Monday, December 31, 2012

Where's the power?

...the vital missing element in his [Wesley, pre-Aldersgate] theological understanding of salvation during this period was understanding faith as trust. The missing dimension in his own life was a personal, inward experience of God and this could not occur until he saw the dimension of trust and relationship as an integral part of a full-orbed definition of faith. The limiting of faith to assent in effect left him with no other option but to exercise rigorous self-discipline in cultivating his relationship with God, seeking to put into practice what his intellectual discoveries were showing him.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, pages 59-60

<idle musing>
And without that trust, there was no transformation and no power. He was where so many are today: intellectual assent to the gospel, but no embracing of what it means for life on a daily basis.
</idle musing>

Some thoughts on murder

Not by me, but by "T" at Jesus Creed:
Let me be clear and say that I’m glad not very many will escalate the devaluing and meanness that is so common into physical murder. Most of us will just give tit for tat. We’ll just Insult for insult. Most of us will merely reap divorces, estrangement from family and friends, and a background noise of woundedness and shame. But in so doing we will continue to maintain a garden in which violence and murder will continue to bloom.

As Christ’s church we are called to believe this seeming stretch of a connection between insult (which we routinely accept and sometimes proudly practice) and murder (which we roundly condemn and mourn). Further, we are called to model and live a different Way. We are called to bless even those who curse us. We are called to cultivate a fruit different from murder. Rather, we are to cultivate reconciliation, forgiveness, patience, gentleness and love. As we look at this most recent tragedy and rightly ask what we can do to move in the opposite direction, we need to hear and heed the warning of Jesus: murder begins with anger getting control of the tongue.

<idle musing>
Amen! I would take it a step further back, though, and say it is the heart that causes the tongue to lash out. As I tell people often, Saul didn't set out to murder the priests at Nob (in I Samuel). He started out a God-fearing ruler, but gradually moved to the point where he could—without flinching—order the massacre of the priests.

That's the way with words. We start out "innocently" enough, but it doesn't stop, it escalates like a water fight. Eventually we're shooting not just words, but bullets. It all starts with the heart. And only Jesus can clean the heart.
</idle musing>

Thought on the brink of a new year

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:10-15 TNIV)

<idle musing>
Seems capitalism fits the bill nicely...
</idle musing>

Friday, December 28, 2012

What exactly is perfection, anyway?

Since love and relationship were now at the heart of his understanding of salvation, he was beginning to distinguish between perfect intention and perfect performance. The latter was the concern of those who upheld the centrality of perfect obedience to God’s law; the former was related to the essential nature of a relationship based on love. In a relationship of love, there can be pure intention (a matter of the heart) but flawed performance (due to a corruptible mind and body). Because of intention, the essential nature of sin was seen as a deliberate and willful choice to harm the relationship; thus its ‘voluntariness’ was a crucial part of his definition of terms.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 57

<idle musing>
"Because of intention, the essential nature of sin was seen as a deliberate and willful choice to harm the relationship." That's the core, right there. Sin is not so much activity, but the intention behind it. The intention is what causes the action.

I've heard some people define sin in such a way that humanity was sinful even before the fall! I wonder about their understanding of the incarnation in those cases. If existing as a physical being is sinful, then the incarnation didn't really happen—they call the docetism (Jesus just appears to be human, from Greek δοκέω/dokew, to seem) and the church denounced it as a heresy many a long year ago...
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The leader must lead

Since personal piety and practical theology were intimately linked, he [Wesley] was convinced that the effectiveness of his ministry fundamentally depended on his own spiritual progress. Ministry to others could only flow from his personal experience and not from mere book learning.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 49

<idle musing>
Hmmm...sounds like a logical conclusion—but one that I am probably guilty of neglecting. I read a lot, but how much of what I read do I allow to affect how I behave? Head knowledge without heart knowledge simply puffs up.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What's the role of experience?

Wesley’s focus on experience as an individual subjective consciousness is confined to the role of empowering Christian living (assurance) and sometimes to confirm doctrine – but never to derive it.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 20


For Wesley, doctrines were not ends in themselves but guidelines to help his people know how to tell the gospel story and live it with integrity. The goal of the life of faith was holiness, with his understanding of Christian perfection as the “most distinctive single element".—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, pages 31-32

<idle musing>
Empowering Christian living and holiness. What a radical thought! I keep asking what happened to heart holiness. I usually get blank, uncomprehending stares : (
</idle musing>

Friday, December 21, 2012

Not subjective

Lest you think, after yesterday's post, that Wesley reduced theology to subjectivity, here's a follow-up statement:
For Wesley, faith was always in God himself and not in our experience of God. This allowed our subjective experience of God to become objective knowledge of God and of our salvation.&mdashWesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 18
<idle musing>
I wish more people would realize that faith is more than feelings. If we do indeed "wlak by faith, not by sight," then what the mystics called "the dark night of the soul" is a necessary experience for real faith to develop. Our faith needs to be in God, as God, not in our experience of God. To reduce God to our experience of him is to attempt to make him finite, to control him. That, my friends, is idolatry!
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Real Theology

...Wesley is best understood as a pastoral theologian, whose concern is with the spiritual formation of his people. His vision of the nature God, human beings and their interrelationship is remarkably consistent over his whole ministry and is centred in love, trust and relationships, rather than the intellectual comprehension of propositional truth about God, humans and the process of salvation. This makes the heart and transforming relationship central to his theologising, rather than logical systems and precise doctrinal statements. The four critical elements (Scripture, reason, tradition and Christian experience) of his theological methodology have been correctly identified by many scholars but not enough attention has been given to the role of the Holy Spirit in the whole process. Wesley believes that it is God himself who is the only source and authority for theologising and he communicates with us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who utilises the means given above. The element of mystery is important here, as love and relationships are not reducible to mechanical systems that are purely intellectually comprehended. This demonstrates why the quadrilateral as a model is inadequate due to its static, mechanical and hierarchical nature. There is a need to offer a dynamic model that takes full account of the ever-present ministry of the Holy Spirit within the Church and that is the aim of this exploration.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 4

<idle musing>
A breath of fresh air! "Wesley believes that it is God himself who is the only source and authority for theologising and he communicates with us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit..." That's a statement I can support unconditionally!
</idle musing>

Understatement of the week

From Behind the Books:

It turns out that making books into ebooks isn't as easy as you might think.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Consult a qualified proofreader

I put a new light fixture in a while back. I couldn't help but notice the box:
Not sure if you can read it, but it says that the bulbs are "soldseperately." Yikes! They recommend consulting a qualified electrician; I recommend consulting a qualified proofreader!

Down comes the house of cards...

First, the conclusion of LDBT [Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts] that a linguistic history of Hebrew from the Iron Age through the Persian period cannot be recovered and therefore cannot be available for dating texts is erroneous. It is based primarily on an idiosyncratic axiom concerning the identification of late linguistic features in languages and on corollary assertions bearing on biblical manuscripts from Qumran, copyist practices vis-à-vis the language of texts from the Iron Age through the Hellenistic period, and on the vague notion of “linguistic fluidity” as a historical phenomenon. More-accurate descriptions of what is to be explained based on the agglomeration and classification of relevant data lead to significantly more-nuanced and accurate explanations of the data (see the essays of Bar-Asher Siegal, Fassberg, and Joosten in this volume.)—Zevitt in Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, page 483

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The ultimate tribute to fast food america

A co-worker forwarded this to me...

<idle musing>
Coming soon to a megachurch near you: Drive-thru communion so you don't have to face that person whom you refuse to forgive!
Sigh...I grieve for the church; I grieve for our society...
</idle musing>

Diachrony in Hebrew

The diachronic markers established with much acumen and sophistication by Hebraists play little or no part in the equally subtle game of dating biblical texts as practiced by exegetes. Attacks on the documentary hypothesis in the late 1970s have inaugurated a period in which it has become commonplace to date substantial parts of the Pentateuch to the Persian period or later. To the mainstream Hebrew linguist, these proposals are difficult, or even absurd. The language of, say, Genesis 15 is different from that of Ezra–Nehemiah in a way that makes it almost impossible to imagine that the two texts come from the same general period. Joosten in Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, page 291

<idle musing>
Amen! I'm a philologist first and foremost. I never understood the late dating; if we date the Greek classics by the logic of some of these biblical scholars, the Odyssey would have been composed sometime in the Hellenistic period or later...crazy!
<idle musing>

Friday, December 14, 2012

How knowing Hebrew can be a help...

