Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thought for a New Year's Eve

Sinners can be easily romanticized as bold, even heroic, rebels. But in reality they are like silly sheep.—Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People, pages 113–14

Too honest

We’re willing to lie to ourselves about our reality and about what we believe if it means we can have something that we want.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

<idle musing>
He's definitely being too honest here, isn't he? We are great deceivers—especially of ourselves. That's why his second point is to be brutally honest with ourselves. And mind you, we can't even get there without the prompting of the Holy Spirit (which is his first point).
</idle musing>

I dare you

So I would urge churches to ramp up their teachings on the nature of covenant love and the sacredness of marriage. Churches must have the courage to teach that divorce is never the will of God, and that divorce is only permitted because of the hard-heartedness of humans. These are the words of Jesus, and we do not have the option of toning them down (5:17–20) or pretending they don’t exist.— Sermon on the Mount, page 105

<idle musing>
I dare you to preach/teach/share that! If you do, let me know the responses you get...
</idle musing>

What do you remember?

We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.—Forgotten God, page 144

<idle musing>
Indeed! When you walk out of a "service" what do you recall? What/whom are you talking about? Do you live differently as a result of that time? Or does the feeling fade and you go back to living as you did before?

That doesn't mean that God can't use those times of "worship." It just means that we need to realize that emotional experiences don't necessarily result in transformed lives. Transformation is a lot harder than dancing and singing. It requires saying yes to God and no to self on a moment-by-moment basis. It means not clicking on that link. It means not opening that cupboard door for one more (probably unneeded) snack. It means many little decisions that result in a life given over to God instead of self..."worship" is so much easier. But if it doesn't result in a transformed life, it isn't really worship; it's just an emotional high.
</idle musing>

If you are into New Year's resolutions

Then maybe you should consider this one
A 2012 Harvard University research study revealed that sharing personal information about ourselves is an intrinsically rewarding activity targeting the ‘nucleas accumbens’ area of the brain. This is the very same region of the brain that lights up when cocaine or other illicit drugs are digested. In a separate report, The University of Chicago determined that social media cravings rank higher, and are harder to resist than nicotine cravings. “If you look at people in a restaurant, nobody is having conversations anymore. They’re sitting at dinner looking at their phones because their brains are so addicted to it.” And why? Because we are both bent toward narcissism and bored with reality. ‘Like’ me, notice me, help me escape the here and now. The constant contact from status updates, ‘favorites’, re-tweets, and ‘likes’ attempts to fill the vacuum in our soul. But in reality, we are more isolated, alone and distracted than ever before. “This media we call social is anything but.”
<idle musing>
They also note that "The average American spends over 11 hours a day online, three of those hours spent on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram." Eleven hours! When do they get anything else done?

It makes me wonder how they define "online." Does being online include being connected while doing other work? If that is the case, then I can understand it, but I would dispute the definition "online" in that case.

For example, while I am editing, I usually have a few windows open in my browser for checking bibliographical references—WorldCat, JSTOR, Google books, etc. I also have e-mail on, but don't check it unless I'm expecting an answer to a question. If I subscribed to Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster, then those would be open, too; currently I use the hard copy version of those (I really do prefer physical books).

All those thoughts aside, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to examine how we use our time. Maybe the Holy Spirit is prompting some of us to cut out at least some of our time surfing, browsing, tweeting, Facebooking, or posting pictures. Maybe God really is interested in who we really are instead of whom we want people to think we are. Maybe. Actually, that last one isn't a maybe. Maybe instead he's calling some of us to be more honest about who we are while we are online...I actually think that might even be harder, as it calls us to be honest with ourselves first.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The power of the light

“When we’re honest with God about our sins, He forgives us. But when we are honest with other people, we find healing. What does healing mean? For one, confessing our sin to another person holds us accountable and helps us find the encouragement we need to break the cycle of our struggle. When we take what we’ve kept in the dark and drag it into the light, we find that it loses much of its power over us.”—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Bringing it into the light defuses its power. But that makes sense, doesn't it? While it is in the dark, it can seem huge; there's no real definition to it while it's hiding in the closet. It could be as big as Leviathan—of course, it is more likely to be about as big as a chihuahua is, but like a chihuahua it barks and barks, making you think it is huge.
</idle musing>


Divorce was not part of the Creator’s design, as Jesus will state up-front in Matthew 19:8–9. Moses only permitted divorce because the Israelites had hard hearts and didn’t want to bear the full burden of God’s holy law. In fact, Jesus believes Genesis 1–2 comprehends marriage as an inviolable union created by God—the man and the woman become “one flesh” (19:5–6). For Jesus marriage is about “with-ness” and the perichoretic indwelling of one another.— Sermon on the Mount, page 97 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Still the problem, isn't it? What percentage of divorces are the result of unforgiveness? I suspect a very high percentage. Hardness of heart, I want my own way and you want your own way. After all, isn't marriage about meeting my needs?

If that's your attitude going into marriage, then you are doomed to fail. Marriage is about dying to self, serving the other person because you love them. Not about getting them to serve you to prove that they love you! Oh, I know that sounds backwards. Maybe that's because it is backwards!

Footnote: Yes, I know there are instances of abuse. But Jesus wasn't addressing those here and neither am I. I'm addressing the vast majority of divorces that are the result of selfishness and unforgiveness...

Besides, it's my blog, and I can do what I want! (anyone sense the irony of that statement...)
</idle musing>

But I want a bigger church!

God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of Him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus. Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Christ. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.—Forgotten God, page 143

Monday, December 29, 2014

How subjective, really?

[A]spect has nothing inherently to do with temporal sequence, with procedural characteristics of actual situations or of verbs and verb-phrases, or with prominence in discourse. It is instead a matter of viewpoint or focus, which is a rather subjective category, since a speaker may choose to view or portray certain occurrences by one aspect or another without regard to the nature of the occurrence itself. However, fully subjective choices between aspects are not common, since the nature of the occurrence or the procedural character of the verb or verb-phrase can restrict the way an occurrence is viewed by a speaker. In fact, aspect interacts so closely with such features and is so significantly affected by them that no analysis of aspect can be comprehensive without taking into account these interactions.—Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, page 421

<idle musing>
So ends Fanning's magnum opus on aspect. Lots of good stuff to digest. I probably will be coming back to it in a year or so after I've digested it and read more by others, such as Comrie's Aspect. Unfortunately, because of Oxford's ridiculous pricing, I won't have it on my shelf, but will need to use interlibrary loan again...
</idle musing>

Summary of the Koiné aspect

The two major aspects of NT Greek are the present and the aorist. The present reflects an internal viewpoint concerning the occurrence which focuses on its development or progress and sees the occurrence in regard to the details of its make-up, without beginning or rend in view, while the aorist present an external view of the occurrence in summary, from beginning to end, without regard for its internal make-up. The perfect, on the other hand, is a complex verbal category which, in one point of its basic meaning, shares the aspectual sense of the aorist. It combines three elements in its invariant meaning: the Aktionsart-feature of stative situation, the tense-feature of anteriority, and the aspect of summary viewpoint concerning the occurrence.—Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, page 420 (emphasis original)

Quick! Hide the map!

When you’re going the wrong way, it’s hard enough to admit to yourself. The last thing you want is to have someone else find out you’re lost. I get that. But consider the alternative for a second. When we don’t share our struggles with someone, what options do we have? Pretend we know where we’re headed? That’s never worked out well—at least, not for me.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

<idle musing>
And yet, that's our natural instinct, isn't it? Pretend you know what you're doing and where you are going. Put on a pretty face and pretend life is great. Pretend—right into your grave.

Confession is good for the soul. Bad for the pride, but good for the soul. But don't do it on the Internet! Find someone you can trust, who will support you and work with you, lovingly be honest with you.

As Protestants, we threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one...we need to recover confession. Not that I relish the idea, but I know it is better than the alternative. Put on the mask, pretend—and die and early (emotional, if not physical) death.

Just an
</idle musing>

Looking for prooftexts

The utter horror Jesus expresses about divorce emerges from the factors sketched above: Adam and Eve’s intent, design, and task; the glory of loving relationship; the covenant relationship of God with us as the One who is for us, and how this defines biblical love; and the perichoresis of the Trinity. Hauerwas gets it exactly right here: if we come to this text looking for reasons to justify divorce, we miss the whole point.— Sermon on the Mount, pages 95-96

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! If we are looking for loopholes we missed the point!
</idle musing>

By whose power?

