Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That's nice, but what IS it?

“Despite the rapid and widespread rise in interest in theological interpretation, its theoreticians and practitioners (among whom the present author should be counted) sometimes quip that no one knows exactly what it is. That is not quite true, but there is in fact great diversity of opinion about what constitutes theological interpretation or exegesis. One thing that seems to be generally agreed upon, however, is that theological interpretation is not primarily about exegetical methods but about exegetical goals. What is the goal, or telos, of biblical exegesis? If the exegete is seeking only to understand a biblical text as an ancient text, as a purely human text—whether using diachronic or synchronic methods—that exegete is not doing theological interpretation. On the other hand, if the exegete seeks to understand a biblical text in order to appropriate its message as a guide for contemporary belief and behavior within a community of faith (either Christian or Jewish)—whether that goal is achieved with historical-critical, social-scientific, narrative, or other methods—that exegete is doing theological interpretation.

"...Christian theological interpretation is interpretation in, with, and for the church so that the church may in fact be the kind of church in the world that is appropriate to the Christian gospel."—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, pages 145-146, 148

<idle musing>
I can get behind that description and goal very easily.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why study the Bible as scripture?

“Christians read the Bible as Scripture because they seek to find in it the mind of Christ, and thus they do so prayerfully, no matter how academic the task is at the moment. A hermeneutic of trust guides exegetical practice that acknowledges God as the ultimate source of good interpretation and acknowledges faithful living before God as the ultimate goal of good interpretation. Such exegetical practice is one form of embodying the biblical injunction to love God with one’s mind as well as one’s heart.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 143

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

I didn't know that...

the word hermeneutic is derived from the Greek god Hermes, the messenger/interpreter of the gods. At least, that is what Gorman in The Elements of Biblical Exegesis says on page 140...

Quote for today

Search the Scriptures, not as though thou wouldst make a concordance but an application.—John Donne [ in The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 139]

Monday, December 29, 2008

The via media

“Although the notion that meaning is created exclusively by the recipient of a communication is a misguided overreaction to the claim that meaning is limited to authorial intent, this kind of reaction does rightly acknowledge the fact that various people receive various messages from a single communication. Human communication is polyvalent.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 136

<idle musing>
Yes, the via media, or middle way. Avoid both extremes, because human communication has many voices; we all bring our presuppositions with us, as well as our previous interactions with individuals and texts. These will exert a profound influence on our exegesis.
</idle musing>

Quote for the day

“Bible study is never complete until it results in worship.”— Hebrew for the Rest of Us, page xiii

Review of "Hebrew for the Rest of Us"

Thanks to Jesse at Zondervan for the copy of Hebrew for the Rest of Us, which is meant to be a companion volume to Greek for the Rest of Us, also from Zondervan. Both of these volumes are intended to teach people how to use the tools of the languages without actually knowing the languages, or as this book puts it, you are learning “pre-Hebrew.”

The whole concept of pre-Hebrew raises questions in the mind of a language junkie like myself, or, as a commenter recently called me on another blog, a snob. The big danger is that a little knowledge can be more dangerous than no knowledge. At least when you don't know anything about the language, you know you don't know. If you have the beginnings of knowledge, you might think you know more than you do. I still find that a danger for myself after 30 years of reading Greek and Hebrew; we need to be humble about how much we do and don't know, and about how much we even can know.

With that in mind, I must admit I approached the book with a bias against it, but I was delighted to see on pages x-xi of the introduction a list of what to expect, and far more importantly, what not to expect:

Here are two things you should not expect. (1) After you finish this course, you should never tell anyone that you know Hebrew. You will not know Hebrew, unless you take a full-fledged Hebrew course. (By the way, my ulterior motive in writing HRU is to inspire students to study full Hebrew.) (2) You will not be able to dispute scholars on the basis of your knowledge of Hebrew, but you can ask questions and better follow the arguments of various scholars with different views, helping you make informed choices. As Mounce says in GRU[Greek for the Rest of Us] (p. x), it's not a little bit of knowledge that is a dangerous thing, “it is a little bit of arrogance that is dangerous.” Knowing everything is this book will not make you an expert.—Hebrew for the Rest of Us, page x

I must admit that this disarmed many of my fears and allowed me to look at the book from a more nearly neutral starting point. That this same caveat is repeated at page 158 in different words was also reassuring. In fact, page 162 has a wonderful warning: must not forget that this is not a full Hebrew course. Even a student who completes a two-year course in biblical Hebrew is not knowledgeable enough to engage in exegesis completely independent from the work of professionals. However, you are in a position to make more detailed observations of the text and better understand commentators and translations.” This phrase should be emblazoned on the forearms, chests, foreheads, etc., of everyone who ever says, “What the Hebrew/Greek really says is...,” as if 2000+ years of translation history missed it, and you suddenly discovered it with Strong's dictionary and the Internet!

But, I digress. the layout of the book is very student-friendly. The tables and charts are helpful and assist greatly in the understanding of concepts. He goes into enough detail to give the pre-Hebrew student a basis to understand the basic problems and challenges of the Hebrew verbal system. This is reinforced in the exercises, which frequently have you compare several translations, with an eye to understanding why they differ.

After laying out all the basics of Hebrew grammar with a good deal of syntax along the way, the book turns to putting it all together in exegesis. The list of word study pitfalls to avoid on pages 229-230 is excellent. If you get nothing else from the book, this is worth the price of admission. He includes a chapter on resources, and how to choose them. The book concludes with a chapter on Hebrew prose, and another on Hebrew poetry.

Still, I am left wondering at the end of it, why not learn Hebrew? If all I knew were the things in the book, I would be left wishing I had more knowledge. You are left totally dependent on analytical tools for parsing, concordances for roots, or, if you prefer, the electronic texts that are tagged. I would find that endlessly frustrating. In the end, it seems that you would save more time over the long-haul investing your time in actually learning the language. It would be like trying to read Tolstoy in Russian with only a grammar and dictionary; you could do it, but the time required...

What about the self-learner? I would say, forget it. This book is designed to have a teacher who knows Hebrew supplement the materials (although he does have a website which I did not check). If you really want to learn enough Hebrew to get through the materials, you are better off learning first year Hebrew from one of the traditional (modern!) grammars, such as Futato, Seow, Ross, Pratico, Kelley, etc., which either contain an answer key, or have an annotated answer key available.

<idle musing>
Now for the shocker: Not everybody should learn Hebrew (or Greek—double shocker!). Contrary to what you might gather from language snobs/elitists, such as myself, the translations available are quite good! Sure, there are nuances, and the depth of meaning is greater in the original, but will that make you a “better Christian?” Chances are pretty good that it won't! In fact, if you are prone to pride, unless God calls you to learn the language (and even then), you will be on a very dangerous slope with a thin lifeline!

When you get to the “pearly gates,” God won't ask you to parse a verb or decline a noun. He won't ask about the concords or word order. He isn't concerned about your head knowledge except as it causes you to fall in worship at his feet. And you don't need Greek or Hebrew to do that. In fact, throughout most of history, most people couldn't even read, yet they managed to know God quite well...

So, Jesse, are you sorry you gave me the book to review? :)
</idle musing>

Friday, December 26, 2008

Would that it were so...