In 2 Kgs 6:11, ֶשׁ is placed in the mouth of an Aramean king, even though ֶשׁ is not used in Aramaic. In Jonah, ֶשׁ is placed once in the mouth of the sailors (when they speak among themselves), once in Jonah’s mouth (when he addresses the sailors), and once in God’s mouth. The use of ֶשׁ in God’s mouth alongside an immediately preceding רשׁא suggests that ֶשׁ is used for rhetorical effect: to support one of the author’s theological points, that YHWH is the God of non-Israelites as well as Israelites. Holmstedt Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, page 118, footnote 28

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Language learning

..learning a language is seen as language development [in complex systems theory] rather than as acquisition. In other words, language is a process of dynamic adaptation (Larsen-Freeman and Cameron 2008: 157) rather than something that, once learned, is “possessed” for all time. From a complexity point of view, language can never be in an entirely stable state, so it cannot be “acquired” once and for all."—J. Naude in  Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, page 64

<idle musing>
Indeed. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it's true even of English. Every day I'm learning a new nuance to a word or an entirely new word. If that is true of English, how much truer it is of a second/acquired language!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Here's a collection of posts to wind down the clearing of my draft folder:

From Jesus Creed, the day after Thanksgiving:
Only 3.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 do the minimum amount of physical activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services: 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. Among those over age 60, the percentage is even lower: 2.5 percent. 

<idle musing>
The previous figures had been based on self-reporting. Guess what—they were wildly inaccurate. What a surprise—NOT! Nobody wants to admit they sit around all day and play video games or surf the Internet or watch TV...sure, you're tired when you get home from a long day at work. That's the best possible time to get out and move! When you move, you feel more energetic afterwards.

Of course, diet plays a part, too. The standard American diet (called SAD in many nutrition books!) leaves you lethargic and not desiring to move. Studies on lab rats have shown that a whole-foods, plant-based diet causes them to voluntarily exercise around 20% more frequently than rats on a standard diet. On the other hand, a diet high in sugars, whether high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, unrefined sugar, or honey, causes less activity and more lethargy.
</idle musing>

About two months ago, Alan Knox did a good three-part series on mutual edification. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

And, for those of you who are starting you study of the Septuagint, here's a good little primer on using the Göttingen LXX.

Finally, I saw this yesterday on Ben Myers' blog:

A says, “My sins cry out against me!” God replies, “What sins?”
God says, “Your sins cry out against me!” B replies, “What sins?”
That’s the difference between costly grace and cheap grace.
<idle musing>
What more can be said...that says it all.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

But it's my right, isn't it?

In a word: No! it isn't your right! From Jesus Creed:
"The bottom line is this: too many Christians want to win; they are not focused enough on peace, justice, love, wisdom, and reconciliation. They want the right way to win. The culture war approach is about winning. It’s a losing strategy."

<idle musing>
Ironic, isn't it? To focus on winning will almost always mean losing in the real war for the hearts of people. Focus instead on winning them to Jesus via love and people want to know how you can forgive and love the unloveable...
</idle musing>

Too true!

How about all that sensationalism in reporting and writing? I'm delighted that someone is taking a stand against it:
When I started my first professional job at a local alternative newsweekly, lo, so many years ago when we still pasted up the paper, the first lesson my editor taught me was that our responsibility was to the reader. While the ad department was around to keep the lights on, without the reader, the whole shebang wouldn’t exist. I hang onto this belief and all that it implies—respect the readers’ intelligence, give them an engaging reading experience, recognize them as a community—with a fervor that borders on the religious.
And, here's the formula that is the all too common alternative:
1. Make a blatantly ridiculous statement.
2. Watch your buzz grow as your intended audience works itself into a lather about it, generating a lot of web traffic (fired especially by social media).
3. When asked to defend your blatantly ridiculous statement, point to the less ridiculous arguments in your writing, and/or take a superior attitude and act as if your detractor isn’t smart enough to understand hyperbole.
<idle musing>
I'm glad I work for a publisher that takes the time to check footnotes and facts! It is indeed a sacred responsibility to publish things that are correct and that matter...
</idle musing>

Friday, December 07, 2012

No easy answers

There are no simple answers, although we would love there to be...even the "cycle" of Judges isn't really there—as Lawson Stone points out:
But has familiarity bred blindness? This “voice” in Judges has been buried under convention and easy cliché, most notably, that the book presents an unaltering, cyclical pattern, and secondly, that the book is consistently derivative from, and imitative of, Deuteronomy (i.e. deuteronomistic). Both are actually imprecise to the point of being mistaken. Contrary to most interpretations, Judges does not present the reader with an unaltering “cycle” or pattern. First of all, elements appear in the stories that do not appear in the introduction, and vice versa. Thus, the introduction tells us that Yahweh “raised up” deliverers, but only Othniel and Ehud are explicitly said to be “raised up” by Yahweh. Other means of manifestation appear for subsequent judges, raising the intriguing question of how directly they express the saving action of God. Likewise, the semantics of the verb za‘aq  (to cry out) orient more toward an intense, emotion-laden cry of anguish or even accusation, but with no inherent connotations of repentance. The pattern in Judges (if there is one) is not “sin-punishment/ repentance-deliverance” but simply punishment followed by mercy. Yahweh, it seems, delivers his people out of his compassion and grace, to show his power and to claim Israel’s allegiance. Only in 10:6-16 does the outcry find expression in confession and remorse, and that passage is fraught with conflict and ambivalence. The omission of the outcry from the programmatic introduction of 2:6–3:6 and from the Samson story reinforces the fact that Yahweh’s action derives not from Israel’s meeting some condition (repentance), but from Yahweh’s simple compassion for them. Additionally, the Spirit of Yahweh—and, less frequently, the angel of Yahweh—plays a role in the stories that has no place in the introduction or the frameworks, and ironically, the Spirit plays no role in the Ehud story or the Deborah story, the two judges with the most unreserved praise from the author. By contrast, the Spirit’s involvement with Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson raises more questions than it answers. So we do not have a pattern that is mechanically repeated but rather a collection of features and formulas that are deployed variously to direct our attention to other factors in the stories.
<idle musing>
You know what? I'm glad mercy triumphs! While the pattern made for a good teaching tool and easy remembrance, I think the fact that God showed mercy repeatedly is more important.
We need to remember that the Bible is designed to point people to their need for total dependence on God. It isn't a book of patterns to imitate or people to emulate—except in so far as we emulate their total reliance on God!
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 06, 2012


The backlog clearing continues...

From Grace Works

There is a vast chasm of difference between receiving God’s grace and trying to activate it. One involves human effort and striving. The other involves surrender, transparency and accepting oneself in their own brokenness. One leads to shame instead of wholeness, self-denial instead of true maturity, and ultimately fruitlessness instead of abundant life.

How does one tell the difference between striving and surrendering? Someone who is striving is trying to live up to a standard and needs God’s help to do it. Someone who has surrendered knows they will never live up to the standard and is actually strengthened by knowing they are loved anyway. The true essence of holiness is love. One doesn’t love until they know love. Knowing how much God loves you also changes how you view others. Everyone becomes worthy, everyone. The love of God lives inside you and now the “righteous requirement of the law” is fulfilled because you don’t need rules to guide your conduct, your love guides you.

Amen! I couldn't have expressed it better—scripture says that love is the fulfilling of the law. First John says that perfect love casts out all fear. Love is indeed the true essence of holiness. Which leads to the next item...

...from Alan Knox's blog, way back in May!:

Scripture cannot produce love. We do not love because we read Scripture, memorize Scripture, or meditate on Scripture. We only love because of the power of God working through us as we yield ourselves to his will.

However, Scripture can help us recognize whether or not we are loving – that is, whether or not we are yielding ourselves to the will of God and allowing the power of God to be demonstrated through love. If we approach Scripture as a mirror, God can use those writing to show us how we are currently living compared to how we live when we are submitting to him.

