Monday, December 31, 2018

I guess Paul must be wrong then…

How, we must ask, do the expectations of the church fathers compare with the expectations of a grammatical-historical approach? Paul, who was clearly not tied to the author’s original meaning, allowed later revelation to inform his own understanding of the Old Testament. In doing this, he was used as a model for biblical interpretation by the Fathers. Broad claims that make the church fathers followers of the GH [grammatical-historical] method need to be measured against their dependence and explicit devotion to Paul’s “method.” Further, patristic exegesis developed in a way that forces us to reconsider simplistic and general conclusions that categorize the Fathers into “literal" and “allegorical.”—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 123

Friday, December 28, 2018

Maybe your idea of history is wrong…

The incarnation is not merely an idea or event to which Scripture points; it is the key to the meaning of history itself. When the Fathers read Scripture in light of the center of history, Christ, they believed it to be a historical reading because the incarnation is the definitive moment in history. The unfolding of God’s historical action narrated in the Old Testament thus takes on meaning that would have been inaccessible to the original human writers. What was thought to be history apart from Christ is shown to be what it really is—a “shadow” waiting for fulfillment in Christ. But since Scripture points to Christ as its final end, it is pointing to a mystery that will not be exhausted this side of eternity. Thus, a historical reading of Scripture is necessarily an eschatological one as well, for the church reads Scripture in light of its own union with Christ, which has not yet reached its fulfillment.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 122

Thursday, December 27, 2018

So how does Paul stack up?

In many ways the GH [Grammatical-Historical] method of interpretation as it is described on the AiG and CMI websites is actually at odds with the way the first interpreters of Scripture (the Old Testament) approached interpretation. I doubt that the apostle Paul would be viewed as a very good interpreter of Scripture if the GH ideal was the standard against which his interpretation was measured.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, pages 114–15

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Correctly handling the word of truth

Jesus’ statement is not used by the Gospel of Matthew as a defense for the clarity of Scripture [Matt 12:1–8, where Jesus's disciples are picking grain on Sabbath]. His opponents read the Scriptures and had intimate knowledge of them. Yet they did not understand them; it was actually unclear to them because they were reading it as it was meant by the original authors! Is Jesus not calling here for a deeper knowledge based on his incarnation? Something greater is here, and this requires a reading that goes beyond its original intent — a reading that is based on an understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law. His opponents need to understand this in order to properly understand Scripture. They read but do not really know. For them, the Scriptures are not clear because they miss the central significance of Christ.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 111 (emphasis added)

<idle musing>
Ironic isn't it? We're taught the perspicuity of scripture (the belief that anyone can read scripture and understand its intent), yet when the Pharisees read it as it was originally meant, they miss the real meaning. How often do we do the same thing?

I'm not willing to give up the perspicuity of scripture, but it needs to be qualified with the way the early church read it: as fulfilled in Jesus. (Yes, even that needs some qualifications, but at least you're in the right ballpark!)
</idle musing>

Monday, December 24, 2018

Awe as a community building technique

"Monumental buildings, by virtue of their massive scale, can receive a large number of people, providing moments for social interaction and social sharing. Furthermore, by triggering awe, the structure’s monumentality could psychologically intensify a social gathering. In fact, some investigations have demonstrated that awe has community-building potential by making people feel connected and that it leads to sentiments of oneness. In this sense, the awe engendered by monumentality creates a binding feeling, increasing the community identification among visitors and enhancing horizontal attachment (Yannick Joye and Jan Verpooten, “An Exploration of the Functions of Religious Monumental Architecture from a Darwinian Perspective,” Review of General Psychology 17 (2013): 60)."—"The Throne Room of Assurnasirpal II: A Multisensory Experience," by Ludovico Portuese in Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East, ed. Ainsley Hawthorn and Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (University Park, PA: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).

<idle musing>
Ever wonder why government buildings are so large? Or why the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument are so huge? Even the Statue of Liberty, for that matter. The architects subconsciously knew what they were doing!

For that matter, any public gathering with larger-than-life structures, statuary, or similar props would have the same effect. That has me thinking, would a Jumbotron in a stadium or auditorium have the same effect? That would be worth researching, wouldn't it?
</idle musing>


God intended to communicate something to us in the Bible, and our responsibility is to interpret it correctly. This conviction is often expressed in terms of an analogy. For example, Brian Edwards states that the Bible is a “treasure box.” In order to get to the treasure within, a key must be used by Christians to unlock it.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 102

Sunday, December 23, 2018

About that incarnation thing

Nice devotional on the incarnation over at Public Discourse. Here's a paragraph, but it bears reading the whole thing:
Christianity is not a set of abstract doctrines. It is a faith that lives—that loves God and neighbor actively and in every walk and work. Our final destination is not a disembodied heaven. It is a New Creation that takes up and perfects (we know not how) all human bodily and social flourishing. Christianity is so much more solid, and real, and human, than the “spiritual, but not religious” imitations of today. Christian faith touches every aspect of our lives—material, social, cultural. It does so because our God was born in a stable and nurtured by a teenaged girl named Mary.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Ideology trumps context

Preparing and writing this chapter has been another lesson for me on how some quarters of evangelicalism tend to handle disagreements and controversies. What has been seen above in some creation science appropriations of the Fathers is the tendency toward proof-texting with little to no regard for context. The results are a misappropriation of the Fathers. I applaud those who desire to show the relevance of the Fathers to the contemporary church. But when it is done at the expense of their own context and concerns, they are being misused and misappropriated. When this is done, it is difficult not to conclude that ideology is guiding their appropriation. Serious interaction with the Fathers is necessary, but this takes time, deliberation, and patience.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 93