“The process of “educated guessing” should result in your formulation of a working thesis about the meaning of the text. This working thesis will be constantly revised and reformulated as your exegetical work continues. Scholars and good exegetes willingly seek out facts and details that might disconfirm their hypotheses. In fact, therefore, your final interpretation of a text may be quite contrary to your preliminary educated guess.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 65

<idle musing>
Would that it were true! Too often we get wed to our initial thesis and only let go of it with kicking and screaming. Perhaps a little (or, more likely, a lot) of humility would go a long ways here...
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 25, 2008


An appropriate post for Christmas? I think so :)

One popular middle ground between an English translation and a Hebrew Bible or Greek Testament is the “interlinear Bible,” in which a very wooden translation of each word is placed above or below the line of Hebrew or Greek text. For readers who have some familiarity with the original language and use this tool as a way to refresh their memories, it may have a useful function if employed cautiously. However, a little bit of knowledge of Hebrew or Greek can be dangerous, and combining such knowledge with the peculiar English renderings found in an interlinear Bible can be disastrous. People who do not read the original languages with some degree of competence should stay clear of interlinear Bibles and rely on good translations and solid research for their exegesis.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, pages 38-39

<idle musing>
Amen! In fact, I would go even further and outlaw the use of an interlinear...
</idle musing>

Quote for today

A real translation is in the main an interpretation.—James Moffatt, Bible translator (1870–1944) (from The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 35)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What can I contribute?

“because of each reader’s own unique experiences and “location,” he or she will have insight into the Bible that no one else will have. Each reader can learn to bring together literary and historical perspectives as well as personal experience to understand a written text in a way that is unique to that individual and that contributes to the ongoing conversation about the text.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, pages 24-25

<idle musing>
This insight is at the heart of why we need to listen to everyone—and why everyone can teach, although maybe not formally. God speaks to everyone, and everyone hears that voice in a unique way. As we share together what God is saying to each of us, we all grow.

Am I advocating relativism here? Absolutely not! The voice of God will not contradict scripture, but it will cause us to see things in a fresh way. This is one of the strengths of small group meetings, be they house churches, or informal bible studies.

</idle musing> Rudolf Bultmann, the great German biblical scholar of the first half of the twentieth century, said, there is no exegesis without presuppositions[“Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?” in Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann (trans. Schubert Ogden; New York: Meridian, 1960), 342–51]. We all come to the text with interests in it, maybe even an agenda. Biblical texts compel us to ask not only “What?” but “So what?” Historical and literary critics we may be, or wish to become, but we are also human beings seeking an encounter with truths and realities to
which sacred texts point.

Refusing to consider responsible reflection on and with the text as an aspect of exegesis is shortsighted and unnecessary. Most exegetes have their eyes on “two horizons”—the horizon, or world, of the biblical text itself, and the horizon, or world, of their own personal and corporate experience.—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 27

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

But, how far do we go?

“It should be noted that some contemporary theological exegetes zealously advocate the overthrow of most modern or critical, especially historical-critical, approaches to the Bible (those developed largely since the Enlightenment) in favor of premodern or precritical (pre- Enlightenment) exegesis. Such ancient methods (including, for example, allegorical reading of the text) had their appropriate pride of place in their day, and they still have much to teach us. It is unlikely, however, that we can or should simply return to premodern ways of reading and ignore the contributions of modern scholarship. Ironically, some advocates of precritical approaches employ very modern philosophical understandings of language and meaning to justify their rejection of modern critical methods.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 21

More ice pictures

These were taken Saturday.

The willow tree in the back yard:

The backyard looking toward the creek:

One of the bushes by the house, the others all look about the same:

The view from the front yard, right outside my study window:

The elm tree in our front yard. It lost 4 big limbs on one side:

The barn:

One of our lilac bushes didn't fare so well:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Elements of Biblical Exegesis

Bobby at Hendrickson recently (well, not so recently anymore!) gave me a copy of Gorman's The Elements of Biblical Exegesis to read. He thought I would enjoy the section on theological interpretation, since Eisenbrauns publishes JTI. He was correct, but I enjoyed more than that, so how about you join me in a ride through the book for the next 2 weeks or so?

Let's start with the introduction

...arguably the most important development in the field of biblical studies since the turn of the twenty-first century has been the turn (or, rather, return) to the theological interpretation of Scripture. This development expresses a deep desire on the part of many biblical scholars and theologians to explore and articulate ways of biblical interpretation that attend to the biblical text primarily as theological text, as vehicle of divine revelation and address. To many outside the theological guild but inside the church (and perhaps even outside it), such a focus is altogether self-evident and natural. To many inside the guild, however, years of exposure to nontheological interpretation have made reading the Bible as Scripture seem almost abnormal, and those of us who wish to change this bias are aware of the challenges before us as we attempt to move forward in the appropriately theological task of biblical interpretation...

...despite the location of the extended discussion of theological interpretation near the end of the book, readers should not conclude that theological interpretation is an afterthought,
or that it takes place only after all the “real work” of critical or scientific (historical and literary) exegesis is finished. Rather, theological interpretation involves an attitude, a modus operandi, and a goal (telos) that permeate the entire process. In sum, theological interpretation means reading the scriptural text as closely and carefully as possible, employing the best methodologies available, because theological interpreters believe that during and after that process they can hear God speak in and through the text.—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 1, 2

<idle musing>
I like the way he put that, theological interpretation is the telos of exegesis, with the ultimate goal of transformed hearts and lives. This can only come as we listen to the voice of God speaking to us as we wrestle with the text.

He adds an important caveat: “Exegesis, then, is investigation, conversation, and art. As conversation and art, exegesis requires an openness to others and to the text that method alone cannot provide.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 12.

This is vital! Openness, especially to those who disagree with us! It is boring reading only those who agree, there is no stimulus, no fresh thought, no new blood. We need someone who disagrees, or at least sees things differently, to shake us from our complacency and set way of reading the text. The Holy Spirit can, and does, do that, but frequently it is through using others.
</idle musing>

And then there were three...

Time for an update on the cats, so for those of you who don't care about cats, stop reading :)

For most of the summer we had 2 adult cats and 3 kittens that were hanging around our place. Toward the end of September, someone dropped off a young tiger-striped male. He seemed friendly enough, so we let him stay. So then there were six.

But, after about a week, he got mean and started driving the other cats away. We had to take him to the animal shelter. So then there were five again.

A few weeks later, one of the kittens disappeared. From what we gathered, he was adopted by someone on the other side of the creek. So then there were four.

As it started getting colder, one of the kittens got sick. We had called her “Puff” because she was just a little puff of fur. Once she got sick, she started losing weight fast, and one Saturday, about 2 weeks ago, she died. So, then there were three.

Right now, there are three cats, two living in the barn, and one in a shelter by the back porch. They are all healthy and it looks like that will be our cat population through the winter, although yesterday I saw a black and white striped male go into the barn, so maybe there will be four...

Friday, December 19, 2008


We had an ice storm last night/this morning. It really is pretty, with all the trees coated with ice. But, some people are without electricity and more than a few tree limbs have fallen. In fact, about 11:00 this morning we heard a crack and thud which shook the front half of the office. The top of a tree had snapped off from the weight of the ice and landed on the roof—almost on top of my office! It didn't damage anything, just scared us half to death.

Here are few pictures from just outside the office:
Looking to the south

The front of the office, you can see part of the Eisenbrauns sign:

This is a small flower right by the front door.