And the opposite:
If something is missing in people’s spiritual growth, instead of changing current activities, the church organizations simply add another program. Eventually, every night of the week is filled with different programs, meetings, committees, etc.
As always, please read the complete post to get the whole context...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Backlog continued

I'm not doing too good a job of cleaning up the backlog, am I? Let's see if I can improve on it this week. One of the advantages of letting things sit in the draft folder is that items will form a theme, even though posted several months apart. Here's a few posts that I think form a common theme:
If worship is truly a gift, we ought to relax somewhat and allow space for the Holy Spirit to show up and do the unexpected and we should strictly avoid saying or doing anything that would put the spotlight of attention and applause on a human being (other than Jesus, of course). If worship is truly our task as well, we ought prayerfully to plan the worship service and see that everything is done decently and in order and avoid chaos and distractions.—from Roger Olson
Be sure to read the whole thing; you're sure to be challenged by it.

And, from Alan Knox:

I wonder what would happen if Christians stopped seeing a certain time at a certain place as “worship” and understood that every step they took (in their “walk”) is or is not worship. It can be worship… it may not be worship.

I wonder what would happen if Christians began to realize that God is probably more concerned with how they live at other times than what they do when they enter a “church building” (or a home church, for that matter).

It’s about our walk… not about a special time of “worship.”

And, to get the mind thinking a bit, there's this piece from Out of Ur:
Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through external experiences. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multimedia theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”

The problem with these mountaintop experiences, whether legitimate (like Moses’) or fabricated, is that the transformation does not last. In a few days time, or maybe as early as lunchtime, the glory begins to fade. The mountaintop experience with God, the event we were certain would change our lives forever, turns out to be another fleeting spiritual high. And to hide the lack of genuine transformation, we mask the inglorious truth of our lives behind a veil, a façade of Christian merchandise or busyness, until we can ascend the mountain again and be recharged.

Why then are we so tempted to abandon the new covenant, inside-out model of transformation for the inferior old covenant, outside-in strategy? The reason is simple--an internal communion with God through the Spirit cannot be packaged, commoditized, and marketed to religious consumers. It is far easier for us to create mountains than shepherd people toward the inner life of divine communion.

Can you say, "Ouch!"? All three posts can be summed up in that last statement: "an internal communion with God through the Spirit cannot be packaged, commoditized, and marketed to religious consumers. It is far easier for us to create mountains than shepherd people toward the inner life of divine communion."

Monday, December 03, 2012

How does your garden grow?

If you had asked me that earlier last week, I would have said it doesn't! I had been on the road for 3 weeks and forgotten to put the row cover over the plants in the hoop houses. During that time, the temperature dipped into the single digits Fahrenheit. And, the wind and snow had caused some breakage in the hoop houses. Not a good situation!

Before Saturday, I had only managed to get into the hoop houses once, and that was at night when the temperature was in the the teens. Needless to say, it was a disheartening experience. All the plants looked dead. Very dead.

I figured Saturday would be a clean-up and pulling of dead plants. Oh well, another experiment that failed. No biggie. It certainly wouldn't be the first time! And it certainly wouldn't be the last.

Imagine my surprise, then, on opening the door to the second hoop house and seeing green plants! Wow! Of course, I should have known better. Eliot Coleman warns about it; he says that on occasion he has entered a cold greenhouse before the sun has a chance to warm it and despaired. Everything looks dead. What insanity to try to grow things in such a climate. But, come back in a few hours and a marvelous change has taken place. Everything perks up and looks alive. That's exactly what happened to me.

Sure, the carrots took a major hit and won't grow anymore. But, they are still very edible. Everything else looks good. Some of it isn't far enough along to harvest; it will sit dormant now until early March.

We did decide to take down one of the hoop houses; I hadn't replanted much in it and the kids wanted to slide down the hill. So, I disassembled it, using the clips to reinforce the other house.

So, how does the garden grow? Surprisingly well!

Update: I went over there yesterday afternoon after posting this. Amazingly, the carrots are recovering as well! The ground they are in is barely above freezing, but the greens are all perked up and lively. God certainly made vegetation amazingly resilient!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Bah! Humbug!

From Wipf and Stock's blog

What it takes...

καὶ εἶπεν· Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 NIV)

<idle musing>
Not sure I like "change" as the translation of στραφῆτε usually has more of a connotation of turning—sort of like שוב (shub) does in Hebrew, which is probably the word that Jesus used... So, how about this for an "Englished" version: "unless you turn away (from your current practices) and become..."

 By the way, I know that it is passive, but according to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1 b, it can be (and frequently is) passive with active force. An interesting note under 5: "The Eng. term 'conversion' could suggest a change from one religious persuasion to another, which is not the case in these pass[ages]" citing both Matt. 18:3 and John 12:40!
</idle musing>

Encouraging words

No one is like you, LORD ; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. (Jeremiah 10:6, 7 NIV)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday thought

They have lied about the Lord ; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.” (Jeremiah 5:12-13 NIV 2011)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back log

Before I start excerpting from the next book, which is Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, I think I should catch up on a backlog of posts from my draft folder. Some of these have been in there since May—that's before we moved! I kept adding them to the folder, thinking I would have time to post on them throughout the summer, but never did. Now that it is November, I've got a bit more time—at least for a week or two... So, for the next few days, watch for a real hodge-podge of stuff : )

First up, an excellent post from the nearly moribund blog Graceroots titled Grace is... Grace isn't... Not sure the table will come through correctly, but you can download the PDF here.
Grace is not...                        Grace is...
a "method" for holy living -the holy life of Jesus that indwells the believer

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! Take a look at the whole chart; it's well worth your time.
</idle musing>

The way I look at bookselling

There's a bookseller's e-letter called Shelf Awareness that is sent out daily. Most of it would bore a non-bookseller to death : ) But, today there was a snippet about a store that is one year old this week. In an interview with the owner, this little thought came out:
"I don't look at someone and think, 'I'm going to make a sale.' I look at them and think, 'I know a book you're going to love.'"
<idle musing>
That's my attitude exactly. I would change the wording a bit and say, "I know a book that you really need for your current research interest." But otherwise, her approach is the same as mine. I let the books sell themselves; all I do is introduce people to them.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The difference matters--a lot

I believe that that the sine qua non of evangelicalism is not inerrancy or disputed aspects of soteriology, but rather, how one defines and expresses the evangel. Likewise, I believe in the reformation but I have to admit that Rom. 10.9-10 offers a definition of a Christian that is broader than the reformed confessions. My former Systematic Theology lecturer, James Gibson, taught a generation of ministry students that the difference between an evangelical and a fundamentalist is that evangelicals are more excited in telling you what they are for, while fundamentalists are more excited in telling you what they are against. I know what I am for, I think I know what Wright is for, and it seems to me that we are for the same thing: the advance of the kingdom of God in this postmodern world. My own sentiment is that if some bastions of evangelicalism are to prevent a slide into a quasi-fundamentalism then they need to strike a delicate balance between maintaining theological purity and a commitment to inclusiveness among those who believe the same gospel and share in the same basic theological fabric. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 193

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt. I fitting conclusion, I would say. The difference between fundamentalism and evangelicalism is eliding; many don't see any difference. I no longer can self-identify as evangelical—unless you qualify it so much as to be meaningless. As long as the heresy-hunters are allowed to dominate the conversation—and I would argue they have ever since Lindsell published The Battle for the Bible—there will be a continued slide toward fundamentalism.
</idle musing>


When someone tells you it is 10:25, what do you see in your mind?

I see a round clock face with the long hand on the 5 and the short hand on the 10. But, I was raised before digital clocks. I remember the first “digital” clocks; they were simply metal plates with numbers painted on them. Each minute, a new plate would fall over the preceding one. Later, when I was in college, I remember my dad getting a digital wristwatch; it was an LED one. You had to push a button to get the time; the LEDs would have drained the battery too quickly otherwise. It wasn't very shock proof either; I don't think it even lasted a year.

Now, though, digital is everywhere—even in the schools! So, what do you see when someone tells you it is 10:25? I suspect it is very age dependent...

Monday, November 26, 2012

What flows from what?

Justification is based on the work of Christ in his redemptive death and sharing in the vindication of his resurrection. Justification is not the result of the empowerment of the Spirit in the life of the believer. That does not require one to divorce believing from doing as works demonstrate the integrity of the faith that we profess. Ultimately, obedience and faithfulness are functions of believing in Christ and flow from the work of Christ operating in the believer through the Spirit. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 183

<idle musing>
In other words, justification is the gift, our life is the outflowing of the Spirit as a result of that gift...
</idle musing>

Do we disagree?

