Thursday, January 31, 2008

Eisenbrauns poetry contest

Love is in the air! We're looking for a few good scholars to display both eros and erudition in our first (and possibly last!) Ancient Near Eastern Valentine's contest.

We want no more than three of your original[*] compositions, in any ancient Near Eastern language (we'll bend the rules a bit and allow Greek), accompanied by an English translation. Artwork is similarly welcome. All entries should be sent via e-mail to akerr at eisenbrauns dot com before noon on Wednesday, February 13.

The decisions of the judges will be final and, most likely, extremely arbitrary. Prizes will be given. Winners will be announced on February 14, 2008, and winning entries will be showcased on the Eisenbrauns website. Submitting an entry constitutes permission to reproduce your work.

[*] We have memorized the entire corpus of Near Eastern poetry, and will be watching for cheating. OK, we haven't — but someone out there will catch you at it if your words are not your own, and that wouldn't be good. So don't.

Lower price on Cogan's Raging Torrent

I just received an e-mail today from Carta telling me that they have reduced the price of The Raging Torrent. If you recall, they had listened to your feedback earlier and reduced the price. Now they have reduced it further to $64.00.

It is in press and should be in the United States sometime in late March.

For those of you who don't remember, here are all the details about this important book:

The Raging Torrent
Historical Inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia Relating to Ancient Israel
Carta Handbook
by Mordechai Cogan
Carta, Jerusalem, Forthcoming, winter 2007
ca. 224 pages + illustrations, English
Cloth, 6 x 9.25 inches
ISBN: 9652207071
Your Price: $64.00

This volume presents a comprehensive collection of the royal inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia that treat the Land of Israel and the People of Israel. Covering a period of just over three hundred years during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, these texts tell the story of the military encounters - both victories and defeats - between the Mesopotamian empires and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Many of the texts relate to events described in the Hebrew Bible, while others provide information about affairs that were unknown until their discovery in the modern times. All the texts have been newly translated from the original cuneiform documents and are accompanied by a consecutive commentary and select bibliography.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Failure of Discipleship

Wayne, who runs ecclesia has a nice summary of why discipleship is failing in the contemporary church. Here’s his list condensed from Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship:

1. Diversion from our primary calling to make disciples.
2. Discipling through programs.
3. Reducing the Christian life to the benefits we get from Jesus.
4. A two-tiered understanding of discipleship (super Christians vs. ordinary believers).
5. An unwillingness to call people to discipleship.
6. An inadequate view of the church as a discipleship community.
7. No clear pathway to maturity.
8. A lack of personal discipling.

<idle musing>
In my experience, the most prevalent are 2, 3, and 4. Well, you had better add 5 and 6—wait, add 7 to that list also. Hmm. . .They are all way too common, but I would have to say that in the last week I have seen number 4, two-tiered understanding, pop up in conversation too often. Heresy! Either you are following Jesus, or you aren’t. If you aren’t, then you aren’t a Christian; you might be religious, but you are not a Christian!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What a quotation

I was looking for something totally different and stumbled across this quotation from Augustine, as cited by Arminius:

"Let Pelagius confess that it is possible for man to be without sin than in no other way than by the grace of Christ, and we will be at peace with him."

<idle musing>
Wow! How come we never hear that quote from Augustine? You always hear about how Augustine believes in original sin, which is true. But, you never hear that he believed in the possibility of such a level of regeneration. So, one could argue that Wesley is more Augustinian than most reformed theologians when it comes to sin in believers! Talk about turning the tables :)

Here is what the Presbyterian Larger Catechism says:

No man is able, either by himself or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

Here is what I John says:

You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.—I John 3:5-9 RSV

I prefer Augustine here; at least he is scriptural.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 28, 2008

Update on "June-bug"

I just received an e-mail from Renee about their unborn baby, which they are calling "June-bug."

The genetic counselor from St. Mary's called today (Monday the 28th) saying that the amniocentesis results were available: There is NO genetic defect in this baby's body. There is also NO spina bifida. So praise God! Keep on praying for a healthy baby!

Joel and I still go to St. Mary's hospital on Tuesday the 29th to have an ultrasound and to meet with the Pediatric Cardiologist. We are believing God has already healed this baby.

Praise God! and thank you to all who are praying. Joel & Renee's blog can be found here

Who needs prophets, anyway?

John Hobbins remarks on the rightward shift of the world’s political leaders, and them makes this very insightful statement

But then, who takes the prophets seriously these days? I’ve noticed they make a nice wax nose for those who like to add a bit of religious incense to their political hackery of choice. Anyone who thinks the Hebrew prophets were liberal Democrats or social conservatives ante litteram hasn’t got a clue.