I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn’t come through, I am screwed.—Forgotten God, page 142

Thought for the day

“This is truly the vision of God: never to be satisfied in our desire to see him. But by looking at what we do see, we must always rekindle our desire to see more. So there can be no limit interrupting our growth in ascending to God, because there is no limit to the Good [God], and our desire for the Good is not ended by being satisfied” (Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, 2.239)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

About that aorist imperative...

But the great strength and attractiveness of Paul's moral code is that all these practical changes in behaviour have a genuine and God-given basis; they are not changes which men must attempt in their own moral power, constantly working themselves up to do the impossible. There is a true emancipation from the old enslavements and a new power in the Spirit to lives as God desires (Rom. 8:1–8).

It is because of this factual basis of the Christian's new life in Christ that Paul is influenced to call upon Christians to make a definite practical break with the past and to begin to live in practice as new people. It seems that this ingressive idea is the motivation for several of the Pauline aorists listed earlier.—Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, pages 360–61 (emphasis original)

Friday, December 26, 2014

As usual, we get it backwards...

This may sound harsh, but the number-one contributor to spiritual growth is not worship, preaching, small groups, videos, or books. The number-one contributor to spiritual growth is … difficult circumstances.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

Jerome got it wrong

Whereas the expectation of women wearing head coverings and dressing modestly was male-shaped mores designed to prevent men from leering and being tempted or, which is more likely, to keep women’s beauty in line, Jesus sees it otherwise. He lays full responsibility in this text on the male and expects males to be able to control their desires. In other words, a text like the noncanonical Testament of Reuben (5:3) finds problems in the wrong place: women “contrive in their heart against men, then by decking themselves out they lead men’s minds astray, by a look they implant their poison and finally in the act itself they take them captive.” Jesus prevents a blame-her-looks or but-she-enticed-me approach. The problem in our text is male desire.— Sermon on the Mount, page 88


Because the fact is that if you were in step with the Holy Spirit, listening to and obeying Him, you wouldn’t sin (Gal 5:16). In any given moment, it is impossible to live in the power of the Spirit and sin at the same time. Sin is wholly opposed to everything that is of the Spirit. They really are mutually exclusive and totally contrary to each other.—Forgotten God, page 129

<idle musing>
Preach it brother! I'm reading Fanning's Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek right now—thank you interlibrary loan! Oxford, what are you thinking? $160!? Anyway, he examines the various ways of translating 1 John 3:4–10:

Πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ, καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. καὶ οἴδατε ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ἐφανερώθη, ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἄρῃ, καὶ ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν. πᾶς ὁ ἐν αὐτῷ μένων οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· πᾶς ὁ ἁμαρτάνων οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν οὐδὲ ἔγνωκεν αὐτόν.

Τεκνία, μηδεὶς πλανάτω ὑμᾶς· ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην δίκαιός ἐστιν, καθὼς ἐκεῖνος δίκαιός ἐστιν· ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν, ὅτι ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει. εἰς τοῦτο ἐφανερώθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα λύσῃ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ διαβόλου. Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται. ἐν τούτῳ φανερά ἐστιν τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου· πᾶς ὁ μὴ ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ.

Or, in the NRSV:
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.
Rather infamous passage, isn't it? Well, after examining all the possible ways of translating it, including the most popular one: the habitual sense—which the NIV, ESV, and NLT all use— of "keeps on sinning," he comes to this conclusion: "On purely grammatical grounds, therefore, the absolute interpretation of 1 John 3:4–10 is to be preferred." page 217 (the full discussion is on pages 212–17).

In other words, on the basis of Greek grammar, the NRSV that I quoted above is correct, "No one who abides in him sins." That's what it says, period. You have a choice, either you theologize it away, or you modify your theology to match the scripture...

Personally, I think the whole tenor of scripture agrees with 1 John—but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is where Chan has it correct in the original quotation that started this whole
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 25, 2014

40 Most Influential Theologians

God has chosen to protect and propagate biblical truth through very imperfect people. But this is also exactly what we see in Scripture—God doing very remarkable things through very unremarkable humans. None of these theologians have done the job perfectly, but each has done a piece of it. As a result, we have a multitude of perspectives and aspects of theology. As pure, white light is diffracted by a prism into a variety of colors, so God’s truth is diffracted through people into a myriad of traditions.—The 40 Most Influential Christians...Who Shaped What We Believe Today, page 296

<idle musing>
And so ends The 40 Most Influential Christians...Who Shaped What We Believe Today.

The book was offered free via Kindle from Bethany about a week ago, so I downloaded it; I'm a sucker for historical theology. The book consists of 40 chapters in which he examines about 42 theologians (he put the two Cappadocian Gregories in with Basil) in an overview fashion. Along the way he makes mention of many, many more.

The book is a good basic overview of orthodox theology. If you are looking for indepth coverage, then look elsewhere—this is an overview aimed at the lay Evangelical market. And that focus explains some of his choices; I certainly wouldn't have chosen some of the theologians he chooses—Machen? Henry? Not exactly giants in theology, but very influential and helpful in explaining where Evangelicalism is today.

In all fairness to the author, he is aware of the capriciousness of his choices:

Regarding the title of this book, you may be thinking, Really? THE 40 MOST Influential Christians?! Come on! Please understand that I am not under the illusion that I have nailed the definitive top 40 list of theologians. (Actually, it is the top 42; I snuck [sic] a couple of bonus Gregorys into chapter 10.) I thought a more accurate title would be 40 of the Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today, in the Humble Opinion of One Particular Writer, but that seemed a little unwieldy to the publisher. Good arguments can be made that some of these should not have made it while others should have. (page 13)
I would definitely agree with that, especially in the twentieth century choices! But, as I mentioned already, it is aimed at the lay Evangelical market, and it will serve that market well. It is written in very readable prose and concepts are defined and cross-referenced to facilitate refreshing your memory on what a term already introduced means. For example, in the Context section of Leo the Great, this paragraph occurs:
Jesus Christ is fully God; the Council of Nicea had declared this to be orthodoxy and Arianism heresy. [55] Jesus Christ is fully human; the Council of Constantinople had declared this to be orthodoxy and Apollinarianism heresy. [56] Jesus Christ is not two persons, but one person; the Council of Ephesus had declared this to be orthodoxy and Nestorianism heresy. [57] (page 95)
As you can see, each of the terms mentioned is footnoted, even though they each were the topic of previous chapters—very helpful for the person who is just being introduced to the concepts and disputes for the first (or even the second or third) time.

Each chapter is laid out the same way, with three subtopics: Context, Contribution, and Conclusion. The context includes both the theological and biographical, as does the contribution section. The final section, conclusion, is the author's evaluation of the positive and negative contributions that the theologian under discussion made to our understanding of God.

The conclusion section is generally quite even-handed. There are no anathemata thrown around. As he himself says, "In fact, isn’t it usually the case that we grow in our understanding of things when we are challenged by beliefs contrary to our own, as opposed to just having those who agree with us constantly assuring us that we (and they) are right?" (page 294). I can give a hearty Amen! to that.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Another new book

I (relatively) recently finished reading another good book; today I'm starting to excerpt from it.
AHA always has three ingredients. If any one of these ingredients is missing, it short-circuits the transformation process.

Here are the three ingredients:
1. A Sudden Awakening
2. Brutal Honesty
3. Immediate Action

Those three elements are always necessary for AHA to take place. If there is an awakening and honesty but no action, then AHA doesn’t happen. If there is awakening and action but no honesty, AHA won’t last.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

<idle musing>
Just so you know, AHA is an encounter with God that has the potential to change your life. I say potential because it doesn't always do so. Over the years I've pondered why some people are transformed by it and others aren't.

Back in the early 1970s, during the height of the Jesus Movement, we used to say that people who became Christians for a short time and then fell away were "in it for the high." Once the high wore off—usually from 4-6 weeks later—they would disappear. I never understood why.

I've seen it happen lots of times since then, but I never understood why. How could someone encounter the living God and then walk away? It boggled my mind. Until I read this book. The quotation above sums up my experience over the last 40+ years. In every case where the "AHA" moment didn't stick, it was because they failed to follow through on either step 2 or step 3.