Joseph Kelly and I were discussing (at AAR/SBL) one of the questions on his recent comprehensive exams. The question was “Which of the ten commandments relates to the environment” (do I have that right, Joseph?)? His response was, “None of them.” My response was all of them! He looked at me kind of funny, so I explained. It is a question that the ancient Israelites wouldn't have understood. The question requires a Western, post-enlightenment mindset. They would have seen everything in their life as relating to God, hence, all of them.

Joseph smiled, and replied that was the reason he answered none of them...we both believed the same thing, but we said it in opposite ways.

Language! It can be so confusing sometimes without dialogue. If we had stopped at the first statement that we each made, we would have thought that there was a major disagreement. Dialoguing revealed we both were using the same presuppositions, just expressing it in different ways.

How often does that happen in our everyday lives? Just some food for thought before assuming the worst...

Friday, November 23, 2012

How scriptural is it?

“...there is no text that explicitly says that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers. That does not make imputation entirely redundant as imputation constitutes a cogent (and perhaps necessary) theological explanation of the mechanism through which union communicates righteousness to the believer. Several texts speak of the non-accounting of sin (e.g. Rom. 4.8 and 2 Cor. 5.19), imputation is implicit in the representative roles of Adam and Christ, righteousness is a free gift, and the language of “reckoning” certainly moves in the direction of imputation. Nevertheless, to articulate righteousness as a status given by God wholly apart from union with Christ is to exchange Paul’s christocentric language of justification for an abstract theory based on computation.” —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 182

<idle musing>
Personally, I'll stick with Pauline language. The abstractness of imputation doesn't bring home the necessity of a changed life. I still say, no transformation, no salvation.
</idle musing>

Where has holiness gone?

Scripture says that without holiness, we won't see God. Scripture also says that teachers and leaders will be judged by a higher standard. Don't you think that should be a warning to us about how we live?

Why, then, do I find teachers who freely confess they don't believe the doctrinal statements they are required to sign? Why then do I hear people freely confessing—even bragging!—that they bribe guards to get into places they aren't supposed to? Or they bribe them to take photographs that aren't allowed? Why then do I hear teachers cussing and “damning” others with whom they disagree or who attack their position?

Where has holiness gone? That's all I want to know...I'm not saying we need more rules! Heaven knows that isn't the answer! I'm just curious why heart holiness doesn't appear to be important.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why is it?

Why is it that people feel compelled to defend themselves rather than simply listening and dialoguing? For example, recently I was talking with someone and they brought up the current tax structure (not something I enjoy discussing). They talked about a rich friend of theirs who has left the country and is now living in Panama. He talked about the beautiful setting, the fact that it was safely behind a barbed wire fence, and that the sunrises were beautiful to see.

I commented that I had a hard time reconciling that with scripture. I asked how they could interact with their neighbors. This person immediately began to talk about how many other houses there were in the compound and how they flew back to the States regularly to interact with others.

I replied that I couldn't see Peter or Paul living like that. That opened the floodgates (it almost always does!). They began to expound on how many good works that person did. The thousands of dollars that were donated to missions in Africa, the number of missions projects that were funded by them.

I simply said that I wasn't telling them how to live. I personally felt it was unbiblical and therefore chose to live more simply, in and among the people of my community. If they felt it was a justifiably biblical lifestyle, then fine. The other person still insisted on defending their rich friend's lifestyle. But they never once cited a scriptural text or precedence—although such texts could easily be found!

So, why is it that they felt compelled to defend that lifestyle in a confrontational way? I didn't say they were wrong. I didn't say they should change. I simply said that I couldn't justify such a lifestyle biblically. I thought it was an invitation to a discussion. I was willing to be shown where I was wrong. I figured that with all the learning and education this person had that they would be able to rise to the occasion with a biblical foundation.

Nope. Didn't happen. Never has. The response is always the same. How sad. We let culture define success. We value the asphalt of heaven instead of the true treasures of heaven...

Monday, November 19, 2012


Likewise to insist that mere profession of faith irrespective of the character of one’s life and conduct is justifying is to engage in a kind of easy-believism, it runs foul of the warning of Jas. 2.14-26, and it denies the transforming power of the gospel. For Paul obedience is not a work in the sense that it makes a claim upon God (e.g. Rom. 4.4-5), but obedience is the tangible out working of faith. Faith and obedience are inseparable even if they are not completely identical. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 177

<idle musing >
As I say so often, no transformation, no Christianity
</idle musing >

Days 2 & 3

I didn't post yesterday, so I'll run two days together (they've already run together in my mind, anyway!).

I should have taken a picture at the beginning of each day, but the piles of new releases have dropped dramatically. We've sold out of a number of them and are down to one left on several. Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb sold out the first day except for one copy. Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew wasn't far behind.

Had breakfast in the morning with Bobby K from Hendrickson; it's always a pleasure to talk with him. We talked business some, but also caught up on all the happenings in each of our lives since the last time we saw each other in March. Their shipment of Novum Testamentum Graece got caught in hurricane Sandy and was delayed.

Sunday evening Emanuel, Andrew, and I went to dinner together. Emanuel told me to pick the place, but he wanted it to be vegan. He told me that it was his way of recognizing the years of going wherever he preferred and me never complaining about it. I chose a place called Karyn's, on the north side. He called it the "last supper" as it is probably the last meal we will have together. The food was good, but I'm missing a good home-cooked meal right about now. I've been on the road for 2 weeks and am missing Debbie and home. Only one week left, with only 2 days of that away from Debbie.

This morning, I took Andrew around to the various publishers and introduced him. It's embarrassing to hear them talk so highly of me; I don't think I'm that good. Sure, I enjoy my work and put a lot of energy into it, but I'm just a faithful servant doing my job.

I went to lunch with Ramon from American Bible Society today. It's been an annual tradition of ours to have lunch and share what God's been doing in each of our lives. Hard to believe we've been doing it for nearly 10 years now. Those years have seen both my kids get married and have kids of their own. His kids have gone through the difficult teenage years and come out loving the Lord and wanting more of him. It's been good to see answers to prayer.

Monday night is always the Eisenbrauns dinner. During the conference, we don't always have a chance to share what we've been learning, what's working, what's not, what new proposals we've got, etc. So, Monday night we all go out to eat together and talk about the show. It's pretty obvious to us that our experiment of paying the tax or paying the shipping was a success. We're not sure about the PDF experiment yet. It appears to be a success, but probably could have benefited from more advance publicity. Of course, that was pretty hard to do when we didn't get the technical details working until less than a week before the conference started!

Tomorrow is the final day and it starts earlier than the other days. At noon we tear down, which is always a fun and interesting experience. I'll be curious to see what Dan and Andrew's reactions are to seeing the dark underbelly of a conference for the first time. I'll try to get some good pictures and post them on Facebook.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

AAR/SBL, Day 1, part 2

Because AAR/SBL is in Chicago this year, we decided to bring as many staff up for a day or two as possible. Today, we had 5 extra people. Melody and Carina, two of our customer service people, Bev, one of our editors, Pam, our prepress manager, and Andy, our graphic artist, all came. Actually the first four came up Friday and spent the night. Andy caught an early train and got there a bit later.

Melody and Carina manned (personned??) the booth and did a great job. They enjoyed putting faces to the names they see every day. Bev and Pam met with people. Andy wandered around getting ideas, taking pictures (he's a great photographer), and deciding what he wanted to do differently for next year with our booth.

This year, we are trying some different things. First, we are paying the sales tax if you buy a book at the conference. Chicago tax is 9.5%, so that is essentially giving an extra 10% off. Second, if you decide to order the book at the conference, we are paying the shipping. Third, we are selling PDFs of our books. If you want the book and the PDF, we are only charging an extra $19.00—and you get the book on a 2 GB USB drive that says Eisenbrauns. How's that for a deal? And the PDF is DRM free...we call it our No Wait, No Weight sale—you don't have to wait for the book to be shipped and it doesn't add any weight to your suitcase.

