Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Words, words, everywhere are words

They are taught that the power lies in the words, and if you get the words right, you are all right. Whereas, Paul says, the kingdom of God does not lie in words at all. The kingdom of God lies in the power that indwells those words. You cannot have the power without the words, but you can have the words without the power, and many people do.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 184

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What you've heard is wrong…

The gospel is not the statement that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3). The gospel is the statement that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures plus the Holy Spirit in that statement, to give it meaning and power. Just the statement itself will never do it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 183

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's still paganism

We imagine that if we say certain words, they have power to bring good; if we say certain other words, they have the power to fend off the devil. That is just paganism under another form.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 183

Friday, November 09, 2018

Stability

For years, I read writings on atheism and philosophical unbelief to the point that my head would ache. I would turn away and get on my knees, and with joy I would say to God, “Oh, God, I know I can’t answer this man, but I thank Thee I have Thee.” I would worship on my knees after having been knocked flat by a book. If I had not met God, that book would have ruined me forever.

All those books presenting atheism, unbelief, philosophy, psychology and all the books that were then current, all the debunking books and the rest, never jarred me, for I knew Jesus Christ for myself. I had seen Him, I had known Him, He deigns to walk with me, and the glory of His presence shall be mine eternally.

You can know God like that, and then you do not have to be afraid of what you learn; you do not have to be afraid of an unbelieving professor. You can stand up and face him down and say: “I cannot answer your questions, but I can tell you my testimony."mdash;A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 176

Thursday, November 08, 2018

About all those church growth programs…

To overcome the dangers facing a spiritually lethargic church is to discover true spiritual power. The power does not rest in outward form but rather in the dynamic of God’s Word.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 174

Monday, November 05, 2018

Eyedropper Christians

We have developed a mentality that simply cannot bring itself to attack a serious book. We have to be fed with an eyedropper, like a baby robin that has been pushed out of the nest in a storm. Because we feed Christians with an eyedropper, we have weaklings instead of great souls and great saints.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 174

Friday, November 02, 2018

You're going to keep going until somebody gets hurt…

Remember how your parents used to say that to you when you started horsing around with your siblings? We heard it, and we used it when our kids were growing up, too. Why? Because it's true. Evil escalates. It's never content to stay in its own little corner; it's a consuming fire that devours everything in its path.

I just read an interesting take on that over at Jesus Creed by Mike Glenn; he blogs there every Friday. Here's a snippet, but please read the whole thing and think about it:

Here’s what I do know. Violence starts somewhere. Violence doesn’t just blow into our lives from parts unknown. There’s always a trail. There’s always a beginning point, a poke, that starts the violence. While we may not be responsible for any particular act of violence, all of us are responsible for creating an atmosphere, a world view where violence is an acceptable course of action.

We watch movies where the hero has finally had enough and kills his enemy in the most violent way possible. The bigger the bang, the better the movie. We play games where the object of the game is to become the most violent person in the game. Kill our adversaries with such efficiency we’re given more points to obtain more weapons to be more violently efficient in our killing. This is fun?

Here’s where we need to pay attention to the genius of Jesus’ teaching. Remember when Jesus taught us that if we were angry with our brother we were guilty of murder? That if we harbored lust in our minds for a woman, we were already guilty of adultery?

<idle musing>
The early Christians were known for their radical love and care for those around them—even those who persecuted them. May we emulate them!
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 01, 2018

But that's not the way you're supposed to do it, Jesus!

Jesus didn’t do what I would have done [when he arrived at Lazarus’s tomb]. He didn’t try to fix their emotional pain by telling them about heaven. He didn’t say, “Stop crying and watch what I’m going to do.” Instead, upon feeling the pain of those he loved, Jesus entered into their emotional hurt. The same pain that stabbed at his friends also pierced him. As a result, he wept bitterly. That is, he identified with their suffering and took their pain on himself. In no way did Jesus allow his foreknowledge to separate him from their excruciating suffering. When I think of this, I am so thankful that I serve a weeping God, a God who enters into my pain and allows himself to hurt with me even though he knows that he will wipe away all my tears and free me from all pain in eternity.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 128

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What is a good book?

"The measure of a good book is not whether it confirms and informs what one already suspected or believed. No, the measure of a good book is one that makes you think hard about those previous ideas and beliefs, sometimes reinforcing, sometimes critiquing what one has thought."—Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (blog)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How to influence the culture

In a modern secular state that doesn’t honor God or follow his precepts, citizen believers must hold the political powerbrokers liable for the evil that they allow. Sin invites God’s judgment on the whole nation because abortion, sexual perversion, abuse of the poor, violence, pornography, divorce, and the like empower Satan’s rule. National sins cause the righteous to suffer with the unrighteous because they all participate in the same political unit. Social transformation happens when the people turn to God and reorder their society so that God’s precepts are reflected in the culture. To do this, the church shouldn’t seek to create a political theocracy. Rather, it should seek to grow the kingdom of God so that God’s influence reaches into all aspects of the society.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 105 (emphasis added)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Agreed!

From Jesus Creed
We condemn the attacks on innocent lives and the murder of Jews at the the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The anti Semitic rhetoric and behavior that incite these violent acts are inexcusable and indefensible. We pray for our Jewish friends and neighbors and call on all people to turn from violence and perform deeds of mercy, love, and justice. We call on Christians and churches to be God’s agents of love, reconciliation, and peace.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tests, tests, everywhere are tests

I don’t recommend using spiritual gift inventory tests for many reasons. First, the Bible doesn’t model that approach. Second, the process is cognitive and may not include prayer, spiritual discernment, or the affirmation of others. Third, normally, the lists only include gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament. For example, Christians know that God calls and gifts people for music ministry. That isn’t listed as a gift in the New Testament.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 59

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Why are we always trying to put everything into a nice little package and test it? (Rhetorical question)
&tl;/idle musing>

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What have we lost?

Before the global advent of Pentecostalism, the holiness movement emphasized that sanctification evidenced Spirit baptism. Accordingly, “Walking in the Spirit” and bearing the fruit of the Spirit indicated that God’s Spirit was working in a person to transform the person into the image of Christ (Gal 5:13–26). Much of that emphasis has been lost in Pentecostalism because it focuses on gift manifestation instead of holiness.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 52 n. 4

Friday, October 19, 2018

No hierarchy here!

Contrary to what some believe, God has not fixed a spiritual hierarchy within the church that says that some Christians are more important than others or that some spiritual gifts are more important than other spiritual gifts. Instead, when seen from the perspective of the whole, every spiritual gift and every believer is of equal value. Allow me to re-emphasize this point. A believer’s worth is not determined by the spiritual gifts that the person exercises. Rather, believers should draw their identity and self-worth from Christ, not the gifts that they manifest. In light of this truth, it is essential that every believer identifies how the Holy Spirit has shaped him [or her] for ministry so that the person can develop his [or her] gift and mesh his [or her] gifting into the whole.—William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 46

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Give me your rich, your empowered, those desiring to control

Oh, wait, that's not right, is it? It is supposed to be
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But, in actuality, it has never been so. Take a look at the post on the Anxious Bench today. These paragraphs are especially heart-rending:
During this period, as would be the case during subsequent refugee crises in history, Americans strongly opposed accepting refugees. In July 1938, one public opinion poll published in Fortune found that only 4.9% of Americans surveyed believed that the United States should accept political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. In an era of virulent anti-semitism, Americans appear to have been especially reluctant to accept Jewish refugees. In January 1939, in the wake of Kristallnacht, a Gallup poll found that 61% of survey respondents did not believe that the United States should open its doors 10,000 German refugee children, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

American immigration officials were able to prevent refugees from entering the United States by relying on the immigration quotas established by the Johnson-Reed Act, but also by using an extremely stringent interpretation of public charge rules. As Stephen Porter points out in his book Benevolent Empire: Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed, President Herbert Hoover in 1930 directed American consuls to apply public charge rules strictly, in response to American fears of labor competition during the Great Depression. The use of public charge rules ended up allowing the United States to admit far fewer immigrants than what was permitted under the Johnson-Reed quota limits, which were already set at unprecedentedly low levels. By restricting immigrants only to those who had wealth, the United States used less than 20% of its available immigration quotas, and immigration during this period dipped to its lowest level since the United States began keeping records in the 1830s. Importantly, the United States made no exceptions to admit refugees or asylum-seekers.