I've seen the same people encounter God over and over and not be transformed. That they would encounter God over and over again shouldn't surprise me, after all Augustine called the Holy Spirit the hound of heaven. But it does. I mean, come on, how many times does God have to open people's eyes before he gives up? Come on God, be reasonable!

I'm glad he doesn't give up though because more than once I've been the person who "just didn't get it."

I digress, but please consider the wisdom of these 3 little steps. And then look at your own life and see if God might not be prodding you to take step 2 or 3. And stay tuned for more excerpts : )
</idle musing>

Legal? Constitutional?

[T]he Christian’s morals are not determined by whether something is legal or constitutional, but by what the Story of God in the Bible reveals. A Christian citizen may think civil unions are legally permissible on the basis of legal precedent or legal gaps, but constitutional legality does not determine what is right or wrong, regardless of how much citizens are to respect or live within that law.— Sermon on the Mount, page 74

<idle musing>
And I would add to that the issue of gun control. Sure, it's legal and constitutional. But why do we need automatic weapons? So we can kill. Hmmm...something wrong here, isn't there? I think I read a few different places in the Bible that it's wrong to do that...
</idle musing>

All consuming...

The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follw Him to the cross, to true Life.—Forgotten God, page 122

Christmas gifts

Merry Christmas—OK, really Merry Christmas Eve. My gift to you is a few links to good stuff others are sharing today...

Let's start with some real shock and awe from Brian Zahnd:

Nearly 250 times the Old Testament describes the God of Israel as the LORD of Hosts, Yahweh Sabbaoth, the Lord of Armies. Now at the birth of God’s chosen king the armies of heaven invade earth with shock and awe. This is why the shepherds were “sore afraid.” But they need not have been. This is not a killing army, but a singing army. This army comes, not to kill, but to carol.

The text in Luke says the angels were saying, but Christian imagination has interpreted their saying as singing. I like that. The army of heaven is a choir — combat by chorus. The army of heaven doesn’t launch missiles, it launches into song. The heavenly army sings of the glory of God and of peace on earth.

I like that. An attack via read the rest of the post; there are some other good thoughts in it as well.

Next up is an excerpt from the NIV talk that Doug Moo gave at ETS.

To claim that a word in the biblical languages has a “literal” meaning, capable of being summarized in a single English equivalent, is simply not true. Words occupy a spectrum of meaning, and the range of meaning of particular Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words is never quite the same as the range of meaning of any particular English word. And so, for example, we sometimes translate peirazô “test” and at other times “tempt.” Neither of these English words has a range of meaning that corresponds with the Greek word; and it is manifestly foolish to claim that either English word captures the “literal” sense of the Greek word. We understand why the NIV uses eight different English expressions to translate a single Greek word, sarx, in a single NT book, Colossians (note, by the way, that the ESV is not far behind with five different expressions). To criticize these translation decisions as being “not literal” is linguistically nonsensical.
Good stuff there. If you follow the link (and you should!), there is a link there to download the whole presentation.

When I used to teach languages, I would always tell my students that there is a "cloud of meaning" for a word. The problem for translation and language learning is that different languages have different clouds of meaning and the overlap isn't ever one-for-one. A single Greek/Hebrew/Latin word might have shades of meaning that would require those 5–8 (or more) different English words, all depending on context. That's where reading widely and voluminously in a language is very helpful; you get a feel for that "cloud of meaning" in the language.

Next up, a link that I discovered here about, of all things, herding cats:

Getting two cats to do the same thing, like sit on the owner’s lap and act as if they are grateful, is difficult. Getting a thousand to stand up on their back paws and meow is, as Gaiman observes, a challenge for the Almighty.

The depressing part about Gaiman’s observation is that getting two humans, ten, a thousand, or considerably more, to do the same thing at the same time is remarkably easy, and it’s successfully accomplished on a daily basis:

Just put a TV in every home. Or set up a religious meeting in a football stadium. Or announce that some electronic device is on “sale” during a limited time period — say, between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving — and get out of the way when the doors open.

Do read the rest. I think you will find it interesting.

And one final link. Here's how we will be spending our Christmas tomorrow.

No, we won't be riding—we'll be helping : )

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thought for the day

You will remember that we have seen sin defined in the Bible as independence: “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and attitude of “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4); what then does repentance involve? It involves stepping out of independence back in to dependence—and the measure of your repentance will be the measure of your dependence!

Every area of your life in which you have not learned to be dependent, is an area of your life in which you have not as yet repented.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 146


The Greek [of Matt 5:20] reads perisseusē … pleion, not just perisseusē. In other words, “surpass … greatly.” Almost all translations ignore the adverb pleion here.— Sermon on the Mount, page 70 n. 12

<idle musing>
Because you probably don't remember the verse (I know I didn't), here it is: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (NRSV)

And for those of you who read Greek, here it is in Greek: Λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ ὑμῶν ἡ δικαιοσύνη πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

That's a tall order, isn't it?
</idle musing>

That's a lot to know

I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decision we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decision.

It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.—Forgotten God, page 120

<idle musing>
Excellent advice! "God's will for my life" has seemed to change several times in my life! I'm now working on about my fifth career, so does that mean God's will for my life has changed?! Hardly. I think we are much better off just following him on a daily basis and letting him direct what the future brings. Something about daily bread or some such from the Lord's Prayer comes to mind—as does the phrase Seek ye first (pardon the KJV there...)

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, December 22, 2014


In attempting to define aspect more clearly, one discovers a welter of disparate ideas of what the category actually involves, and this in itself presents problems of method.—B. Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, page 79

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! There are as many definitions out there as there are people writing them! And all of them have an element of truth, but none of them is sufficient...which is why more definitions keep getting generated.

Of the making of books...much weariness... : )
</idle musing>


To live “to and for yourself” is to “walk after the flesh”!

To live “to and for Christ” is to “walk after the Spirit”!

These are the two principles of human behavior. It is not just a matter of degree, it is a matter of kind; to be dominated by the “flesh” is to be dominated by the devil; and to be dominated by the Spirit is to be dominated by God.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 144

Advice on reading the Bible

The first lesson we get in reading the Bible is this one: Look to Jesus as its central Story. …

Second lesson in Bible reading: looking to Jesus means following him and through him the Torah. …

Third lesson in Bible reading: following Jesus really means following Jesus, and it matters eternally. …

Fourth lesson in Bible reading: we are challenged to be better than nonfollowers. Followers are marked by a greater righteousness or by more righteousness.— Sermon on the Mount, pages 68, 69, 70-71

<idle musing>
Following this simple advice would prevent a lot of strange interpretations. And, yes, Jesus really does want you to obey him! But not on your own strength; it's called synergism—God and man working together. You obey, he empowers the obedience.

Too simple, isn't it? You don't obey to placate God or pay him back for all he's done. You obey by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That's it.
</idle musing>

What defines your day?

I might wake up on a particular day feeling physically tired or stressed or impatient, and humanly speaking, those things would probably define my day. But the reality is that I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And because of this reality, stress and tiredness and impatience don’t have to define my day.—Forgotten God, page 110

<idle musing>
Indeed! We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by human strength. God's power doesn't fade as we get tired—provided we depend on him and not on our own strength.

If you listen to some songs (and not a little teaching as well), you will notice that they talk about "reaching the end of our own strength" and imply that is the point where God's help kicks in. That is garbage! That is self-help theology.

Without the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit, we don't have any strength to begin with!
</idle musing>

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ain't it the truth...

If Christian mysticism can be faulted for, at times, relying too much on experience, the opposite tendency is, at times, seen in Protestantism, namely, a rationalistic approach to theology and God. Getting one’s theology straight seems to be the highest virtue. Christianity is reduced to reason rather than relationship. The best of Christian thought, however, works hard to understand God as much as possible with the mind, and then to be irresistibly drawn into a closer and more intimate relationship with him in order to more deeply experience his infinite glory, grace, and worth. May that be true of all of us.—The 40 Most Influential Christians . . . Who Shaped What We Believe Today, page 148

The lesser of the two evils

[H]e must select one of the Greek aspects—the one which most nearly expresses what he wishes to say or, perhaps, the one which least obstructs his intentions. Of course, he may go on to qualify or alter this choice of aspect by additional phrases and modifiers, or he may choose to recast his expression entirely to communicate his meaning. But the verb-forms which he uses will reflect a choice of one of the Greek aspects and must conform in some way to the limits of that set of choices.