Of course, we also are offering our new mug for free if you order or purchase $150 or more. If you want to buy the mug—and who wouldn't—it is only $9.95. A steal at twice the price :)

The rest of the day after my ASOR excursion was relatively uneventful. As always, I saw a lot of old friends, met some new ones, and had a good time pointing people to books that I thought would be helpful to them. That's the best part of the conference; it's all about the people and helping them find what they need.

The problem with where the conference is this year is that there is nothing in the area when it comes to restaurants. You have to drive or take a cab to everything. Tonight, we didn't want to go anywhere near downtown, so we looked for something relatively close. Someone, who shall remain nameless, found what sounded like a good place close by. So, after bidding the day trippers adieu, the remaining ones of us, except Andrew, whose wife and daughter were with him, loaded into Gina's vehicle and drove there. Turns out the place is a takeout only. No problem, so we thought. A quick Internet search revealed an alternative about a block away. So, we walked on over to what turned out to be another takeout only. Hmmm...back to the Internet. Back into the vehicle. We headed for an Italian restaurant that was nearby. Parked the vehicle, walked past a burger joint, a Subway and into the restaurant. An hour and a half wait! Not happening. So, we walked back past the Subway and the burger joint and went to a Thai restaurant that Jim had mentioned as being very good as we walked past it on the way to the Italian place.

It was very good. And cheap! Rare combinations, but welcome to our travel budget...While we were there, Dan checked his Facebook and saw that Andy had gone to a Greek restaurant before boarding the train and was having flaming cheese. Andy and I had gone to that restaurant at an AIA conference in Chicago several years ago. Unfortunately, he had misjudged his schedule and had to run to get his train before he could do more than have an appetizer. He always wanted to go back. Tonight he did...

AAR/SBL Day1, or a comedy of errors

Day one is always the most tiring day for me. I make sure I stick around the booth to answer questions that may arise. About 4:30, I usually realize I haven't sat more than about 15 minutes all day. This year was a bit different, though.

Eisenbrauns always attends ASOR before AAR/SBL begins, but we have always ended Friday around noon. This year, because both are in Chicago and we had staff coming up for Saturday, we decided to sell at ASOR on Saturday as well. Merna volunteered—or was volunteered, not sure which!—to man the ASOR booth on Saturday. The plan was to close up there around noon and then have me drive from McCormick Place to ASOR's downtown exhibit and help her pack up.

Problem: I have a "clipped" driver's license. What that means is that I have a new Minnesota driver's license coming and am still using the Indiana one with a clipped corner and a piece of paper saying that the new one is in the mail. The problem is that the paper expired and the new license came the day after I left for Indiana. So, essentially, I have no driver's license. While the probability that I would be stopped was small, that was not a chance I wanted to take! The profit margin at conferences is thin enough without a hefty fine like that to pay.

So, Gina drove me up there so I could play pack mule for the books. Commence comedy of errors. Gina assumed I knew where the ASOR hotel was; I assumed she knew. We got out of the parking ramp and she asks where we were going. I looked at her with a mystified look and said that I thought she knew. She pulled off to the side of the street while she entered the name of the hotel into the GPS. We knew it was the Marriott on Miracle Mile. Fine, the GPS sent us down Michigan Ave. No problem...except that the festival of lights was going to happen Friday evening. And there was going to be a Disney parade at 5:00 PM. And they were going to close Michigan Avenue to traffic and pedestrians. And everybody and their brother seemed to be downtown.

Fine, so it just will take a bit longer. But the GPS took us to the Marriott Courtyard on the Miracle Mile. Gina dropped me there, not knowing it was the wrong one, and went to get gas in her vehicle. So, here I am in the wrong hotel with no idea where the correct one is. So, I called Merna. The call dropped before we could say anything. That happened three times. Finally, I got through, found out that the hotel was only about a block or so away. No problem.

Once I got to the hotel, I went up to the 5th floor, found Merna and we went to get our empty boxes to pack the books in. The room was locked. No one was at the registration desk. No one with a key was anywhere on the floor...not good.

I went down to the first floor, found someone with a key, and they opened the room for us. We packed up the books and proceeded to the first floor. Now we had to contact Gina, warn her that the GPS sent her to the wrong hotel and try to get her to the correct one. We couldn't trust the GPS, though. It had sent her on a wrong path the night before as we tried to tell her where to go and how to get back to us, but one way streets downtown can be a problem...

We finally got reunited, loaded the car and headed back out to the massive amounts of traffic. We made very slow progress, and I had an appointment to choose next year's booth locations. It looked like I wouldn't make it, so I called Jim to have him cover for me. No answer. So, I called Andrew; he answered, but he and Jim both had a meeting at the same time I did. Bummer. Major bummer. If you miss your appointment, you risk losing a choice spot. Andrew did get a hold of Dan, though, and Dan said he would go. The problem is that Dan had never done this before and wasn't sure what to do...

Well, we managed to get to Lake Shore Drive and from there is was smooth sailing. We made it back to McCormick Place 5 minutes before my meeting. I moved quickly to get to the meeting. I got there only to discover I had the wrong time...I had another 25 minutes!

We got the booths we wanted.

Day zero

Day Zero is setup day. It began early, as I mentioned yesterday, with a check-in at the Truck Marshalling yard. We got the necessary paperwork and drove to the exhibit hall.

In case you've never been to McCormick place, it is huge. The road snaked around underneath to a checkpoint. The guard looked at our paperwork, wrote down our license number and told us to go ahead. We drove up a relatively steep ramp, only to find a line of trucks. I've been in lines like that before...sometimes for a hour or more. But, this one moved in a few minutes. I was very relieved to find out that all of them turned left to the South building; we are in the West building. We drove up and found the dock had plenty of open bays. We had a low back rental and they didn't have dock levelers.

I thought we might have to tear the skids apart and rebuild them on the ground—not something I wanted to do at 7:30 in the morning!

I needn't have been concerned, though. A forklift driver just lifted the skid off the back, pallet jack and all (we had brought along a pallet jack in case they were going to charge us to use theirs—you can never be too careful). Then he put the pallet jack back on the truck so we could move the back skid close enough for him to lift it off. We built a third skid consisting of the Skyline on the spot (The Skyline is the back display that we use).

Set up went the best it ever has, except for my little snafu :) We were done before 2:30, but Deo and Carta hadn't arrived yet, so I stuck around, doing the Deal-of-the-weekend—a great deal, by the way—and waited for them. They both arrived in due time and I wondered the conference hall, drooling over the books.

Last night, I went out for dinner with Emanuel (from Carta) and his granddaughter to a nice Italian restaurant. Emanuel usually tries to have a family member who lives in the States with him. The restaurant was nice, noisy, but nice. The company was delightful, as well. In a massive brain fart, I ordered a mushroom and spinach pizza, forgetting all about the cheese on it! That was the first animal protein I have had in about 14 months!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Transformation is the goal

Romans 12–15 are, homiletically speaking, the most under preached passages in Evangelical churches. This is travesty since in these chapters we find manifold resources for living out the Christian faith in a polytheistic, pluralistic and pagan world not so different from our own postmodern setting. Paul is not interested in merely imparting copious amounts of theology to the congregation in Rome (an impression you could get if you finish reading Romans in chapter 11) but seeks transformed lives and changed behavior as the result of his epistle. Any theology of Paul that focuses solely on doctrine and does not address the kind of lives he aspired for his converts to live is deficient and defunct.  —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 151

<idle musing>
Amen! No transformation = no salvation. Jesus came to deliver us from sin—from sinning! That's a transformed life—and it is all by the power of God. All—and I do mean all—the glory goes to him because all the power comes from him through the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

And we're off again

To AAR/SBL, that is. Yesterday afternoon, we left Warsaw with a truck full of product and display material. This morning, about 6:30, we got the necessary paperwork to unload the truck. Then we waited until 8:00 before they would let us unload.
Setup went well; we're getting more organized and better at it each year...but take a look at these two pictures. See the difference?

I had all the books set out and nicely organized—early, too. Then I realized that I had forgotten the Eisenbrauns table drape : ( I had to take all the books off, put the new drape on, and re-place the books. Of course, they didn't go back the same. I couldn't find room for one of the books and had to rearrange again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Union with Christ means...