Anti-Semitic immigration officials were particularly harsh when applying the rules to Jewish applications for immigration. “Virtually all Jews applying to enter the United Staes to escape persecution abroad were required by the State Department Visa Division to have affidavits filed on their behalf by a sponsor in the United Staes promising to support the immigrant if granted admission,” Porter explains. “While other poor and potentially dependent immigrant applicants also had the affidavit requirement applied to them, contemporary refugee advocates and later observers have noted that it was applied much more strictly and systematically to the Jewish refugees, partially the result of strong pockets of anti-Semitism among American consuls abroad and their counterparts in Washington.”

Christian nation!? Hardly! We need to repent on our knees. And by repentance I don't just mean mouth a few words and feel sorry about how or ancestors behaved. I mean change the way we behave! Our descendants (if any survive!) will judge us as mercilessly as we judge others...

Character counts

The basic point is that those who would speak for God should embody and display the qualities of God in themselves, and have a concern that others too should genuinely engage with the life-changing truth of God; although recognition of people with such qualities is not self—evident but requires existential openness. At root, I argue that the discernment of claims to speak for God is a particular form of one of the most fundamental and enduring issues of all human life: How can we know whom to trust?—I Still Believe, page 209

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! And his point that it is the character of the person that counts is spot-on. Especially in these times of alternate facts and half-truths (ok, I'm being generous; wholesale lies would be more accurate), the character of the person counts. If the person's life doesn't align with scripture, then question very closely whether or not it's of God. Sure, God can and does use ungodly people, but be very cautious! If someone is living an opulent lifestyle and claims to be helping the poor, a red flag should go up! If someone puts the US flag (or any other flag!) before the cross, be very cautious of accepting their truth claims. And if someone openly brags about their sexual bravado... well let's just say, I have a real problem seeing that as anything other than childish and the sign of a very insecure person who needs Jesus desperately. And I see people who defend that behavior in the same light I view some of the medieval popes who endorsed certain rulers for the sake of territorial protection...
<idle musing>

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The joys of (not believing in) inerrancy

OK, I confess that I've never been a fan of inerrancy, going all the way back to the original Battle for the Bible, always seeing it as a distraction from really grappling with what the text is saying. For one thing, everyone defines it differently. And my experience over the years is that the proverbial person in the pew thinks it means oral dictation, which it definitely is not—and that's about the only thing inerrantists will agree on! So, this little excerpt from I Still Believe was refreshing:
It is a liberating experience for a biblical scholar to be free of the a priori affirmation of inerrancy. Not only do a host of problems dissolve, but new options become available and at the same time the Scriptures become more alive. Without having to hide or ignore something, one can enjoy the feeling of honesty.—I Still Believe, page 111
<idle musing>
Several years ago I was reading Greek with another person just for the fun of it. We would take a book in the New Testament and spend about an hour just sight-reading it. If we got stuck, we'd pull out the lexicon. After we had been doing this for several weeks, the person I was reading with told me how freeing it was to let the text just speak without coming to it looking to confirm a belief! I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, as I have rarely (I wish I could say never) come to scripture that way. I don't believe in inerrancy, but I certainly do believe in inspiration, and to use scripture as a weapon to prove a presupposed belief is to me a form of heresy! But on reflection, it helped me understand the approach to scripture among some people.

Lord keep me from that attitude! May I ever come at scripture with an open heart and mind, seeing what you have for me that day!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I Still Believe

I built a new bookcase yesterday&mdaah;I was out of room in the other ones. In the process of rearranging things, I came across a book that I had read about three years ago now and never excerpted; my yellow stickies were still marking the spots. So, for the next three days, I'll pull three excerpts that jumped out at me three years ago when I read I Still Believe.
I grow disheartened when I see the Bible hijacked and turned into a sword of hatred instead of a ploughshare of love. Although I do not imagine that biblical scholarship is single—handedly responsible for the thin gruel offered as the gospel in too many congregations—across the spectrum of the church’s life—neither do I see that biblical scholarship is serving to challenge and enlarge and instruct as it might.—Berverly Roberts Gaventa in I Still Believe, page 89

Monday, October 15, 2018

Perspective

I wish I could get the adult males in this country to give as much consideration to their own souls as they give to the standings of their particular sports teams.

How would our country change if we could get people to spend four hours considering their own souls and their lives and their future with the concentrated attention they consider the strikeouts, the stolen bases and the rest of the baseball game?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 168

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hard words

The only way to help the world is to stay free from its brainwashing. The man who has adopted its ways can never help it. It is by standing aloof from its ways that we can help it. The aloof man is the only man that can do any good. You can only help a sinner by going contrary to him.

There is only one way to bless mankind, and that is by opposing mankind. For wherever mankind is wrong, and wherever he is different from God, it means that brother must be divided from brother and husband from wife and children from parents. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). You must be sober and prayerfully beware the world’s propagandas. Do not sell yourself, and do not allow yourself to be slowly reasoned into wrong by the counsel of the ungodly. Better to be a radical on the right side than weak on the wrong side. Better go too far than not far enough.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 163

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Babylon, here we come : (

What is it going to take to wake up the Church . . . to keep the world from using the Church to achieve its own ends? I wonder what kind of Babylon and beside what waters we are going to sit bitterly and hang our harps and refuse to sing? I wonder what Ezra and Nehemiah will be sent to lead us back to the land again, purged of our idolatry and washed this time by the blood of the Lamb?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 162–63

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Foolish puppets

Those creatures that bow and spread their wings, and run swift to do the will of God, and have no mind but God and no will but His, are the most free creatures in the entire universe. Those creatures—that’s us—who try to be free from the will of God succeed only in becoming victims to the propagandists who want to make us think the same as they think and feel the same as they feel about things; they are slaves.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of the lyrics of an old Randy Stonehill song, Puppet Strings from the album Welcome to Paradise. The refrain goes like this: "We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings / Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings."

Ain't that the truth...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 08, 2018

Freedom!

But there is the freedom. Love never feels slavery, and love never knows bondage. That obedience to Jesus Christ, which Paul called slavery, is not the slavery that imposes itself from the outside by laws, nor by the introduction of alien ideas into the mind. It is the happy, joyous bondage of freedom and love; and the holiest and most free creature in heaven above is the angel that is nearest the throne of God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

Friday, October 05, 2018

To whom do you listen?

The warfare is between the counsel of the ungodly and the counsel of God. Which shall control your mind? You are a pawn and a puppet caught in between, and if you are not awakened to it, you will learn the ways of Babylon and Egypt. You Will pick up their notions and think the way they think and value What they value and love what they love and ignore what they ignore.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Just stop it!

I try to avoid commenting on political issues, but this is too much!

As an article at the Atlantic says:

Even those who believe that Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
You have sown the wind, now be prepared to reap the whirlwind. You have sold your soul to the devil in exchange a for a sop of political influence. You turn your back on blatant sin to gain a little bit of a pat on the back and empty rhetoric.

But the biblical prophets have a different viewpoint, as does the New Testament. Take a look at Amos 5:

7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:

“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.

The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (NIV)
And what does James say:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)
Good news? The gospel is supposed to be good news. But in the hands of the current thought leaders of the evangelical movement, it is bad news unless you are the very people who were Jesus's greatest enemies.

Repent! Repent before the lampstand is removed (let the reader understand!). Your children will judge you for your stand. Make them proud by standing with righteousness and justice instead of political game-playing that will only sully the hands of those playing. It will never bring about the righteousness of God. That comes by repentance—real repentance, not mumbling a prayer, but as the CEV translates μετάνοια (metanoia) "change your hearts and lives." As the old Anabaptist saying goes, "There is no salvation without transformation."

