preach it brother! I'm reading Fanning's Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek right now—thank you interlibrary loan! Oxford, what are you thinking? $160!? Anyway, he examines the various ways of translating 1 John 3:4–10:
Πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ, καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. καὶ οἴδατε ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ἐφανερώθη, ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἄρῃ, καὶ ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν. πᾶς ὁ ἐν αὐτῷ μένων οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· πᾶς ὁ ἁμαρτάνων οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν οὐδὲ ἔγνωκεν αὐτόν.Or, in the NRSV:
Τεκνία, μηδεὶς πλανάτω ὑμᾶς· ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην δίκαιός ἐστιν, καθὼς ἐκεῖνος δίκαιός ἐστιν· ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν, ὅτι ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει. εἰς τοῦτο ἐφανερώθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα λύσῃ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου. Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται. ἐν τούτῳ φανερά ἐστιν τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου· πᾶς ὁ μὴ ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ.
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.Rather infamous passage, isn't it? Well, after examining all the possible ways of translating it, including the most popular one: the habitual sense—which the NIV, ESV, and NLT all use— of "keeps on sinning," he comes to this conclusion: "On purely grammatical grounds, therefore, the absolute interpretation of 1 John 3:4–10 is to be preferred." page 217 (the full discussion is on pages 212–17).
In other words, on the basis of Greek grammar, the NRSV that I quoted above is correct, "No one who abides in him sins." That's what it says, period. You have a choice, either you theologize it away, or you modify your theology to match the scripture...
Personally, I think the whole tenor of scripture agrees with 1 John—but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is where Chan has it correct in the original quotation that started this whole
Thursday, December 25, 2014
And so ends The 40 Most Influential Christians...Who Shaped What We Believe Today.
The book was offered free via Kindle from Bethany about a week ago, so I downloaded it; I'm a sucker for historical theology. The book consists of 40 chapters in which he examines about 42 theologians (he put the two Cappadocian Gregories in with Basil) in an overview fashion. Along the way he makes mention of many, many more.
The book is a good basic overview of orthodox theology. If you are looking for indepth coverage, then look elsewhere—this is an overview aimed at the lay Evangelical market. And that focus explains some of his choices; I certainly wouldn't have chosen some of the theologians he chooses—Machen? Henry? Not exactly giants in theology, but very influential and helpful in explaining where Evangelicalism is today.
In all fairness to the author, he is aware of the capriciousness of his choices:
Regarding the title of this book, you may be thinking, Really? THE 40 MOST Influential Christians?! Come on! Please understand that I am not under the illusion that I have nailed the definitive top 40 list of theologians. (Actually, it is the top 42; I snuck [sic] a couple of bonus Gregorys into chapter 10.) I thought a more accurate title would be 40 of the Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today, in the Humble Opinion of One Particular Writer, but that seemed a little unwieldy to the publisher. Good arguments can be made that some of these should not have made it while others should have. (page 13)I would definitely agree with that, especially in the twentieth century choices! But, as I mentioned already, it is aimed at the lay Evangelical market, and it will serve that market well. It is written in very readable prose and concepts are defined and cross-referenced to facilitate refreshing your memory on what a term already introduced means. For example, in the Context section of Leo the Great, this paragraph occurs:
Jesus Christ is fully God; the Council of Nicea had declared this to be orthodoxy and Arianism heresy.  Jesus Christ is fully human; the Council of Constantinople had declared this to be orthodoxy and Apollinarianism heresy.  Jesus Christ is not two persons, but one person; the Council of Ephesus had declared this to be orthodoxy and Nestorianism heresy.  (page 95)As you can see, each of the terms mentioned is footnoted, even though they each were the topic of previous chapters—very helpful for the person who is just being introduced to the concepts and disputes for the first (or even the second or third) time.
Each chapter is laid out the same way, with three subtopics: Context, Contribution, and Conclusion. The context includes both the theological and biographical, as does the contribution section. The final section, conclusion, is the author's evaluation of the positive and negative contributions that the theologian under discussion made to our understanding of God.