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Take a cue from St. Basil

But the theories are merely a secondary concern for Basil. Scripture does not delve into the details of creation, and Basil even wonders why we do. Theories are just that—attempts to understand what cannot be understood. Each one is refuted by the other. It is enough for Basil to see creation as a training ground where God’s creation turns us back to the Creator himself in praise and awe.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 86

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Yes, it's a cult

Is Trumpism a cult? Definitely, say experts in cults. Take a gander at this (long) essay at The New Republic. Here are the final three paragraphs, but definitely worth reading the whole essay—especially before you gather with relatives over the holidays, many of whom probably differ from you in viewpoint:
We can understand Donald Trump’s rise as a civil religion giving way to its cultic expression. Con man, cult leader, populist politician: Trump is all of these, rolled into one. He has become all-encompassing, even to nonbelievers. We all feel the fatigue of merely existing in the Trump era, the rapid-fire assault on all of our political and social senses. We want immediate solutions to the Trump problem. We want to beat reason into his followers, until they recognize how wrong they are, or at the very least, submit. We want to blame them—justifiably—for perpetuating his sham.

I want these things. I want them in my gut. But I also know that the cult’s pull is so powerful that it risks destroying its opponents, by eliciting a counterproductive reaction to it. If we want to bring members of the Trump cult back into the mainstream of American life—and there will be plenty of those who say we should move on without them—resistance means not only resisting the lure of the cult and exposing its lies, but also resisting the temptation to punish its followers.

“When the cultic behavior is on a national scale, [breaking it up] is going to take a national movement,” Lalich says. Such an approach promises no immediate gratification. But it also might be the only way to move forward, rather than continue a dangerous downward spiral. Andrés Miguel Rondón, a Venezuelan economist who fled to Spain, wrote this of his own country’s experience of being caught up in an authoritarian’s fraudulent promises: “[W]hat can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show that you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”

But that takes work!

I am not interested in fighting a battle here. I am interested in offering an approach to the Fathers that respects and understands the context within which they worked and that draws on scholars who have devoted years to understanding and explaining this complex context rather than the parachute approach that simply drops in and selectively rummages for data in support of one position.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 81

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Seek and (unfortunately) you will find

Athanasius's fourth—century battle with Arian interpretations of Scripture is illustrative of the issues here. There is no doubt that Athanasius held Scripture as the ultimate authority for the Christian and, therefore, all theological truth. But the Arians also agreed with this. So the battle with the Arians was “not a battle for the Bible, but a battle over the Bib1e.”(Leithart, Athanasius, 33 [emphasis added by Allert]) The Arians, as Athanasius claims throughout his Four Discourses Against the Arians, use scriptural terms but fail to accept the truth of Scripture and merely "array" themselves in scriptural language. For Athanasius, one can use Scripture but still miss its meaning. He would likely agree with the medieval saying in reference to the Bible: “This is the book in which everyone looks for his own convictions, and likewise everyone finds his own convictions."—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 79

Monday, December 17, 2018

Some statistics; use these at your family Christmas gathering

I just read a review of You Welcomed Me from IVP. The review is on a great book blog, Bob on Books. Here are the statistics:
We have a 1 in 364 billion chance of being murdered by a refugee in a terrorist attack, a 1 in 10.9 billion chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack by an illegal immigrant, while we have a 1 in 14,000 chance of being murdered by anyone, a 1 in 303 chance of dying in an auto accident, and 1 in 7 chance of dying of cancer. Immigrants and refugees in this country contributed $63 billion more than they cost this country over the last decade. Urban neighborhoods into which immigrants move often see a reduction in crime and revitalization.
Now, I'm not naive; I know that those driven by fear (and that's what it is) either won't accept, will deny, or will simply ignore facts. Fear is irrational, and human beings are irrational at core. But, still, there might be someone at your family gathering who starts spouting fear of immigrants, trying to spread their fear. You can present these facts, not to change their mind, but to show those not yet infected by fear that the fear is irrational.

Or, you can feel better yourself, knowing that the truth is securely on your side (as is scripture, by the way!).

The nasty truth

The approach to the biblical text advocated by [Ken] Ham above is heavily indebted to Enlightenment philosophers like René Descartes (1596-1650) and John Locke (1632-1704), who claimed that we could actually surmount our own context and attain pure readings of texts and reality. In fact, evangelical historian Mark Noll argues that virtually every aspect of the evangelical attachment to the Bible was shaped by the Enlightenment (Noll, Betweeen Faith and Criticism, 97).—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 81

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Are you naive?

The point here is that the simple act of reading the Bible, whether in the original language or in a translation, is already a mediated event. This mediation becomes layered when we factor in our own cultural location. The assumption that we can read the Bible, or anything for that matter, from a neutral stance is naive and misguided.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 75

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

If only it were that simple!

Can we really read the Bible free of any influence or without acknowledging those who have gone before us?

