Friday, October 31, 2008
"What happens, then, if you are an elder brother and things go wrong in your life? If you feel you have been living up to your moral standards, you will be furious with God. You don't deserve this, you will think, after how hard you've worked to be a decent person!...Elder brothers' inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated ways to control their environment.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, pages 50-51
The Romans defined religion as do ut der—I give that I may be given to. Sounds like some prosperity teaching doesn't it? Not terribly Christian, though...A friend of ours says, “You deserve to burn in hell. Anything else is a blessing, so get over feeling sorry for yourself and be thankful.”
That I can agree with! My work, my good deeds, are garbage (Philippians 3:8 Gr. σκύβαλα, Spicq translates it “It's all crap”!!), used menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6), in God's eyes.
Those two verses put it into good perspective. Can you imagine bringing used Kotex™ or a pile of manure to God as an offering? Yet that is what we are doing when we trust in anything we do to make ourselves more acceptable to God.
I hear a lot on Christian radio and see a lot of Christian books fighting against postmodernism, relativism, and secularism. But if people are constructing their identities and lives around consumer brands like Apple, is the church fighting the wrong battle? And perhaps more disturbing, are we unknowingly contributing to the problem by encouraging Christians to construct and express their identities via Christ-branded merchandise rather than through characters transformed to reflect the values of Christ himself?
And, along those same lines, Alan Knox talks about the church as a corporation versus being a true body of believers:
It may be pragmatic and efficient and logical to have a human leader, and a set of programs, and a specific meeting place, and tax-deductible status. But, these things do not define the church. We could argue the benefits or the detriments of having these things, but they would be outside the scope of defining what (or WHO) the church is.
Jesus said that he wold build his church... not his charitable organization. We would do well to remember that Jesus cares about his church, not our organizations and programs.
I am reminded of David Fitch's book, of which I have forgotten the title...but anyway, he says that making disciples is not efficient. People are messy things that don't fit into nice little programs and packages easily. I agree. It is not an accident that C.S. Lewis chose a corporation to depict the enemy in Screwtape Letters. It is the opposite of an organic organization like what the church is supposed to be.
This might be a good time to link to an older post at the M Blog. Guy discusses what Luther wanted the church to look like:
The following characteristics summarize Luther's "Order of Divine Service" as to the "how" churches should be organized.
Full sacramental life
Stewardship and social ministry
Simple catechetical instruction
Ideal context for loving accountability after Matthew 18
"Form and Order" are not imported but emerge spontaneously from community life.
And, Alan Knox mentioned the reformers goal for church the other day, too:
[A]ccording to Chadwick, the early reformers recognized that the whole congregation (not just "the clergy") should take part in the church meeting. They were not content with a passive audience who simple listened to teaching, reading, or singing. Instead, they expected a church that took part in the meeting.
So, what happened? Well, according to Chadwick [in The Early Reformation on the Continent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)], the reformers could not determine how to have this type of meeting while ensuring that the meeting also stayed focused on teaching the Scriptures. He said that the early reformers emphasized teaching (and a certain style of teaching) to such an extent that it eclipsed their desire to have a participatory meeting.
Been there. Our agenda eclipses God's agenda. We get scared of what might happen if there isn't a “scripture lesson.” But, in doing that we ignore John 5:39-40 “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (RSV) We exalt the scripture above the very one the scripture is pointing too!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Eisenbrauns 2008 Gezer Calendar mug
Your Price: $7.50
If you follow the link, you can see other views of it, too. The pictures really don't do it justice. It is a beautiful cobalt blue. The staff here are already fighting to get their hands on them, but I will make sure we have enough to bring to SBL :)
“Here, then, is Jesus' radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God>, page 43
How blind can we be? Apparently, very, as Keller goes on to show:
“The younger son's flight from the father was crashingly obvious. He left the father literally, physically and morally. Though the older son stayed home, he was actually more distant and alienated from the father than his brother, because he was blind to his true condition. He would have been horribly offended by the suggestion that he was rebelling against the father's authority and love, but he was, deeply.
“Because the elder brother is more blind to what is going on, being an elder brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, page 47
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Too much like what passes for Christianity in many places. But, wait, it gets better, he continues the story...