2. As intimated by the previous point, the choice of aspects may be motivated not so much by the positive value of one aspect as by the desire to avoid the value of another. ...If the language lacks an aspect which produces the desired meaning, the speaker may resort tot he aspect which does the least damage to his intended sense.—B. Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, page 53

<idle musing>
Praise God for interlibrary loan! $160 for this book? No way could I justify that! Anyway, I'm finally getting around to reading this book (it's been on my list for about 10 years now) and I'm thoroughly enjoying it—where I understand it : )
</idle musing>

Friday, December 19, 2014

Trump verse hermeneutics

Although the post is about women ordination, the take-away line reveals a serious issue with hermeneutics as practiced by far too many:
You can't base a theology on one verse, especially one that goes against whole Scripture principles. This is one of the major hermeneutical problems in the current American fundamentalist and neo-evangelical landscape. They are oriented around individual trump verses rather than the "greatest common denominators" of Scripture. This is the Pharisaic hermeneutic Jesus condemns in Matthew 23.
<idle musing>
Amen! One of the greatest disservices done to the church was the invention of verse numbers. It encourages the atomization of scripture; people go searching for "the" verse on a topic instead of reading the whole tenor of scripture.

Context matters, people. And the context isn't just limited to the local context. The whole span of scripture has to be included in it. John Wesley asked his father (also a pastor) what the best commentary on the Bible was. His answer is still the correct one: The rest of the Bible.
</idle musing>

The hope of the gospel

The life that the Lord Jesus Christ lived for you nineteen hundred years ago—condemns you; but the life that He now lives in you—saves you! The Christian life is the Life which He lived then, lived now by Him in you.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 133

Quite the claim

We must consider the mind-numbing claim here by Jesus” he is claiming that he fulfills—in a salvation-historical, theological, and moral manner—what the Torah and the Prophets anticipated and predicted and preliminarily taught. What kind of person makes claims like this? It is one thing to say, as Jesus could have, I can do miracles as mighty as Elijah, or I can predict the future as clearly as did Isaiah, or I can do miracles as astounding as Moses. It’s altogether different to claim that he himself fulfills the Torah and the Prophets. But that’s precisely the claim that Jesus makes here.— Sermon on the Mount, page 68 (emphasis original)

Being led or leading

There have been many times when I’ve tried to lead the Holy Spirit. I’ve wanted to direct Him and tell Him what to do and when to do it. The irony is that the Holy Spirit was given to direct us. Desiring the Holy Spirit means we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. By definition, it’s ridiculous to desire the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.—Forgotten God, page 89

<idle musing>
It might be ridiculous, but we do it all the time, don't we? Lord forgive us! May we allow ourselves to be led by you.
</idle musing>

Which questions count?

People are wont to ask how much a man has done, but they think little of the virtue with which he acts. They ask: Is he strong? rich? handsome? a good writer? a good singer? or a good worker? They say little, however, about how poor he is in spirit, how patient and meek, how devout and spiritual. Nature looks to his outward appearance; grace turns to his inward being. The one often errs, the other trusts in God and is not deceived.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not so good news

There may have been created within you a genuine desire to serve God, out of a sincere sense of gratitude to Christ for dying for you; you may be impelled out of a sense of duty as a Christian, to seek conformity to some pattern of behavior which has been imposed upon you as the norm for Christian living; you may be deeply moved by the need of others all around you, and holy ambitions may have been stirred within your heart, to count for God; if, however, all that has happened is that your sins have been forgiven, because you have accepted Christ as the Saviour who died for you, leaving you since your conversion only with those resources which you had before your conversion, then you will have no alternative but to “Christianize” the “flesh” and try to teach it to “behave” in such a way that it will be godly!

That is a sheer impossibility!

The nature of the “flesh” never changes, no matter how you may coerce it or conform it; it is rotten through and through, even with a Bible under its arm, a check for missions in its hand, and an evangelical look on its face! You need something more than forgiveness, and what you need is the big news of the Gospel!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 132

<idle musing>
Broken record, I know. But, so is the alternative: Saved by grace, sanctified by works. Or at least that's what I hear people saying without realizing it.

That doesn't mean that works aren't important. Far from it! I firmly believe that without transformation there is no salvation. But that is just the point. Transformation begins from the inside; works begin from the outside.

Transformation naturally results in a changed life that is consistent. Works are highly dependent on how you feel, how tired you are, how much stress in in your life, etc.

The Spirit-led life is not dependent on us. It is dependent on God, and as Psalm 121 says, he doesn't slumber or sleep, so he is available all the time...we just allow him to flow through us.
</idle musing>

It's not a task. It's who we are

The Story and the salt and light metaphors reveal that the church’s fundamental task is to mediate God’s presence as priests and to rule on behalf of God as kings and queens under God, serving God in God’s mission. Our task is to represent God—to mediate God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s holiness and God’s justice to this world as those who represent God. Salt and light, then, are about not just what we do but who we are.— Sermon on the Mount, page 61

What? No miracle?

God want us to trust Him to provide miracles when He sees fit. He doesn’t just dole them out mechanically, as if we can put in a quarter, pray the right prayer, and out comes a miracle. Miracles are never and end in themselves; they are always a means to point and accomplish something greater.—Forgotten God, page 88

<idle musing>
Indeed! Far too often people treat prayer as a magical process whereby they get God to do their bidding in their way. That's one of my biggest problems with "Name it, claim it, stomp on it, and frame it" theology (or, as my cousin says, "blab it and grab it"). It reduces God to an entity that we can control via magical manipulation. God is bigger than that!—or at least the God I know and worship is...
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

There is great difference between the wisdom of an enlightened and devout man and the learning of a well-read and brilliant scholar, for the knowledge which flows down from divine sources is much nobler than that laboriously acquired by human industry.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

A meditation on sinning

A person devoid of spiritual feeling is an idiot philosopher, a commentator whose words condemn him, a self-refuting scholar, a blind man who lectures others on the art of seeing. He tells you how to heal a wound, and does not stop injuring it. He complains about feeling queasy, and carries on eating what is harmful. He prays against his sin, and keeps on doing it, and then he gets angry with himself. The miserable fellow is not ashamed of his own words. They burst forth: “I am sinning!” And most eagerly he continues to do so. His tongue prays against his sin, and his body rushes after it. He speaks with high-flown words about death, and lives as if he were going to be on earth forever. He weeps over the separation of soul and body, but staggers along like a sleepwalker as if he had immortality. His words gush about temperance and self-control, but he lives for stuffing his belly. He reads about God’s judgment and gives a smile. He reads about self-conceit, and his ego swells as he reads it. He tells you what he has learned about keeping watch, and falls asleep while speaking. He commends prayer, but avoids praying as if it were leprosy. He extols obedience, and instantly disobeys. He sings of detachment from earthly things, but works himself into a bilious state, scrapping over a mere rag. When he sins by anger, bitterness fills him, and then anger about his bitterness; he does not recognise the endless defeats he is suffering! He crams his belly, repents, and then goes and crams it again. In an eternal ocean of frothing words, he praises the beauty of silence. He lectures on meekness, and manages to lose his temper while lecturing. He wakes up from a lustful dream, sighs, mourns the lust, and hands himself over to it again. He reprimands laughter and commends sorrow of soul, grinning all the time. He confesses his sin of self-conceit to others, but wants us to admire him for it. He lectures us about chastity, entranced by feminine beauty. He lives in the world and commends persons who dwell in silent contemplation, heaping rebuke on his head without realising it. He sings of those who give charitable gifts, and curses beggars, In all this, the man is his own judge and jury; he does not want to wake up (I will not say he cannot).—John Climacus (ca. 579-649), The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 18, paragraph 3 as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2000 Years of Christ's Power, Part One

I read a lot of church history. I've always loved history and especially church history. I love reading about the people involved and the theological disputes.