Consider what might be involved in taking [Ken] Ham’s exhortation to just read the text and let it speak to you. The Bibles most of us use are translations from the original Hebrew and Greek. Translation is not simply a matter of finding equivalent words in two languages. The task of transposing material from one world of thought and language to another can be very complicated. These different worlds of thought require the translator to understand both cultures. This means that interpretation is already involved in the task of translation—grammatical and lexical decisions are made that allow the readers of translations to understand the Words of the text.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 73

Monday, December 10, 2018

Public Service Announcement

With the continued revelations of male sexual abuse, I suggest the following to all males:
Stop thinking with your dick!
That is all.

Friday, December 07, 2018

What kind of mystery are you looking for?

Mystery as problem solving (investigative) is concerned with what is known and able to be grasped. But revelational mystery revolves around what is unknown and ungraspable—this is why it always remains mystery even though it is revealed. Because of the Fathers’ insistence on revelational mystery, they can show us where we may just miss the point in theological study. If the purpose of proper Bible study is verifiable data, then the proper function of theology is the systematic organization of that data with which we can speak with certainty to the world. The Bible would then be treated merely as a source book of information for theology and other things. Once the information is mined from the Bible we would then have our system, and the mystery is solved. Not only does this run the risk of making the Bible superfluous, it seeks to remove “our Great mystery" and We may just think we have “so1ved” God. Then he must fit into our categories and he becomes the God we think he should be. The Fathers encourage us to let God be God.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, pages 49–50

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Our theology is impoverished!

But it is not only through the councils that the Fathers’ profundity and practicality can be seen. They also show us how to unite heart and mind in theology. In this they have something to teach those of us in the evangelical tradition who might tend toward an understanding of theology that is overly rationalistic. The Fathers show us that mere intellectual assent to a list of doctrines is an impoverished Christianity and one that needs correction and supplement.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 45

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Salvation: Now or Future?

A great post over at Catalyst Resources about when and what salvation is. Read the whole thing, but these two paragraphs jumped out at me:
The second misunderstanding [of what salvation means] has been called by Dallas Willard a “bar code faith.” The scanner at the check-out line reads only the bar code on a product. If the bar code for ice cream is placed on dog food, the scanner will read “ice cream.” The content of the package is irrelevant.

Willard says a “bar code faith” operates much the same way. We take some action—we have faith, get baptized, join the church—and that gives us a new bar code. God then pays no attention to our actual sinful content. When we are scanned across the divine scanner, it reads “Christ’s righteousness.” We remain the same, only now we go to heaven. As Willard says, our present life “has no necessary connection with being a Christian as long as the ‘bar code’ does its job” (The Divine Conspiracy [Harper Collins, 1998], 37).

<idle musing>
Mind you, that's a misunderstanding of what salvation means! Bonhoeffer would call it "cheap grace." I had never heard the term "bar code faith" before, but I like it (and will use it!). I guess I have never read Dallas Willard except for excerpts. Another book to put on my list of "must-reads."
</idle musing>

Theology is practical

The location of theological reflection in the church meant that the Fathers had it in the forefront of their theologizing. For us, this communicates two main things. First, the Fathers show that deep theological thought and reflection are not antithetical to a deep spiritual life—in fact they are required. Second, theological study done for the church has significance for Christian believers. The Fathers show us that the theologian can “blend profundity and practicality” because as pastors their ultimate concern was for the spiritual well—being of their congregations. We should not, therefore, let the perceived remoteness of the theological discussion done by the Fathers keep us from recognizing their vital importance to the churchmdash;Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 44

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The "rule of faith"

While the Fathers did not offer the same answers to all of these issues, they are remarkably united on the essentials, or what Ramsay calls “the rudiments of Christian confession.” He states that we can confidently affirm that the Fathers agree among themselves and with us on these essentials—belief in a triune God; in a Christ who is at once divine and human and who exercises a salvific role with respect to the human race; in the infallibility of Scripture; in the fallen condition of the human race and its need for salvation; in certain important rites, chief among them being baptism and Communion; in the church, in which unity must be preserved; and in the value of prayer.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, pages 42–43

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Eleven years later and cars still are closer to bicyclists

Back in 2007, I posted a study that showed that drivers give bicyclists less room if they wear a helmet. Well, Bicycling Magazine just published an article with a link to an updated version. Bottom line?
The new paper from Walker also re-affirms that wearing a helmet was indeed associated with more “close” passes when you take into consideration that in some places, the law dictates more than one meter of room.
And a month ago they posted about "helmet scolds":
If you’ve ever ridden a bike without a helmet, you’ve likely run into helmet scolds. They’ll tell you at length why you should never ride without one, about the risks and dangers. Don’t you know cycling is perilous, even for seasoned riders? They’ll come armed with statistics and tell you about that one time they crashed unexpectedly while pedaling around the block.
Indeed. I've run into that many times over the last eleven years after ditching the helmet. So, what do I do? Well, I still don't use a helmet, although the newer designs have done a good bit to work on the problems of concussion (see my 2007 link). If they continue to make progress there, I might reconsider. One thing is certain: drivers now are more distracted. Despite laws against texting while driving, I still regularly see drivers doing so as we walk.

Because of that, I'm trying to do things to raise my visibility. I wear a fluorescent yellow jersey. When it's cold enough to wear a jacket, I usually wear my yellow one. Also, since moving to Red Wing, I have added a new strobe tail light that I use, even during the day; I seem to be getting more clearance when I have it—contrary to this post from 2015. But, it's a different culture here than on the North Shore, more traffic and more used to bicycles in general.