Soloviev and Theosis

“Divinization for Soloviev does not mean monastic self-cultivation, but human participation in the divine project of transforming persons, institutions, society, and even the physical world.”—Theosis, page 171

<idle musing>
That seems to be a recurrent theme in this book. Divinization/theosis/deification is intended to be something that is lived out as part of life. It is not something just for the secluded monk in a monastery somewhere, but it is something God does in the life of every believer. A good thought to take with us throughout life!
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Theosis and the Trinity

“Theosis is the work of the Triune God in making human persons participate in or partake of the divine nature, a participation in the Triune communion or perichoresis. Through being united to Jesus Christ the God-man, we are united to his divinized humanity and through that relationship we enjoy fellowship with God.”—Theosis, page 167

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Torrance, again

“Through the appeal to justification as involving both declaration and deification Torrance anticipates the move within Lutheran scholarship to see Luther's doctrine of justification as more than a declaratory 'legal fiction,' but as actually involving the making righteous of the sinner through deification. Like Torrance, Luther does not separate the person of Christ from his work. Rather, Christ himself, both his person and his work, is the ground of Christian righteousness as the believer participates in the divine nature through Christ. As we have already noted, this became a hallmark of Luther's own theology: Christ is really present in the faith of the Christian (in ipsa fide Christus adest).”—Theosis, page 165

<idle musing>
Too bad that aspect of Luther's theology has not gotten more attention. Until I read this book, I had not heard this, but then, I don't read a lot of Luther.
</idle musing>

Eisenbrauns' Christmas party

Last Thursday night we had our annual Christmas party. You would expect something a bit different at an Eisenbrauns party, wouldn't you? Well, we had a limerick contest. The object was to come up with a limerick that was either about Christmas or Eisenbrauns. In case you don't remember, a limerick is five lines, the 1, 2, and 5 lines rhyme and are 8 syllables. The 3 & 4 line rhyme with each other and are 5 syllables long. We had five teams, and I managed to snag some of the results:

Each morning we know Mike's around
When we hear that bean grinding sound
His java he brews
His fresh fruit he chews
and soon our IT woes are drowned

Michael is our IT guy, and he makes freshly ground coffee each morning. He drinks that along with eating a huge plate of fresh fruit, hence the limerick.

There once was a worker named Dave
Who cut corners in order to save
Then along came Big Jim
Who gave kudos to him
And the whole office crowd did “the wave”

Dave is our business manager, and he has recently been coming up with some money saving ideas.

There once was a Merna and Jim
packed with books in a trailer so slim
a logos' appeal
drawn from cylinder seal
and so Rex the Ibex begins

Merna and Jim started Eisenbrauns in their trailer while Jim was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. The Eisenbrauns logo, the ibex, was chosen from a book of cylinder seal impressions. He didn't have a name until about 3 years ago, when Robin decided to name him Rex. It stuck, so now we have Rex the Ibex.

There once was a bookman named Jim
Eisenbrauns was the brainchild of him
He publishes in Greek,
Hebrew, German, and geek
While growing a beard needing trim

The funniest part of this one is that the person who composed it has a beard longer than Jim's :)

Can you come up with a limerick about Eisenbrauns?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Torrance on Theosis

“'...union with Christ lies at the heart of our righteousness in him, for it is through that union that we actually participate in his holy life' [Torrance, Theology in Reconstruction, page 151]. It is this participation or union with God which makes us truly holy, not just legally so. 'Justification is not only the forgiveness of sins, but the bestowal of a positive righteousness that derives from beyond us, and which we have through union with Christ.'[ibid., pages 151-152]”—Theosis, page 164

<idle musing>
Truly righteous, not just imputed, but imparted! It is all by God's grace, but it is truly imparted, not just some legal fiction! This is true salvation! This is what makes life in Christ victorious! Christ in us, the hope of glory, as the scripture says.
</idle musing>

Angry people

This is a link to a link, something I rarely do, but it is too good not to link to...

So what are we producing, if not disciples? Judging from many things I have seen and read over the past couple years, it seems like we a producing angry people. Angry because they feel like they've been deceived. Some of them have been promised a changed life, but instead were taught Christian doctrines and precepts. We've produced Apathetic people. Apathetic to the gospel, to the Church, and even to Jesus. We've produced people with false-security. These people went to all the classes, they attended all the services, and followed all the rules, little do they know that these actions won’t save them. There are probably other types of people that we have produced but I think Jesus had a phrase that best sums up these false-disciples, "White Washed Tombs". On the outside, they look brilliant, pure, and white… but on the inside, they are filled with death.

Who are our disciples? Our disciples are the people who truly follow us… and hopefully watch us truly follow Jesus. Jesus did not force people to follow him, he did not even try to prevent people from leaving him, his disciples were those who recognized him as savior and could do nothing but follow. Basically, Jesus shared his life with everyone, those who shared it back were his disciples.

This goes along with a post that Jon at The Theos Project put up over the weekend.

My struggle is that I see all of Christianity as a fad, commercialized, consumer- and market-driven. To say "I am a Christian" is not to say that one identifies with Christ, but that one identifies with some form of a hyper-commercialized movement.

This explains, in part, the fact that the church has such a difficult time retaining those who are passionate about changing the world, have a heart for joining believers in open/authentic community, and have intelligent minds that desire to challenge status quo thinking. These are three key types of people that seem to be lacking in most church institutions. Most institutions tend to prefer organizing around static beliefs/practices rather than letting dynamic people loose to affect genuine change.

<idle musing>
Not much I can add to either of them...but then I ran across this post over at Out of Ur:
</idle musing>

Economists are asking what would happen if we built our economy on production, savings, and manufacturing rather than spending and debt. Pastors should be asking what would happen if we built our mission on people’s core time rather than leisure time. What if we could tap into the 80+ hours people spend every week on the job, with their families, and engaging in life’s ordinary responsibilities? Of course, this would require a fundamental shift in the way we think about mission and institution. Here are a few implications:

1.It would mean helping people see the missional dignity of ordinary work; communicating that their jobs matter to Christ and his kingdom, not just what happens within the walls of the church.

2.It would mean elevating the role of family and household relationships as vehicles for spiritual growth and missional engagement. Yes, raising children and caring for aging parents honors God and advances his kingdom just as, if not more, than institutional church programs.

3.It would mean not extracting people from their lives and communities to engage in church programming or committees unless absolutely necessary, but equipping them to live in communion with Christ within the context he has placed them.

4.It would shift the focus of Sunday worship away from mission and outreach to a time of celebration and encouragement for Christians who are engaged in mission the other six days of the week.

5.It would mean deploying church leaders outside the institution to engage members in their native contexts; mentoring and coaching on their turf rather than ours.

6.It would mean a radical adjustment in what the church celebrates-not institutional expansion or programmatic growth, but stories of ordinary people incarnating Christ at home, at work, at school…everywhere life happens.

<idle musing>
Wow! You mean having the church function as a church? Too radical! Maybe this recession/depression is from God? Nah! Can't be, after all, God exists only to satisfy my selfish wants and desires, right? Right? What is that noise I hear? Oh, just the sound of 2000 years of saints who gave their life to God and let HIM set the agenda and live through them. Maybe american christianity isn't as Christian as we think?
<idle musing>

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Reformation and Theosis

“The West has historically given far more attention to moral holiness and so has focused on the elimination of sin as culpa rather than on salvation as liberation from moral corruption. While the them of theosis is not a dominant one in the West, it is not without its supporters.”—Theosis, page 146

<idle musing>
And that focus has caused us to miss the heart of salvation, in my opinion. We are so focused on eliminating culpa (blame) that we miss the heart of God, which is conforming us into His likeness. I think this alone is reason enough to hold to multiple views of the atonement. To say that the only acceptable view of the atonement is penal substitution is the cut off the possibility of deification/theosis.
</idle musing>

Spectacular failure

I enjoy cooking and baking, as you have probably gathered. Usually things turn out pretty well, and get eaten quite quickly, but every now and then I turn out something that isn't quite edible :)

I have been making a low-fat mayonnaise now for about 6 months. I like it, but I wanted the texture to be a bit less granular (it uses cornstarch), so I decided to try tapioca flour as the thickener. After all, tapioca pudding isn't granular, but smooth. The package said to use twice as much tapioca flour as corn starch, but I thought that might be a bit much. Good thing I didn't double it! As it was, it turned out like glue. It was just one big gooey mess. You certainly couldn't spread it on anything!