Stop putting Nationalism before Jesus! God will not tolerate rivals. Update: Read this post at the Anxious Bench, an evangelical blog. Here's taste:

Rather than granting women greater legal protections against harassment and abuse, they [evangelicals] prefer to ascribe to husbands and fathers the power to protect women. But by placing such trust in patriarchal power, there is little recourse when those very men betray the women they are ostensibly responsible to protect. For some evangelicals, this scenario is simply unthinkable. For many more, their default setting is to believe men, not women, when allegations of abuse surface. And to blame women, not men, when women do come forward.
Read the whole thing! Be among the 36 percent who think character still counts!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The importance of libraries

"Our great public libraries and their counterparts in schools, prisons, colleges and hospitals are founded on a powerful idea--the idea of equality and democracy, of universal empowerment for working people.... A modern library is the Common Room at the heart of its community, supporting learning, health and well-being, helping people get online, use Council services. It brings people together of all ages and faiths, helps overcome loneliness and social isolation in every town, city and village the length and breadth of our nation.... How a civilized nation treats its libraries is a barometer of how it values its citizens."—Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Too true

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sin as understood in Scripture is not a misstep here and there. Nor is it limited to the actions of an individual. Sin is a condition and a ruling power. We are in bondage to our own insatiable egos and their illusion of control. Such hard truth about the human condi- tion has o en been set aside in today’s church. It has been so -pedaled or forgotten as churches have opted for the upbeat and positive, or for a faith that says little that is dire or truthful about the human condition.—The Usefulness of Scripture, page 90

Monday, October 01, 2018

Who's in control?

Somebody is going to control your mind. Who is it going to be? Is it going to be the advertiser? Is it going to be the public school? Is it going to be the media? Or is it going to be God? You have to make up your mind on that, my friend. Whether you want to or not, somebody is going to control your mind; who is it going to be? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

<idle musing>
This was written sometime before 1960. Advertising has only gotten worse since then. Back in the 1970s, researchers estimated you saw about 500 ads per day. The most recent figures I can find say that we see anywhere from 5000 to 10000 ads a day now. That's a ten to twenty-fold increase! And you think you aren't influenced by them? Think again!
</idle musing>

Friday, September 28, 2018

Willing captives

We always must keep in mind that this is a fallen world, and whatever originates in the world is bound to be bad and godless. Whatever originates in organized society, with thoughts from fallen minds and fallen hearts, is godless.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 158

<idle musing>
I would add, that applies equally to the Right and the Left! I personally happen to think that Fox (Pseudo-)News is a worse culprit than any others, but there is bias everywhere. Seek God and humbly ask him to show you where you are held captive. That's our only hope.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 27, 2018

You are being had!

Put chains on a man’s ankles and wrists, and he knows it. Look deep into his eyes and you will find there the sullen revolt of the free human spirit against the bonds of slavery. But conditioning the mind creates a slave who doesn’t know it. We are constantly being fed harmful ideas that we adopt and learn to believe in, thinking they are all right, and so we ignorantly follow. This is done without our knowing that a keen, sharp, unscrupulous mind is seeking to control us.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 156

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What do you have time for?

If you want to be ho1y—-if you want to serve God—you have to give time to God. Grace and holiness take time, and the cultivation of the Spirit takes time. Do you want to be holy? Do you want a deep faith? Then you have to give God time, and not just intend to. You say, “I believe you, brother. I’m going to do it.” But you never do.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 146

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Banquet or prayer meeting?

Announce a banquet and everybody will be there. Announce a prayer meeting and only a few will show up. You can tell the power of a church by the number of people who attend the prayer meeting, no question about it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 145

Friday, September 21, 2018

Countercultural advice

Blessed is the man who possesses nothing. If we possess nothing, God will allow us to have plenty. If we possess anything, we are cursed by it. So get it outside of you. Get thoroughly detached from earthly possessions. Look out for a thrill if you get a raise. Look out for a thrill if you get more money. Look out for a thrill that comes from possessions.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Not just book reviews

A few months back, I ran across an interesting blog (no, it's not on my horrendously out of date blogroll): Bob on Books. He reviews all kinds of books; some I'm interested in, others not so much. But periodically he also comments on stuff. Today, he takes on the way men are dodging the #metoo revelations. Here's a relevant paragraph, but the whole thing is spot-on; read it!
The other thing I believe we as men need to do is to assume full responsibility for our own sexuality. We must stop blaming women for our sexual longings and desires. We must stop blaming what women wear for our sexual responses. A sexually responsible man does not need a woman to tell him “no.” He makes it his responsibility to understand and honor the boundaries of a relationship. I would go so far as to say that men should not say with their bodies what they are unwilling to say in their commitments to a woman. I would go so far as to say that a man should not engage in the activity that can father children unless he is ready to assume the responsibility of being a father (and the woman wants him as the father of her children).
Amen and amen!

Thursday's dose of Tozer

If you are not detached from earthly possessions, every dollar you accumulate will be a blight on your spirit. If you have an understanding with God that goes clear down deep about who owns everything, then your increasing riches will not hurt you at all, because they are not yours. You will hold them for the Giver. God gave them, and you hold them for Him.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Good advice

I've been reading the long series of posts by Greg Boyd on Jordan Peterson's ideas (HT: Jim Eisenbraun). I'm up to part 14 of what was originally 15, then 19, but it looks like it's up to 20 now. Definitely worth your time, but I just read this, which rings so true to me:
This is advice I wish more American Christians would take seriously, both at an individual and ecclesial level. Instead of trying to “take America back for God” by positioning ourselves as Caesar’s wise advisers who assume we know better and care more than others about issues that divide the polis, we ought to make it our highest aspiration to simply be who God has called and empowered us to be; namely, individuals and communities that imitate God by living “in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph 5:1-2). I’m personally convinced that if Christians stopped trying to fix the world by grabbing hold of political power and simply focused on demonstrating God’s love in practical ways to all people, and especially to people in need, the transforming effect we would have on society would dwarf in significance whatever positive changes political regimes can occasionally manage to bring about. (emphasis added)
If you can find the time, definitely look into the whole series. Boyd takes a fair and balanced look at Peterson, acknowledging his many good points, but critiquing the points where it differs from a Christian response—and it does in significant ways.

Tozer for Tuesday

It is a solemn thought that the history of humanity and of nations and of churches shows that we trust in God, as a rule, when there is nothing else in which to trust. A Christian ought to be a realist. That is, he ought to stay by the facts, as they are, not invent or twist them. The simple fact is that the history of men, Israel, the Church and the nations and of individual churches shows that we trust in God last. We tend to trust in God when we have nothing else in which to trust. As other things to trust in appear, we turn from God to them and excuse ourselves eloquently by saying that we are not trusting them, we are trusting God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 128

Monday, September 17, 2018

Take a day!

! am not a Sabbatarian. I do not believe one day is above another day. But I believe we ought to have some time for God, The man who works seven days a week has no time for God, and the office that keeps open to get a few extra nickels on that seventh day has no time for God. Whether he takes Wednesday, Sunday or Friday off, he ought to take a day off; but Sunday would be the day to take off. It is a testimony and enables the man to get into the house of God and mingle and raise his voice in the songs of Zion with the people of God. We are not Sabbatarians, but we do believe that there is a time for everything, and secular business can ruin men, unless they take time to cultivate God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 123

Friday, September 14, 2018

But are we saying anything?

We could well cut down the decibels in our homes and in our churches. I am always cautious and afraid of noisy people. It takes a very wise man to talk all the time and say anything of value. So let us learn the scriptural silence.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Too busy

We are likely to be so busy that we do not get anything done, and so talkative that we never say anything. The prophets sought the silence; and in the silence, they learned what to say. Then they broke the silence by saying it and relapsed back into the silence again.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Silence

Men who cannot be silent will not say anything when they talk. It is only out of the silence that the Word speaks. In the beginning was silence, and then there was a word.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Burdened?