I have no delusions, though, that I will be seen. I'm always watching and expecting cars to either not see me, or try to run me off the road. Someone trying to run me off the road has actually only happened once in the last 15 years, by a couple of guys driving a pick-up truck, trying to prove they were "real men." On the whole, drivers have always given me enough room when they see me. My goal is to make sure they see me while also watching them assuming they don't!

Friday, November 30, 2018

How to get along

We need not express this in the same way as [Roger] Olson, but as I often tell my first-year theology classes, it is foundational to the theological task to recognize that some Christian beliefs matter more than others. Failure to make this recognition can make enemies out of friends and divide Christians over matters of relatively minor importance.—Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, page 41

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Not everything is an essential doctrine! And you don't need to divide over such trivial issues. Of course, the trick is deciding what is essential and what isn't...rule of faith, anyone?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those neglected fathers of the church

From Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, by Craig D. Allert—a book I picked up at the recent AAR/SBL Annual Meeting.
Severa1 years ago I was invited to give a presentation to an adult Sunday school class at a Mennonite church in my community. I called the presentation “Back to the Sources: An Introduction to the Great Thinkers of the Early Church” and was excited to share my passion for the church fathers with this audience. Unfortunately, my hearers did not share my excitement. At best they could not understand why we would need anything other than what we have in our Bibles. At worst, they could not understand why a good conservative Christian would recommend these figures from a church and an age that was, in their opinion, far from the purity of New Testament Christianity. Granted, my experience above may be unique, but I doubt it. An argument could be made that the necessity of an introductory chapter in this book about the importance of the church fathers is a symptom of a greater problem within our churches that my experience illustrates. For reasons beyond the scope of this book, our own Christian heritage, which includes the church fathers, has been deemed, at best, marginally helpful for the twenty-first-century Christian. At worst, the history between the apostles and the Reformers has been judged as an era best left in the past because of its perceived distance from “true” Christianity. For many Christians the idea that we should appeal to the church fathers, who belong to that era, as part of our own Christian heritage is foreign, suspect, or even impious. The Christianity of that age has been seen as transitory, naive, and even problematic, and therefore an unnecessary resource for Christian faithfulness today. (pages 13–14)
<idle musing>
I believe he sums up well the antihistorical attitude (and hubristic pride!) of the normal evangelical Christian—at least in my experience. I once had a seminary graduate say to me about the church fathers, "Those clowns? Why should we listen to them?" I could hardly believe it! Sure, they got some things wrong, but I suspect we have a whole lot more wrong than they do—especially with an attitude like that!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Back again

I've been neglecting this blog terribly as of late. I can't promise that will change, but I will try to post a bit more regularly. Part of the problem is adjusting to a new schedule. A little over a year ago, Eisenbrauns became an imprint of Penn State University Press. They asked me to work for them, doing pretty much the same things I was doing at Eisenbrauns.

But, they wanted me to do the same for the Press's own titles. So, for the past year I have been developing an email marketing program for PSU Press to try to match the reach that we had at Eisenbrauns. And, I've transitioned all the Eisenbrauns marketing to the new platform.

All of that has taken a chunk of time. Further, almost 12 months ago, we purchased a small house in Red Wing, MN, moving from Grand Marais on December 19—just in time for Christmas. The house is in good shape, so there weren't a lot of projects, but I did need to put in a garden : ) Maybe someday I'll post a picture of it. But, that took a good bit of time, too. We are loving living here, though. It's closer to parents and children (and grandchildren) and a beautiful part of the state, right along the Mississippi River.

Add to the preceding a heavy editing schedule. I freelance, so it's my own fault! But, when someone offers such marvelous books for me to edit, how can I say no? Among the items I edited this year was the Aramaic volume of the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. That was a monster project! But lots of fun, too. Another real joy was a second-year Hebrew grammar by Eric Reymond for SBL Press: Intermediate Biblical Hebrew Grammar: A Student's Guide to Phonology and Morphology. I also managed to edit a first-year Greek grammar and a first-year Hebrew grammar, a Festschrift, a collection of LXX essays by Rösel, an Egyptology archaeology volume, a volume on John's letters in Greek, a still-forthcoming NICOT volume, a LXX monograph on Esther, a geographical commentary on Acts–Revelation, a monograph on life and mortality at Ugarit, a collection of essays on hermeneutics, and a collection of essays on textual criticism. And I'll be wrapping up the year with a collection of essays on senses in the ANE.

How could I turn them down?! Obviously, I didn't. So, I've had little time for recreational reading—although I have managed to read about 10–15 books, I just haven't been extracting from them as I usually do. But, I can encourage you to read a couple of them:

Honoring the Son, by Larry Hurtado. I picked this one up at AAR/SBL last week and read it on the way home. Great little read, based on a series of lectures he gave at some seminary somewhere.

The Dragon, the Mountain, and the Nations by Robert Miller. Great big-picture overview of the ways the myth of the dragon is utilized in various ANE and biblical texts (and an Eisenbrauns title).

I did get to read a prerelease proof of a forthcoming title from Carta while I was at AAR/SBL (thanks to Hendrickson for letting me borrow it for a day!), Ada Yardeni's final book: The National Hebrew Script: Up To The Babylonian Exile. It is currently in-press, so they didn't have actual copies available. But, it is excellent; just what you would expect from Carta and Yardeni. I can't wait to see the actual book next year at AAR/SBL in San Diego!