“Jesus the story-teller deliberately leaves the elder brother in his alienated state. The bad son enters the father's feast but the good son will not. The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost...The elder brother is not losing the father's love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it's the pride he has in his moral record; it's not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God>, pages 34-35
Your Political Profile:
Overall: 15% Conservative, 85% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Keller's basic thesis is that we have misnamed the parable of the prodigal son and caused the word prodigal to morph into meaning “wayward.” In actuality, prodigal means recklessly extravagant, which defines God's relationship with us; scripture calls the parable “the parable of the two sons,” since there is an elder and younger brother. With that as background, I present you with the first excerpt:
Jesus' teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners doesn't have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we'd like to think.—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, pages 15-16
Ouch! Many of us (me included) started out as younger brothers whom Jesus went looking for. Once he found us, he cleaned us up. Problem is, we think we cleaned ourselves up and we look down on the very people we used to be—and still would be but for God's mercy and grace being manifested to us and transforming us.
Monday, October 27, 2008
“Examine such a case thoroughly, and you will see that selfishness is at the bottom of the religion in it. The man was worldly before and is devout now, but he is devout for the same reason that he was worldly. His selfish heart is the basis for each system.”—Charles Finney, God's Call, page 104
Not that you can live without sin without the grace of God. That is the foundation of what Finney is saying, which is why he finds it so horrible. The person is stamping on the grace by which they might be saved, saying it is can have no effect in their life.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Lord, bring us to our knees in repentance! We need the Holy Spirit to show us our need for you and you alone. Forgive us for trying to save the world before being saved ourselves.
German quotes - OK, we are required to have international breadth in our research, so we must cite and interact with German and French lit. But, do we need to quote the German without an English translation? My question would be, why? The only reasons I can see why we would quote the German is because (1) we feel the wording of it is very important to the argument or (2) the German is rhetorically more appealing (i.e. a good sound-bite). There are those, I guess, who feel if a reader does not know German, he/she is out of luck. That’s just snobby, in my opinion. Are we saying we don’t want MA and undergrads to read our published theses? Are we that elitist? Well, I think we can have it both ways if we do this: Keep the German quotes in, but have an appendix in the back that has English translations of all German quotes.
Good idea, except in Eisenbrauns books, we do it the other way around. We put the translation in the text and footnote the original. If the original is too long, we put it in an appendix. That way we keep the book accessible—as if Akkadian/Hittite/whatever is accessible!—to the beginner, but allow the purist to check the original. Now, if we could just get a few elitist bloggers to do the same... :)
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
I see zealous Christians who talk about the lack of truth and holiness in the church, and often seem to hold other Christians at arm's length. They talk about other Christians and churches derisively. I wonder if whether we love or not shows up in how we look at others and what we say about them. Those who know this deep, deep love of Jesus in their own life, will not throw stones at others who may be failing.
This is so true. There is no doubt that the church needs to repent; there is no doubt that there is a need for more holiness in individual Christian's lives. But, there is also no doubt that the call to repentance must come from a heart that is full of the love of God and is heartbroken with God's love for His church.
Wesley used to talk about holiness as being perfected in love. For him, the test of holiness was not obeying certain rules and regulations, but how one loved. We need to recover that same standard today.
Lord, fill us with love, your love, that we might shine and be an attractive representation for you. Forgive us for judging others and then using a different standard on ourselves. Pour out your holy love on your church. We know it has to be your love or it won't be real.
Friday, October 17, 2008
A humorous way of saying that we are not God.
But, how often do we treat others as if we did own them? We take for granted their service, as if we deserve it. As a friend of mine likes to say, "You deserve to roast in hell. Anything else is a blessing, so treat it that way." But, without Christ in us, we can't. We are curvatus in se, as the reformers used to say—curved in on ourselves. It is only as Christ lives his life through us that we are able to extend beyond ourselves and love those around us.
SBL prices on-line from now until October 31.
These are the same prices you would/will pay in the booth, but you don't have to pay the Boston sales tax, or the airlines' extra suitcase/overweight fees.
Discounts are 20-50% off, including new release and not yet released items. Enjoy the savings and tell your friends. But, don't forget to swing past the booth anyway. We are still giving away two $50.00 gift certificates each day. Besides that, we want to see you :)
Oh, I almost forgot, there are 631 titles on sale! That has got to be some kind of record for us. I know I feel like it was a lot of work, and I'm sure Andy and Shannon both agree with me.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
But, the trucks are another thing altogether. Most of the year, the back roads are quiet and wonderful for bicycling. But, come harvest time they become highways with tractor-trailers full of soybeans and corn. They don't go slow, either, they fly, making runs from the fields to the storage and back for another load. It's kind of fun, but scary at the same time. It only lasts for a few weeks, and then peace descends on the roads until the next fall.