I am positively sure that nervous breakdowns do not come from working in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. They come from frustrations, hidden sins, stubbornness, refusing to hear God and wanting your own way; but they do not come from working. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 118

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Why the two-week silence

We were gone for two weeks, visiting family. Debbie's dad fell and is in rehab. We went to see him and to help her mom. He's doing better and probably will be able to go home again on the eleventh. He's 89 and not very strong anymore.

I've been neglecting this blog terribly this summer, but maybe with the advent of fall I'll be able to spend more time reading—and therefore blogging.

I've been working on some interesting projects, though. I just finished up the NICOT 2 Samuel volume (not on the Eerdmans website yet), which should see the light of day early next year. Before that I did the final volume of the TDOT, covering the Aramaic. That was pretty intense because they were trying to keep consistency with the other volumes, going all the way back to 1974. Needless to say, typography has come a long way since then and standards have changed. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun. I also did an Eisenbrauns Festschrift The Unfolding of Your Words Gives Light, and three SBL books, two of them on the LXX. The collection of essays by Rosel, Tradition and Innovation:English and German Studies on the Septuagint is really good; you should buy it when it comes out—or pick it up at AAR/SBL. Somehow I managed to crowd in The Abu Bakr Cemetery at Giza for B.J. at Lockwood Press, and Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester. All while creating a garden (which is doing wonderful! I'll try to post some pictures…), working for PSU Press part-time, and walking 5–8 miles a day.

I'm currently working on the Lexham Geographical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts–Revelation and an Eisenbrauns book in the EANEC series: Life and Mortality in Ugaritic, which should be out next spring or summer (also not on the web yet).

No wonder the blog has suffered!

Tozer Wednesday

There is a notion abroad that labor is a sin or, at best, a curse resting upon us. Some Christians even have the notion that work is a disciplinary punishment, which the Lord laid at the world at the Fall. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read the Bible before the third chapter of Genesis and the Fall and you wlll see that God told the newly created couple that they were to replenish the earth and subdue it.

Replenishing the earth meant there were to be children born into the world. Anybody who imagines there can be children without work has never had children or even been around them. The command to subdue the earth certainly embraces the idea of work.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 116

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Among the Woo People

Just in time for back-to-school!

Disclaimer: I grew up a block from a university campus; my dad was a university professor for ca. forty years. While we didn't live on fraternity row, there was a sorority house just down the block. One night, a car crashed into our basement window at about 1:00 AM as a student was trying to get his date back to the sorority house before curfew. He missed the corner—and the curfew! But we did get a new window in the basement. Of course, once I grew up, I went off to college—for fourteen years, ten of them as a married student. So, I figured I had heard or seen a good bit of campus life. But this book, Among the Woo People, is a delight. It's chapters are short enough to read in a couple of minutes—and usually left me laughing or recalling similar situations from my own past.

Sure, I work for PSU Press, but even if I didn't I would recommend this book! Hey, have I ever steered you wrong? And right now, it's on sale for 30% off! Use coupon code NR18 when you check out. And then let me know how you liked it! Sure, it isn't about the ANE or biblical studies, but I'll bet you can relate : )

Tozer for a Tuesday

Spirituality does not lie in the length of your hair or the length of your beard. It does not lie in the style of your garment or the quality of your garment. The rule I would lay down is the easiest rule in the world: If it is modest and you can afford it, it is appropriate. That is all God cares about dress.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 109

Friday, August 17, 2018

Victory?

Victory is certainly one of the goals in the Christian life, but whose definition of victory are we using? We strive to live the victorious Christian life, but who is telling us what that really is? We must vigorously search the Scriptures to discover God's definition of the victorious Christian life and then commit ourselves to that. No other definition is acceptable to the Christian. Because this is so utterly important, we must not misunderstand what victory is all about.

Let me point out that the victorious Christian life is not a life absent of any problems or difficulties or failures. Actually, the opposite is true. The victorious Christian life is a day-to-day or even moment-by-moment victory over enemies and situations that we confront in the way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tozer for a Wednesday

Fools chose whom they wanted to marry, but they did not think of eternity when they did it. They chose what they wanted to do with their money, and they did it. They chose what they were going to say, and they thought, Our months are our own; our tongues belong to us. Wh can tell us what to say with our tongues? Therefore, they said what they would, but they did not think of tomorrow, of the judgment day, of the awful face of God or the Great White Throne. They were fools.

Hell is full of fools, and heaven is full of wise men. There are wise men in heaven that could not read and write when they were on earth; and there are learned fools in hell that had degrees after their name like the tail on a kite. They knew everything but the one thing: They were fools.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 76

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do you believe it's possible?

It's an erroneous idea that justification is an imparted robe of righteousness put over a dirty, filthy fellow who terribly needs a bath and is filled with cooties and the accumulation of the dirt of a lifetime, who stands boldly in God Almighty’s holy heaven, among seraphim and cherubim and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect, and blithely and flippantly says, “I belong in hell. I’m a filthy man but what are you going to do about it? I have on me the robe of Christ’s righteousness and that’s enough.”

God saves only sinners, and He saves only sinners who know they are sinners. He saves only sinners who admit they are sinners; but He saves sinners and turns them from being sinners to being good men and full of the Holy Spirit. When we teach anything else, we are teaching heresy.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 73–74

Friday, August 10, 2018

Yes!

This guy "gets it" about that big river in South America that sells books (and lots of other things) online:
Some may wonder, why don’t I use an Amazon link?

I did at one time until a bookseller friend whose work I value greatly challenged me that I was helping to dig the grave of his business. Since I want to see him, and other brick and mortar booksellers stay in business, I paid attention. He pointed out that I was essentially endorsing Amazon as “my bookseller of choice” by directing traffic to their website.…

I’ve concluded that for all the convenience Amazon offers, we are sacrificing a rich, local culture, as well as the subtler delights of relationships with librarians, publishers, and booksellers, as well as the serendipitous delight of finding what you weren’t, as well as were, looking for on the shelves of a local book store. That is not something I want to lose.

<idle musing>
And that's the issue in a nutshell. Sure, you might save a few bucks buying via the river, but what are you doing to the local culture? Not just bookstores, but the local hardware store, or other local businesses?

Buying local puts money back in the community. Buying online drains the community.

Sure, I buy online, but almost always it's only because I can't find what I need locally.
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Transformation

The act of accepting Christ, if it is a true act, has an instant effect upon our entire moral life, and it changes the man from being a bad man to being a good man. God will not, by some trick of grace, take evil, foul-minded, self-righteous and vile people into his heaven. When He saves a man, He saves him from sin. If he is not saved from sin, he is not saved at all! There is no act of grace and no trick of mercy and no justification that can take an unholy man into the presence of God or an evil man into God’s holy heaven. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. He came not to call people who thought they were righteous but people Who knew they were sinful. When He calls us to Himself and saves us, He saves us out of our past and out of our iniquity and by a threefold act of justification, regeneration and sanctification, makes people fit for heaven.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 73

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Why tithe?

If I were not a Christian, I Would not tithe. All of those button pushers that come along and try to show that if you tithe you’ll have more money than you did if You don’t tithe; all of that low-grade effort to get peop1e to give isn’t Christian; it isn’t spiritual; it isn’t decent. What kind of person would you be if you brought your offerings to God's house knowing that if you did you would be more prosperous than if you did not? Knowing that you will have more than if you did not tithe? That’s tithing to get more. What kind of person would you be?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 68

Monday, August 06, 2018

Religious bores?

To be as honest and realistic as possible, I will say that some people are religious bores. They have a way of introducing religion into the most impossible situations and do it out of habit, without sincerity or any spontaneity whatsoever, but only because they have been trained to do it, like trained seals. They would bore an archangel. But if an honest, happy—hearted Christian turns and talks about God, and it bores you or embarrasses you, you are in the wrong company. If you are bored with spiritual conversation (I’m not talking about religious chitchat that would bore anybody), something has gone wrong inside of your heart. The best thing to do is admit it and acknowledge it before God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Friday, August 03, 2018

Bored?