I'm currently reading a couple of other books; hopefully excerpts will find their way onto this blog...but this has gone on long enough and I need to get back to work!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Theological Thinking

“I am positioning myself within the broader stream of contemporary theological interpretation, approaching the biblical text within a canonical frame of reference, with the desire to see what these texts, when read as Scripture, can say about matters of life under God. It is my conviction that the fruitfulness of theological interpretation should be tested precisely in those portions of Scripture which present difficulties in terms of understanding both their message and their contemporary relevance for the life of faith.”—The Unfavored, page 7

<idle musing>
I must say, he’s correct, but also brave to tackle the whole elect, non-elect, anti-elect thing. We’ll see how this works out...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Words, words, everywhere are words

They are taught that the power lies in the words, and if you get the words right, you are all right. Whereas, Paul says, the kingdom of God does not lie in words at all. The kingdom of God lies in the power that indwells those words. You cannot have the power without the words, but you can have the words without the power, and many people do.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 184

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What you've heard is wrong…

The gospel is not the statement that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3). The gospel is the statement that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures plus the Holy Spirit in that statement, to give it meaning and power. Just the statement itself will never do it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 183

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's still paganism

We imagine that if we say certain words, they have power to bring good; if we say certain other words, they have the power to fend off the devil. That is just paganism under another form.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 183

Friday, November 09, 2018


For years, I read writings on atheism and philosophical unbelief to the point that my head would ache. I would turn away and get on my knees, and with joy I would say to God, “Oh, God, I know I can’t answer this man, but I thank Thee I have Thee.” I would worship on my knees after having been knocked flat by a book. If I had not met God, that book would have ruined me forever.

All those books presenting atheism, unbelief, philosophy, psychology and all the books that were then current, all the debunking books and the rest, never jarred me, for I knew Jesus Christ for myself. I had seen Him, I had known Him, He deigns to walk with me, and the glory of His presence shall be mine eternally.

You can know God like that, and then you do not have to be afraid of what you learn; you do not have to be afraid of an unbelieving professor. You can stand up and face him down and say: “I cannot answer your questions, but I can tell you my testimony."mdash;A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 176

Thursday, November 08, 2018

About all those church growth programs…

To overcome the dangers facing a spiritually lethargic church is to discover true spiritual power. The power does not rest in outward form but rather in the dynamic of God’s Word.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 174

Monday, November 05, 2018

Eyedropper Christians

We have developed a mentality that simply cannot bring itself to attack a serious book. We have to be fed with an eyedropper, like a baby robin that has been pushed out of the nest in a storm. Because we feed Christians with an eyedropper, we have weaklings instead of great souls and great saints.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 174

Friday, November 02, 2018

You're going to keep going until somebody gets hurt…

Remember how your parents used to say that to you when you started horsing around with your siblings? We heard it, and we used it when our kids were growing up, too. Why? Because it's true. Evil escalates. It's never content to stay in its own little corner; it's a consuming fire that devours everything in its path.

I just read an interesting take on that over at Jesus Creed by Mike Glenn; he blogs there every Friday. Here's a snippet, but please read the whole thing and think about it:

Here’s what I do know. Violence starts somewhere. Violence doesn’t just blow into our lives from parts unknown. There’s always a trail. There’s always a beginning point, a poke, that starts the violence. While we may not be responsible for any particular act of violence, all of us are responsible for creating an atmosphere, a world view where violence is an acceptable course of action.

We watch movies where the hero has finally had enough and kills his enemy in the most violent way possible. The bigger the bang, the better the movie. We play games where the object of the game is to become the most violent person in the game. Kill our adversaries with such efficiency we’re given more points to obtain more weapons to be more violently efficient in our killing. This is fun?

Here’s where we need to pay attention to the genius of Jesus’ teaching. Remember when Jesus taught us that if we were angry with our brother we were guilty of murder? That if we harbored lust in our minds for a woman, we were already guilty of adultery?

<idle musing>
The early Christians were known for their radical love and care for those around them—even those who persecuted them. May we emulate them!
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 01, 2018

But that's not the way you're supposed to do it, Jesus!

Jesus didn’t do what I would have done [when he arrived at Lazarus’s tomb]. He didn’t try to fix their emotional pain by telling them about heaven. He didn’t say, “Stop crying and watch what I’m going to do.” Instead, upon feeling the pain of those he loved, Jesus entered into their emotional hurt. The same pain that stabbed at his friends also pierced him. As a result, he wept bitterly. That is, he identified with their suffering and took their pain on himself. In no way did Jesus allow his foreknowledge to separate him from their excruciating suffering. When I think of this, I am so thankful that I serve a weeping God, a God who enters into my pain and allows himself to hurt with me even though he knows that he will wipe away all my tears and free me from all pain in eternity.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 128

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What is a good book?