I waited for it to cool, and then took a rubber scraper to it. It all came out in one big gooey ball into the garbage. So much for tapioca flour as a thickener! Back to the cornstarch...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Maximus the Confessor (588-620) on Theosis

“ Maximus's view, God will recognize and divinize His own, that is, those who willfully employ their true nature. An intense yearning for relationship with the Creator, as well as an ability to fulfill it, was bestowed on the human race by God Himself, who ever moves His creation toward its end in Himself: 'He sets in movement in us an insatiable desire for himself who is the Bread of Life, wisdom, knowledge, and justice.” Unceasingly, God transposes willing humanity 'from the lower to the greater,' 'from glory to glory,' to divinization.”—Theosis, page 135-136

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Augustine

“Deification does not occur in the isolated peace of the quiet, contemplative life, or in the seclusion of retreat, but rather it beings in the 'craftsman's furnace' (fornax artificis), in this 'world full of scandals, iniquities, corruption, oppression' (Dolbeau 6:12). He tells his flock that they find themselves in the age of the 'oil press' and the screws are being tightened so as to separate the oil from the dregs (6.15). He speaks not to the spiritual elite who have chosen Mary's 'better part,' but instead to many Martha's who cannot but help find themselves engaged in worldly toil.”—Theosis, page 128

<idle musing>
I like that word picture. Very appropriate for today. And the same Holy Spirit presence that empowered people back then is still available to us today.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Augustine on Theosis

Yep; Augustine wrote on theosis. Surprised? So was I.

Augustine “believed his teaching on deification was based on Scripture” [Bonner in “Augustine's Conception of Deification,” JTS n.s. 37 (1986) 369-386] and he rejected the Plotinian idea that deification could be achieved by the independent efforts of a philosopher, unaided by grace; deification was possible only “from a participation in God made possible by divine initiative.” [Bonner, ibid.]

The “christocentricity” of Augustine's thought was integrated into his understanding of deification; Augustine says clearly that “adoption by grace” is impossible without the mediation of the God-man. Augustine, like the Greek Fathers, us the language of “participation” in God, and he was in agreement with the theologies of both Irenaeus and Athanasius (Bonner cites Serm. 192.1: “To make gods those who were men, He was made man who is God”).&mdashTheosis, page 124

Sing and Learn NT Greek

Thanks to Jesse at Zondervan, I received a copy of Sing and Learn New Testament Greek while at SBL. He had been trying to send me a copy for a while, but it never got here. Seems there is a black hole between Michigan and Indiana that sucked it in each time :(

Anyway, I have been listening to it off and on for the last 2 weeks. I have to say, it is catchy. The singer, Kenneth Berding, has a good voice for it. The songs are done in Erasmian Greek, but without the omicron being pronounced as "ah" which happens too often in Koine. Huh? you say. OK, how do you pronounce λόγος? Is it LOGOS with long oh sound, or is it LAGAS with an ah sound? Most Koine in the U.S. is with the short ah sound, which is wrong even in Erasmian pronunciation.

The booklet that comes with the CD is definitely important to look at before you listen, or at least while listening, the first time. Without it, you won't understand about 75% of the songs. The songs are generally just the endings without any lemmas. That's fine, as long as you read the booklet and understand what is going on, otherwise you will wonder what 313 or 212 mean in the participle song (it's the declension, by the way).

I put the CD on I-tunes™ here at Eisenbrauns and at least one other person listens to it—and will probably buy a copy. Even the people who don't know/care about Greek think it is interesting. After all, who ever thought of Greek set to nursery rhyme tunes?

What's my favorite? That's a tough one. I like the preposition song, but the ειμί song is nice, too. Of course, the alphabet song is fun, too. I guess whatever is playing at the moment is good. What I thought would be nothing but a novelty has turned into something I will periodically play for the fun of it. I might even find myself singing it...

Here's all the bibliographic information (we are out of stock right now, but I have more on order):

Sing and Learn New Testament Greek

Sing and Learn New Testament Greek
Includes 1 Audio CD and a 36-Page Guide

by Kenneth Berding
Zondervan Publishing Company, 2008
Compact Disc (audio)
ISBN: 9780310280996
List Price: $14.99
Your Price: $12.74

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Please pray

We have a contract programmer who just had a baby, named Lia. Lia is not doing well. In fact, she is in the neo-natal intensive care unit on life support. Her white blood cell count is zero—yes, zero. I don't know if this link will work for everyone, but I'll try it anyway. Here it is.

Athanasius on theosis

Athanasius exhorts his flock to 'imitate the deeds of the saints,' but warns immediately thereafter that 'when we render a recompense to the Lord to the utmost of our power...we give nothing of our own, but those things which we have before received (accepimus) from Him, this being especially of His grace, that He should require, as from us, His own gifts.' What we have received by grace is necessary for our salvatin, but not in such a way as to obviate the equally critical necessity of human response. Athanasius even views Christ's exhortations to the imitation of God as acts of grace themselves...Far from being incorporated into the Logos automatically or mechanically, then believers must be vigilant over the conduct of their lives by cooperating with this didactic grace of Christ if they hope to have a divinizing share in Him.”&mdashTheosis, pages 112-113

<idle musing>
All grace, all the time! Never by human effort! Self-help christianity never was an option for the Patristic theologians; it was always by the empowering presence of God.

How far we have strayed. Look at the top sellers on the Christian Booksellers Association list. Whatever isn't entertaining fiction, is almost without exception self-help spirituality. You don't need the blood of Jesus or the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that stuff. Of course, it is all a facade that is shown to be such by the first passing storm.
</idle musing>

Monday, December 08, 2008

Irenaeus on theosis

“...long before Arius appeared on the scene to propose a created savior, it is evident that Irenaeus has already seen and identified the exigency which both Athanasius and the Cappadocians will exploit in developing their cases against Arius and Eunomius respectively, to wit, that for the final beatitude of human salvation to be secure eternally (unlike Adam's 'infantile' and capricious possession of the same), it must involve a participation in or union with the immutable, eternal God.”—Theosis, page 99

Friday, December 05, 2008

Death as a divine remedy?

"Death by itself was not the final divine judgment against Adam, but reather a divine remedy so that Adam would not stay in a sinful state forever; and at the appointed time, through resurrection, he would become new and perfect, righteous and immortal. God 'gave him an occasion for repentance and confession.' [Theophilus of Antioch]”—Theosis, page 78

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Divine-human covenant

“Divine-human covenants are unattested in human religious history except in Israel. McCarthy's reconstruction [in Treaty and Covenant] not only legitimates the traditional understanding of the centrality of the Israelite covenantal idea but illuminates significant corollaries, such as salvation history being essentially a narrative explaining that history is the arena of God's recurrent attempts to restore humankind—that is, Adam, created in His image and likeness as His son—to family unity. The reason for the divine institution of successive covenants is the failure of preceding ones to realize God's purposes.”—Theosis, page 23

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Old Testament and Theosis

“Utilizing the threads of the Old Testament to present itself as its fulfillment, the New Testament can hardly be understood without the Old. The New is the fruit growing from the ground of the Old. By His incarnation and Resurrection, the Christ reminds us (against certain Greek instincts) that it is eminently good to be incarnate, in this world and the next, thus grounding St. Irenaeus's famous saying that 'God's glory is man fully alive.' Without the penultimate word of the Old, the proclamation and reception of Jesus as the Christ is meaningless and the Eucharist, implemented by him in the context of a Jewish Pasch, identified by him with the priestly 'blood of the covenant' and the prophetic 'new covenant,' is incomprehensible. If the Christ is incomprehensible without the Old Testament, this must also be the case with theosis.”—Theosis, pages 17-18

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The goal of salvation

“Doctrines about baptism and the Eucharist, the resurrection of the dead, eternal life, the image of God in human beings, redemption, and sanctification contain themes that relate to theosis. But simply replacing theosis with sanctification is an attempt to supplant Patristic theology with standard Reformation language. Deification [the Latin version of theosis (θέωσις)] was often seen as the telos (goal) of human existance and of salvation”—Theosis, page 5

<idle musing>
This last sentence is very important. As Protestants/Roman Catholics, we tend to view sanctification as the goal of salvation, but that sells God far short of what the Patristic and Apostolic Fathers had in mind. The book will flesh this out as we go on.
</idle musing>

Monday, December 01, 2008

Eisenbrauns December sale

It is always tough to chose a December sale. Usually it is anti-climactic after the deep discounts at SBL. This year is no different, but I think I managed to come up with a winner. We'll see as the month progresses :)

Here's the copy from BookNews:

During the month of December, Eisenbrauns is offering a selection of Greek and Hebrew references from the United Bible Societies, both texts and reference works, at great savings. Pick up the incomparable Tübinger Bibelatlas for an unprecedented 50% off, your choice of UBS or N-A texts for 50% off, Lust's LXX lexicon for 40% off, and a number of other amazing deals.