I am reminded of the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel in his classic study The Prophets

What manner of man is the prophet? A student of philosophy who turns from the discourse of the great metaphysicians to the orations of the prophets may feel as if he were going from the realm of the sublime to an area of trivialities. Instead of dealing with the timeless issues of being and becoming, of matter and form, of definitions and demonstrations, he is thrown into oration about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and affairs of the market place. Instead of showing us a way through the elegant mansions of the mind, the prophets take us to the slums. The world is a proud place, full of beauty, but the prophets are scandalized, and rave as if the whole world were a slum. The make much ado about paltry things, lavishing excessive language upon trifling subjects. What if somewhere in ancient Palestine poor people have not been treated properly by the rich? So what if some old women found pleasure and edification in worshiping “the Queen of Heaven”? Why such immoderate excitement? Why such intense indignation?

The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world. There is no society to which Amos’ words would not apply.

He goes on to quote from Amos. Do read the whole first chapter of The Prophets
<idle musing>
Indeed! But who takes them seriously anymore? They obviously didn’t understand the give and take of the marketplace; the importance of turning a profit; the necessity of watching out for oneself by taking every advantage possible.

Unrealistic idealists, that’s what they were! Ignore them, or if your religious leanings won’t allow you to ignore them, then create a hermeneutic that reinterprets them so that they are essentially ignored. But, whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to them or the God for whom they spoke! If you do, it might mean changing your lifestyle and behavior.

Of course, that is fraught with problems, since you will soon find out that it is impossible! That is why we need God. . .
</idle musing>

Friday, January 25, 2008

Family update

We have some good news, and some concerns on the family front. Some of you know that Debbie and I have two grown children, both living in Minnesota. First the good news:

Ryan is getting married! Yep. He is getting married to Emily, a woman who loves the Lord and whom he has known for a couple of years now. The wedding will be in the Minneapolis area on May 31, 2008.

And, Renee and Joel are expecting another child. The baby is due sometime in the middle of June (they have been given two different dates, the 12th and the 17th). They just started a blog with some good pictures and a nice summary of their Christmas. I hope you enjoy it :)

Now the concern:
The pregnancy is a high risk one, since their first child was delivered via a C-section. So, on Tuesday, Renee went in for a routine ultrasound. The results were not clear, but seemed to indicate a problem with the baby's heart. So, they scheduled an ultrasound at a better hospital in Duluth (2.5 hours away) on Thursday.

Last night Joel called with the results. His first words were, "This is not a healthy baby." Yikes! Words that no parent/grandparent ever wants to hear. Apparently, there is an enlarged aorta, which could indicate a bad or small valve in the heart. They took an amniocentesis and will have those results on Tuesday when they meet with the specialist. There is a 5% possibility that it is genetic, which could mean Downs Syndrome or death shortly after birth.

At this point it looks like they will do surgery immediately after birth, but that means Joel and Renee will have to stay in Minneapolis when the birth gets close.

More details as I find them out.

Please pray for Joel, Renee, their kids, and the baby. I believe God still does miracles, but I also know that His ways can be a good bit different than ours. I know what I want, but I need to let God tell me what He wants. I don't mean that to sound wishy-washy because it is not. I have seen God do physical healings—on myself and others. But, I have also had my prayers go unanswered.

When Renee had Rachel after having Joshua via C-section, they told her she might be able to deliver naturally. So, she tried. After several hours of labor, it looked like things weren't going well so they transfered her to Duluth. They told her that she had a 10% chance of delivering naturally. The prayer chain started, and that 10% became 100% as God intervened and allowed a natural childbirth.

When I got hit by the truck on my bicycle, the entire medical staff told me my knee would need surgery based on the X-rays. They also told me I would have arthritis at the joint the rest of my life. The prayer chain started, and I didn't need surgery and I don't have arthritis, either.

Update: I fixed the link on Joel and Renee's blog. They now have a note at the bottom entitled Prayer.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What do we do with John 8?

I was looking over a book that came in yesterday, and ran across this quote:

Our present preoccupation with questions of historical accuracy and the restoration of the original manuscripts means we either deny this story [the woman caught in adultery] its place in the Gospel of John or treat it with marginal notes that state the earliest manuscripts did not include it. As a result, we have lost contact with the teaching of this story, which the early church found authoritative, wrestled with and finally recognized. As such the story of the woman caught in adultery illuminates how our methodological concerns may conflict with the teachings of the early church and the tradition that has been handed down to us.— Reading the Bible with Giants pages 73-74.

Interesting perspective, isn't it? Our preoccupation with the historico-critical method has cut us off from about 1700 years of the church's history...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The message of Easter

The other day we received some Easter cards to send to our sponsored kids. The message in the Easter card was wimpy, to say the least. Debbie felt prompted to write a letter to the sponsorship agency—a Christian one. Here is the content of the letter (warning, it's three pages long!):

Recently we received the Easter cards for our sponsored children. After reading one I was very grieved in my spirit. The last lines read, “Jesus is still alive today. He loves you and wants you to live with Him in heaven. That’s the story of Easter.”

Is it? Is that truly the story of Easter? That Jesus died so that we get a free ticket to heaven? And until then being a Christian means …”be good, read your bible, go to church, witness about Christ, etc., and someday you will grow into Christlikeness.