The latter has always been a problem in introductory overviews, though. The theological disputes either get ignored or given a brief and unsatisfactory paragraph or two. Sure, the Arian controversy will get more than that. But to really understand the issues, you have to seek out a heavily footnoted tomb—oops, I meant tome (or did I?). And almost invariably you come away either, a. bored nearly to death, or b. even more confused than when you started.

So, when I was told of an introductory level text that paid attention to theological issues as well as historical ones, I couldn't resist. I requested a copy of 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers. I have to confess that I wasn't too hopeful; I've been disappointed too often by church history books that promise far more than they can deliver. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the text readable, but it takes on the theological issues in more than a cursory manner, yet still manages to keep them understandable. A first in my experience.

He examines the Arian controversy and gives the background on why it never found a foothold in the west (Tertullian's strong Trinitarian writings are credited). He talks about Origen's strong influence on Eastern thought and how the Arians were able to leverage that, convincing many non-Arians to go along with them. In fact, the true Arian view was always a minority that managed to stay viable only by getting the Origenist party on board. I hadn't realized that before (it also explains why Eusebius is said to have "Arian sympathies" when he was actually very Orthodox).

Needham doesn't limit himself to the church in the west, either. He includes not just the Orthodox East, but also the Syrian East. And he doesn't slight Africa, either. He even includes selected readings from some of the major actors in the story. Again, something that is usually missing from an introductory text. When I took church history in seminary, we were given a reading list for each time period and told to read 1-2 items from each time period; the textbook didn't have any readings in it. That's fine for a seminarian who has access to a good library, but not so good for the average person. Including the selection of readings is a major bonus.

In short, not only do I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I also am going to read the remaining books in the series: The Middle Ages and Renaissance and Reformation. There is also a fourth volume that is supposed to be coming out next spring. Once it is published, I'll definitely be reading it as well.

I hope there's more than that to the incarnation

The plumb-line may show me that the wall in my garden is crooked, but it will not put it straight, and had Jesus Christ come into this world simply to demonstrate a sinless life, and leave us with a matchless example, He would have left us to wallow in the squalor of our own inadequacy; the “good news” of the Gospel would have been a message of despair—to mock us, without being able to mend us!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 130

<idle musing>
And yet, that seems to be the "gospel" that some preach. If Jesus doesn't deliver us from sin and sinning, but just from the final consequences of it, what kind of gospel is that?

Is satan stronger than God?

But that seems to be the message that I hear. Are we doomed to endless cycles of sin and repent with no hope for deliverance until death?

If that is the case, then kill me now! I came to Jesus to be delivered from all that junk! It was the hope of a life free from sin that brought me to him in the first place. Now you want to tell me that that was a false hope? That the promises of scripture are bogus?

Sorry. Not buying it! I'll stand on the promise of deliverance.
</idle musing>

Road dust

Thus, salt, if not treated properly or put to good use, will become insipid—”lose its saltiness”—and become good for nothing, or what John Stott calls “road dust.”— Sermon on the Mount, page 57

<idle musing>
I like that metaphor, road dust. Growing up and living in the north, you see a lot of that. The roads in the winter are usually sprinkled with a mixture of rock salt and sand (don't get me started on the ethics of that!). Over the course of the winter, the sand breaks the rock salt into tiny little particles. By the end of the winter, its just fine dust that the wind blows hither and yon. But there is enough sand in it that it can't be used as salt. Basically worthless...road dust.
</idle musing>

The importance of theology

What you do and how you live are absolutely vital. Without action and fruit, all the theology in the world has little meaning. But theology is till important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act. So while good theology at its best can lead us to live godly lives, bad theology always points us in the wrong direction.—Forgotten God, page 64

The last resort

Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation, for before you pray earnestly to Me you first seek many comforts and take pleasure in outward things. Thus, all things are of little profit to you until you realize that I am the one Who saves those who trust in Me, and that outside of Me there is no worthwhile help, or any useful counsel or lasting remedy.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

<idle musing>
Why is it that God is always the last resort? We struggle and strain, trying our hardest to make things work. We puff and push, but still things don't work out the way we planned. We call in experts, consult 12-step programs, self-help books, management gurus, and still it doesn't work.

Finally, in despair, we turn to God. And then, if things work out the way we want, we take the credit!

How warped is that?!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Don't sell God short

As the first requirement for man’s redemption—a Sinless Sacrifice—the Lord Jesus gave Himself upon the cross and “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18) and “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), but it is essential that you should realize that His cross was the means to an end; for to confuse the means for the end is to rob the Lord Jesus of that for which He came.

He came that you might have life! His life—imparted to you by the renewing of the Holy Spirit on the grounds of redemption, to re-inhabit your spirit, to re-conquer your soul…—The Mystery of Godliness, page 113

<idle musing>
A good Advent reminder! The Gospel is much more than death on a cross and heaven by and by! It is about victory over sin, self, and the world; it is about the fulness of the Holy Spirit; it is about transformation; it is about conformity to the character of Jesus (theosis).
</idle musing>

The upshot of it all

Jesus ends the Sermon by calling people to do what he has taught. Some soften his words: “He said, ‘Do this,’ but he didn’t mean we have to obey his words.” Others see a different motive: “Jesus’ aim is to drive us to our knees, not make us obey his words.” These common approaches fail the words of Jesus because in the Sermon Jesus calls his followers to do what he teaches. Those who don’t do what he says, in fact, are condemned as foolish. The entire Sermon the Mount, which Augustine said was the “perfect standard of the Christian life,” then drives home one haunting question: Will you follow me?— Sermon on the Mount, pages 20-21 (emphasis original)

Who's in charge?

When it comes down to it, many of us do not really want to be led by the Holy Spirit. Or, more fundamentally, many of us don’t want to be led by anyone other than ourselves.—Forgotten God, page 50

<idle musing>
A very scary thought, but I fear it is true...
</idle musing>


MY CHILD, do not be curious. Do not trouble yourself with idle cares. What matters this or that to you? Follow Me. What is it to you if a man is such and such, if another does or says this or that? You will not have to answer for others, but you will have to give an account of yourself. Why, then, do you meddle in their affairs?

Behold, I know all men. I see everything that is done under the sun, and I know how matters stand with each—what is in his mind and what is in his heart and the end to which his intention is directed. Commit all things to Me, therefore, and keep yourself in good peace. Let him who is disturbed be as restless as he will. Whatever he has said or done will fall upon himself, for he cannot deceive Me.— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Monday, December 15, 2014

The significance of the incarnation

To insist that Jesus Christ came into this world by natural birth and lived a sinless life, is to repudiate the Fall of man! It means that what was possible to Him as a natural Man, must be possible to you and to me as natural men, so that if we are not what He was, it is only because we do not try hard enough! If this were true, the message of the Gospel would simply be an exhortation to greater effort—an attempt to realize the inherent adequacy that is self-existent within every human being&mdashincluding Christ! A message of spiritual regeneration would become patently superfluous, and the Fall of man a myth, for by nature man would have what it takes!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 109

<idle musing>
An appropriate Advent meditation, don't you think? The incarnation is at the heart of the gospel. If it weren't a supernatural event, then we would still be lost in our sins...
</idle musing>

But it makes no sense

Only in association with Jesus does the Sermon make sense. Jesus does not offer abstract principles or simply his version of the Torah for a new society. Instead, he offers himself to his disciples, or, put differently, he summons them to himself and in participation with Jesus and his vision the disciples are transformed into the fullness of a kingdom moral vision.— Sermon on the Mount, page 14

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Far too often I've heard the Sermon on the Mount brushed aside as impractical and idealistic. Scot catches the heart of it right here. It's all about following Jesus.
</idle musing>

Is there a difference?

Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the Church. Christians talk about being born again and say that they were dead but now have come to life We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them?—Forgotten God, page 33

<idle musing>
My "life verse" is actually a negative one: As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24 TNIV) My life goal is to make that untrue. And not just in outward actions, but in a genuine Spirit-transformed inner attitude. Heart holiness, if you will.
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Enlighten me, good Jesus, with the brightness of internal light, and take away all darkness from the habitation of my heart. Restrain my wandering thoughts and suppress the temptations which attack me so violently. Fight strongly for me, and vanquish these evil beasts—the alluring desires of the flesh—so that peace may come through Your power and the fullness of Your praise resound in the holy courts, which is a pure conscience. Command the winds and the tempests; say to the sea: “Be still,” and to the north wind, “Do not blow,” and there will be a great calm.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Those pesky adverbs

As I will be arguing in a following section (see 2.5), temporal adverbials function as parallel structures to tense markers. They make use of all the parameters of tense, and introduce certain additional parameters as well, and further, they are able to provide greater detail in the case of all these parameters.. However, it is necessary to describe the system of tense independently of these adverbials because the latter are only optional elements that may be used to modify tense, if necessary; they do not form an essential part of the tense system.—The Prominence of Tense, Aspect and Mood, page 30

<idle musing>
A very interesting book. Lots of stuff is falling into place as I read this. Maybe someday I'll even understand it : )
</idle musing>

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Biblical Philologist

Saw this today. Hilarious!

Thought for the day

It is your capacity to receive God, and to enjoy God, and to be enjoyed by God which makes you man as opposed to mere animal, and it is only God in you that enables you to function as He intended you as man to function.—The Mystery of Godliness, pages 74-75

The formula

Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church.—Forgotten God, page 31

<idle musing>
If numbers is what you measure, then it's a success. But if transformed lives are what counts...well, let's just say you could do better.
</idle musing>

What does this mean?

Then bring Aaron and his sons to the meeting tent’s entrance and wash them with water. Dress Aaron in the holy clothes. Anoint him and make him holy so that he may serve me as priest. Then bring his sons and dress them in tunics. Anoint them like you anointed their father so that they may serve me as priests. Their anointing is to the priesthood for all time in every generation. Moses did everything exactly as the Lord had commanded him. (‭Exodus‬ ‭40‬:‭12-16‬ CEB)

12‏ וְהִקְרַבְתָּ אֶת־אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת־בָּנָיו אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְרָחַצְתָּ אֹתָם בַּמָּיִם׃
‎13‏ וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּ אֶת־אַהֲרֹן אֵת בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּמָשַׁחְתָּ אֹתוֹ וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ אֹתוֹ וְכִהֵן לִי׃ ‎
14‏ וְאֶת־בָּנָיו תַּקְרִיב וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּ אֹתָם כֻּתֳּנֹת׃ ‎
15‏ וּמָשַׁחְתָּ אֹתָם כַּאֲשֶׁר מָשַׁחְתָּ אֶת־אֲבִיהֶם וְכִהֲנוּ לִי וְהָיְתָה לִהְיֹת לָהֶם מָשְׁחָתָם לִכְהֻנַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתָם׃
‎16‏ וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֹתוֹ כֵּן עָשָׂה׃

<idle musing>
See the difference there? Aaron is in "holy clothes" and his anointing makes him holy. The sons are wearing tunics and anointed "like their father" but they aren't made holy. What's going on here?

The Vulgate is very terse here:
adplicabisque Aaron et filios eius ad fores tabernaculi testimonii et lotos aqua indues sanctis vestibus ut ministrent mihi et unctio eorum in sacerdotium proficiat sempiternum fecitque Moses omnia quae praeceperat Dominus.

No distinction between the sons and the father... The Septuagint, on the other hand, makes an even bigger distinction than the Hebrew:
καὶ προσάξεις Ααρων καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὰς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ λούσεις αὐτοὺς ὕδατι καὶ ἐνδύσεις Ααρων τὰς στολὰς τὰς ἁγίας καὶ χρίσεις αὐτὸν καὶ ἁγιάσεις αὐτόν, καὶ ἱερατεύσει μοι· καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς αὐτοῦ προσάξεις καὶ ἐνδύσεις αὐτοὺς χιτῶνας καὶ ἀλείψεις αὐτούς, ὃν τρόπον ἤλειψας τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἱερατεύσουσίν μοι· καὶ ἔσται ὥστε εἶναι αὐτοῖς χρῖσμα ἱερατείας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα εἰς τὰς γενεὰς αὐτῶν. καὶ ἐποίησεν Μωυσῆς πάντα, ὅσα ἐνετείλατο αὐτῷ κύριος, οὕτως ἐποίησεν.

They use a different verb for the anointing of the sons versus the anointing of Aaron: χρίω versus ἀλείφω. Not sure how much to make of that—the Hebrew uses the same word, משׁח, the standard word for anointing.

Still mulling all this over in my mind. Is it significant that Aaron's garments are described as holy and the sons' are just tunics? Do the "clothes make the man" so to speak?

Just an
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's getting harder

It's getting harder and harder for those who would have us believe that to follow the U.S. is to follow Christ. I believe God is at work, waking his church to the adultery that is practiced by thinking it is possible...

I already pointed to a good post by Brian Zahnd about Christians and torture. Here's one that ties very nicely with my views on the pledge of allegiance.

Personally, I can think of no more of a compelling reason to close the case on Christians reciting the pledge of allegiance: we can pledge our allegiance to Jesus and his way of enemy love (which he said was a requirement to become God’s children), or we can pledge our allegiance to the empire who tortures and kills its enemies (the opposite of what Christ tells us to do, thus being an “anti-Christ” nation). But, I don’t see how one could do both, as they are complete opposites. As much as I hate lines, I don’t see how this isn’t one: we can follow Jesus, or follow America, but we cannot follow both Jesus and America at the same time as they are busy doing opposite things. (all emphasis original)
<idle musing>
Read the whole thing. And then ask yourself which kingdom has your loyalties. For which kingdom are you willing to die? For which kingdom will you expend your financial, creative, and physical resources?

And lest you think I am picking on the past administration's use of torture, be aware that the present administration has not shutdown Guantanamo Bay, despite promises to do so. The present administration also continues to use drone warfare—indeed has increased their use.

And also understand that I am not talking about what makes good sense to a non-Christian. I am saying that as a Christian, we are called to stand up to this abuse of power. To stand for shalom, which doesn't mean peace as lack of war; it means peace as in healing and wholeness. Torture doesn't heal! Drone warfare doesn't make whole! How can a Christian endorse these things and not wonder where their loyalty really lies? By their fruit, says Jesus...

What does my fruit look like to the King of kings? That is the question I have been asking myself the last few days. Am I complicit in this because I haven't been speaking up more? Will this unrest in my soul lead to a deeper humility in my walk with Jesus? or will I "get over it" in a few days and resume business as usual? I pray the former and not the latter!
</idle musing>

Total dependence

[For Christ t]o have acted other than in dependence upon the Father would have violated the perfection of His own humanity. That is why Satan’s attacks upon the Son were designed to trick Him, somehow, into acting on His own initiative; but though tempted again and again, and in all points like as we are, He was without sin. He never once acted in other than dependence on the Father.—The Mystery of Godliness, page 57

No need

For some reason, we don’t think we need the Holy Spirit. We don’t expect the Holy Spirit to act. Or if we do, our expectations are often misguided or self-serving. Given our talent set, experience, and education, many of us are fairly capable of living rather successfully (according to the world’s standards) without any strength from the Holy Spirit.—Forgotten God, page 31

<idle musing>
Or, to put it another way, we're practical atheists. We don't need or—if we're totally honest with ourselves—want God. He might mess up our lives!

What a warped outlook! We make a mess of creation; we torture our fellow humans in the name of safety; we lie, cheat, and steal; we look down on the poor and the immigrant. And we have the gall to say that we are a "chosen nation"! A beacon of light for the world!

Hubris. Which, at least in Greek tragedy, always leads to a tragic ending. All the more tragic in that the audience knows whats coming but the main character is blind to it... Sounds a lot like what's going on in the U.S. right now, doesn't it?

The only hope is repentance and reliance on the inner transformation that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Come, O come, for without You there will be no happy day or hour, because You are my happiness and without You my table is empty. I am wretched, as it were imprisoned and weighted down with fetters, until You fill me with the light of Your presence, restore me to liberty, and show me a friendly countenance. Let others seek instead of You whatever they will, but nothing pleases me or will please me but You, my God, my Hope, my everlasting Salvation. I will not be silent, I will not cease praying until Your grace returns to me and You speak inwardly to me, saying: “Behold, I am here. Lo, I have come to you because you have called Me. Your tears and the desire of your soul, your humility and contrition of heart have inclined Me and brought Me to you.”—Thomas à Kempis

More books!

I received two more recent books from Eisenbrauns last week but forgot to mention them (thanks, Jim!).