Here's a selection:

"Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Small format"
Edited by K. Elliger and W. Rudolph
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1987. Cloth. Hebrew.
ISBN: 3438052199
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $41.97

Edited by Alfred Rahlfs
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1979. Cloth. Greek.
ISBN: 3438051214
List Price: $71.99 Your Price: $36.00

"Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint"
Edited by J. Lust, Erik Eynikel, and K. Hauspie
American Bible Society, 2004. hard cover. English and Greek.
ISBN: 3438051249
List Price: $119.99 Your Price: $71.99

"Biblia Sacra Utriusque Testamenti: Editio Hebraica et Graeca"
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1994. Cloth. Greek and Hebrew.
ISBN: 3438052504
List Price: $139.99 Your Price: $70.00

"Tubinger Bibelatlas / Tubingen Bible Atlas"
Edited by Siegfried Mittmann and Gotz Schmitt
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2001. Cloth. German and English.
ISBN: 3438060221
List Price: $150.00 Your Price: $75.00

"UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition"
Edited by Barbara Aland and Barclay M., Jr. Newman
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2008. Cloth. English and Greek.
ISBN: 9783438051509
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $34.98

Check out all the great prices here.


I just finished Theosis the other day and will be extracting bits and pieces of it over the next week or so. Theosis (Greek θέωσις) is truly an amazing idea. This book looks at its history throughout the ages, beginning with the apostolic fathers and right up into the early 20th century. The first few quotes are from the introduction.

“All of this [θέωσις] depends upon, and revolves around, Christianity's central and unique idea: the incarnation—in Christ, God lived a human life. The incarnation is the definitive and unique doctrine of Christianity. Further, without the incarnation, there would be no theosis. Christians are meant not only to learn from the life of the divine Son, but to reproduce the pattern of spiritual progress that he revealed, even to the point of taking on the character of God!”—Theosis, page 4

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is knowledge bad?

By their disobedience, the first humans attained wisdom but lost the chance for immortality. By obedience, they would have won both: immortality and wisdom. This observation shows me that the Eden Narrative is not a divine assessment of wisdom (knowledge) in negative terms but a divine lesson on the ultimate priorities that should prevail: first, obedience to the commandment, then all the rest following as a free gift (compare with Matt 6:33). In my first chapter, I quoted James Barr, who asked what was wrong with the knowledge of good and evil that God did not want the first humans to have it. My answer is: nothing! The narrator presents God as giving them the possibility of achieving both—by obedience to the divine commandment.—Mettinger in The Eden Narrative, page 130

<idle musing>
That is still true today. Knowledge without obedience is empty and puffs up; knowledge with obedience is freeing and life-giving. What does I Corinthians 13 say? “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” RSV
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nonsense, but funny

OK, this doesn't advance the argument of the book, but I found it funny. You might not, but such honesty on the part of an academic book is refreshing...

Before leaving the question of theme in Genesis 2–3, we must comment on the two trees—trees that produced not only such palatable fruit as knowledge and immortality but also an amazing quantity of secondary literature.—Mettinger in The Eden Narrative, page 60

That's it, shows over :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Paperback Greek Reader

I got to see the new paperback UBS Greek New Testament. It is about the same size as the Novum Testamentum Graece standard edition. Otherwise, it is just like the cloth one.

Here are a few pictures:

The cover

Here it is open, with a pen in the gutter to show you the size:

Disinterested Piety

A comparison with the book of Job seems natural at this point. Here, too, we have a divine test but without the proper terminology. Here the Satan persuades God to test pious Job. The purpose of this test is to ascertain whether Job’s piety is disinterested, unselfish piety or not: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” ( Job 1:9). The key word is h.innam ‘for nothing’. The Eden Narrative tells about an analogous case. Not knowing about the potential reward—being allowed to eat from the tree of life—the two humans are asked for obedience, obedience that is not contingent on reward. They are asked for what will ultimately be disinterested piety—just as in the case of Job.—Mettinger in The Eden Narrative, page 55

<idle musing>
Just as I said yesterday, obedience for the sake of obedience, but I do like the phrase disinterested piety
</idle musing>

SBL Day 4

Last day. I realized that I had forgotten to send BookNews yesterday, so I sent that off. The last day is always interesting; you never know what to expect. You know that Brill and Oxford are going to run a last day special and that there will be a line at the door. You just never know how long the line will be. Since I saw so many suitcases yesterday, I figured the lines would be short, and they were. Last year there were probably 200 people waiting, but this year only saw about 50.

I spent the early part of the morning checking with Mohr Siebeck and Deo to make sure that the books we were taking back with us were going to be ready. With Mohr Siebeck, I have to decide which series to take, since they have some that don't sell for us.

I also made a last run through the hall to make sure I hadn't missed any books that I can't live without :) Every year I say that I won't be bringing as many books home as I took. Every year, I end up being wrong. This year was no exception. You'll hear about them here as I read them.

The morning was slower; most people seemed to have left already. We started consolidating and putting bookstands away; it helps with tear down to do that ahead of time. Some of the smaller publishers started tearing down and leaving, but we stayed open and selling until after closing. Allan got the idea of turning himself into a walking billboard for Eisenbrauns. Merna made two signs, one for front and back, and pinned them to him. He just had surgery, so he is using a crutch. It was funny to watch him walking up and down the hall with the crutch and sign. A few other publishers asked if they could rent space on him, too. We all had a good laugh, but I doubt it made a difference in sales.

Dave and I had to catch an early flight, so anything that we could do to make it quicker, while still being able to sell, helped. When I left at a little after 1:00, we were well ahead of schedule. Having Johanna and Allan definitely helped.

When we got to the airport and were checking in, the attendant noticed that Dave's driver's license was expired. Good thing they didn't notice it at O'Hare on the way out, we might have missed our flight! They gave his the royal treatment—patting him down, going through everything, the whole deal. Me, I just went through security as usual. Once Dave finally got through, we reunited and had a late lunch and waited for our flight. They are calling us to board right now, so I am signing off.

Later, in flight. The flight is very bumpy. The pilot just announced that the worst was behind us and we would be going faster to make up for lost time. But, as is sure to happen, it suddenly became even bumpier! No pretzels and drinks this flight :) We will be landing at Newark soon for a two hour layover, and then catching our flight to O'Hare. Dave just told me that he forgot and put his keys in the suitcase, so I hope our luggage doesn't take the scenic route. I don't relish the idea of spending the night in Chicago if it does!

SBL Day 3

The last full day. There were even less people in the workout room than yesterday, if that is possible. There were only two people when I got there at 6:10, and no one came in at 6:30. Strange. I don't recall a conference with this few people doing a workout.

The hall was busy pretty much all day, but you could definitely tell when sessions ended. There would be this sudden influx of people and the lines would get longer. I don't remember seeing as many people hauling suitcases around as I saw today. That could mean a slow day tomorrow.

Two of the exhibitors—IVP and Abingdon—had stuff missing. Somehow the freight company managed to lose 5 pallets worth of books that IVP had sent to the show. They still haven't found them. All the books in IVP's booth either came from ETS, or were sent next day air from their warehouse. That explains why some titles that I would have expected to see were missing. At this point, I think they hope the product isn't found, so they can at least get an insurance claim. Can you imagine if they tried to deliver it to the conference hall on the last day?