Please be patient with me as I share what the Lord has laid on my heart. Let me give my testimony. I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 16. For the next twenty some years I went to church regularly, read my bible almost everyday, witnessed, helped with music in some of the church groups throughout the years, prayed lots, etc. But throughout that time even with doing all these spiritual activities, I was not becoming more Christlike and yet I wanted to be more filled with Jesus. So I kept on reading, praying, etc., hoping that someday, somehow it would just happen. Well, when I was in my 40’s I started really hungering for God and His ways. I was tired of sinning (i.e., living in worry at times, getting impatient with people, wanting attention on myself, trying to be in control of my life and others’ lives sometimes, and so on…) I was sick of living in “the flesh” (as the bible puts it ), in the “old self,” in the sinful nature. When I sinned I would confess it to the Lord, thank Him for his forgiveness, and then find myself doing the same sins again. So I would go through the confession routine again…and on it went.

I wanted more. I wanted Christ’s holiness in me. I wanted God. It wasn’t happening by my doing all those spiritual exercises. It wasn’t happening by confessing sins all the time. I wasn’t getting any holier. And let me say that during all those years I did truly experience the Lord’s presence many times and did have his joy and peace and love. It just wasn’t continually. And as I got older I realized that how I had been taught Christianity wasn’t true Christianity. It was (and still is) man’s way of living the Christian life. “Do this, do that, read your bible more, pray more, serve in the church …Then you will become like Jesus.” NOT!!!!!!

So I finally got to the point of really calling out to God – seeking Him with my whole heart (which I thought I was doing in my earlier years, but God knows when we truly mean it from the depths of our soul). And Hallelujah! God is so patient and so faithful! He started really opening my eyes to what being a Christian means, not according to man, but according to the Almighty Holy God.

Many things He revealed to me – the heart of it all being this basic truth: God’s definition of Christianity is simple. It isn’t us trying and striving to be like Christ. It is God living His life in us. The Lord himself will live His very own life in us fully when and only when we say “yes” to our sinful nature being dead so that the Lord can be the only life of our soul, of our whole being. The bible teaches it very clearly, I had read it over and over all those years and yet I didn’t see it. Why? The Lord showed me that it was because I loved me more than God. I wanted to be god of my life (which is true of everyone who remains living with their sinful nature on the throne of their life instead of God living His life in them – totally and only God.) I didn’t know it in these words at the time but that is what I was living.

I’ve learned that what Jesus said is true, “By their fruit you will know them.” Whatever is inside us, whatever or whoever is the true god of our soul is what comes out in our attitudes, thoughts, behavior, actions, words, etc. If the sinful self is on the throne of the heart, the fruit of self comes out - sin. If the Lord Jesus is on the throne of the heart and He is the life of the soul, then the fruit of the Spirit comes out - God’s character. It’s that simple.

And another truth that is so awesome (of course all of God’s truths are awesome because He is awesome) is the fact that the sinful nature of man can only be dealt with by God Himself. Only He can put it to death. It is not a life-long process of dying to self. If it were, then it would be a matter of works. It would be us trying to crucify our sinful nature ourselves – which we could not and never can do. Only God can take the old self/sinful nature to death. And the good news is that He already did! It is done! In Christ it is finished! Paul talks about it quite extensively in Romans especially, and throughout the New Testament, how Jesus took the sinful nature of man to death with Himself when He died on the cross. And then raised us with Him to give us new life – His very life to live in us instead of the sinful nature! Amen! Thank-you, Jesus!

“I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

We are now complete in Christ. It is Christ living His perfect, holy life in us. By God’s divine power we have all we need for life and godliness. We are temples of His Spirit. Christ Himself living in us – the hope of glory! And it is for now, not for some future date at the end of our earthly lives. All scripture that talks about these truths is in the tense of “has been” or “is”. For example, it doesn’t say, I “am being” crucified with Christ. Or I “will be” crucified with Christ. But it says, I “HAVE BEEN” crucified with Christ…Christ “HAS” taken the sinful nature to death, not “will” take the sinful nature to death. We “ARE” His temple, not “will be” His temple. Christ lives in me –NOW - not “will live in me someday.” Praise God!

Now perhaps you are asking, “If this is all true, why am I still experiencing “me” on the throne? Why am I still living in the sinful nature?” I’ve asked the Lord the same question many times at the start of my seeking Him. The Lord showed me that I was still experiencing the “sinful self life” because I hadn’t absolutely and completely surrendered my self (my sinful nature) to Him. I didn’t mean it when I said “yes” to its death. I thought I did. So God brought me to the point of seeing the detestable, stubborn, rebellious, proud nature of the sinful self and how much it immensely grieves Him. And as I’ve truly hungered for Him to be my All in All, to be the only Life of my soul – so that it would be, NOT I, BUT CHRIST living in and through me, I am experiencing His life in me more fully every day. By faith, Christ lives his very own life in me with the sinful nature dead and no more.