Backsliding resides in the heart, and these other things are only external aids to the devil. When a man is backslidden in heart, he tends to get a little bit bored. If a glowing, earnest Christian bores you a little; if when you are in a little group drinking coffee or soda, and it bores you a little or embarrasses you when somebody brings up the thought of God, you had better look to your own heart. Whenever talk of God and His Word and His work in the world bores us, be sure that we are wrong inside.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Thursday, August 02, 2018

If it feels good…

People tend to follow what is easy and what goes the natural way. Outside of taxes and certain other duties forced upon us from the outside, either by nature or by law, we mostly do what we like to do or what is natural to us. That is fertile soil for backsliding. A person under some great pressure of bereavement or fear turns to God for a while, but the instinct to stay there is not in them. The instinct is to go the other way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 62

Monday, July 30, 2018

Would you?

If God never answered another prayer for me as long as I live, I still want God to know that I want to serve Him until I die. If He never did another thing for me from this day on, if He withdrew His hand and let me go to pieces physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and every other way, I would still want Him to know I want to serve Him just because He is God.

The modern emphasis that God is a convenience and Jesus Christ so kindly died for us in order that we might have peace of mind is a travesty of the gospel. Sinners know it, and the liberals know it. Only we poor, lethargic evangelicals fail to see it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 58

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thought for a Friday

We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend but not be contentious. We must present truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people. In earlier times, when men were wrong, they contended, and in contending, they became contentious. In an attempt to preserve truth, they destroyed those who held error. Let us preserve truth but injure no man.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 45

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What does your God look like?

Some Christians have taken all the justice, judgment and hatred of sin out of the nature of God and have nothing left but a soft god. Others have taken love and grace out and have nothing left but a god of judgment. Or they have taken away the personality of God and have nothing left but a mathematical god—-the god of the scientists. All these are false, inadequate conceptions of God. Our God is a God of justice, grace, righteousness and mercy. While He is a God of mathematical exactness, He is also a God who could take babies in His arms and pat their heads and smile. He is a God who forgives. So We had better make the study of His Word the business of our lives to find out what He is, and then we must conform our views to His.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 41–42

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tozer for a Tuesday

When truth has been revealed in the Word of God, our business is to find out What that truth is, and in all of our teaching conform to that truth. We are not to edit or change it, but to let it stand just as it is.

Let an engineer be wrong about a position, and if he builds according to that wrong concept, his building will collapse around him. Let a navigator be wrong about where he is taking his ship, and his ship will run onto a sandbar or a rock and shatter, sinking out of sight. Nonconformity to the truth brings disaster. The enormity of the disaster depends upon the high level or the low level of the facts you have before you.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 40

Monday, July 23, 2018

Do your own thing?

What we must remember is that only he who takes orders from Jesus Christ belongs to Him. The evangelical church is in the process of compromising this very thing and ignoring “thus saith the Lord.” Yes, we want any benefits that Christ may confer upon us. We want His help, protection and guidance. We even get misty-eyed over His birth, life, death, teaching, and example. The problem comes when we will not take orders from Him. Christ cannot save the one He cannot control. To claim to be saved while ignoring His commandments is to live in utter delusion.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 35–36

Friday, July 20, 2018

The church is an "also ran"

Our literature is no different. If there is a best seller out in the world, you can be sure it will be imitated in the Church eventually. Instead of writing great literature that honors God, the Church and the things of heaven, we are duplicating the dreary, morally questionable literature of the world. It seems to be a trophy to some writers to see how close to the edge they can get and not fall over. I have a news bulletin. They are not in danger of falling over the cliff; they have already fallen and do not know it yet.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 29

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Are you bored?

Boredom with religion is conceivable, but being bored with God is not. Those who have encountered God and His mighty, awesome presence could never come to the point of boredom. Religion, however, with all of its tiresome dos and don’ts, sets us up for such boredom. Anyone who tries to follow his religion religiously experiences great moments of boredom in the minutia.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 28

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tozer again

In the Early Church, everybody was part of the ministry team. Everybody was expected to go out into the world and preach the glorious redeeming message of Jesus Christ. Certainly, there were categories—such as elders and bishops and apostles. The Church ran quite efficiently by all Christians working together, each of them knowing where they belonged, and doing their part. Now we have teams of experts who only know the letter of the law. We have people who have become religious snobs putting on a show for Christians in the hopes that the Sunday offering would be more than sufficient to subsidize a lifestyle of greed. It is not hard to see that a spirit of Babylon creating a condition of spiritual lethargy has invaded today’s Church—all of this orchestrated by spiritually impotent theologians.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 23

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tozer for a Monday morning

However, a new, updated translation of the Scripture is not the answer. It is amazing that i n a generation of Christians with more modern translations of the Scriptures than all the other generations put together, it is just about the weakest group of Christians we have ever seen.

It is not by reading the Scriptures in the original languages or in some contemporary version that makes us better Christians. Rather, it is getting on our knees with the Scriptures spread before us, and allowing the Spirit of God to break our hearts. Then, when we have been thoroughly broken before God Almighty, we get up off our knees, go out into the world and proclaim the glorious message of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 22

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pastors and leaders

Then we have celebrities who are leading our so-called worship today. This mirrors the culture around us. To be a leader in the Church, a man does not have to have spiritual qualifications as much as a personality and a celebrity status. The converted football player wields more influence in churches today than the man who is before God on his knees with a broken heart for his community. Celebrities are now leading us, but they are not leading us down the same pathway the Fathers Of the Church established.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 19–20

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tozer on worship

The average Christian today is addicted to exterior pleasures. Can any Christian church survive today without a heavy dose of entertainment? It is the culture of fun, fun, and more fun. Performance has replaced worship. We no longer have worshipers but rather observers and spectators who sit in awe of the performance. The demand is for something that will make us feel good about ourselves and make us forget about all of our troubles.

The Church Fathers were fanatic worshipers, and their worship carried with it a heavy cost, which incidentally, they gladly and eagerly paid. The grandsons are now observers with an appetite for entertainment that has gone wild. They are addicted, with an insatiable appetite, to have one thrill followed by an even bigger thrill. They are as fanatic about entertainment as their fathers were about worship, which explains the difference.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 18–19

<idle musing>
Tozer wrote/preached this in the late 1950s! I wonder what he would think now? : (
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Beyond words

The Spirit-baptized life trades in holy mysteries. When Pentecostals speak in glossolalic tongues, they do not know what they are saying, and that is very much an appropriate epistemic space to occupy. In some sense, they do not need to know what they are saying because what is happening at such moments resists and defies description beyond the surface, since the One at work is infinite, transcendent, and thus beyond words. Pentecostals at various moments implicitly sense this dynamic in their spirituality. For instance, we have already alluded to how Smith speaks of testimonies that have a "I know that I know that I know" quality—they operate out of a certainty principle that runs deeper than conventional forms of cognitive or linguistic affirmation. [James Smith, Thinking in Tongues] But then again, when Pentecostals move from their spirituality to the theological task, the temptation to register their intuitions in a kind of totalizing and corrupting discourse persists. As a case in point, some Pentecostals suggest that these tongues are spiritually edifying, that they encourage the believer, and so on. The danger of such comments is that they signify a benefits orientation toward the Christian life that is in need of a dark-night purging of its own. On the contrary, and first and foremost, glossolalia stands as a phenomenon that points to the superabundance of the God Pentecostals believe they experience in their worship settings. This effulgence, this glory, this radiance simply defies logo-centric parameters. Glossolalia points in this direction, and Pentecostals and others have continually sensed this.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 176

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Life is complicated—sometimes very complicated

[Simon] Chan wishes to expose an overreahzed eschatology as the chief culprit at work in the inability of Pentecostals to see trials and difficulties as part of the Christian life. He believes that, when Pentecostals fixate on signs, miracles, and the like, they lose sight of how Christian existence really is. The spiritual life cannot be a movement from one peak to the next; quite the contrary, "progress in the Christian life may involve many dark nights and many re-fillings of the Spirit, each experienced in greater degree of intensity." [Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 79] Pentecostals may not be forthcoming in claiming this dynamic, for typically their tendency is to emphasize the powerful demonstration of God's power, the victorious battle against sin, and the manifestation of an awe-inspiring miracle. However, if these are the emphases, what happens when their contraries are very much in evidence? What if the sought miracle does not take place? What if the battle against sin is ongoing? What if God appears to be absent or missing? As Paul Alexander has noted of his own experience, an awkward silence typically ensues in such cases, one quickly Filled by counterevidence and countertestimonies.[Paul Alexander, Signs and Wonders, ch. 1] The questions are often dismissed, ignored, or reinterpreted; they cannot be lelt to stand. Nevertheless, these concerns are valid because they are true to experience. They point to the multifaceted nature of life in general and the Christian spiritual life in particular.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 167–68

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Customer service?