The conclusion section is generally quite even-handed. There are no anathemata thrown around. As he himself says, "In fact, isn’t it usually the case that we grow in our understanding of things when we are challenged by beliefs contrary to our own, as opposed to just having those who agree with us constantly assuring us that we (and they) are right?" (page 294). I can give a hearty Amen! to that.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
AHA always has three ingredients. If any one of these ingredients is missing, it short-circuits the transformation process.<idle musing>
Here are the three ingredients:
1. A Sudden Awakening
2. Brutal Honesty
3. Immediate Action
Those three elements are always necessary for AHA to take place. If there is an awakening and honesty but no action, then AHA doesn’t happen. If there is awakening and action but no honesty, AHA won’t last.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition
Just so you know, AHA is an encounter with God that has the potential to change your life. I say potential because it doesn't always do so. Over the years I've pondered why some people are transformed by it and others aren't.
Back in the early 1970s, during the height of the Jesus Movement, we used to say that people who became Christians for a short time and then fell away were "in it for the high." Once the high wore off—usually from 4-6 weeks later—they would disappear. I never understood why.
I've seen it happen lots of times since then, but I never understood why. How could someone encounter the living God and then walk away? It boggled my mind. Until I read this book. The quotation above sums up my experience over the last 40+ years. In every case where the "AHA" moment didn't stick, it was because they failed to follow through on either step 2 or step 3.
I've seen the same people encounter God over and over and not be transformed. That they would encounter God over and over again shouldn't surprise me, after all Augustine called the Holy Spirit the hound of heaven. But it does. I mean, come on, how many times does God have to open people's eyes before he gives up? Come on God, be reasonable!
I'm glad he doesn't give up though because more than once I've been the person who "just didn't get it."
I digress, but please consider the wisdom of these 3 little steps. And then look at your own life and see if God might not be prodding you to take step 2 or 3. And stay tuned for more excerpts : )
And I would add to that the issue of gun control. Sure, it's legal and constitutional. But why do we need automatic weapons? So we can kill. Hmmm...something wrong here, isn't there? I think I read a few different places in the Bible that it's wrong to do that...
Let's start with some real shock and awe from Brian Zahnd:
Nearly 250 times the Old Testament describes the God of Israel as the LORD of Hosts, Yahweh Sabbaoth, the Lord of Armies. Now at the birth of God’s chosen king the armies of heaven invade earth with shock and awe. This is why the shepherds were “sore afraid.” But they need not have been. This is not a killing army, but a singing army. This army comes, not to kill, but to carol.I like that. An attack via song...do read the rest of the post; there are some other good thoughts in it as well.
The text in Luke says the angels were saying, but Christian imagination has interpreted their saying as singing. I like that. The army of heaven is a choir — combat by chorus. The army of heaven doesn’t launch missiles, it launches into song. The heavenly army sings of the glory of God and of peace on earth.
Next up is an excerpt from the NIV talk that Doug Moo gave at ETS.
To claim that a word in the biblical languages has a “literal” meaning, capable of being summarized in a single English equivalent, is simply not true. Words occupy a spectrum of meaning, and the range of meaning of particular Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words is never quite the same as the range of meaning of any particular English word. And so, for example, we sometimes translate peirazô “test” and at other times “tempt.” Neither of these English words has a range of meaning that corresponds with the Greek word; and it is manifestly foolish to claim that either English word captures the “literal” sense of the Greek word. We understand why the NIV uses eight different English expressions to translate a single Greek word, sarx, in a single NT book, Colossians (note, by the way, that the ESV is not far behind with five different expressions). To criticize these translation decisions as being “not literal” is linguistically nonsensical.Good stuff there. If you follow the link (and you should!), there is a link there to download the whole presentation.