Sinful self is out – Christ is in.

It is a matter of believing, taking God at His word. Living by faith, not by sight. All of God’s truths are only ours by faith. We can’t experience His life in us until we believe that what He said is true. If we don’t believe, we are calling God a liar. We have to also be willing to die to self. Not as a process, but consenting to the fact that it is already done in Christ.

And as moment by moment I trust the Lord to keep me yielded to Him alone, He will continue to live His holy, loving, powerful, victorious, faithful ( and everything else that He is) life in me and through me to others.

Praise His holy name! Now I am truly saved. God is now total Lord and Savior of my life. Not just One who paid the penalty for my sins and bore God’s wrath for me – and praise God that He did! But also that He is my true Redeemer who saved me from my sinful nature, who saved me from sinning; from the power of sin. I am no longer a slave to sin. Hallelujah! I am a slave to God’s righteousness. Jesus is the life of my soul. It’s all Him. And all the glory goes to Him alone!

The message in the Easter card for the sponsored children reflects the decapitated gospel message that most evangelical Christians teach. And have for a long time. It’s only part of God’s truth. Praise God that Christ paid the penalty for our sins and opened the door for us to heaven. Amen! But even more so, praise God that He came to destroy the devil’s works, and took the sinful nature to death with Himself on the cross and gave us new life – His life to live in us. That’s the full gospel message. That is the story of Easter.

I pray that all who profess to be believers will hunger so much for God and His holiness, and for Christianity His way, that there will be true revival everywhere, starting in each and every heart that is willing to fully surrender to Almighty God – and say a hearty “Amen” to NOT I , BUT CHRIST!

In Christ,

Things that make you wonder

I just saw this:

42.5% American congregations that spend less than 10 percent of their budgets on social services in their community.

12.2% Congregations that spend more than 30 percent.

Hmmm. Are we ingrown, or what? I wish they had shown what percentage of the budget was spent on the physical plant.

At the same time, I saw this by one of my co-workers in a list of reasons why the church should go underground:

1. Get the money out of the church
No more of the Big Green or the Bling Bling. No more big budgets, paid pastors who view ministry as a career path, no more expensive and divisive building projects, no more bright lights and neon signs, no more marketing and advertising budgets. Anything that needs doing can be done by those who give their time sacrificially.

He goes on to list 18 reasons the church should go underground, all of them good. I especially like number 17:

16. You have everything you need
Sure, books, sermons, DVD's, mp3's, etc. can be helpful. But let's ditch the Paperback Pope. If you've got issues/questions/struggles/opportunities the best thing to do is realize that the Spirit within is the main thing. Be rational and reflective. Trust yourself. Try. Fail. Love. Grow. Progress. Regress. You don't need to be a John Piper (or fill in the blank) Groopie [sic].

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday's happenings

An interesting new title from Zondervan:

Sing and Learn New Testament Greek
Includes 1 Audio CD and a 36-Page Guide
by Kenneth Berding
Zondervan Publishing Company, Forthcoming May 2008
Compact Disc (audio)
ISBN: 9780310280996
List Price: $14.99
Your Price: $12.74

For those of you who haven't totally lost interest in the Talpiot Tomb media circus, some of the scholars involved in the recent conference have issued a healthy corrective here The final paragraph:

To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance – including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb - either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly unlikely.


More on Pagan Christianity at The Heresy, and a follow-up thought here

Sometimes you have to tell people the unvarnished truth regardless of how many people you tick off. I was thinking about this today as I pondered Frank Viola’s less than irenic spirit in Pagan Christianity. For years I’ve challenged people I’ve known personally in conventional Christian ministry. I’ve done my level best to be charitable, respectful and sensitive. After years of trying the net impact is still pretty much zero. If the issues you challenge people on go too deep they just ignore them no matter how constructive you are.

Again, indeed!

And how about efficiency versus acting as Jesus would? That's the question that Ted asked the other day:

I was raised in a strong work ethic inherited from parents who experienced the hard times of the American Great Depression. And probably influenced somehow by the strong Protestant work ethic, which in its place is good. On top of all of this is at least the factor of an efficient American way of activity in getting the most bang for buck. And with all this, even for me as a Christian, one can fail to really follow Jesus.