Feasting in the Archaeology and Texts of the Bible and the Ancient Near East

Feasting in the Archaeology and Texts of the Bible and the Ancient Near East

Edited by Peter Altmann and Janling Fu
Eisenbrauns, 2014
xii + 303 pp., English
ISBN: 9781575063232
List Price: $47.50
Your Price: $42.75

The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose

The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 9
by Hélène Dallaire
Eisenbrauns, 2014
xii + 250 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575063072
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $44.55

I'm looking forward to reading them. You will probably be reading excerpts from both of them sometime this winter : )

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Brian Zahnd sums up my feelings very nicely:
You cannot be a Christian and support torture. I want to be utterly explicit on this point. There is no possibility of compromise. The support of torture is off the table for a Christian. I suppose you can be some version of a “patriot” and support the use of torture, but you cannot be any version of a Christian and support torture. So choose one: A torture-endorsing patriot or a Jesus-following Christian. But don’t lie to yourself that you can be both. You cannot.
Read the whole post and think deeply about your allegiances...

Thought for a Wednesday

By independence (or the absence of faith), you eliminate God, and substitute yourself, to become both cause and effect—the source of your own “godliness,” but only God has the right to be the source of His own godliness, so that however unwittingly you are acting as your own God!

You will still believe or pretend that you are worshiping God; but as the object of your imitation, even Christ Himself may only be an excuse for worshiping your own ability to imitate—an ability vested in yourself, and this is the basis of all self-righteousness!—The Mystery of Godliness, pages 54-55

Just a little bit

Perhaps when a person says, “I’d just like a little God, thank you very much,” she or he is really saying, “I’d rather not give the parts of my life that I really care about over to God, so I’ll just hold on to this, that, oh, and that, too…”

It doesn’t work that way. When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a life wholly surrendered to and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.—Forgotten God, page 21

<idle musing>
Sad isn't it? Here's the creator of the universe, who has never stopped wooing us, trying to show us that he is all love. And we say, "Thank you very much, but I'd rather wallow in my pigsty."
</idle musing>

It is enough

[W]hatever You give me besides Yourself, whatever You reveal to me concerning Yourself, and whatever You promise, is too small and insufficient when I do not see and fully enjoy You alone. For my heart cannot rest or be fully content until, rising above all gifts and every created thing, it rests in You.—Thomas à Kempis

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Thought for a Tuesday

Beware lest even as a Christian, you fall into Satan’s trap. You may have found and come to know God in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him sincerely as your Redeemer, yet if you do not enter in the mystery of godliness and allow God to be in you the origins of His own image, you will seek to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, and by conformity to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society which you have chosen, and in which you hope to be found “acceptable.” You will in this way perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the “flesh,” and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring “Christianity” more than Christ!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 49

Too much?

Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes. That’s not what we’re going to do. When we are referring to God, balance is a huge mistake. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us. In the same way, seeking a “healthy balance” of the Holy Spirit assumes that there are some who have too much Holy Spirit and others who have too little. I have yet to meet anyone with too much Holy Spirit.—Forgotten God, page 20

Finney on theological education

With hearts as cold as marble, instead of going right to the source of light, they go and gather up the husks of learning, and peddle it out among the churches as religious instruction. Horrible! While they do thus, we never shall have an efficient ministry. It is right they should get all the help they can from learning, to understand the word of God. But they ought never to rest in anything they get from book learning, until they are satisfied that God has put them in possession of the very idea which he would have them receive.—Charles Finney

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Subordination (grammatical!)

Among the early Indo-European languages, Ancient Greek and especially Latin present a highly developed system of finite subordination, with embedding and consecutio. Naturally, a distinction should be made among different authors and genres, since consectio is not always respected in popular or unofficial writings. Even Cicero, whose elaborate modus dicendi is largely responsible for the complex organization of the sentence in the literary languages of the Romance domain, does not always abide by consecutio in the letters to his intimates. However, a remarkable difference may be noticed between a text in Latin or Ancient Greek on the one hand and a text in Hittite or Indo-Iranian on the other, since the latter languages make extensive use of adjoining by means of correlative elements, without any obligatory temporal or modal predetermination of the subordinate verb. The Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic languages, as well as Classical Armenian, are positioned somewhere in the middle of the two extremes—Latin and Hittite—since they often attest embedded constructions, but do not have a productive system of consecutio. Latin and Ancient Greek consecutio is probably related to the spread of oratory and rhetoric in these languages. The art of persuading in judiciary and politic discourse needs an attentive manipulation of backgrounded and foregrounded information, as well as a careful distinction among more or less reliable sources and among more and less subjective viewpoints. Such exigency is less cogent in narrative texts.— The Bloomsbury [formerly Continuum] Companion to Historical Linguistics, page 245

<idle musing>
Having studied Classical Greek, Latin, and Hittite, I can vouch for the dramatic difference in the way they express subordination. Hittite is definitely simpler—in that area, anyway!

But it got me to thinking about discourse analysis and Aspect/Actionsart/Tense/Mood and the ramifications this has. No ideas yet, but just food for thought.

By the way, this is a wonderful book. It's making all kinds of stuff that I've noticed in the various languages I've studied over the years fall into place. Of course, there a paragraphs where I get to the end and don't have a clue what they are saying. Sometimes I wonder if it is even English!

[Updated 13:20] I added Mood to the Aspect/Actionsart/Tense because in Greek it is a sequence of mood, not just tense. I hadn't thought of that at the time of writing. So, it gets even more interesting (or less to some) in that you now have the whole TAM spectrum involved...
</idle musing>

Prayer for a Sunday

Grant, most sweet and loving Jesus, that I may seek my repose in You above every creature; above all health and beauty; above every honor and glory; every power and dignity; above all knowledge and cleverness, all riches and arts, all joy and gladness; above all fame and praise, all sweetness and consolation; above every hope and promise, every merit and desire; above all the gifts and favors that You can give or pour down upon me; above all the joy and exultation that the mind can receive and feel; and finally, above the angels and archangels and all the heavenly host; above all things visible and invisible; and may I seek my repose in You above everything that is not You, my God.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Saturday, December 06, 2014

In the mail

Three books from Baker Academic/Brazos were in the mailbox today when we went to the Post Office. They were
A New Heaven and a New Earth

Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker

Kingdom Conspiracy

I was glad to see that they are all Green Press Initiative which means they are using recycled paper in publishing them.

I'm sure you'll be reading excerpts from them here sometime soon. : )

Friday, December 05, 2014

Mystery cults and Christianity

Modern research, on the other hand, has shown that the constructions of scholars around 1900 were ideologically motivated and were wrong in three important respects. First, there was no such category as ‘Mystery religions’ but only Mystery cults; the cult of Mithras was, perhaps, the only more-or-less exclusive Mystery cult, whereas other divinities were also worshipped outside their own Mystery cults. Second, these cults were not ‘Oriental’ religions, as Cumont claimed, but properly Greco-Roman, albeit with some exotic tinges (Ch. V.3). Thirdly, these cults had virtually no impact on the emergence of Christianity nor were they all interested in the afterlife (see Preface).

There never was a flood of ‘Oriental religions’, as suggested, once again, by Cumont. As we have seen, there were only a few Mystery cults of Isis, and although the number of followers of Mithras in the West was considerable, it should not be overstated. As far as numbers are concerned, Mystery cults never posed a serious threat to emerging Christianity. There are only a few possible references to pagan Mystery cults in the New Testament, which should not surprise us, as interest in the Mysteries flourished most in the second century AD. It is in that period that we start to notice a shared interest by both pagans and Christians in the Mysteries. Pagans seem to have been struck by similarities, but Christians stressed the differences.

The fact that initiation into the Mysteries could be a costly affair and that the Mithras cult was limited to males meant that pagan Mysteries were no competition for Christianity on the religious market, as the latter always received young and old, rich and poor, male and female into its fold. Moreover, unlike the Mysteries, Christianity was not esoteric but at first openly proclaimed its message, which was clear to all.—Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, pages 188-189

What if you were asked?

Had a materialistically minded atheist been consulted in the face of this dilemma [feeding the 5000], the first question he would have asked would have been, “How much money do you have?” What then would have been the difference between Philip’s outlook and that of an unbelieving atheist? There would have been no difference!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 30

<idle musing>
And what difference between Philip's outlook and most Christians? Little, if any, I fear...