When I used to teach languages, I would always tell my students that there is a "cloud of meaning" for a word. The problem for translation and language learning is that different languages have different clouds of meaning and the overlap isn't ever one-for-one. A single Greek/Hebrew/Latin word might have shades of meaning that would require those 5–8 (or more) different English words, all depending on context. That's where reading widely and voluminously in a language is very helpful; you get a feel for that "cloud of meaning" in the language.
Getting two cats to do the same thing, like sit on the owner’s lap and act as if they are grateful, is difficult. Getting a thousand to stand up on their back paws and meow is, as Gaiman observes, a challenge for the Almighty.Do read the rest. I think you will find it interesting.
The depressing part about Gaiman’s observation is that getting two humans, ten, a thousand, or considerably more, to do the same thing at the same time is remarkably easy, and it’s successfully accomplished on a daily basis:
Just put a TV in every home. Or set up a religious meeting in a football stadium. Or announce that some electronic device is on “sale” during a limited time period — say, between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving — and get out of the way when the doors open.
And one final link. Here's how we will be spending our Christmas tomorrow.
No, we won't be riding—we'll be helping : )
Merry Christmas to all of you!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Every area of your life in which you have not learned to be dependent, is an area of your life in which you have not as yet repented.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 146
Because you probably don't remember the verse (I know I didn't), here it is: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (NRSV)
And for those of you who read Greek, here it is in Greek: Λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ ὑμῶν ἡ δικαιοσύνη πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.
That's a tall order, isn't it?
It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.—Forgotten God, page 120
Excellent advice! "God's will for my life" has seemed to change several times in my life! I'm now working on about my fifth career, so does that mean God's will for my life has changed?! Hardly. I think we are much better off just following him on a daily basis and letting him direct what the future brings. Something about daily bread or some such from the Lord's Prayer comes to mind—as does the phrase Seek ye first (pardon the KJV there...)
Monday, December 22, 2014
Ain't that the truth! There are as many definitions out there as there are people writing them! And all of them have an element of truth, but none of them is sufficient...which is why more definitions keep getting generated.
Of the making of books...much weariness... : )
To live “to and for Christ” is to “walk after the Spirit”!
These are the two principles of human behavior. It is not just a matter of degree, it is a matter of kind; to be dominated by the “flesh” is to be dominated by the devil; and to be dominated by the Spirit is to be dominated by God.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 144
Second lesson in Bible reading: looking to Jesus means following him and through him the Torah. …
Third lesson in Bible reading: following Jesus really means following Jesus, and it matters eternally. …
Fourth lesson in Bible reading: we are challenged to be better than nonfollowers. Followers are marked by a greater righteousness or by more righteousness.— Sermon on the Mount, pages 68, 69, 70-71
Following this simple advice would prevent a lot of strange interpretations. And, yes, Jesus really does want you to obey him! But not on your own strength; it's called synergism—God and man working together. You obey, he empowers the obedience.
Too simple, isn't it? You don't obey to placate God or pay him back for all he's done. You obey by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That's it.
Indeed! We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by human strength. God's power doesn't fade as we get tired—provided we depend on him and not on our own strength.
If you listen to some songs (and not a little teaching as well), you will notice that they talk about "reaching the end of our own strength" and imply that is the point where God's help kicks in. That is garbage! That is self-help theology.
Without the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit, we don't have any strength to begin with!
Sunday, December 21, 2014
2. As intimated by the previous point, the choice of aspects may be motivated not so much by the positive value of one aspect as by the desire to avoid the value of another. ...If the language lacks an aspect which produces the desired meaning, the speaker may resort tot he aspect which does the least damage to his intended sense.—B. Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, page 53
Praise God for interlibrary loan! $160 for this book? No way could I justify that! Anyway, I'm finally getting around to reading this book (it's been on my list for about 10 years now) and I'm thoroughly enjoying it—where I understand it : )
Friday, December 19, 2014
You can't base a theology on one verse, especially one that goes against whole Scripture principles. This is one of the major hermeneutical problems in the current American fundamentalist and neo-evangelical landscape. They are oriented around individual trump verses rather than the "greatest common denominators" of Scripture. This is the Pharisaic hermeneutic Jesus condemns in Matthew 23.<idle musing>
Amen! One of the greatest disservices done to the church was the invention of verse numbers. It encourages the atomization of scripture; people go searching for "the" verse on a topic instead of reading the whole tenor of scripture.