Abingdon lost their Skyline display. For those of you who don't know what that means, Skyline is the company that makes the backdrops that you see in many booths. They aren't cheap, costing about a thousand dollars each. The advantage is that they are light, pack very nicely into sturdy travel cases, and are fast and easy to set up. The backdrop that Eisenbrauns uses is a Skyline. I can't imagine what we would do if our Skyline didn't show up.

We lost a portable hand truck. It was stolen from the pallet on the way to ASOR. It's only worth about a hundred dollars, but it is frustrating and an inconvenience when you are trying to move several boxes to other areas. You have to make multiple trips, carrying one box at a time. That is the second one that has been stolen in the last 4 years. But, compared to not having any product in the booth, our loss is nothing!

Jim and Merna's daughter and son-in-law, Johanna and Allan, joined us to help for the last two days. They live in the area and drove up. Allan is always fun to talk to; he is a programmer/geek/open source guy, so we speak a lot of the same language.

We always have our Eisenbrauns employee dinner on Monday night. The other nights there is no guarantee that we will be together, what with Jim going one way and me another. This year we actually all ate together both Sunday and Monday, but that rarely happens. We went to Legal Seafood, which of course begs the question of where do you get illegal seafood. We had reservations, which was a good thing because it was packed. With good reason, too. The food was very good, with much of it.

After we got back to the room, it was the pack up, get ready to fly out tomorrow routine. Dave totaled the day's orders while I went over the previous days' orders looking for for certain titles that I have to flag for special handling.

By the time all that was over, it was already 12:30. So much for an early night :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Test

In his literary strategy, the narrator has God plant two trees and arrange a test—a test of obedience. God denies one tree to the humans. The reader may infer that the outcome of this test somehow decides the humans’ access to the other tree—the tree of life. It is then interesting to note that there is no sign that the man and the woman knew anything about the existence of a tree of life. And apparently they did not know that they were passing a test and that obedience to the commandment would be rewarded with the gift of eating from the tree of life.—Mettinger in The Eden Narrative, page 37 (italics his)

<idle musing>
Obedience for the sake of obedience. Not obedience for the sake of a reward. But, isn't that the only true kind of obedience? Obeying for the sake of a reward is just playing the game to get the reward, it isn't true obedience.
</idle musing>

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Eden Narrative

With the prohibition of one of the two trees (2:17), God confronts man with a test, an important but surprisingly neglected feature of the text. The Hebrew text of the Eden Narrative does not use the specific term for testing (Hebrew nsh in the Piel). One might therefore hesitate to speak of a test in the present text. The important thing, however, is not whether we have the precise terminology but whether the plot confronts us with what may be denoted as a test, and I believe this is precisely the case. God arranges an experiment with the first humans: he proclaims his divine commandment in the form of a prohibition, and then he waits to see whether the two humans will obey or not.—Mettinger in The Eden Narrative, page 23
<idle musing>
Interesting view, isn't it? Changes the way you look at the whole thing.
</idle musing>

And the repercussions begin

from the way some pastors voted on November 4th, that is. There is a heartbreaking letter on Jesus Creed from a pastor whose vote became known to his congregation:

In the days after the vote, many within my church came to know of my voting decision as well as my wife's vote which was the same.  It wasn't something I was declaring but it became known.  Since then I'm aware of a few families that are leaving our church and another that is close.  I am in shock.  I have been living life with these families.  Our values declared by our life and words.  They've seen us pursue doing foster care.  They've seen my wife, me, and our teenage son continually pursue ways to help the homeless in our community.  They've heard me teach.  In the end, their perception is now that I am pro-abortion.  I've been told that I have likely disqualified myself from the pastorate.  We are heartbroken.  I can't eat.  I've missed work.  I'm utterly devastated by what my choice may do to our community of faith.  We are not a big church so weathering storms like this gets very personal. 
I guess my question is this, have I missed something?  Have I entered into this decision unaware as to the expectation on pastors in regards to how they vote?  Right now we feel very alone.  To see people who have lived life with me for years suddenly doubt my heart.  They've seen my core values displayed in our choices and sacrifices.  All of that has become void.  Filling in a certain box with a marker has completely changed how they see me. 

Wow! So Christianity has boiled down to a single issue in some people's minds. That is terribly sad to me. To be “pro-life” is a lot more than to be anti-abortion!

Two days later Scot posted his reply, to which I give a hearty AMEN! Read the whole thing, because if I tried to excerpt it, I would destroy it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

SBL Day 2

Lots of meetings with vendors. Here is a brief listing of some highlights of today:

I got an extra allowance from Continuum, so watch for a good sale on some of their books in December.

Olive Tree is doing a real nice implementation on the I-Phone. You should see their Hebrew font. Nice.

We just signed a distribution agreement with Deo Publishing. We will be distributing their titles in North America starting sometime in December. We'll be making a formal announcement in January and running a sale on their titles then.

We had the awarding of the Shalom Paul Festschrift in our booth at noon. The aisle filled up with people and all traffic stopped for a good 15-20 minutes. Dave and I took pictures of it to give to him later. Dave ended up taking most of them because I had a lunch appointment with Michael Thomson of Eerdmans. They have a nice list coming out this Spring. He is now officially an editor, so he won't be in Sales anymore.

We signed up for our booths in New Orleans today. We are taking 8 booths next year, up from 6 this year. We need one extra for Deo, and the other one is so that Jim and I can have meetings without running all over the exhibit hall. Actually, the people in the booth put it a bit differently. Basically they said they were going to put us in leg irons and pin us into that booth so we would be around when people came looking for us :)

The exhibit hall was busy again today, but not quite as busy as yesterday. Because I was running around all day, I didn't get to spend as much time in the booth as yesterday.

Tonight I attended the WJK and Hendrickson receptions. Had some good discussions with people. One of the things we talked about was the following
<idle musing>
I had a chance to pray with some people in the last two days. Seems odd, but that doesn't happen much at a conference on biblical literature. Why is it that it is so uncommon that I have to notice it when it does happen?

On that same note, last night at one of the receptions I was talking to a sociologist who told me that he loves to watch the crowds at the receptions. He said that the dynamic most interesting to him was that when people met the preponderance of the first person pronoun—I'm doing this, I'm doing that. He said he only noticed it at academic conferences. I had to think about that for a minute, but he is right. It isn't the conversation of normal life. Is it narcissistic? I don't know, just asking.

Seems a bit ironic that a discipline dedicated to studying the biblical texts misses the idea of God being the center of the universe. We are the created, he is the creator.

Just an
</idle musing>

Saturday, November 22, 2008

SBL Day 1

Wow! That's all I can say about the first day. After coming from the deadness that was AAR, the liveliness at SBL is refreshing. There was a line to get in before the hall opened, which any other year I would take for granted, but not this year! It remained busy most of the day, with just a few slower moments. At the end of the day, they had to kick customers out. Makes a bookseller happy to see that people want our wares.

The mugs are definitely a hit. I brought 8 boxes, thinking that would be sufficient. By the end of the day, we were down to 2 boxes. I can clearly see that they aren't going to last the rest of the conference. So, if you don't have one yet, you had better swing by tomorrow and spend the $100.00 for a free one because once they are gone, they are gone. At this rate, this mug will go into a second printing, too, just like the cuneiform one.

I met lots of you who told me that you follow my blog, and some that told me they enjoy it :) Seriously, I am humbled to think that you find something here worth reading. I try to remain transparent about who I am and what I do, and it is encouraging to hear that it resonates with you.

The rest of this is just ramblings of what has happened in the last 24 or so hours.