"The measure of a good book is not whether it confirms and informs what one already suspected or believed. No, the measure of a good book is one that makes you think hard about those previous ideas and beliefs, sometimes reinforcing, sometimes critiquing what one has thought."—Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (blog)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How to influence the culture

In a modern secular state that doesn’t honor God or follow his precepts, citizen believers must hold the political powerbrokers liable for the evil that they allow. Sin invites God’s judgment on the whole nation because abortion, sexual perversion, abuse of the poor, violence, pornography, divorce, and the like empower Satan’s rule. National sins cause the righteous to suffer with the unrighteous because they all participate in the same political unit. Social transformation happens when the people turn to God and reorder their society so that God’s precepts are reflected in the culture. To do this, the church shouldn’t seek to create a political theocracy. Rather, it should seek to grow the kingdom of God so that God’s influence reaches into all aspects of the society.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 105 (emphasis added)

Saturday, October 27, 2018


From Jesus Creed
We condemn the attacks on innocent lives and the murder of Jews at the the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The anti Semitic rhetoric and behavior that incite these violent acts are inexcusable and indefensible. We pray for our Jewish friends and neighbors and call on all people to turn from violence and perform deeds of mercy, love, and justice. We call on Christians and churches to be God’s agents of love, reconciliation, and peace.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tests, tests, everywhere are tests

I don’t recommend using spiritual gift inventory tests for many reasons. First, the Bible doesn’t model that approach. Second, the process is cognitive and may not include prayer, spiritual discernment, or the affirmation of others. Third, normally, the lists only include gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament. For example, Christians know that God calls and gifts people for music ministry. That isn’t listed as a gift in the New Testament.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 59

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Why are we always trying to put everything into a nice little package and test it? (Rhetorical question)
&tl;/idle musing>

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What have we lost?

Before the global advent of Pentecostalism, the holiness movement emphasized that sanctification evidenced Spirit baptism. Accordingly, “Walking in the Spirit” and bearing the fruit of the Spirit indicated that God’s Spirit was working in a person to transform the person into the image of Christ (Gal 5:13–26). Much of that emphasis has been lost in Pentecostalism because it focuses on gift manifestation instead of holiness.— William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 52 n. 4

Friday, October 19, 2018

No hierarchy here!

Contrary to what some believe, God has not fixed a spiritual hierarchy within the church that says that some Christians are more important than others or that some spiritual gifts are more important than other spiritual gifts. Instead, when seen from the perspective of the whole, every spiritual gift and every believer is of equal value. Allow me to re-emphasize this point. A believer’s worth is not determined by the spiritual gifts that the person exercises. Rather, believers should draw their identity and self-worth from Christ, not the gifts that they manifest. In light of this truth, it is essential that every believer identifies how the Holy Spirit has shaped him [or her] for ministry so that the person can develop his [or her] gift and mesh his [or her] gifting into the whole.—William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 46

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Give me your rich, your empowered, those desiring to control

Oh, wait, that's not right, is it? It is supposed to be
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But, in actuality, it has never been so. Take a look at the post on the Anxious Bench today. These paragraphs are especially heart-rending:
During this period, as would be the case during subsequent refugee crises in history, Americans strongly opposed accepting refugees. In July 1938, one public opinion poll published in Fortune found that only 4.9% of Americans surveyed believed that the United States should accept political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. In an era of virulent anti-semitism, Americans appear to have been especially reluctant to accept Jewish refugees. In January 1939, in the wake of Kristallnacht, a Gallup poll found that 61% of survey respondents did not believe that the United States should open its doors 10,000 German refugee children, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

American immigration officials were able to prevent refugees from entering the United States by relying on the immigration quotas established by the Johnson-Reed Act, but also by using an extremely stringent interpretation of public charge rules. As Stephen Porter points out in his book Benevolent Empire: Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed, President Herbert Hoover in 1930 directed American consuls to apply public charge rules strictly, in response to American fears of labor competition during the Great Depression. The use of public charge rules ended up allowing the United States to admit far fewer immigrants than what was permitted under the Johnson-Reed quota limits, which were already set at unprecedentedly low levels. By restricting immigrants only to those who had wealth, the United States used less than 20% of its available immigration quotas, and immigration during this period dipped to its lowest level since the United States began keeping records in the 1830s. Importantly, the United States made no exceptions to admit refugees or asylum-seekers.

Anti-Semitic immigration officials were particularly harsh when applying the rules to Jewish applications for immigration. “Virtually all Jews applying to enter the United Staes to escape persecution abroad were required by the State Department Visa Division to have affidavits filed on their behalf by a sponsor in the United Staes promising to support the immigrant if granted admission,” Porter explains. “While other poor and potentially dependent immigrant applicants also had the affidavit requirement applied to them, contemporary refugee advocates and later observers have noted that it was applied much more strictly and systematically to the Jewish refugees, partially the result of strong pockets of anti-Semitism among American consuls abroad and their counterparts in Washington.”

Christian nation!? Hardly! We need to repent on our knees. And by repentance I don't just mean mouth a few words and feel sorry about how or ancestors behaved. I mean change the way we behave! Our descendants (if any survive!) will judge us as mercilessly as we judge others...