Context matters, people. And the context isn't just limited to the local context. The whole span of scripture has to be included in it. John Wesley asked his father (also a pastor) what the best commentary on the Bible was. His answer is still the correct one: The rest of the Bible.
It might be ridiculous, but we do it all the time, don't we? Lord forgive us! May we allow ourselves to be led by you.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
That is a sheer impossibility!
The nature of the “flesh” never changes, no matter how you may coerce it or conform it; it is rotten through and through, even with a Bible under its arm, a check for missions in its hand, and an evangelical look on its face! You need something more than forgiveness, and what you need is the big news of the Gospel!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 132
Broken record, I know. But, so is the alternative: Saved by grace, sanctified by works. Or at least that's what I hear people saying without realizing it.
That doesn't mean that works aren't important. Far from it! I firmly believe that without transformation there is no salvation. But that is just the point. Transformation begins from the inside; works begin from the outside.
Transformation naturally results in a changed life that is consistent. Works are highly dependent on how you feel, how tired you are, how much stress in in your life, etc.
The Spirit-led life is not dependent on us. It is dependent on God, and as Psalm 121 says, he doesn't slumber or sleep, so he is available all the time...we just allow him to flow through us.
Indeed! Far too often people treat prayer as a magical process whereby they get God to do their bidding in their way. That's one of my biggest problems with "Name it, claim it, stomp on it, and frame it" theology (or, as my cousin says, "blab it and grab it"). It reduces God to an entity that we can control via magical manipulation. God is bigger than that!—or at least the God I know and worship is...
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The latter has always been a problem in introductory overviews, though. The theological disputes either get ignored or given a brief and unsatisfactory paragraph or two. Sure, the Arian controversy will get more than that. But to really understand the issues, you have to seek out a heavily footnoted tomb—oops, I meant tome (or did I?). And almost invariably you come away either, a. bored nearly to death, or b. even more confused than when you started.
So, when I was told of an introductory level text that paid attention to theological issues as well as historical ones, I couldn't resist. I requested a copy of 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers. I have to confess that I wasn't too hopeful; I've been disappointed too often by church history books that promise far more than they can deliver. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the text readable, but it takes on the theological issues in more than a cursory manner, yet still manages to keep them understandable. A first in my experience.
He examines the Arian controversy and gives the background on why it never found a foothold in the west (Tertullian's strong Trinitarian writings are credited). He talks about Origen's strong influence on Eastern thought and how the Arians were able to leverage that, convincing many non-Arians to go along with them. In fact, the true Arian view was always a minority that managed to stay viable only by getting the Origenist party on board. I hadn't realized that before (it also explains why Eusebius is said to have "Arian sympathies" when he was actually very Orthodox).
Needham doesn't limit himself to the church in the west, either. He includes not just the Orthodox East, but also the Syrian East. And he doesn't slight Africa, either. He even includes selected readings from some of the major actors in the story. Again, something that is usually missing from an introductory text. When I took church history in seminary, we were given a reading list for each time period and told to read 1-2 items from each time period; the textbook didn't have any readings in it. That's fine for a seminarian who has access to a good library, but not so good for the average person. Including the selection of readings is a major bonus.
In short, not only do I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I also am going to read the remaining books in the series: The Middle Ages and Renaissance and Reformation. There is also a fourth volume that is supposed to be coming out next spring. Once it is published, I'll definitely be reading it as well.
And yet, that seems to be the "gospel" that some preach. If Jesus doesn't deliver us from sin and sinning, but just from the final consequences of it, what kind of gospel is that?
Is satan stronger than God?
But that seems to be the message that I hear. Are we doomed to endless cycles of sin and repent with no hope for deliverance until death?