My phone died today. It wasn't even a year old, ten months to be exact. So I set up a chat session on the phone provider's web page. As you log in, they ask for details about the problem. So, I proceed to type in the issue, complete with the fact that I have already removed the battery, sim card, and sd card and reseated them all.

I wait a couple of minutes and the person on the other end asks what the problem is…hmmm…I thought I just told them. Oh well, I retype the issue—and wait another couple of minutes before they ask me to remove the battery, replace it, and try powering it on again. Hmmm…I thought I just told them that. Oh well, I'll humor them.

No change in the phone—what a surprise : (

The agent types, well, we'll just have to reset it then. OK. Remove battery, replace, and press the power and up volume at the same time. No change, as expected. Agent types, we'll check to see if it's eligible for exchange. Several minutes later: it is. Ok, needs all my contact information, address, etc. And phone number. Hmmm…it doesn't work! I give them Debbie's.

More exchange about how to return it, etc. Finally, "Would you like to participate in a survey about this exchange?" Sure, why not? They reply, "Great! You will get a text message…" Face palm! I don't have a phone that works! Response, "Well then I guess you won't be able to receive the text message." Oh, the irony!

You gotta either laugh or cry. I'll laugh. Without a phone for at least a week, which isn't so bad, I guess. Unless someone wants to call me or text me : ) Good thing most of my work interactions are via email!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Clearing hidden field codes in Word for Mac 2011

Because the references are disappearing from the web and I never remember it:
To remove field codes in Word™ for Mac 2011 but retain all the formatting, select the text and then press Cmd-Shift-F9
Very handy in editing when you get a document that links all their bibliography to who-knows-where!

Bring out the stones!

It's that time of year again when the christian nationalists get to turn the worship of God into the worship of country. Well, they always are doing that, but on the two Sundays surrounding July 4th, they get the stage. Roger Olson has a great post today on the difference between nationalism and patriotism, and why nationalism is idolatry.

Here's a short excerpt, but do read the whole thing:

Nationalism is patriotism on steroids; it is patriotism degenerated into jingoism and chauvinism. It is near idolatry of country and often appears in mixing celebration of nation with worship of God. Patriotism thanks God for the good of one’s country and asks God to “mend its every flaw.” Patriotism is honest about the country’s failures and urges leaders to push on toward better achievements of its founding ideals. Nationalism rejects all criticism of country as almost (if not exactly) treason. . . .

Idolatry is such a subtle and seductive force (nobody ever thinks they are engaging in it!) that Christians ought always to be on guard against it. It is best to steer clear and wide of it. That’s why I prefer not to have a national flag in any worship space. While it might not constitute idolatry, it presents that possibility. Too many people even in Christian churches do treat the national flag as an idol. One “good Christian man” I know threatened violence to anyone who removed the flag from the church’s sanctuary.

<idle musing>
So, bring out the stones and cast them at all of us who think that the nationalism displayed by far too many who call themselves christians is really just idolatry and worship of a false god. I personally would go even further than Roger Olson in saying that much of what is called patriotism is also veiled nationalism. For example, I don't see how a Christian can recite the Pledge of Allegiance or stand and sing the national anthem. For me both of those are idolatry.

So bring on the stones! You're probably going to get your Supreme Court justice who will cause SCOTUS to endorse the death penalty anyway, so why not do it now? : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

But what does it mean?

Pentecostals need a working sense of what a Spirit-baptized life looks like and what difference this kind of life makes in the world today, especially if Spirit-baptism is called upon to substantiate and characterize the Pentecostal ethos.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 160

<idle musing>
I believe we used to call that "holiness." But that word has fallen out of favor as everyone scrambles to get more out of life. Pretty small life to my way of thinking. It used to be that the experience of Spirit-baptism was seen as an empowerment to serve. I don't hear that phrase anymore. Now it seems that Spirit-baptism is all about self-enjoyment and "soaking" up God.

Mind you, none of that is wrong in and of itself. But when it becomes the focus instead of a byproduct, then we have a problem.

Which brings me to a question I've been asking myself and Debbie a lot lately: When was the last time you heard someone talk about death to self? Several years ago I told someone who asked me for counsel what I suggested in a particular situation. I responded, "You need to die to yourself." The person's mom was present and she said, "I come against that word!" Wow! What can you say?
</idle musing>

Monday, June 25, 2018

Spirit-baptism

The phenomenon of tongues has a place in these discussions to be sure, but when it is front and center epistemically, as it has usually been within initial-evidence logic, one wonders whether this appropriation is perpetuating and masking a more basic lacuna. Generally put, the empirical availability of tongues may have contributed to a theologically impoverished account of Spirit-baptism among classical Pentecostal American denominations.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 159

<idle musing>
In a word, Yep. It certainly has...
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 21, 2018

One size fits all—except when it doesn't!

By speaking of distinct, available, uniform experiences in the Christian life that are simply “there for the taking,” revivalists of various stripes essentially cast the goal of spirituality as “obtaining" or “having" these discrete experiences. The danger is in portraying these experiences as commodities that people obtain or consume, just as they do other things. Furthermore, when traditions discriminate on the basis of the "haves" and the “have-nots” of these experiences, political dynamics are introduced, including power-laden structures of those who are and who are not entitled to carry on the Pentecostal identity in formal capacities. For those who do not fit this narration, they can be dismissed, marginalized. and patronized as a result. Through the commodification of religious experience, the Christian life is depicted as a ladder of achievement or as a status-filled dynamic. Most Christians, including Pentecostals, would formally object to these outcomes. The difficulty for Pentecostals is that the logic and the language they tend to prefer in handling Spirit-baptism point this direction.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 147

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Too modern?

Evangelicalism’s tendencies toward abstraction and rationalization frame an account of God-knowledge that is at its core pneumatologically deficient. Even with the overtures toward spirituality and renewal an author like Grenz is willing to make, difficulties still present themselves. Grenz and others continue to privilege “the contribution of modernist foundationalism,” even if undertaken at a more local level (in the case of Grenz, the community of faith). Within such conditions, Scripture continues to be the revelational authority par excellence. The Spirit as such becomes primarily—and in some sense, reductively—an enabling and capacitating mechanism by which to see, interpret, and apply faithfully that which is fundamentally available in Scripture.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 126

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's screwed up from the very core

Pentecostalism cannot subscribe to the deep-seated methodological and epistemological impulses inherent in American evangelicalism. Even with calls to reform, evangelicalism is continually haunted by a particular methodological heritage. It is exceedingly difficult to imagine American evangelicalism apart from its scholasticizing and rationalizing tendencies, and these features stand opposed to what Pentecostals most value about their own tradition. To consider but one example, Pentecostals cast biblical authority and practices of Bible reading in ways very different from those of evangelicals, especially when they try to explain the logic of how Scripture functions in their practiced spirituality.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 125

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

It's a super(natural) life!