After set up yesterday afternoon, I got a chance to walk around Boston. I took the Freedom Trail and saw the historic sites. I thought it was a loop 2.5 miles long, but it ended up being more of a circle with a tail. I think I ended up walking about 5-6 miles, since the trail started about a mile from the hotel. But, it was refreshing and invigorating. I ended up in a nice Borders Bookstore—an important part of any historical tour, right?

After that, I went to the ATB (Association of Theological Booksellers) meeting. They meet every year on Friday, and I try to get there, if I can. It is always good to share war stories and ideas—with the emphasis on ideas. Besides, Charles always orders a good pizza :)

The day started early with a workout on the recumbent bicycle. I usually try to get to the workout room before 6:15 because of the rush at 6:30. Well, today there was no rush. In fact, by 6:45, there were only 4 of us in there. I'm left wondering why. Is it because Boston is a nice place to walk/run, so people don't need to work out inside? My first thought was that nobody was really coming to SBL, but the exhibit hall definitely proved that wrong!

After the exhibit hall closed, I went to the ATLA reception and enjoyed the company of some librarians for a while. They had been touring libraries in the area all day and come to the conclusion that a seminary couldn't be built anywhere other than the top of a hill. Im fairly sure they are wrong...

Right now I am sitting in the mall of the convention center, hoping that my battery doesn't die. In about 15 minutes I head over to the Baker/Brazos reception. After that, I think I will go back to the hotel room and read for a bit. Tomorrow comes early.

Well, I didn't go right back to the hotel. I ended up going to the Fortress Press reception after the Baker one. I finally headed back to the hotel around 11:15. Tomorrow (Sunday) I have a 7:30 breakfast meeting. It will be a day of many meetings, so I will be in and out of the booth all day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

SBL days -1 and 0

Day minus one is travel day—that was yesterday, Thursday. We left at a little after 9:00, drove to O'Hare, flew to Cleveland, waited an hour and flew to Boston. Total transit time: 9 hours. Total time in the air: 2.5 hours. Total drive time:4 hours. The rest was time in the airports.

They have put all the exhibitors up in the Colonnade Hotel. We are on the 8th floor, and the view is wonderful: I see right into a Barnes and Noble! What better view could a bibliophile want? I spent about 2 hours there last night.

The hotel is nice, but the drawers in the dresser are unusable. They are about 1/2 the normal size. Take a look:

OK, maybe the picture doesn't show it very clearly.

Anyway, today we did the setup thing. It went very smoothly, despite a slight glitch at the beginning: they forgot to put carpet in the booth! Yikes! And, they mixed our skids of stuff with the Zondervan stuff. We had a good time straightening it out, until the convention center people decided it was their job to sort it out. From there, it went well.

Here are some pictures for your pleasure:

No carpeting!

What are we going to do with all those tables?

Too many books! Look at all those new releases; so many the table is sagging:

What is the church to do?

A great reflection on what God might be doing it the current economic meltdown over at Out of Ur :

Sure it’s easy to shamelessly wag our finger at Wall Street bankers, traders, and lenders. Their avarice, greed, and ostentatious ways are notorious. But before we strain our finger, let’s not forgot who they’ve been working for. We’re also involved in their trades, their transactions, and the thirst for MORE. The hard reality is, we are Wall Street. We are the lenders, we are the traders, and now we are the debtors.

The church is not untainted by this. I understand a need to be a healthy and purposeful church, but have we gone overboard with our focus on formulas, numbers, size, influence, marketing techniques, and branding? Have we forgotten what makes the church the church? At the end of the day, are we really driven by God’s heart? Are we really motivated by Christ’s love and not the money or the numbers?

Ouch! But he doesn't stop there...

While in Thailand, the Muslims we worked with on one of the southern islands were sick of the Western “help” they received. They said after the tsunami, “western Christians came to give us things without asking what we needed, and then they took pictures with their banners and left.” Their conclusion, “The Christians used us.”

Double ouch! Kick us while we are down, why don't you?

But, he still isn't done:

Love not the world. Neither the things in the world. For anyone that loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world,

The Lust of the Flesh.

The Lust of the Eyes.

And the Pride of Life.

Is not of the Father but is of the world.

And the world passes away and the lusts thereof. . . But he that does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17)

<idle musing>
Dead on! May the love of the Father abide in us and control us. May others see that love and want to love the Father also. If that happens, any economic downturn is worth it.
</idle musing>

Why did Christ come?

“There are two distinct views of salvation entertained by professing Christians. Correspondingly, there are two distinct classes of believers, often within the same church. The one class of believers sees the Gospel as a salvation from sin. They think more of this aspect of the Gospel and value it more than the hope of heaven or of earth. The great thing with them is to realize the idea of deliverance from sin. This is the charm and glory of the Gospel. They seek freedom from sin more than to be saved from hell. They care more to be saved from sin itself than from its consequences. They think and pray very little about the consequences of sin. It is their glory and their joy that Christ was sent to deliver them from their bondage in iniquity, to lift them up from their wretched state and give them the liberty of love. This they labor to realize; this is to them the Good News of Gospel salvation.

“Believers in the other class are mostly anxious to be saved from hell. The punishment due for sin is the thing they chiefly fear. In fact, fear has been mainly the reason for their religious efforts. The Gospel is not thought of as a means of deliverance from sin, but as a great system that takes away the fear and danger of damnation, though it leaves them still in their sin. They seem not to notice that a scheme of salvation that removes the fear of damnation for sin, that leaves them still in their sins to live for themselves, and that maintains the belief that Christ will in the end bring them to heaven (despite their having lived in sin all their days), is a compromise on a most magnificent scale. By virtue of it, the whole church is expected to wallow on in sin through life, and be no less sure of heaven in the end.

“You will find these opposing views everywhere as you go among the churches. Many people in the church are altogether worldly and selfish; they live conformed to the world and negligent of their duties.”—Charles Finney, God's Call, pages 220-221

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Salvation from sin, or salvation from hell?

“There are two distinct views of salvation entertained by professing Christians. Correspondingly, there are two distinct classes of believers, often within the same church. The one class of believers sees the Gospel as a salvation from sin. They think more of this aspect of the Gospel and value it more than the hope of heaven or of earth. The great thing with them is to realize the idea of deliverance from sin. This is the charm and glory of the Gospel. They seek freedom from sin more than to be saved from hell. They care more to be saved from sin itself than from its consequences. They think and pray very little about the consequences of sin. It is their glory and their joy that Christ was sent to deliver them from their bondage in iniquity, to lift them up from their wretched state and give them the liberty of love. This they labor to realize; this is to them the Good News of Gospel salvation.

“Believers in the other class are mostly anxious to be saved from hell. The punishment due for sin is the thing they chiefly fear. In fact, fear has been mainly the reason for their religious efforts. The Gospel is not thought of as a means of deliverance from sin, but as a great system that takes away the fear and danger of damnation, though it leaves them still in their sin. They seem not to notice that a scheme of salvation that removes the fear of damnation for sin, that leaves them still in their sins to live for themselves, and that maintains the belief that Christ will in the end bring them to heaven (despite their having lived in sin all their days), is a compromise on a most magnificent scale. By virtue of it, the whole church is expected to wallow on in sin through life, and be no less sure of heaven in the end.

“You will find these opposing views everywhere as you go among the churches. Many people in the church are altogether worldly and selfish; they live conformed to the world and negligent of their duties.”—Charles Finney, God's Call, pages 220-221

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Free from sin, not just sins

“To teach that such an expectation [freedom from living is continual sin] is a dangerous error is to teach unbelief. What if the apostle had added to this command—which requires us to account ourselves “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God”—the following statement: 'Yet let me warn you: nobody can rationally hope to be free from sin in this world. You must remember that to entertain such an expectation as God commands in these words is a dangerous error.' What would be thought of this if it were attached to Romans 6:11?