So as I stood there in our work with my younger brother and friend, it was like a revelation hitting me, small as it was, yet large in significance. I had to tell myself to let it go. And instead of making an issue of it, accept the inefficiency. Maybe, in love, there could be a time and place to make a general suggestion. But even in the fast pace of work life, and perhaps especially there, we need to take care that we be followers of our Lord, loving God and loving others over all else.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Reader's Hebrew Bible review

Zondervan kindly sent me a preview copy of their forthcoming A Reader's Hebrew Bible (RHB). I asked for a sample page to put on our website, and they sent me the whole Bible! How's that for service? Anyway, I appreciate it and hope they don't regret doing it after they read this review :) Here are the bibliographic details:

A Reader's Hebrew Bible

A Reader's Hebrew Bible

Edited by A. Philip Brown and Bryan W. Smith
Zondervan Publishing Company, Forthcoming, May 2008
1680 pages, Hebrew and English
ISBN: 9780310269748
List Price: $49.99
Your Price: $39.99

I showed it to 4 other people here with varying degrees of Hebrew. It seems that the less Hebrew they knew, the more they liked it, which is a good thing, since it is aimed at those with weaker Hebrew skills. Personally, the first thing I noticed was the bleed through on the pages. I don't know if the page scans below will reflect it or not, but under normal room lighting, the bleed through from the opposite page is pretty distracting. However, when looked at under a bright reading lamp, it is barely noticeable. The bleed through isn't evident at all on the PDF on Zondervan's website, since it is a function of the thin bible paper they use.

I'm also not sure I like the gray screening of proper nouns occurring less than 100 times. I like the idea, since more than once I have spent a good bit of time looking for a word in the lexicon, only to discover that it is a proper noun, but the execution isn't quite what I would like it to be.

The vocabulary footnotes contain words occurring less than 100 times, with a 7 pages glossary with words occurring more than 100 times. A nice feature is that if the same word occurs more than once on a page, the same footnote number is used (provided the sense is the same). This is an improvement over the A Reader's Greek New Testament (RGNT), which footnotes each occurrence, even if on the same page. The foreword says that the glosses were derived primarily from BDB and HALOT, secondarily from Holladay and DCD.

The text has no masora or apparatus, but that is to be expected; it is a Reader's Bible, a fact they stress in the introduction. Qere and Ketib are marked in the text, which, by the way, is the Westminster version of Leningrad; the same text that BHS and BHQ use. This is a plus, since you can read with others; this is unlike the RGNT, which uses a different text than the N-A and UBS texts.

I found the introduction to be very good; I just hope others will read it. The editors very clearly state the goals and limitations of the work. They hope to encourage reading and warn heartily against using their glosses as definitions. They also recommend that you have a text with an apparatus available—something with which I heartily agree!

OK, the real question is, "Would I use it?" My answer is...No, I would not use it. Why wouldn't I use it? Because I know enough Hebrew to use a straight text with a lexicon. Also, because I prefer to look up words in a lexicon where I can get the fuller meaning that I can from a simple gloss.

BUT, I know lots of people who would use it, and I would definitely recommend it to them. I would recommend it more heartily if Zondervan had not used such thin paper (and if they had been a bit more careful about the word justification in layout; there are places where the words are way too far apart on the line. If they had just taken a bit more time...but for most that is a cosmetic issue that few outside of publishers would notice). As Rick Mansfield has said repeatedly, Zondervan seems fixated on thinline bibles. The HRB is about 25-33% thinner than the large BHS and weighs a bit less. Personally, I would rather have seen them use a thicker paper and eliminate the bleed through. Maybe UBS will do one and get it right, that's what happened with the UBS Greek New Testament. Zondervan took two editions, and still doesn't have it right; hopefully they will listen this time and get the Hebrew one right.

This is a scan of Chronicles, note the gray screened names

This is from Judges 3

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's going on?

Time for a quick round-up of some stuff I've run across this week...

Despite what some may think about cats, they are intelligent and relatively well behaved. In fact, according to this post academics could learn a bit from them:

Academic squabbles are often compared to cat fights, but as one who has owned cats for several decades, I’ve come to believe that such analogies are unfair to felines. Cats, for instance, instinctively know to terminate a chase when they would consume more calories than their prey would provide. And even the pugilist tabbies I’ve owned eventually learned to give wide berth to rivals who consistently bloodied them. All of this suggests that cats may be more evolutionarily advanced than a lot of academics.

He goes on to list 8 on-going arguments in academia. This article generated a good bit of traffic on the L-Classics list.

Don't think that military training carries over into civilian life? Check out this sad commentary in the New York Times

Another good review of Pagan Christianity just appeared at The M Blog. Maybe I should take Nick Norelli's advice and ask for a review copy for myself...

I just got the most recent Moody Press catalog. I don't usually see anything of interest, but this time there was a biography of A.W. Tozer advertised. It looks interesting, but if you notice, the link I gave doesn't take you to Moody's site; they haven't listed it yet! Isn't that basic marketing? Anyway, I think I will have to get it for myself. It's not the kind of thing that will sell at Eisenbrauns :)

Oh, I almost forgot this one...Apparently there is a synchroblog on fools right now. Anyway, Alan Knox has a good one here. I quote in part:

Once upon a time, God used a donkey. How foolish! Not today. Today, God has other means of transportation available to him. He uses nice cars - Cadillacs, BMWs, Mercedes, even limos. God even uses jet planes. Why would God want to use something as foolish as a donkey when he has planes available to him?