If that is the case, then kill me now! I came to Jesus to be delivered from all that junk! It was the hope of a life free from sin that brought me to him in the first place. Now you want to tell me that that was a false hope? That the promises of scripture are bogus?
Sorry. Not buying it! I'll stand on the promise of deliverance.
I like that metaphor, road dust. Growing up and living in the north, you see a lot of that. The roads in the winter are usually sprinkled with a mixture of rock salt and sand (don't get me started on the ethics of that!). Over the course of the winter, the sand breaks the rock salt into tiny little particles. By the end of the winter, its just fine dust that the wind blows hither and yon. But there is enough sand in it that it can't be used as salt. Basically worthless...road dust.
Why is it that God is always the last resort? We struggle and strain, trying our hardest to make things work. We puff and push, but still things don't work out the way we planned. We call in experts, consult 12-step programs, self-help books, management gurus, and still it doesn't work.
Finally, in despair, we turn to God. And then, if things work out the way we want, we take the credit!
How warped is that?!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
He came that you might have life! His life—imparted to you by the renewing of the Holy Spirit on the grounds of redemption, to re-inhabit your spirit, to re-conquer your soul…—The Mystery of Godliness, page 113
A good Advent reminder! The Gospel is much more than death on a cross and heaven by and by! It is about victory over sin, self, and the world; it is about the fulness of the Holy Spirit; it is about transformation; it is about conformity to the character of Jesus (theosis).
A very scary thought, but I fear it is true...
Behold, I know all men. I see everything that is done under the sun, and I know how matters stand with each—what is in his mind and what is in his heart and the end to which his intention is directed. Commit all things to Me, therefore, and keep yourself in good peace. Let him who is disturbed be as restless as he will. Whatever he has said or done will fall upon himself, for he cannot deceive Me.— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Monday, December 15, 2014
An appropriate Advent meditation, don't you think? The incarnation is at the heart of the gospel. If it weren't a supernatural event, then we would still be lost in our sins...
Amen and amen! Far too often I've heard the Sermon on the Mount brushed aside as impractical and idealistic. Scot catches the heart of it right here. It's all about following Jesus.
My "life verse" is actually a negative one: As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24 TNIV) My life goal is to make that untrue. And not just in outward actions, but in a genuine Spirit-transformed inner attitude. Heart holiness, if you will.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
A very interesting book. Lots of stuff is falling into place as I read this. Maybe someday I'll even understand it : )
Friday, December 12, 2014
If numbers is what you measure, then it's a success. But if transformed lives are what counts...well, let's just say you could do better.
12 וְהִקְרַבְתָּ אֶת־אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת־בָּנָיו אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְרָחַצְתָּ אֹתָם בַּמָּיִם׃
13 וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּ אֶת־אַהֲרֹן אֵת בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּמָשַׁחְתָּ אֹתוֹ וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ אֹתוֹ וְכִהֵן לִי׃
14 וְאֶת־בָּנָיו תַּקְרִיב וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּ אֹתָם כֻּתֳּנֹת׃
15 וּמָשַׁחְתָּ אֹתָם כַּאֲשֶׁר מָשַׁחְתָּ אֶת־אֲבִיהֶם וְכִהֲנוּ לִי וְהָיְתָה לִהְיֹת לָהֶם מָשְׁחָתָם לִכְהֻנַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתָם׃
16 וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֹתוֹ כֵּן עָשָׂה׃
See the difference there? Aaron is in "holy clothes" and his anointing makes him holy. The sons are wearing tunics and anointed "like their father" but they aren't made holy. What's going on here?
The Vulgate is very terse here:
adplicabisque Aaron et filios eius ad fores tabernaculi testimonii et lotos aqua indues sanctis vestibus ut ministrent mihi et unctio eorum in sacerdotium proficiat sempiternum fecitque Moses omnia quae praeceperat Dominus.