The exhortation to righteousness in Romans 6 is predicated on one crucial premise: the transforming power of the gospel and the new obedience created by union with Christ. Christ is the sphere of holiness, righteousness and redemption (cf. 1 Cor. 1.30) and believers are emancipated from the old age of sin and death and are uniquely empowered by baptism into Christ to live their lives in complete service to God. This thought is expressed most aptly as the indicative and imperative of Pauline ethics; because you have been united to Christ, you need not offer your body into the service of sin. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 147

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! If we are united with Christ—which we are—then we are free from the necessity of sin. Why don't we see more of it? Because a. we don't here it preached or taught and b. most people don't really believe it. After all, aren't we sinners? No! We are saints and the righteousness of Christ—at least that's what the scripture says. So, whom are you going to believe? Scripture or doctrine? Your call, but I'm going with scripture!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Calvin and works

"We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith not works ... Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works, since in the participation in Christ, by which we are justified, is contained not less sanctification than justification."—John Calvin, cited by M. Bird in —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 111

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hmmm..Luther's right

Quod quisque timet, amat, colit, credit, hoc illi deus est [What a person fears, loves, worships, trusts—that is his God].—Luther's Works, 16:35, cited in Martin Luther's Understanding of God's Two Kingdoms, page 129.

<idle musing>
I couldn't have said it better myself. Idolatry isn't seen as idolatry by those who are worshiping an idol. We deceive ourselves into saying that it isn't really worship. We need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes...
</idle musing>


I am constantly made aware of my own prejudice of reading Paul and the New Testament via the grid of soteriological inquiry where I often assumed that the question underpinning every Pauline text was “what must I do to be saved?” A far better question to embed at the back of our minds as we read Paul (and indeed the entire New Testament) is this: who are the people of God and in what economy shall they be vindicated?—The Saving Righteousness of God,  page 109

Tuesday's thought

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
        I am God, and there is no other;
        I am God, and there is none like me.
     I make known the end from the beginning,
        from ancient times, what is still to come.
    I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
        and I will do all that I please.’
     From the east I summon a bird of prey;
        from a far–off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
    What I have said, that I will bring about;
        what I have planned, that I will do.
     Listen to me, you stubborn–hearted,
        you who are now far from my righteousness.
     I am bringing my righteousness near,
        it is not far away;
        and my salvation will not be delayed.—Isaiah 46:9-13 (TNIV)

Monday, November 12, 2012

More than forensic

Yet as soon as we acknowledge that union with Christ is forensic and issues forth in a transformed status such a bifurcation becomes a grossly inadequate generalization. Justification cannot be played off against union with Christ, since justification transpires in Christ. To be sure, union with Christ is not something that is entirely synonymous with justification. Yet neither is union with Christ an ancillary concept subsumed under justification or vice-versa. Rather, union with Christ comprises Paul’s prime way of talking about the reception of the believer’s new status through incorporation into the risen Christ by faith.—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 86

<idle musing>
Say what? What he is saying here is that union with Christ is greater than justification; it includes justification, but goes beyond it...
</idle musing>

Sunday, November 11, 2012


No, that's not the name of a new Sci-Fi novel—or some new "enhancement" drug.

Inclusio is a technical term in ancient rhetoric whereby an idea is "framed" with an opening and closing statement. In Herodotus, we call the same thing a "ring composition." Fine, you say, but how does that have anything to do with the real world?!

Glad you asked! What? You didn't? Well, let's pretend that you did, OK?

I've been thinking about the last 9 years, from the time I started with Eisenbrauns until the present. I discovered that the time is marked by a whole bunch of inclusiones (Latin, plural of inclusio—I know, technically that should be genitive instead of nominative/accusative...). I've mentioned a couple of them earlier, but we'll start from the top:

E-mail from Eisenbrauns asking me to apply for the position
Stay at Super 8 motel
Meet Jim at American Table restaurant for breakfast
Rent bicycle from Trailhouse bike shop
Return to Minnesota, rent a bicycle and the seat settles on a 40 mile ride because after adjusting the seat for my long legs, they don't tighten the seat post enough.

Nine years of wonderful stuff at Eisenbrauns, fulfilling a dream since graduate school. Our kids both get married and we end up with 7 grand kids. I get to have a greenhouse (OK, really a hoop house, but the same results).

Receive phone call asking us to assist at Sawtooth Cabins. We know it is from God, so we move to Grand Marais.
Come back to Warsaw to train my replacement and I stay at Super 8
Jim and I have breakfast at American Table
I rent a bicycle from Trailhouse—the same bike I rented 9 years earlier!
The seat settles on a 35 mile ride because after adjusting it for my long legs, the seat post isn't tightened enough

<idle musing>
I think God has a sense of humor—or at least the Classicist in me does...
</idle musing>

Friday, November 09, 2012

Incorporated righteousness

...the notion of imputation fails to grapple with Paul’s in-Christ language that gravitates more towards the concepts of incorporation, substitution and representation. Given the supremely christocentric ingredient in Paul’s formulation of justification it is far more appropriate to speak of incorporated righteousness for the righteousness that clothes believers is not that which is somehow abstracted from Christ and projected onto them, but is located exclusively in Christ as the glorified incarnation of God’s righteousness. In my judgment this term represents a reasonable description of what is happening at the exegetical level in the Pauline corpus regarding how the believer attains the righteousness of Christ.—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 85

<idle musing>
I like that, incorporated righteousness. Has a nice sound to it—and is theologically sound, as well.
</idle musing>

Isaiah on a Friday

This is what God the LORD says—
    he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
        who spread out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
        and life to those who walk on it:
    “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
        I will take hold of your hand.
    I will keep you and will make you
        to be a covenant for the people
        and a light for the Gentiles,
    to open eyes that are blind,
        to free captives from prison
        and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
    “I am the LORD; that is my name!
        I will not yield my glory to another
        or my praise to idols.—Isaiah 42:5-8 (TNIV)

<idle musing>
And an idol doesn't have to be a physical thing. Anything that comes before the Lord is an idol. It could be work, family, kids, country (we've seen a lot of that lately!). It doesn't matter what it is...
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Which kingdom?

Wonderful post today at The M Blog. Here's snatch of it:
f God is the one who "deposes kings and raises up others" (Dan 2:21), does it really matter what are the names of the current puppets set in place by God that advance both the New World Order and the Kingdom of God? Neither Herod, Pilate nor Cesar were truly important for the development of the Kingdom. That is exactly why Kingdom people do not play in the Second League, but the First, the one that matters. The one that puts the Kingdom first, and everything else-including their own nation-second.

The problem of the current commotion and insecurities arises when even the people that call themselves after God keep confusing the Kingdom of God with the United States of America. And when that happens, especially through Christians with a public voice, then we have truly lost all perspective of the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the predictions he has made that will precede his coming.

<idle musing>
Amen! Do read the whole thing. It will be worth your time—and then get down on your knees, pray, and ask God to forgive us as a nation for putting the wrong stuff first. Then put God first—in everything!
</idle musing>

There and back again

No, this post isn't about The Hobbit!

As most of you know, we left Warsaw, Indiana at the end of June, moving to Grand Marais, Minnesota. In Grand Marais, we spent the summer helping out at Sawtooth Cabins. I continued to work part-time at Eisenbrauns. I also did some freelance proof-reading for another publisher—more on that at a later date (I need to get approval before announcing the project).

We closed the cabins up in the middle of October; they won't re-open until next April or May, so I had some extra time on my hands—right...Eisenbrauns needed some extra help because of the upcoming ASOR, AAR/SBL conferences. And, my replacement, Andrew, was starting, so they needed help training him as well. Long story short: I am in Warsaw again (hence, there and back again) until the AAR/SBL meetings...

I guess you could say this is my last hurrah. After Andrew learns all that he needs to know—let me reword that—once Andrew learns enough to be able to find what he needs to know (I still don't know all I need to know after 9 years!), then my time with Eisenbrauns will come to an end.

It's bittersweet. I'm staying in the same motel I stayed in when I flew down for the interview 9 years ago in August; this morning Jim and I met for breakfast at the same restaurant I met him at for that interview. Huge difference, no difference...time marches on; God has done amazing things in my life in that time. I praise him for the time at Eisenbrauns; it was always one of my dreams to work here...

Short circuit!