This morning riding in was beautiful. The magical light of predawn was causing the yellows and oranges on the trees appear almost luminescent. I wouldn't have been surprised to have some elves step out from behind a tree and tell me that I was a captive and had to appear before Galadriel and Celeborn.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Somewhere along the way, THRIFT did not just stop being a value; it became a folly. Saving was for suckers; you'd miss the ride, die leaving money on the table when you could have lived it up. There are no pockets in a shroud, as the saying goes. We once saved about 15% of our income. By the roaring '80s the rate was 4%; now we're in negative numbers...The average American has nine credit cards with a total $17,000 balance. We borrow against our houses and pensions to live in a way that dares us to actually grow old...
There's no way to tell during this current distress whether we're repenting or just retrenching. THRIFT-store sales are up. Cars are shrinking. P. Diddy retired his private jet to save on gas. In hard times, people often rediscover the peace that prudence brings, when you try to spend a little less than you have because tomorrow might be worse. But that feels almost un-American; we're optimists by nature, and we've been living large for so long that solvency feels like a sacrifice.
That is the highest number I have heard for average credit card balance. The previous one was $12,000, but that was a few years ago. I guess the way to handle a shortage of funds for your favorite toy is to charge it. The scariest thing is that I don't have any credit card balance, and I know at least 3 other people who don't. That means somebody, somewhere, has to make up for it.
I think it is high time that we as a church wake up and repent of the sin of overindulgence, of the sin of loving the world and the things of the world, of serving mammon instead of God. God is a jealous God, and he will not delay his judgment forever. Perhaps 9/11/2001 was a warning salvo across the bow. If so, we missed it and blamed it on somebody else; not our fault, we say...
Thursday, October 09, 2008
"...some twenty thousand urns with infant and animal bones cremated and buried in the tophet (sanctuary) at Carthage during a period of six hundred years attest to infant sacrifice. Other cemeteries have children's bones that included both cremated and inhumed examples. The data suggest that such sacrifices were used for purposes of population control, as animal substitution decreased with an increase in population at Carthage."—Israelite Religions, page 293
Yikes! Population control! That's just plain morbid. Of course, we use abortion for population control in the world today, so what's the difference in the end? One is sacrificed on an altar (presumably), the other on a table with a white cloth over it... I wonder what archaeologists and philologists will be saying about us in 2000 years?
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
If this chapter had been first, it would have framed the whole book differently. After reading this chapter, it was appears that some of the claims of a doctrine of theosis in Western theology earlier in the book fall flat; it was not a doctrine, but a biblical theme that was used to buttress the main arguments the theologian in question was making. But, perhaps I am being too harsh.
I highly recommend the book; it should give the person reading it some food for thought, at the very least, and it might transform one's outlook on the importance of theosis for Christian life and theology.
OK, Jon, now you can borrow the book and read it :)
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Whodda thunk!!?? That certainly sounds like Athanasius to me. Hard to believe that such an important insight would be all but forgotten in Western theology for 500 years.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Just think, at $240/year it will only take me 30 years to earn back what it is costing me as a taxpayer! Of course, I'm sure there is a time limit on the tax credit, and at 52, I probably won't be bicycling to work for 30 years longer, but with the current economic situation, I might be. Or, it could get worse and I might be forced to sell my bike for food—NEVER! :)
Friday, October 03, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Everybody ready? OK, check out this pricing:
31 volume set, New Edition
This is a heavy item and will incur additional shipping!
by Karl Barth
T & T Clark, Forthcoming 2009
List Price: $950.00
Your Price: $416.25
I can only run this pricing until the end of November, so if you have ever wanted to say you own Barth's Church Dogmatics, this is even cheaper than the existing 14 volume set! I don't think you will find it cheaper anywhere.
No, they are not inside cats; we feed them and let them stay around. One lives under the deck, one in the barn, and the new one appears to have found a place right across the road from us. Unlike some bloggers, I don't think cats are demonic. In fact, I think people who consider them so are themselves deceived :)
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
And that is the problem with what passes for the gospel in many places. We miss the second half; we preach a decapitated gospel. Why is there no transformation? Because most of us don't believe it can happen. Paul would not recognize what we have done to the gospel!