In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." : (
</idle musing>

Hidden agenda

“Both the growth in historical analysis of early Christianity, as exemplified by David Friedrich Strauss’s (1808–1874) influential Das Leben Jesu, and the secularising trend in late nineteenth-century Germany had translated into attempts to derive early Christianity from its pagan surroundings. In other words, there was a hidden agenda here that was looking for support from antiquity for its own abandonment of the Christian Faith. That is why the more adventurous theologians, members of and sympathisers with the so-called Religionsgeschichtliche Schule of Göttingen, started to derive the apostle Paul’s theology from a Mithras cult in Tarsus, his birthplace, even though no Mystery cult of Mithras is attested in Tarsus nor is any Mithras Mystery found anywhere before the end of the first century (Ch. V.2).”—Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, page 167

<idle musing>
Please don't confuse them with the facts! Christianity can't be real—that would mean they would have to change their way of life! Impossible! Man is the measure of all things. If the facts don't fit, then we'll make them fit!
</idle musing>

There's more

We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.—Forgotten God, page 18

<idle musing>
Amen to that! We should embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't mean being weird! It means allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. The changes in our life should be explainable only by the power of the Spirit.

Sure, there might be signs and wonders. There probably will be! But, and this is a huge one, the emphasis should always be a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Anything else is just showmanship. </idle musing>

Finney on Friday

No degree of learning, or power of discrimination as to the didactics of theology, will ever make a man a successful teacher of religion, unless he enjoys the illuminating powers of the Holy Ghost. He is blind if he supposes he understands the Bible without this, and if he undertakes to teach religion, he deceives himself, and all who depend on him, and both will fall into the ditch together.—Charles Finney

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What? No da Vinci Code?

“In sum, we see that all efforts to derive earliest Christianity from the ancient Mysteries have been unsuccessful. Even the word mystêrion is rarely encountered in the earliest Christian writings.”—Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, page 177

<idle musing>
Take that, Dan Brown! : )
</idle musing>

Appearance versus reality

“It is clear from the many bones found in and near Mithraea that Mithras’ worshippers followed this example by dining and, especially, drinking together, but their sacrifices consisted mainly of suckling pigs and chickens, not bulls. In other words, the bull banquet represents the ideal sacrifice, not the real practice: representation of ritual and its actual practice should not be confused.”—Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, page 154

<idle musing>
So the problem of appearance versus reality isn't a new one! This is about the cult of Mithras, the bull-slayer. Maybe he didn't really slay the bull—just a chicken! : )
</idle musing>

The (de)evolution of Evangelicalism

Excellent post today by Ken Schenck, on the history of Evangelicalism—from the 1700s until today:
My point is that what we call evangelicalism today is a synthesis of two different traditions, a synthesis that took place in the late 1940s. The key focus of the earlier evangelicals was conversion, pushing individuals to a moment of decision leading to justification by faith and an assurance of salvation. In its Wesleyan form, it had always included social activism as well (think Salvation Army).

Now it was synthesized with the theology of the primarily Calvinist fundamentals. In reaction to the social gospel and the FDR administration, social justice was removed from the concerns of evangelicals. It now became questionable to focus on helping the needy. You will now hear these new evangelicals saying that, with limited resources, the church needs to put all its resources into conversion rather than the less important task of helping people.

Now penal substitution as a theory of atonement became very important. The word inerrancy, a concept that had earlier been invoked against the abolition of slavery, became part of the mix. These neo-evangelicals had money and would grow in power. They would set up publishing houses and magazines. They would take the name "evangelical" and dismiss the earlier stream as "fundamentalists," those stupid holiness, Pentecostal, and dispensational people who hid from the fight against an increasingly secular nation.

<idle musing>
And that is one of the biggest reasons I don't consider myself an Evangelical anymore. I am an 18th century Evangelical. I believe in conversion, justification by faith, assurance of salvation, and transformation that results in social activism!

The left doesn't like me because I believe only God can truly transform things; the right thinks I'm a compromising Socialist! What to do?

By the way, do read the whole post; it's quite short.
</idle musing>

The problem of e-books

I love books—hardback, paperback, yes, even e-books. I love the ease of carrying a large number of books that the e-book option gives me. I read them on my iPad, my MacBook, and my desktop computer. I read them as iBooks, Kindle books, Nook books, PDFs, Google books, even CBD's e-reader. I still prefer physical books, and I prefer PDFs in e-books.

But I've been running into a problem lately. I depend heavily on interlibrary loan (ILL) for lots of the books I read. I don't want to purchase books that I will only read once and never refer to again. And our local library isn't likely to purchase things like Pardee's The Ugaritic Texts and the Origins of West-Semitic Literary Composition or Rowe's Acts commentary World Upside Down! After all, we only have 1500 residents and maybe 3 people would even consider reading them. Not a wise use of library funds. So I use interlibrary loan.

But lately I've been running into a problem: e-books. Specifically, academic e-books. One of the big benefits of e-books, so they say, is that they can be accessed anywhere, that the Internet is leveling the economic barriers to a good education. Well, kind of. There is no doubt that some of the offerings through places like iTunes U are great. I've listened to some of the lectures from places like Yale; good stuff.

But have you ever tried to access an electronic book (EBSCO or ebrary) from a computer that is not located on campus? Have you ever succeeded if you aren't a current student/faculty member? Probably not.

That's a problem. If it were a physical book, I could request it via ILL and have it in a couple of weeks. Not so with an electronic one. For example, I recently tried to request a copy of Bloomsbury [formerly Continuum] Companion to Historical Linguistics via ILL. There are three copies available in Minnesota—two via the U of Minnesota and one in a library consortium. Not bad for an esoteric book like that...

So I tried to request it via ILL on the Internet. No success. So I went into the library to ask them to request it (they know me quite well...). This was about a month ago. I received the book yesterday. From the University of Oklahoma! A quick look at Worldcat shows that there are only 32 libraries with the physical book! Granted, that was a quick look; I'm sure I could uncover more if I looked more carefully...but the point remains the same: how can an independent scholar get a copy? The tendency, especially in linguistics and other more "esoteric" subjects, is toward e-books.

I understand the logic. Space is expensive and limited in a library. It makes sense to use that space on books that will be accessed by more than a handful of people. But what about access for those who aren't the privileged few? What about access for those of us who are 2.5 hours from an academic library and 5 hours from a really good one?

Just an
</idle musing>

What's the source?

The Christian life can only be explained in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you—your personality, your will-power, yourgift, your talent, yourmoney, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, yoursacrifice, or your anything—then although you may havethe Christian life, you are not yet living it!—The Mystery of Godliness, page 28 (emphasis original)

Where did he go?

There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today. In many modern churches, you would be stunned by the apparent absence of the Spirit in any manifest way. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problem.—Forgotten God, page 16

Christ, our?

When it is said that Christ is our sanctification, or our holiness, it is meant that he is the author of our holiness. He is not only the procuring cause, by his atonement and intercession, but by his direct intercourse with the soul he himself produces holiness. He is not the remote but the immediate cause of our being sanctified. He works our works in us, not by suspending our own agency, but he so controls our minds, by the influences of his Spirit in us in a way perfectly consistent with our freedom, as to sanctify us. And this, also, is received by faith.—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! A very good summary of what sanctification/holiness is. We aren't some kind of zombie, possessed by a foreign spirit; we are filled with the Spirit of God, but at any moment can act against that Spirit—but why would we want to?!

Unfortunately, we sometimes do. We don't have to, but we can. That is where the tension of living the Christian life arises.

Of course, if we believe we have to sin, we won't even try not to sin. The illustration that I read years ago in Turkeys and Eagles is that of a person wearing a white tuxedo versus someone wearing a pair of overalls that they use to slop the hogs.

Which one is more likely to try to avoid the mud? The one in the overalls, dirty with mud and pig dung? Or the one in the white tux?

Exactly! If you see yourself as dirty with sin, you are more likely to fall into sin. But, if you see yourself as a saint (the biblical view of a Christian, by the way), you are more likely to try to stay clean. Remember, you are only clean by the saving act of Christ! You are not clean by any self-effort.
</idle musing>