No distinction between the sons and the father... The Septuagint, on the other hand, makes an even bigger distinction than the Hebrew:
καὶ προσάξεις Ααρων καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὰς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ λούσεις αὐτοὺς ὕδατι καὶ ἐνδύσεις Ααρων τὰς στολὰς τὰς ἁγίας καὶ χρίσεις αὐτὸν καὶ ἁγιάσεις αὐτόν, καὶ ἱερατεύσει μοι· καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς αὐτοῦ προσάξεις καὶ ἐνδύσεις αὐτοὺς χιτῶνας καὶ ἀλείψεις αὐτούς, ὃν τρόπον ἤλειψας τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἱερατεύσουσίν μοι· καὶ ἔσται ὥστε εἶναι αὐτοῖς χρῖσμα ἱερατείας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα εἰς τὰς γενεὰς αὐτῶν. καὶ ἐποίησεν Μωυσῆς πάντα, ὅσα ἐνετείλατο αὐτῷ κύριος, οὕτως ἐποίησεν.
They use a different verb for the anointing of the sons versus the anointing of Aaron: χρίω versus ἀλείφω. Not sure how much to make of that—the Hebrew uses the same word, משׁח, the standard word for anointing.
Still mulling all this over in my mind. Is it significant that Aaron's garments are described as holy and the sons' are just tunics? Do the "clothes make the man" so to speak?
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Personally, I can think of no more of a compelling reason to close the case on Christians reciting the pledge of allegiance: we can pledge our allegiance to Jesus and his way of enemy love (which he said was a requirement to become God’s children), or we can pledge our allegiance to the empire who tortures and kills its enemies (the opposite of what Christ tells us to do, thus being an “anti-Christ” nation). But, I don’t see how one could do both, as they are complete opposites. As much as I hate lines, I don’t see how this isn’t one: we can follow Jesus, or follow America, but we cannot follow both Jesus and America at the same time as they are busy doing opposite things. (all emphasis original)<idle musing>
Read the whole thing. And then ask yourself which kingdom has your loyalties. For which kingdom are you willing to die? For which kingdom will you expend your financial, creative, and physical resources?
And lest you think I am picking on the past administration's use of torture, be aware that the present administration has not shutdown Guantanamo Bay, despite promises to do so. The present administration also continues to use drone warfare—indeed has increased their use.
And also understand that I am not talking about what makes good sense to a non-Christian. I am saying that as a Christian, we are called to stand up to this abuse of power. To stand for shalom, which doesn't mean peace as lack of war; it means peace as in healing and wholeness. Torture doesn't heal! Drone warfare doesn't make whole! How can a Christian endorse these things and not wonder where their loyalty really lies? By their fruit, says Jesus...
What does my fruit look like to the King of kings? That is the question I have been asking myself the last few days. Am I complicit in this because I haven't been speaking up more? Will this unrest in my soul lead to a deeper humility in my walk with Jesus? or will I "get over it" in a few days and resume business as usual? I pray the former and not the latter!
Or, to put it another way, we're practical atheists. We don't need or—if we're totally honest with ourselves—want God. He might mess up our lives!
What a warped outlook! We make a mess of creation; we torture our fellow humans in the name of safety; we lie, cheat, and steal; we look down on the poor and the immigrant. And we have the gall to say that we are a "chosen nation"! A beacon of light for the world!
Hubris. Which, at least in Greek tragedy, always leads to a tragic ending. All the more tragic in that the audience knows whats coming but the main character is blind to it... Sounds a lot like what's going on in the U.S. right now, doesn't it?
The only hope is repentance and reliance on the inner transformation that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.
Feasting in the Archaeology and Texts of the Bible and the Ancient Near East
Edited by Peter Altmann and Janling Fu
xii + 303 pp., English
List Price: $47.50
Your Price: $42.75
The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 9
by Hélène Dallaire
xii + 250 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $44.55
I'm looking forward to reading them. You will probably be reading excerpts from both of them sometime this winter : )
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
You cannot be a Christian and support torture. I want to be utterly explicit on this point. There is no possibility of compromise. The support of torture is off the table for a Christian. I suppose you can be some version of a “patriot” and support the use of torture, but you cannot be any version of a Christian and support torture. So choose one: A torture-endorsing patriot or a Jesus-following Christian. But don’t lie to yourself that you can be both. You cannot.Read the whole post and think deeply about your allegiances...