Once upon a time, God used pagan prophets and philosophers. How foolish! Not today. Nothing good can come from culture. Today, God wants his people to read Christian books, watch Christian movies, and listen to Christian music. If God has something to say, he would never be so foolish as to speak through a pagan.

He continues on. Very good food for thought.

And finally, I'm surely not the " only person over 15 who enjoys snow"!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We want our cake...

I get a variety of journals related to marketing as part of my job. Sometimes they actually are interesting :)

Today one came that has an interesting article on eco-friendly travel. Here is an excerpt:

This October, the Travel Industry Association of America, an Orlando, Fla.–based partnership, issued the results of their "travelhorizons" survey. Some highlights included the fact that more than half of all American adults advocate environmental responsibility, but only 14 percent said it would influence their choice of travel suppliers. Just 13 percent said they were willing to pay higher prices to address their environmental concerns, although 56 percent said they might. Seventy-six percent said they would not pay more than 10 percent extra and the majority of that group said they would not pay more than 5 percent extra. Americans believe in supporting the environment as long as it's free or inexpensive to do—at least that seems to be the primary implication of this survey.

<idle musing>
Yep. All talk and no traction. That is the way we do things around here, isn't it? We want everything for nothing, even salvation. We want Jesus to die for us, but we don't want to die. We want heaven in the future, and our own way now. If the scriptures don't agree with that, we create a theology that allows us to man-handle them in such a way that they will...

If ever there was proof needed of total depravity, that has got to be one of them.
</idle musing>


“It can seem as if biblical scholars are the privileged interpreters of scripture. They alone can determine what the Bible means. But the Bible was written for believing communities, not critics, and real biblical interpretation when scripture does something to such a community. When the church places special emphasis on an academic and critical approach to scripture, it easily sets up a new of priestly control of the community by a guild of experts whose work is authoritarian, not in the sense that it cannot be questioned, but in the sense that it is the privileged responsibility of an elite.”—John Goldingay in Models of Interpretation of Scripture

<idle musing>
I like his emphasis on transformation: "real biblical interpretation when scripture does something to such a community." Without transformation, scripture is a dead stack of paper with letters on it—and transformation can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 14, 2008


Hey! This is a rare happening, I ran across a John Calvin quote over the weekend that I actually agree with:

“The scripture should be read with the aim of finding Christ in them. Whoever turns aside from this object, even though he wears himself out all his life in learning, he will never reach the knowledge of the truth.”—John Calvin

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Weekly sale at Eisenbrauns

We are still rummaging around in the warehouse, finding more stuff to offer at great prices. This week is a real potpourri, ranging from Anchor Bible volumes to the Syriac New Testament; discounts range from 33% to 50%. Links to purchase items are here, but here is a list what's on sale:

"HarperCollins Concise Atlas of Bible"
Edited by James B. Pritchard and L. Michael White
HarperCollins Publishers, 2000. Paper. English.
ISBN: 0062514997
List Price: $25.95 Your Price: $15.57

"Exodus 19-40: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary"
by William H. Propp
Anchor Bible - AB
Random House, 2006. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0385246935
List Price: $49.95 Your Price: $27.47

"1 Chronicles 1-9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary"
by Gary N. Knoppers
Anchor Bible - AB
Doubleday, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0385469284
List Price: $49.95 Your Price: $24.98

"The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News"
by James M. Robinson
HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0060762179
List Price: $21.95 Your Price: $13.17

"The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's
Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book"
by Julie Galambush
HarperCollins Publishers, . . English.
ISBN: 0060596368
List Price: $24.95 Your Price: $14.97

"The Gnostic Discoveries: The Impact of the Nag Hammadi Library"
by Marvin Meyer
HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. Paper. English.
ISBN: 0060821086
List Price: $21.95 Your Price: $14.62

"Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek"
by Matthew S. DeMoss
IVP Pocket Reference
InterVarsity Press - IVP, 2001. Paper. English.
ISBN: 0830814647
List Price: $8.00 Your Price: $5.33

"Greek-English New Testament"
Edited by Eberhard Nestle, Barbara Aland, and Kurt Aland
German Bible Society, 2001. Cloth. English and Greek.
ISBN: 3438054086
List Price: $59.99 Your Price: $30.00

"Visual Education Biblical Greek Academic Study Card Set"
Visual Education, 1998. . Greek.
ISBN: 1556370075
List Price: $14.95 Your Price: $10.45

"Syriac New Testament with Psalms"
American Bible Society, 1985. Cloth. Syriac.
ISBN: 090018549X
List Price: $16.99 Your Price: $9.34


I ran across this a while back in Rome and Jerusalem, on page 348:

Knowledge is power, but the views of professors do not carry weight in all societies. Scholarship and philosophy were acceptable attributes among members of the political elite in Rome, but they were neither necessary accoutrements nor particularly helpful in establishing a politician's authority.

Hmmm...that could be said of a society closer to home, couldn't it?