Character counts

The basic point is that those who would speak for God should embody and display the qualities of God in themselves, and have a concern that others too should genuinely engage with the life-changing truth of God; although recognition of people with such qualities is not self—evident but requires existential openness. At root, I argue that the discernment of claims to speak for God is a particular form of one of the most fundamental and enduring issues of all human life: How can we know whom to trust?—I Still Believe, page 209

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! And his point that it is the character of the person that counts is spot-on. Especially in these times of alternate facts and half-truths (ok, I'm being generous; wholesale lies would be more accurate), the character of the person counts. If the person's life doesn't align with scripture, then question very closely whether or not it's of God. Sure, God can and does use ungodly people, but be very cautious! If someone is living an opulent lifestyle and claims to be helping the poor, a red flag should go up! If someone puts the US flag (or any other flag!) before the cross, be very cautious of accepting their truth claims. And if someone openly brags about their sexual bravado... well let's just say, I have a real problem seeing that as anything other than childish and the sign of a very insecure person who needs Jesus desperately. And I see people who defend that behavior in the same light I view some of the medieval popes who endorsed certain rulers for the sake of territorial protection...
<idle musing>

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The joys of (not believing in) inerrancy

OK, I confess that I've never been a fan of inerrancy, going all the way back to the original Battle for the Bible, always seeing it as a distraction from really grappling with what the text is saying. For one thing, everyone defines it differently. And my experience over the years is that the proverbial person in the pew thinks it means oral dictation, which it definitely is not—and that's about the only thing inerrantists will agree on! So, this little excerpt from I Still Believe was refreshing:
It is a liberating experience for a biblical scholar to be free of the a priori affirmation of inerrancy. Not only do a host of problems dissolve, but new options become available and at the same time the Scriptures become more alive. Without having to hide or ignore something, one can enjoy the feeling of honesty.—I Still Believe, page 111
<idle musing>
Several years ago I was reading Greek with another person just for the fun of it. We would take a book in the New Testament and spend about an hour just sight-reading it. If we got stuck, we'd pull out the lexicon. After we had been doing this for several weeks, the person I was reading with told me how freeing it was to let the text just speak without coming to it looking to confirm a belief! I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, as I have rarely (I wish I could say never) come to scripture that way. I don't believe in inerrancy, but I certainly do believe in inspiration, and to use scripture as a weapon to prove a presupposed belief is to me a form of heresy! But on reflection, it helped me understand the approach to scripture among some people.

Lord keep me from that attitude! May I ever come at scripture with an open heart and mind, seeing what you have for me that day!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I Still Believe

I built a new bookcase yesterday&mdaah;I was out of room in the other ones. In the process of rearranging things, I came across a book that I had read about three years ago now and never excerpted; my yellow stickies were still marking the spots. So, for the next three days, I'll pull three excerpts that jumped out at me three years ago when I read I Still Believe.
I grow disheartened when I see the Bible hijacked and turned into a sword of hatred instead of a ploughshare of love. Although I do not imagine that biblical scholarship is single—handedly responsible for the thin gruel offered as the gospel in too many congregations—across the spectrum of the church’s life—neither do I see that biblical scholarship is serving to challenge and enlarge and instruct as it might.—Berverly Roberts Gaventa in I Still Believe, page 89

Monday, October 15, 2018


I wish I could get the adult males in this country to give as much consideration to their own souls as they give to the standings of their particular sports teams.

How would our country change if we could get people to spend four hours considering their own souls and their lives and their future with the concentrated attention they consider the strikeouts, the stolen bases and the rest of the baseball game?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 168

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hard words

The only way to help the world is to stay free from its brainwashing. The man who has adopted its ways can never help it. It is by standing aloof from its ways that we can help it. The aloof man is the only man that can do any good. You can only help a sinner by going contrary to him.

There is only one way to bless mankind, and that is by opposing mankind. For wherever mankind is wrong, and wherever he is different from God, it means that brother must be divided from brother and husband from wife and children from parents. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). You must be sober and prayerfully beware the world’s propagandas. Do not sell yourself, and do not allow yourself to be slowly reasoned into wrong by the counsel of the ungodly. Better to be a radical on the right side than weak on the wrong side. Better go too far than not far enough.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 163

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Babylon, here we come : (

What is it going to take to wake up the Church . . . to keep the world from using the Church to achieve its own ends? I wonder what kind of Babylon and beside what waters we are going to sit bitterly and hang our harps and refuse to sing? I wonder what Ezra and Nehemiah will be sent to lead us back to the land again, purged of our idolatry and washed this time by the blood of the Lamb?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 162–63

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Foolish puppets

Those creatures that bow and spread their wings, and run swift to do the will of God, and have no mind but God and no will but His, are the most free creatures in the entire universe. Those creatures—that’s us—who try to be free from the will of God succeed only in becoming victims to the propagandists who want to make us think the same as they think and feel the same as they feel about things; they are slaves.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of the lyrics of an old Randy Stonehill song, Puppet Strings from the album Welcome to Paradise. The refrain goes like this: "We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings / Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings."

Ain't that the truth...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 08, 2018


But there is the freedom. Love never feels slavery, and love never knows bondage. That obedience to Jesus Christ, which Paul called slavery, is not the slavery that imposes itself from the outside by laws, nor by the introduction of alien ideas into the mind. It is the happy, joyous bondage of freedom and love; and the holiest and most free creature in heaven above is the angel that is nearest the throne of God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 160

Friday, October 05, 2018

To whom do you listen?

The warfare is between the counsel of the ungodly and the counsel of God. Which shall control your mind? You are a pawn and a puppet caught in between, and if you are not awakened to it, you will learn the ways of Babylon and Egypt. You Will pick up their notions and think the way they think and value What they value and love what they love and ignore what they ignore.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Just stop it!

I try to avoid commenting on political issues, but this is too much!

As an article at the Atlantic says:

Even those who believe that Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
You have sown the wind, now be prepared to reap the whirlwind. You have sold your soul to the devil in exchange a for a sop of political influence. You turn your back on blatant sin to gain a little bit of a pat on the back and empty rhetoric.