Evidently, becoming God’s righteousness is tied to union with Christ, not imputation. For Paul, being “in Christ” means identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection where union with him is sphere or realm of justification. Far from being “vague” the righteous status believers possess derives from union with the “Righteous One” (Acts 3.14; 7.52; 22.14; 1 Jn 2.1), who is also the very locus of righteousness (1 Cor. 1.30) and was justified upon his exaltation into glory (1 Tim. 3.16). To resort to imputation at this stage is to skip an important element. Isaiah 53 should provide our paradigm as Paul perceives justification as occurring in the one whom God has justified. Justification ensues because believers are now identified with the crucified, risen and vindicated Christ and, furthermore, believers participate in that vindication. Thus, whether it is reconciliation, justification or new creation – all are “in him”. —The Saving Righteousness of God, pages 84-85

<idle musing>
We need to re-examine our methodology. Do we interpret scripture by our theological presuppositions? Or do we let the scripture speak—even if it means we let go of our sacred cows...imputation is one of those...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Where's your hope?

From Jesus Creed
Somewhere overnight or this morning the eschatology of American Christians may become clear. If a Republican wins and the Christian becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that Christian has an eschatology of politics. Or, alternatively, if a Democrat wins and the Christian becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that Christian too has an eschatology of politics. Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented Christian becomes depressed and hopeless because a Repub wins, or if a Republican oriented Christian becomes depressed or hopeless because a Dem wins, those Christians are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics
<idle musing>
Read the whole thing. And then ask yourself where your hope really lies.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Whence comes holiness?

The possibility of holiness in a corrupt and perverse world derives exclusively from union with the one who himself was fully righteous and empowers others with righteousness. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 80

<idle musing>
Exactly! It isn't in ourselves; we can never make ourselves holy. But, because it is "in Christ," there is no reason we can't be holy! I'm liking this book...
</idle musing>

Monday, November 05, 2012

What is the gospel?

To equate the gospel as consisting of the doctrine of imputed righteousness makes about as much sense as saying that the gospel is the pretribulation rapture. Furthermore, if we look at the most concise summaries of the gospel in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1.3-4, 1 Cor. 15.3-8; 2 Tim. 2.8) justification language is entirely absent. The gospel should be more properly related to the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 69

<idle musing>
Ah, but some do. Indeed, some would say that both are the gospel...
</idle musing>

Isaiah on a Monday

Those who walk righteously
and speak what is right,
who reject gain from extortion
and keep their hands from accepting bribes,
who stop their ears against plots of murder
and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—
they are the ones who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
Their bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail them. (Isaiah 33:15, 16 TNIV)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Further thoughts

Go now, write it in blog post for them,
inscribe it on your Facebook wall,
that for the days to come
it may be an everlasting witness.
For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the Lord ’s instruction.
They say to the seers,
“See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
“Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!”
Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says:
“Because you have rejected this message,
relied on oppression
and depended on deceit,
this sin will become for you
like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
that collapses suddenly, in an instant.
It will break in pieces like pottery,
shattered so mercilessly
that among its pieces not a fragment will be found
for taking coals from a hearth
or scooping water out of a cistern.”
This is what the Sovereign Lord , the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it. (Isaiah 30:8-15 TNIV with slight revisions in verse 8)

Thought for a Saturday

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?”
You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
“You know nothing”? (Isaiah 29:15, 16 TNIV)

Friday, November 02, 2012

The litmus test

To use reformation theology as a litmus test for theological accuracy represents a departure from the Reformers themselves and places them upon a pedestal which they would not otherwise care to sit on. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 68

<idle musing>
And this is from a Reformed scholar! Would that some of the more toxic Reformed theologians would heed his advice! The only standard that should be final is the scriptures themselves, interpreted through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and weighed in the balance of 2000 years of theological insight. But, scripture is primary.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One thing

The Protestant tendency to view salvation in terms of a series of consecutive ideas (justification, sanctification, glorification) fails to grapple with Paul’s conception of justification as a comprehensive and holistic term relating to redemption, forgiveness of sins, peace, resurrection and the gift of the Spirit. Thus justification is not merely the erasure of our failure supplemented by an alien righteousness, but emerges as the supreme act of God in Christ for our salvation. Furthermore, its christocentric dimension means that the imperatives of continuing love, faith and obedience are never isolated from justification itself. —The Saving Righteousness of God, page 66

Thought for today

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9 TNIV)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

They go together

Jesus’ death and resurrection should be regarded as being inseparably part of the one redemptive event. The cross without the resurrection is sheer martyrdom, an act of solidarity with the persecuted nation. Conversely, the resurrection without the cross is a miraculous intrusion into history and a salvation-historical enigma. Together they constitute the fulcrum of God’s righteousness in handing over Jesus to the cross and raising him for our justification. This highlights that the justifying death of Christ is not efficacious without the resurrection. —The Saving Righteousness of God, pages 57-58

<idle musing>
How can we separate them? Yet, we tend to emphasize one at the expense of the other; some emphasize the cross to the point of depression, while others would prefer the cross never happened. Either one is a mockery of the gospel.
</idle musing>

Finney on a Tuesday

Sinners act as if they were afraid they should be saved. Often they seem to be trying to make their salvation as difficult as possible. For example, they all know what Christ has said about the danger of riches and the difficulty of saving rich men. They have read from His lips, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God." "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." This they know, and yet how many of them are in mad haste to be rich! For this end, some are ready to sacrifice their conscience--some their health--all seem ready, deliberately, to sacrifice their souls! How could they more certainly ensure their own damnation!—Charles Finney

Isaiah, again

The Lord, the Lord Almighty,
called you on that day
to weep and to wail,
to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth.
But see, there is joy and revelry,
slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,
eating of meat and drinking of wine!
“Let us eat and drink,” you say,
“for tomorrow we die!”
The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the Lord Almighty. (Isaiah 22:12-14 TNIV)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall in Grand Marais

This time of year, you really feel the remoteness and wildness of the area. The streets are pretty much empty--even on the weekends. But, the lake is beautiful; the clouds make a magnificent backdrop to it. When the sun shines through them, it is more a painting than real. The street we take to walk to Joel & Renee's house has a wonderful view of the harbor, Artist's Point, and the lake.

We went for a hike last weekend with some friends on the Superior Hiking Trail--actually a spur off of it; there are lots of spurs : ) It took us to the top of a hill that overlooked the lake in one direction and the boundary waters (BWCA) in the other. Breathtakingly beautiful. The leaves were mostly gone, so you had the stark white of the birch, the black of the deciduous, and the dark green of the spruce and balsam. So beautiful it almost made you hurt--like it was a foretaste of the new heavens and new earth. And here I feel a mixture of what C.S. Lewis said about paradise and Bonhoeffer's writings about the foretaste of glory. (If that isn't a weird mix of theologians!)

Some thoughts on a non-holiday

From Joel (my son-in-law), on death and Halloween:
I was really bothered today by the way Halloween makes light of death. I couldn't help thinking of the last moments of Emily's life as she lay on the hospital bed covered in blood because they'd been doing chest compressions on her 5 lb body a day after heart surgery. I remembered how it felt to hold her head as the fluid began to pool behind her skull. I remembered wrapping her body in a white fuzzy blanket a few days later in the funeral home, her bruises barely disguised by make-up.

And now, when a kid comes to the door dressed as the living dead with fake blood all over his face I'm expected to smile and give him candy?

How can we make light of death?

I think of the thousand upon thousands upon thousands of children who've been mutilated by war. Those today who walk streets of terror and are no stranger to death and gore. Would they celebrate a holiday of fear? We are so ignorant in our safe little suburbs of the realities of the world.

I hate Halloween.

<idle musing>
We are ignorant of the reality of what Halloween is, aren't we? It, by design, is a celebration of death. As Christians, we are to celebrate life...
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Union with Christ

...union with Christ is union with the justified Messiah and the now Righteous One. Jesus by fact of his resurrection is the locus of righteousness and redemption (cf. 1 Cor. 1.30; 2 Cor. 5.21; Eph. 1.17) and believers are justified only because they have been united with the justified Messiah. Whereas believers formerly shared the verdict of condemnation pronounced on Adam, now they partake of the verdict of justification pronounced of Christ. The believer passes through the eschatological judgment by virtue of their association with Christ in his death and is co- quickened into the eschatological life through his resurrection. The union is symbolized through baptism but the conduit is, as always for Paul, through faith (cf. Gal. 3.26-27; Col. 2.12; Eph. 3.17). It is union with Christ in his death and resurrection that constitutes the material cause of justification.—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 56

<idle musing>
I've heard it said that if you take the phrase "in Christ" out of Paul's letters you end up with morality. In Christ is central to Paul—and the resurrection is central to being in Christ!
</idle musing>

Isaiah on a Thursday

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord , the Lord , is my strength and my defense ;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give praise to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (Isaiah 12:1-6 TNIV)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thoughts from Isaiah

This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:
“Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread...
When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Isaiah 8:11-13, 19-22 TNIV)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It sure is!