By the way, this is a very good book. I have to admit that my reading time is near nil since we bought the house back in October, and it shows in my sidebar, doesn't it? No new books read since before that. Oh well, I am almost done with this one, and only have a stack about 10 high of books I need to read...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pagan Christianity

Apparently Barna has a new book out, co-authored by Frank Viola. I briefly reviewed Barna's last book, Revolution back in August 2006. The new book, Pagan Christianity is generating a good bit of blog activity—some favorable, lots not. Here's an excerpt from a good post (with links) by The Heresy

Barna used to be a very popular man in the pulpits of North America. His primary role was surveying the spiritual and religious landscape of America. He has shared the fruit of his research through dozens of books, conferences and in academic institutions. His life, career and business were driven by the needs of conventional churches and para-church organizations. Over the years he identified several areas of deep concern for church and tried to be an agent of change. Despite becoming one of the most authoritative voices on the church in America his own research revealed there was very little positive change. He concluded that the average Christian in America was biblically illiterate, failed to hold to a biblical worldview (from an evangelical perspective) and lived a morally indistinct life. He discovered the impact of churches on society was dwarfed by that of the media. After years of trying to help conventional churches change he gave up. Unlike most of the church which keeps trying to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results he changed. He became an advocate of unconventional churches and a prominent voice in the simple church movement...

While I see lots of people coming up with all kinds of criticism (including a healthy dose of straw men and mockery dressed up as humor) of the book I’ve yet to find someone appeal to scripture to prove that contemporary church practices are biblical. The reality is most of conventional church practice has very little basis in scripture. In my very intentional efforts to study what the New Testament says about church I became more and more convinced of this. While a great many Christians are willing to split hairs over what the bible says about sexual ethics or the sovereignty of God most don’t care about what the bible says about the church. This is a huge HUGE mistake. The church in the western world is adrift and we still refuse to consider the possibility that guys like Jesus and Paul actually knew what they were doing. Meanwhile many churches in various cultures that more closely resemble the New Testament church have no problem making disciples.

Too true! I'm going to have to get the book and read it. Meanwhile, you can download a sample chapter here (warning, it's a PDF).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Yet another quiz

OK, I'm a sucker for them...blame Jim West! No real surprise in the results:

What's your eschatology?
created with
You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology

Jürgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.

Moltmannian Eschatology












Left Behind


I'm not sure if that will appear correctly or not...

Got milk?

I was in Chicago last week until Sunday for AIA/APA. While there, I tried doing what I always do, ordering milk at a restaurant. I'm used to people giving me a weird look, but this one was a new twist...

Me: I'd like a glass of milk, please.
Waiter: A glass of what?
Me: Milk.
Waiter: What kind?
Me: Whole or 2%.
Waiter: Oh, you mean milk! I don't think we have any. Let me go check.
2-3 minutes elapse before the waiter returns.
Waiter: I'm sorry, we don't have any milk. We have [he lists the different types of soda they have], water, and coffee. Would you like one of those?
Me: No thank you, I prefer milk.

Now, what is weird is that I had been in this same restaurant 2 days earlier and they had found some milk for me... What's up with that?

This isn't the first time recently that I haven't been able to get milk. Going to AAR/SBL in San Diego, I normally get milk on the airplane. They didn't have any this time. I've been flying for well over 20 years, and that was the first time I couldn't get milk, except for short little commuter flights that just hand out bottles of water.

I don't think the American Dairy Association's "Got Milk?" campaign worked very well...

Why milk? I don't know, I just prefer it. Debbie and I go through almost a gallon a day; she drinks skim, I drink 2%, almost a 1/2 gallon each per day. Maybe it is because we both have spent about 35 of our 50+ years in either Wisconsin or Minnesota? Or, maybe we just prefer it. It definitely is better for you than soda!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Resolutions, revisited

This ran across my screen over the weekend, while I was at the AIA/APA conference:

...resolutions often expose a self-sufficient, man-centered theology that will fail us by the time February rolls around.

"They make no reckoning with either the chief end of man, or the madness in our hearts while we live, or the inexpressible gift of God to sinful, dying people," Powlison writes. "Self-referential resolutions function within a self-salvation project, however noble and desirable the proximate ends in view."

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Friday, January 04, 2008


I found someone with a USB cable and so got the pictures off the camera :)

For you enjoyment, here is a picture of the booth at a distance, and below it a closeup of the bust. There are about 9800 book covers in the banner, which is 6 feet long and 2 feet tall.

New monthly sale

Seems our e-mail system is being funky the last few days, so BookNews hasn't gone out yet. I'm in Chicago, so I don't know quite what is going on, but just so you know, here's the text that will eventually (I hope!) show up in your Inbox:

New Year's Overstock Sale — Up to 90% Off

Every now and then it is a good thing to go through your attic, garage, basement, or other storage area and clean things out. Well, that is what we just did here at Eisenbrauns; we found some overstock that we are going to let you have at very deep discounts, up to 90% off. Quantities are limited, so first come, first served.