You will still believe or pretend that you are worshiping God; but as the object of your imitation, even Christ Himself may only be an excuse for worshiping your own ability to imitate—an ability vested in yourself, and this is the basis of all self-righteousness!—The Mystery of Godliness, pages 54-55
It doesn’t work that way. When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a life wholly surrendered to and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.—Forgotten God, page 21
Sad isn't it? Here's the creator of the universe, who has never stopped wooing us, trying to show us that he is all love. And we say, "Thank you very much, but I'd rather wallow in my pigsty."
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Sunday, December 07, 2014
Having studied Classical Greek, Latin, and Hittite, I can vouch for the dramatic difference in the way they express subordination. Hittite is definitely simpler—in that area, anyway!
But it got me to thinking about discourse analysis and Aspect/Actionsart/Tense/Mood and the ramifications this has. No ideas yet, but just food for thought.
By the way, this is a wonderful book. It's making all kinds of stuff that I've noticed in the various languages I've studied over the years fall into place. Of course, there a paragraphs where I get to the end and don't have a clue what they are saying. Sometimes I wonder if it is even English!
[Updated 13:20] I added Mood to the Aspect/Actionsart/Tense because in Greek it is a sequence of mood, not just tense. I hadn't thought of that at the time of writing. So, it gets even more interesting (or less to some) in that you now have the whole TAM spectrum involved...
Saturday, December 06, 2014
Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker
I was glad to see that they are all Green Press Initiative which means they are using recycled paper in publishing them.
I'm sure you'll be reading excerpts from them here sometime soon. : )
Friday, December 05, 2014
There never was a flood of ‘Oriental religions’, as suggested, once again, by Cumont. As we have seen, there were only a few Mystery cults of Isis, and although the number of followers of Mithras in the West was considerable, it should not be overstated. As far as numbers are concerned, Mystery cults never posed a serious threat to emerging Christianity. There are only a few possible references to pagan Mystery cults in the New Testament, which should not surprise us, as interest in the Mysteries flourished most in the second century AD. It is in that period that we start to notice a shared interest by both pagans and Christians in the Mysteries. Pagans seem to have been struck by similarities, but Christians stressed the differences.
The fact that initiation into the Mysteries could be a costly affair and that the Mithras cult was limited to males meant that pagan Mysteries were no competition for Christianity on the religious market, as the latter always received young and old, rich and poor, male and female into its fold. Moreover, unlike the Mysteries, Christianity was not esoteric but at first openly proclaimed its message, which was clear to all.—Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, pages 188-189
And what difference between Philip's outlook and most Christians? Little, if any, I fear...
In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." : (
Please don't confuse them with the facts! Christianity can't be real—that would mean they would have to change their way of life! Impossible! Man is the measure of all things. If the facts don't fit, then we'll make them fit!
Amen to that! We should embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't mean being weird! It means allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. The changes in our life should be explainable only by the power of the Spirit.
Sure, there might be signs and wonders. There probably will be! But, and this is a huge one, the emphasis should always be a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is just showmanship. </idle musing>
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Take that, Dan Brown! : )
So the problem of appearance versus reality isn't a new one! This is about the cult of Mithras, the bull-slayer. Maybe he didn't really slay the bull—just a chicken! : )
My point is that what we call evangelicalism today is a synthesis of two different traditions, a synthesis that took place in the late 1940s. The key focus of the earlier evangelicals was conversion, pushing individuals to a moment of decision leading to justification by faith and an assurance of salvation. In its Wesleyan form, it had always included social activism as well (think Salvation Army).<idle musing>
Now it was synthesized with the theology of the primarily Calvinist fundamentals. In reaction to the social gospel and the FDR administration, social justice was removed from the concerns of evangelicals. It now became questionable to focus on helping the needy. You will now hear these new evangelicals saying that, with limited resources, the church needs to put all its resources into conversion rather than the less important task of helping people.