When Pentecostals live out their spirituality and then reflect on it, they simply must frame the results in terms of pneumatology. Their first inclinations are not to think of vigilance, exertion, self-monitoring, and the like; rather, Pentecostals are inclined to speak of how they delight in and enjoy the presence of God. For Pentecostals, Spirituality is not a project; on the contrary, it involves an ongoing paradox between resting in God and desiring earnestly after God. As Steven Land suggested in the very subtitle of his book, Pentecostals are genuinely passionate for God and God’s kingdom. And these flames of holy desire are fanned by the power, beauty, and goodness of God’s manifest presence, God’s Holy Spirit, who is experienced within the corporate modality of worship. Pentecostals pursue and live out their spirituality not from obligation but because of the sweetness that is the Holy Spirit’s touch. Over time, they often learn to hear the Spirit’s voice, recognize the Spirit’s presence, join the Spirit’s work, and yearn restlessly for the Spirit’s reign. Quite simply, from the Pentecostal viewpoint, Christian spirituality is a Spirit matter. It requires a Spirit-logic (alongside a Christ-logic, to be sure) for making sense of growth and maturation in the Christian life.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 125

Monday, June 04, 2018

The bankruptcy of self-improvement (or, just try a little harder next time)

[W]ithout a Spirit-logic infusing an account of Christian spirituality, one is left with a call for human striving. Without ongoing attention to the Spirit’s presence and work, proposals in Christian Spirituality teeter on woefully inadequate strategies of self-improvement or self-construction. Obviously, Grenz would wish to denounce these tendencies, but what resources does he employ to avoid these undesirable outcomes? When on a single page Grenz remarks that Christians ought to take seriously “their own responsibility to become spiritual,” that spirituality needs to be understood “in terms of a balanced life,” that “Christian spirituality is an individual project in the process of which we must dedicate all our personal resources,” what work can a single reference to hearts being warmed “by the regenerating power of the Spirit” actually do? [Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, 56] Once again, for all the promise Grenz shows in his work, his call for an evangelical spirituality betrays the lonely Christocentrism of previous generations of evangelicals. The pneumatology that is present is simply not robust enough for his program to lift off the ground in a theologically salutary way.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 124–25

Friday, June 01, 2018

Tomb-robbing, ancient style

From a new, forthcoming volume on the Abu Bakr Cemetery, published by Lockwood Press:
A secondary burial was found lying on a bedrock shelf about halfway down the shaft. The undertakers had evidently used the occasion to plunder the original burial chamber at the bottom of the shaft. Since there are no portcullis slots the robbers were able to pull the portcullis back enough for a child or a small man to squeeze behind the portcullis and penetrate the brick blocking to enter the chamber itself. All that remained of the contents are a flint blade and a fragment of a copper tool.
<idle musing>
Some things never change! : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Down with the idols!

Observers often point out that, in terms of both race and gender, Pentecostals have been generally more successful than their evangelical counterparts in integrating and recognizing a multitude of gifts across the divides that stratify society. Admittedly, Pentecostals have a number of difficulties to face on both scores, but it is true that, on the American scene, both women and people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds have played significant roles in the Pentecostal movement as a whole. Such developments are not due to any kind of prescience by Pentecostals that led them to be more inclusive and open to nonmajority voices; such a reading would be blatantly anachronistic. On the contrary, something deep within Pentecostal identity and existence has made these developments possible. One of these constituent factors, I believe, is Pentecostalism’s character as a mystical tradition. With the affirmation of such things as worship, the affections, spiritual practices, “the anointing” and others, Pentecostalism has created a space in its contexts for other dynamics besides intellectualization and abstraction, which in turn have allowed for a disruption of the status quo and the true participation of God’s one people in the economy of grace.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 122

<idle musing>
I would detail that a bit and say that because Pentecostalism is a mystical tradition, it is able to be more open to the Spirit's leading, hearing the voice of God calling for the destruction the idols of patriarchialism and prejudice in our society.
</idle musing>

Friday, May 25, 2018

The problem with inerrancy

The implications of this pneumatic epistemology for a doctrine of inerrancy are significant. Pentecostals cannot hold to inerrancy without compromising their distinct hermeneutical vantage point and all that such a move would entail for their understanding of God-knowledge. In the words of Smith, “I think it is precisely this one vestige of Princeton [i.e.. maneucy] . . . which frustrates any Pentecostal theology which attempts to be evangelical. It is not simply that Pentecostalism precludes the doctrine of inerrancy—that is, it is not an issue of errors in the Bible. The doctrine of inerrancy signals a more fundamental relationship to texts—one of textualization." [Smith, "The Closing of the Book," 62] In this article, Smith pits certain accounts of orality and textuality in contrast to one another. In his opinion, the kind of texualization at work in evangelical accounts of inerrancy runs counter to other revelational themes within Pentecostal spirituality, including orality, continuing revelation (in terms of prophecy, illumination), receptivity, and the like. In other words, it is contrary to a pneumatic epistemology as outlined above. This kind of textualization runs akin to Henry’s notion of axiomatization, and in both cases, there is a rationalistic closure involved in the reading and engagement of Holy Scripture.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 115

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What is inspiration, anyway?

"What is the inspiration [of the Bible] can never be properly defined—there is a mystery therein. It is a mystery of the divine-human encounter. We cannot fully understand in what manner 'God's holy men' heard the Word of their Lord and how they could articulate it in the words of their own dialect. Yet, even in their human transmission, it was the voice of God. Therein lies the miracle and mystery of the Bible, that it is the Word of God in human idiom."—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 114–15, quoting Ervin, "Hermeneutics: A Pentecostal Option," Pneuma 3.2 (1981): 17–18, quoting Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing, 1972), 27

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How do you read the Bible?

In this approach to Scripture, Pentecostals are much closer to those of the ancient church, which practiced lectio divina than they are to their fundamentalist and evangelical counterparts. Their similarity is their view that the ultimate end of reading Scripture is not “accounting for the facts” so much as it is hearing from God. This kind of activity would posit its own form of “objectivity,” one anchored in the matrix of communal worship. Given this orientation, one could say that Pentecostals read the Bible as a mystical text; they repeatedly seek to encounter God through this book, making this spiritual discipline a significant feature of their mystical outlook within their wider spirituality.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 113–14

Monday, May 21, 2018

Why do you read the Bible?

Broadly, one could say that Pentecostals read Scripture not so much to encounter the facts or truths of the Christian faith as to encounter the living God of Christian confession. That is, the Pentecostal hermeneutical orientation is relational and experiential to its core, especially when on display within the broader gamut of their practiced spirituality. Pentecostals operate out of an epistemology that in many ways would be complicated by the rationalism at work in the form of evangelicalism surveyed above. In the Pentecostal dynamic, Scripture comes alive in a unique way. Encountering the living God who inspired these texts is not so much a spiritually solipsistic or nebulous form of engagement but rather one that illuminates and grants greater clarity to the reading of the texts themselves.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 112–13

<idle musing>
Reminds me of something that Koskie said in Reading the Way to Heaven: A Wesleyan Theological Hermeneutic of Scripture, which makes sense, because Pentecostalism has most of its roots in the Wesleyan tradition.

Oh, and I think it's the best way to read scripture, too. Not the only way, just the best way. : )
</idle musing>

Friday, May 18, 2018

Arguing in a vacuum

Henry does not go into great detail about the definitional possibilities for mysticism, assuming instead a very specific account and in turn generalizing it to the whole. Undoubtedly, one significant reason why Henry can do this is that he does not speak of the Spirit much, if at all, in his considerations of mysticism. And this critique could be extended even more so to the whole of Henry’s project in God, Revelation, and Authority: the work is pneumatologically anemic, especially in the way it sets up methodological concerns. Henry’s project is first and foremost a theology of the Word. or Logos. Without recourse to a pneumatological idiom at critical points along the way, Henry has constructed a theological epistemology that all too easily defaults to a modern, rationalist paradigm. No wonder, then, that mysticism cannot fit within such a program; the agenda has been constructed so as to exclude it from the very beginning.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 108

Thursday, May 17, 2018

But what if the philosophical underpinning is wrong?