In addition to the featured books, we have volumes and fascicles of Jewish Quarterly Review going back to 1931 that we are selling at the ridiculously low price of $3.00 per fascicle, or $5.00 per volume. If you are interested, please e-mail Customer Service with the volumes or fascicles you are interested in.

All the details are here


I ran across this in the print version of Christianity Today and have been waiting for it to come online, which it did a couple of days ago.

Joe Church, a missionary revivalist in Africa in the 1940s, had it right when he observed, "Revival is not when the roof blows off, but when the bottom falls out."

The bottom has been falling out all over the place. Last July, during an event named The Call, more than 70,000 students, young adults, parents, and ministers from all over the country met in Nashville to pray for 12 hours in a solemn assembly of confession and prayer for our nation...In addition, there will be a national prayer gathering of students and young adults called Paradise '08 that will take place in the middle of a Kansas field on May 25—no merchandise, speakers, or artists, just prayer, Scripture, and song.

...whenever permitted, I followed the simple patterns seen in so many revival meetings in church history. These always include worship, prayer, and a non-negotiable call to confession of any and all sin—whether those attending are professing Christians, ministers, students, completely sin-ridden, demon-possessed, or lost. The result is always the same—the bottom falls out. Confessions of pride, eating disorders, pornography, and sexual immorality rush out of the mouths of innumerable students, as well as confessions of unforgiveness, same-sex attraction, jealousy, and doubt.

...These scenarios have played out everywhere I visit, capturing Dietrich Bonhoeffer's explanation of public confession perfectly: "As the open confession of my sins to a brother insures me against self-deception, so, too the assurance of forgiveness becomes fully certain to me only when it is spoken by a brother in the name of God. Mutual, brotherly confession is given to us by God in order that we may be sure of divine forgiveness."

...Students tell me that spiritual mentors who are "on fire for Jesus," consistent in their walks with God, who remained sexually pure in their own dating and marriage relationships, and who lived full-of-the-Holy-Spirit lives in front of them are rare. But they are longing for, begging for, older Christians to be solid spiritual mentors and parents to them, to pray powerfully for and with them. They don't need more programs. They want prayer and revival for their generation.

I've been to dozens of campuses in the past three years and seen that the younger generation has started what Finney called "a new beginning of obedience to God."

Is my generation ready to join them?

Please read the whole thing; may the tribe of those repenting increase to include us all!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Snow pictures

I took these this morning in the chilly zero degree weather.

This is the view out my study window,; you can see the sunrise in the background

This is the backyard

This is the south side, looking toward the creek, with the glow of sunrise in the background


I'm off in about 2 hours to Chicago for the annual AIA/APA ( Archaeological Institute of America/ American Philological Association) meetings. If you are there, swing by our booth and take a look. We have a new banner that we will be using. Andy ran across some photo-mosaic software last year, and we have been playing around with various ideas.

Just for the fun of it, we did a photo-mosaic of me. Here is the original picture:

Note how I am surrounded by books. Here is the photomosaic, using 1,860 book covers:

OK, not the best resolution, but we didn't want to overload your browser. The banner we made has over 5 times as many book covers (about 9800) and weighs in at around 100 Mb! Wondering what each of the covers is? Go here and hover the mouse over the various covers. It might take a few seconds for the server to catch up, depending on your connection.

I will post pictures from the conference, so you can get an idea of what the banner looks like. I think it's pretty neat :)

Here is a picture of the banner coming off the printer

More paganism

I saw this the other day, and then lost the reference until I saw it again in print. It seems to follow nicely from the guy who reads pigs' spleens:

1 in 5 Sports fans who say they do things in an attempt to bring good luck to their favorite team or avoid jinxing them.

1 in 4 College basketball fans who say this. They are the most likely fans to say so.

Interesting, isn't it? We laugh when we hear that sports events in the 2/3 world are sometimes canceled because of people attempting magical spells over the results, and yet 20-25% of the U.S. population is doing essentially the same thing!

How many times do we have to see stuff like this before we realize that unregenerate humanity is totally depraved; it is only by the freely available grace of God that anyone can be redeemed from their deadly curvatus in se (curved in on oneself).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Wonderful! It started on Monday evening around 8:00 as a heavy wet snow that stuck to all the branches of the trees. Then, the temperature started dropping and the snow got lighter, but kept coming, piling higher on the branches. It kept coming all night and yesterday. It is still flurrying now, but no real accumulation has happened since last night.

I wish I had taken my camera home, it is a winter wonderland. Looking out our front window into the woods across the street is like looking at a picture, with the blacks of the trees, the greens of the pines, and the white snow all blending in a beautiful harmony of sight.

Jim Eisenbraun took some pictures out his window. He had 20 cardinals at their feeder at one time. We didn't have cardinals, but the goldfinch were everywhere. Here is one of Jim's pictures, if I remember to take the camera home, I will post some from our place tomorrow.