There can be little doubt that the resurrection vindicates the message, person and death of Christ. The resurrection unambiguously announces the perfect obedience of Christ to the Father, his declared sonship and affirms the reality of his death as a sacrifice for sins. Furthermore, it removes any misunderstanding of Jesus’ death solely in terms of a martyr theology. Despite this, in reading the Pauline epistles one is struck with the suspicion that the resurrection is far more intrinsic to justification than merely comprising an authentication that our justification has taken place at the cross.—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 42

<idle musing>
We sell the meaning—and power—so short. It is almost like a bookend; as Michael Bird says, we tend to think of it as a martyr theology. For Paul, it is far, far more than that. We need to reacquaint ourselves with what it means; hopefully the snippets from this book will help us...
</idle musing>

Why do we do it?

Stop trusting in human beings,
who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22 TNIV)

Finney for a Tuesday

While they [sinners] inwardly know He [God] is their real friend, yet they practically treat Him as their worst enemy. By no motives can they be persuaded to confide in Him as their friend. In fact, they treat Him as if He were the greatest liar in the universe. Wonderful to tell, they practically reverse the regard due respectively to God and to Satan--treating Satan as if he were God, and God as if He were Satan. Satan they believe and obey; God they disown, dishonor, and disobey. How strangely would they reverse the order of things! They would fain enthrone Satan over the universe, giving him the highest seat in heaven; the Almighty and holy God they would send to hell. They do not hesitate to surrender to Satan the place of power over their own hearts which is due to God only.—Charles Finney

Monday, October 22, 2012

The place of the resurrection

The problem is that Paul’s gospel knows of no divorce between the cross and the resurrection and their ensuing effect. The resurrection figures equally prominently in Paul’s most concise summaries of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1.3-4; 10.9-10; 1 Cor. 15.3-8; 2 Tim. 2.8). The tendency in the Protestant tradition to view the crucifixion in isolation and as a thing in itself apart from the resurrection represents a failure to grapple with Paul’s view of the indissoluble connection between the cross and the resurrection (cf. 1 Thess. 4.14; 1 Cor. 15.3-8; 2 Cor. 5.15; Rom. 4.25).—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 41

<idle musing>
Yep! Without the resurrection, the crucifixion is simply a tragedy; sin is still victorious. But with the resurrection, we have a hope and a deliverance!
</idle musing>

Thought for today

See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.
Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah, I will vent my wrath on my foes
and avenge myself on my enemies.
I will turn my hand against you;
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities. (Isaiah 1:21-25 TNIV)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Me, me, me!

You are altogether committed to the pleasing of self. Jesus may plead with you--your friends may plead; heaven and hell may lift up their united voices to plead, and every motive that can press on the heart from reason, conscience, hope and fear, angels and devils, God and man, may pass in long and flashing array before your mind--but alas! your heart is so fully set to do evil that no motive to change can move you. What is this can not? Nothing less or more than a mighty will not!—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Will not versus can not is a huge gap. Yet, that is the chasm that grace bridges. Your "can not" is no longer valid, as God—through the power of the Holy Spirit working within you—has raised you to the point where it is now "will not." What is that but willful rebellion and putting self before God?
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How big was that?

"the righteousness of God, at least in Rom. 1.17, introduces the entire package of salvation including justification, redemption, propitiatory sacrifice, forgiveness of sins, membership in the new covenant community, reconciliation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, power for a new obedience, union with Christ, freedom from sin, and eschatological vindication. God’s righteousness is an all-encompassing action that includes both redemption and renewal."—The Saving Righteousness of God, page 16

<idle musing>
A bit bigger than the "say this prayer" version of the gospel, isn't it? We've been sold a watered down version of what Christ came to do to us and for us. I'll be posting from this book for the next week or two. Very interesting read—it only took me 5 years to get to it!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No doubt about it

All summer long I've been meaning to do it and yesterday I finally did it. Ever since we moved here back in July, I've been meaning to ride the Gunflint Trail, a 1000 foot climb in less than 4 miles, and then ride Highway 7, a mere 600 foot rise is a little less than 4 miles.

I had been told several years ago that Highway 7 was a tougher ride than the Gunflint. The only way to really know was to do them back-to-back. So, yesterday was finally the day. It was a nice crisp 50°F, with a slight breeze from the East—not enough to affect the ride. I started with the Gunflint. About 1.3 miles into the ride, the road does a switchback—on a killer slope. I looked at the cyclometer: 8.1 MPH. I felt like I would need to get off and walk. After the switchback, it levels off some and I was able to get up to about 17-18 MPH again. Then there was another steep section and I dropped down to about 10-11 MPH. I got to the top, went over the ridge a bit and then turned around and rode down.

The view is normally beautiful, but yesterday it was so foggy you could barely see the lake. Artist's Point was wreathed in fog; it made me wish I had a camera. I hit the switchback at 23 MPH, coasting, and in less than an 1/8 of a mile, I was going 35 MPH, still coasting. I must say, coming down was a lot easier!

At Highway 7, I turned and began the climb on it. Going west is a relatively gentle slope, 5 miles to climb 600 feet. At the end of Highway 7, I took a right and rode to Cascade State Park, where I turned around. The lake was definitely fogged in! I couldn't see more than 50 yards out. It would be easy to believe I was at the end of the earth.

The real challenge was climbing the hill on Highway 7 going East. It starts out very steep. You go from cruising along to creeping in about 50 feet! I looked at the cyclometer: 10.6 MPH. Then, I heard a deer beside me in the woods, heading toward the road. I stopped pedaling and let it cross—hitting or being hit by a deer in not on my bucket list! My speed dropped to 9.6 MPH instantly. The road leveled off some, only to get steep again. 10.1 MPH. Then it leveled off again. One more steep incline: 10.6 MPH. Then it was relatively mild until the top. The descent was fast and easy.

So, I can definitely say that the Gunflint is the harder of the two. I did the climb on Highway 7 after riding 20+ miles, and I still managed to stay about 2 MPH faster. Granted, the climb going East starts out with a bang! That is probably why people say it is the harder climb...

Here's a screenshot of the route, complete with elevations.


Those who love money never have enough;
those who love wealth are never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them? (Ecclesiastes 5:10, 11 TNIV)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Your daily Finney

You are altogether committed to the pleasing of self. Jesus may plead with you--your friends may plead; heaven and hell may lift up their united voices to plead, and every motive that can press on the heart from reason, conscience, hope and fear, angels and devils, God and man, may pass in long and flashing array before your mind--but alas! your heart is so fully set to do evil that no motive to change can move you. What is this can not? Nothing less or more than a mighty will not!—Charles Finney

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why I believe the Bible

Excellent look at inerrancy by Roger Olson. As always, a nice tidbit to get you to read the whole thing:
Finally, if you base your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord on the truth status of the Bible rather than the other way around (basing its truth on its power to transform through relationship with Jesus Christ), you are risking idolatry. Jesus is the “Sache” [theological message] of Scripture. Luther knew it as did Calvin. But fundamentalists and neo-fundamentalists put Scripture over Jesus when they try to make belief in him as Savior and Lord dependent on the inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible, then, becomes the gift in place of Jesus Christ. It should be (and is) the other way around—Jesus is the gift. The Bible is simply the Christmas-wrapped box that delivers him to us. I believe in the Bible’s truth and authority because of him. But that in no way requires belief in absolute, technical, detailed accuracy of every statement of Scripture.
<idle musing>
He says it so much better than I could. I especially like his example of textbooks: "common sense says that a person or book does not have to be flawless in every detail in order to be true and authoritative in its main subject. Hardly any textbook meets the standard of strict inerrancy. Probably none do. And yet some, at least, are considered authoritative and trustworthy."

Read the whole thing to get the full context before you flame me : )
</idle musing>