Now penal substitution as a theory of atonement became very important. The word inerrancy, a concept that had earlier been invoked against the abolition of slavery, became part of the mix. These neo-evangelicals had money and would grow in power. They would set up publishing houses and magazines. They would take the name "evangelical" and dismiss the earlier stream as "fundamentalists," those stupid holiness, Pentecostal, and dispensational people who hid from the fight against an increasingly secular nation.
And that is one of the biggest reasons I don't consider myself an Evangelical anymore. I am an 18th century Evangelical. I believe in conversion, justification by faith, assurance of salvation, and transformation that results in social activism!
The left doesn't like me because I believe only God can truly transform things; the right thinks I'm a compromising Socialist! What to do?
By the way, do read the whole post; it's quite short.
But I've been running into a problem lately. I depend heavily on interlibrary loan (ILL) for lots of the books I read. I don't want to purchase books that I will only read once and never refer to again. And our local library isn't likely to purchase things like Pardee's The Ugaritic Texts and the Origins of West-Semitic Literary Composition or Rowe's Acts commentary World Upside Down! After all, we only have 1500 residents and maybe 3 people would even consider reading them. Not a wise use of library funds. So I use interlibrary loan.
But lately I've been running into a problem: e-books. Specifically, academic e-books. One of the big benefits of e-books, so they say, is that they can be accessed anywhere, that the Internet is leveling the economic barriers to a good education. Well, kind of. There is no doubt that some of the offerings through places like iTunes U are great. I've listened to some of the lectures from places like Yale; good stuff.
But have you ever tried to access an electronic book (EBSCO or ebrary) from a computer that is not located on campus? Have you ever succeeded if you aren't a current student/faculty member? Probably not.
That's a problem. If it were a physical book, I could request it via ILL and have it in a couple of weeks. Not so with an electronic one. For example, I recently tried to request a copy of Bloomsbury [formerly Continuum] Companion to Historical Linguistics via ILL. There are three copies available in Minnesota—two via the U of Minnesota and one in a library consortium. Not bad for an esoteric book like that...
So I tried to request it via ILL on the Internet. No success. So I went into the library to ask them to request it (they know me quite well...). This was about a month ago. I received the book yesterday. From the University of Oklahoma! A quick look at Worldcat shows that there are only 32 libraries with the physical book! Granted, that was a quick look; I'm sure I could uncover more if I looked more carefully...but the point remains the same: how can an independent scholar get a copy? The tendency, especially in linguistics and other more "esoteric" subjects, is toward e-books.
I understand the logic. Space is expensive and limited in a library. It makes sense to use that space on books that will be accessed by more than a handful of people. But what about access for those who aren't the privileged few? What about access for those of us who are 2.5 hours from an academic library and 5 hours from a really good one?
Amen and amen! A very good summary of what sanctification/holiness is. We aren't some kind of zombie, possessed by a foreign spirit; we are filled with the Spirit of God, but at any moment can act against that Spirit—but why would we want to?!
Unfortunately, we sometimes do. We don't have to, but we can. That is where the tension of living the Christian life arises.
Of course, if we believe we have to sin, we won't even try not to sin. The illustration that I read years ago in Turkeys and Eagles is that of a person wearing a white tuxedo versus someone wearing a pair of overalls that they use to slop the hogs.
Which one is more likely to try to avoid the mud? The one in the overalls, dirty with mud and pig dung? Or the one in the white tux?
Exactly! If you see yourself as dirty with sin, you are more likely to fall into sin. But, if you see yourself as a saint (the biblical view of a Christian, by the way), you are more likely to try to stay clean. Remember, you are only clean by the saving act of Christ! You are not clean by any self-effort.