The claim of the Bible’s inerrancy has been defended on the American scene by many evangelicals in a manner that reveals a certain epistemological militancy, one that forces a person to take sides regarding the Bible’s truthfulness, again with the latter being understood in a very particular, modern way. This militancy has emerged in a myriad of ways across a number of forms. One of the most popular cases occurred in the 1970s, when Harold Lindsell published his book Battle for the Bible (1976).Soon thereafter the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) was formulated, a document repeatedly appealed to as a way of building broad consensus. Institutional purgings, denominational divisions, strategic initiatives, and similar efforts have collectively contributed to the sense shared by many that to be evangelical, one needs to subscribe to biblical inerrancy. Otherwise, one would be on precarious footing, slipping inevitably toward heresy and unorthodoxy—that is, caving in to the cultural and worldly pressures to relinquish the fundamentals of the Christian faith.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 89–90

<idle musing>
Yep, Father, Son, and Holy Bible. That's what counts, not the Holy Spirit! Bibliolotry tied to a marriage to the Enlightenment, which, ironically, those tied to inerrancy frequently decry as anti-God. But what if that view is wrong? Your whole doctrinal system falls like a house of cards.

Wouldn't it be better to cling to the traditional Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Then you are free to rest instead of continually battle. But maybe, Roger Olson says, those who tenaciously cling to inerrancy don't want to rest. They prefer to fight and judge and declare who is in and who is out. : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

But what we lose in the process...

The penchant to rationalization betrays itself usually in terms of how the Bible is conceptually viewed as authoritative and inspired. Both groups (and even subsequent evangelicals beyond this particular strand) find it appropriate to speak of the Bible as inerrant because it is assumed that only this kind of affirmation will secure its truthfulness over and against the modern pressures represented in historical-critical biblical scholarship, evolutionary theory, and debates surrounding cosmological and human origins. As many have lamented in the face of such pressures, without something as conceptually, morally, and practically demarcating as “inerrancy,” one is left with the prospect of relativizing the biblical witness through appeals to metaphor, symbolism, literary genre, and so on. And once such a reinterpretation happens with topics such as, say, the historicity of Adam and Eve or the dating of Daniel, it is often assumed that the “slippery slope” effect will lead to questioning the legitimacy and truthfulness of the gospel itself.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 89

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Reasonable faith—or Reason instead of faith?

In light of these and other details surrounding the epistemological and methodological forms evangelical theology has taken over the centuries, one could venture the following thesis: the story of American evangelicalism in particular can be told as the tale of how Christian theology was overdetermined by methodology. Of course, American evangelicalism can be narrated in a number of ways, but for purposes of this study, it is important to highlight just how significant epistemological and methodological issues have taken hold within the theological efforts of this strand of American Christianity. Perhaps out of both apologetic and protectionist concerns, American evangelicalism imbibed and adopted a very specific theological methodology, one that was particularly developed with ongoing reference to reason.

For purposes of perspective, Charry proves helpful once again in showing how reason changed from the Middle Ages to modernity in theological reflection (although what we have entertained thus far might nuance this claim further): “The use of reason in theology had started out as assistance to revelation by theologians like Anselm and Thomas. But in spite of their insistence that faith should seek understanding, reason as a tool of absolute knowledge took on a life of its own that bent in the direction of denying the intelligibility of Christian claims unless knowledge of God was empirically or rationally demonstrable.” [Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds, 10] American evangelicals embraced and promoted this usurpation of theological reflection by reason, and the signs of this capitulation were very much on display in the developments of the nineteenth and twentieth-century forms of this Christian tradition. Rather than critically and creatively resisting the forces that promoted the marginalization of Christian theology, American evangelicals sought to employ those forces—consciously or subconsciously as a "plundering of the Egyptians”—in ways that larnentably have led to a kind of intellectual unraveling. That effort was largely methodological, driven as it was by an implicit account of reason that framed Scripture as an epistemological foundation that cohered on the basis of a given account of truth—one that was modern to its core.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 84–85

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Study in Translations

I was reading in Matthew 8 this morning in my currently favored translation, the Common English Bible, when I noticed that all the references to the "sea" were changed to "lake."
23 When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.

27 The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!” (emphasis added)

That's also true of the NIV (although they change the last "lake" to "waves") and NLT, but not the NRSV, ESV, or HCSB (those are all I checked). I've noticed it before, but it never really hit me the way it did this morning.

So what's the big deal, you ask. After all, Jesus still showed his power over the water— and the "Sea" of Galilee really isn't a sea, it's not saltwater, so it really is a lake.

Ah yes. The old dilemma of how to translate rears its ugly head. The NRSV, ESV, and HCSB chose to stick with the philologically correct "sea" while the CEB, NIV, and NLT chose to be geologically correct, but philologically a bit off. But if I were a betting man, which I am not, I would wager you that all six translations missed the theological point of the passage.

Huh?

Yep. Why is it so important that Jesus calms the θάλασσα (thalassa)? If you rummage back through the posts of this blog as far back as 2016, you will find excerpts from a snappy little book by my British friend Robin Parry. On March 30, 2016, referring to the walking on water, not the calming of the sea, this is what he said:

We all know the story of Jesus walking on water. And for most of us it is simply a great show of his power and authority but, truth be told, we don’t really see the point of it. However, Jesus did not actually walk on water. You did read that correctly. Jesus did not walk on the water . . . he walked on the sea. There’s a difference and it is important. (emphasis original)
Follow the link to read the rest. But the point is that the sea represents chaos and destruction. Everything God isn't. By Jesus calming the sea, he is showing that he is Yahweh, God, incarnate.

But, if you read the excerpt from Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition today, you will know that modern Christianity has a problem with the supernatural—well, you probably already knew that!—but that excerpt just exemplifies it better than most.

Once again, to quote that old saw, traduttore tradittore, the translator is a traitor. And as I said, I doubt the NRSV, ESV, HCSB stuck with "sea" because of the theological import of the passage. They are just as captive to the naturalistic mindset as the CEB and NIV.

So, perhaps I shouldn't have called this post "A Study in Translations" as much as "A Study in Preconceptions" or some such. Anyway, it's just an
<idle musing>

A prisoner to Modernism

[T]he Christian life on the whole trades on holy mysteries, the American evangelical movement, although citing Scripture as its one true authority, has significantly failed to account for the mystery-laden qualities of this life. Much of this failure is attributable to epistemological matters. We have already seen indications of this difficulty even in such a promising work as Boyer and Hall's The Mystery of God. Despite their appeal to mystery, which they claim must transcend reason because of the superabundance of God’s life, they nevertheless feel compelled to give reason some kind of prevailing acknowledgment, saying awkwardly that, even while transcended, reason still must operate. Of course theological reflection is reason-oriented; we as creatures are rational and use our rational capacities in our theological efforts. The reference to reason in Boyer and Hall’s presentation, however, is awkward by its inclusion as a postscript of sorts, as if its presence was necessary to register, even if in terms of an afterthought. Their implicit assumption is that whatever theology amounts to, even theology surrounding the mystery of God, it needs to be affirmed as rational in some sense. One could hypothesize that a fear is operative in Boyer and Hall in particular and within evangelicalism in general, one that has to do with avoiding certain methodological alternatives. If this hypothesis is true, then some options are simply to be avoided and others maintained at all costs.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 84

<idle musing>
Ouch! That is too true. Evangelicalism sold out to Modernism long before it sold out to Trump and the Republican Right.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Encounter as transformation

In this chapter I have sought to situate the language of mysticism within Christian theological discourse so that it could be of use for the narration of Pentecostal identity. Pentecostalism can be identified as a mystical tradition within the church catholic, but only if we recognize the mystical features of Christianity that hold the knowledge of God to be both intellectual and relational. Once we do so, we can recognize that Pentecostals implicitly operate out of mystical sensibilities in the ethos they sustain regarding worship and how it in turn reflects their belief that God engages and encounters those who thirst after God. The ultimate goal is a sense of the divine that is, in short, transformative. As Warrington remarks, “One experience with God can be more life changing than an encyclopedic knowledge of God. . . . Thus, Pentecostals value experience-based encounters with God because they have the potential to transform believers. They believe that if God initiates an experience, it must be in order to positively transform the individual concerned.” [Pentecostal Theology, 26] In this particular sense Pentecostals can be identified as modern-day mystics. The mystical dimensions of ancient Christianity are not dead for those who have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear" otherwise.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 82