No man can deny that the passage speaks of sanctification, of being holy before God. Te whole question is , Will Christians “continue in sin” (Romans 6:1) after having been forgiven and accepted by their Redeemer? Paul labored to show that they may die to sin, even as Christ died for sin. He also explained that they may live a new, spiritual life, through faith in His grace, even as Christ lives a higher and more glorious life.”—Charles Finney, God's Call, pages 212-13

Review of Campbell's Basics of Verbal Aspect

This is a guest post by Dr. Carl Conrad, one of the moderators on B-Greek, and a Greek professor for many years. I was thinking about doing a review, but Dr. Conrad says essentially the same thing I would, only much better and in greater detail, with more learning to add punch to it.

There has been a great deal of hoopla over the last week surrounding the publication of the new Con Campbell book, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek: a flurry of reviews (several by students) and a series of blog posts by the author himself, all conveniently listed on the Koinonia site.

I might have felt there was more justification for the hoopla if the book had been titled something like, “Verbal aspect in Biblical Greek: a perspective on the controversy.” But what we are offered appears to be seriously intended as a textbook (with exercises and a key to the exercises) for use in the classroom for intermediate Biblical Greek classes, perhaps supplementing Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The marketing of such a textbook would seem to imply that the dust has settled on the controversy regarding verbal aspect and that there is now the sort of consensus on the matter making possible what is termed, in the preface of the little book, “an introduction, a textbook, a way in for nonspecialists.”

I really do not believe that the dust has settled on aspect studies sufficiently to say there is much of a scientific or even a more-or-less clear and intelligible doctrine of Greek Verbal Aspect. That is not to say that I don't think some questions regarding verbal aspect have found some resolution and that some pedagogical errors of years gone by (e.g. the "once-for-all-time aorist") have been shown the door. There are some items on which there is general agreement and it is good to have these clearly presented and clarified with the aid of a consistently-applied analogy of how a spectator views a procession as a whole event or as an ongoing process of which only a nearer or more distant perspective is accessible.

My own thinking is that the distinction between Perfective Aspect (Aorist) and Imperfective Aspect (Present, Imperfect) is valid and useful, and I am comfortable with the clarification that "Perfective aspect" means a view of the verbal action or process as a whole and external, while "Imperfective aspect" means a view of the verbal action or process as internal or within the transpiring process. I think that the category termed Aktionsart is indeed useful to characterize particular verbs as "iterative" or "punctiliar" or "progressive"; indeed, I think the category is also useful toward understanding the way voice works in the Greek verb.

Perfect and Pluperfect "tenses" seem to be problematic for a doctrine of verbal aspect: I can see that calling them "Stative" makes sense to some extent, and I can see why some would like to assert that they are really Imperfective. I think, however, that the problem is complicated (1) by the number of instances of οἶδα and ἕστηκα and the pluperfects εἴδειν and εἱστήκειν and their compounds, since they do in fact indicate "knowing" and "standing" as would present and imperfect forms and (2) by the fact that Biblical Greek is a language in flux and that the older perfect and aorist tenses are on their way to merging in the same fashion as they have merged in Latin: the Koine aorist often enough functions like a perfect or a pluperfect tense and there are instances where it would appear that a perfect tense form functions pretty much as does an aorist to indicate completed action. I don't think anything useful is accomplished by attempting to force the perfect-tense forms into the "Imperfective" pigeonhole.

As for the assertion that time is a metaphor and that the best way to understand temporal reference in Greek verbs is in terms of a metaphorical spatial proximity and remoteness, it seems to me an interesting theory, an interesting way of looking at it, but I really believe that ancient Greeks in the Biblical era as well as before and afterwards were thinking pretty much in terms of what we mean by time present, past, and future. What I would like to see explored, however, is some rationale for the fact that present and past counterfactual conditions are conveyed in ancient Greek by the indicative imperfect and aorist tense-forms respectively.

I am still inclined to think that the student learning important Greek verbs would do well to read carefully through the lexical entries for important verbs and note the range of forms in which they most commonly appear as well as the contexts in which their important senses occur. Reading voluminously helps too. The old Latin proverb is discimus agere agendo ("we learn to do by doing") which has corollaries for language-learning: discimus loqui loqendo ("we learn to speak by speaking") and discimus legere legendo ("we learn to read by reading." I think that lots of (Greek) conversation in the classroom -- something apparently unimaginable in the American academic classroom -- and lots of reading Greek in the library will do more for one learning the usage of Greek verbs than doctrines of Greek verbal aspect.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where is our strength?

“The state of mind in question [living dead to sin] implies that the Christian knows where his great strength lies. He know it does not lie in works of fasting, giving to charity, saying prayers, doing public or private duties—nothing of this sort, not even in resolutions or any self-originated efforts, but only in Christ received by faith. He no more expects spiritual life apart from Christ than a sane man would expect to fly by swinging his arms in the air. Deep in his soul lies the conviction that his whole strength lies in Christ alone.”—Charles Finney, God's Call, page 211

Fall is fading, winter is approaching

It snowed yesterday and last night, not much, but some. Debbie and I went for a walk in the snow late last night; it was crisp and beautiful on the fields and trees. We saw deer tracks crossing the road at several spots. As we were walking, the clouds broke and the stars and moon came out, lighting the woods around us and turning them into a winter wonderland. It is easy to worship God when it is so beautiful.

This morning, the temperature was at 19 F, with a crisp north wind. It was a bit cool riding the bike, but my main concern was the ice that had formed when the slushy snow froze as the temperature dropped during the night. But, by noon the sun had melted most of the snow :(

I wish I had taken the camera home last night to get a picture out my study window. It really is a lovely sight down the road there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The provision is already there

Finney was a firm believer in holiness. Not legalistic holiness, but heart holiness:

A precept requiring us to consider ourselves “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God” would be utterly impossible if no provision were made for us to have such relationships to sin on the one hand, and to God through Christ on the other...Who does not see that the very command implies that there is a foundation laid and adequate provision made for the state required?—Charles Finney, God's Call, page 208

Yes! We depend on God's provision; it can't be our works, in fact, Finney goes on to say:

We cannot begin to receive by grace until we renounce all expectation of attaining by natural works. It is only when we are empty of self that we begin to be filled with Christ.—Charles Finney, God's Call, page 209

<idle musing>
Yes! It has to be all God, or it is rotten to the core. Dead to self, but alive in Christ. That is the core of Christianity. Anything else is window dressing. All “good works” that we might do have to spring from Christ within us or they are simply dung/garbage/σκυβαλα.
</idle musing>

Apples, again!

I followed Renee's advice and cooked down some of the applesauce over the weekend to make apple butter.

Unfortunately, we only have a small crockpot, so I could only cook down 2 quarts at a time. You have to cook it down for a good 5-6 hours to get it thick enough, so it took most of the day. I didn't follow the recipe she linked to, but instead just added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg per batch. I don't add sugar to my applesauce or apple butter. It turned out great!

So, now I have 14 pints of apple butter (do the math on how long it took, if you want). I think I'll find a faster way to cook it down next year. Maybe a 9 x 13 inch pan in the oven? Do you think that will work?

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's already here

“...if you want to be saved, you must accept a prepared salvation, on already prepared and full and present. You must be wiling to give up al your sins and be saved from them—now and forever. Until you agree to this, you cannot be save at all. Many people would be willing to be saved in heave, if they could hold on to some sins while on earth—or rather they think they would like heaven on such terms. But the fact is, they would dislike a pure heart and a holy life in heaven as much as they do on earth, and they utterly deceive themselves in supposing that they are ready or even willing to go to the heaven that God has prepared for His people. No, there can be no heaven except for those who accept a salvation from all sin in this wold. They must take the Gospel as a system that hold no compromise with sin—a system that intends full deliverance from sin even now, and makes provisions accordingly. Any other gospel is not the true one, and to accept Christ's Gospel in any other sense is not to accept it at all. Its first and its last condition is sworn and eternal renunciation of all sin.—Charles Finney, God's Call, pages 170-171