But the biblical prophets have a different viewpoint, as does the New Testament. Take a look at Amos 5:

7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:

“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.

The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (NIV)
And what does James say:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)
Good news? The gospel is supposed to be good news. But in the hands of the current thought leaders of the evangelical movement, it is bad news unless you are the very people who were Jesus's greatest enemies.

Repent! Repent before the lampstand is removed (let the reader understand!). Your children will judge you for your stand. Make them proud by standing with righteousness and justice instead of political game-playing that will only sully the hands of those playing. It will never bring about the righteousness of God. That comes by repentance—real repentance, not mumbling a prayer, but as the CEV translates μετάνοια (metanoia) "change your hearts and lives." As the old Anabaptist saying goes, "There is no salvation without transformation."

Stop putting Nationalism before Jesus! God will not tolerate rivals. Update: Read this post at the Anxious Bench, an evangelical blog. Here's taste:

Rather than granting women greater legal protections against harassment and abuse, they [evangelicals] prefer to ascribe to husbands and fathers the power to protect women. But by placing such trust in patriarchal power, there is little recourse when those very men betray the women they are ostensibly responsible to protect. For some evangelicals, this scenario is simply unthinkable. For many more, their default setting is to believe men, not women, when allegations of abuse surface. And to blame women, not men, when women do come forward.
Read the whole thing! Be among the 36 percent who think character still counts!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The importance of libraries

"Our great public libraries and their counterparts in schools, prisons, colleges and hospitals are founded on a powerful idea--the idea of equality and democracy, of universal empowerment for working people.... A modern library is the Common Room at the heart of its community, supporting learning, health and well-being, helping people get online, use Council services. It brings people together of all ages and faiths, helps overcome loneliness and social isolation in every town, city and village the length and breadth of our nation.... How a civilized nation treats its libraries is a barometer of how it values its citizens."—Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Too true

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sin as understood in Scripture is not a misstep here and there. Nor is it limited to the actions of an individual. Sin is a condition and a ruling power. We are in bondage to our own insatiable egos and their illusion of control. Such hard truth about the human condi- tion has o en been set aside in today’s church. It has been so -pedaled or forgotten as churches have opted for the upbeat and positive, or for a faith that says little that is dire or truthful about the human condition.—The Usefulness of Scripture, page 90

Monday, October 01, 2018

Who's in control?

Somebody is going to control your mind. Who is it going to be? Is it going to be the advertiser? Is it going to be the public school? Is it going to be the media? Or is it going to be God? You have to make up your mind on that, my friend. Whether you want to or not, somebody is going to control your mind; who is it going to be? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 159

<idle musing>
This was written sometime before 1960. Advertising has only gotten worse since then. Back in the 1970s, researchers estimated you saw about 500 ads per day. The most recent figures I can find say that we see anywhere from 5000 to 10000 ads a day now. That's a ten to twenty-fold increase! And you think you aren't influenced by them? Think again!
</idle musing>

Friday, September 28, 2018

Willing captives

We always must keep in mind that this is a fallen world, and whatever originates in the world is bound to be bad and godless. Whatever originates in organized society, with thoughts from fallen minds and fallen hearts, is godless.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 158

<idle musing>
I would add, that applies equally to the Right and the Left! I personally happen to think that Fox (Pseudo-)News is a worse culprit than any others, but there is bias everywhere. Seek God and humbly ask him to show you where you are held captive. That's our only hope.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 27, 2018

You are being had!

Put chains on a man’s ankles and wrists, and he knows it. Look deep into his eyes and you will find there the sullen revolt of the free human spirit against the bonds of slavery. But conditioning the mind creates a slave who doesn’t know it. We are constantly being fed harmful ideas that we adopt and learn to believe in, thinking they are all right, and so we ignorantly follow. This is done without our knowing that a keen, sharp, unscrupulous mind is seeking to control us.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 156

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What do you have time for?

If you want to be ho1y—-if you want to serve God—you have to give time to God. Grace and holiness take time, and the cultivation of the Spirit takes time. Do you want to be holy? Do you want a deep faith? Then you have to give God time, and not just intend to. You say, “I believe you, brother. I’m going to do it.” But you never do.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 146

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Banquet or prayer meeting?

Announce a banquet and everybody will be there. Announce a prayer meeting and only a few will show up. You can tell the power of a church by the number of people who attend the prayer meeting, no question about it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 145

Friday, September 21, 2018

Countercultural advice

Blessed is the man who possesses nothing. If we possess nothing, God will allow us to have plenty. If we possess anything, we are cursed by it. So get it outside of you. Get thoroughly detached from earthly possessions. Look out for a thrill if you get a raise. Look out for a thrill if you get more money. Look out for a thrill that comes from possessions.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Not just book reviews

A few months back, I ran across an interesting blog (no, it's not on my horrendously out of date blogroll): Bob on Books. He reviews all kinds of books; some I'm interested in, others not so much. But periodically he also comments on stuff. Today, he takes on the way men are dodging the #metoo revelations. Here's a relevant paragraph, but the whole thing is spot-on; read it!
The other thing I believe we as men need to do is to assume full responsibility for our own sexuality. We must stop blaming women for our sexual longings and desires. We must stop blaming what women wear for our sexual responses. A sexually responsible man does not need a woman to tell him “no.” He makes it his responsibility to understand and honor the boundaries of a relationship. I would go so far as to say that men should not say with their bodies what they are unwilling to say in their commitments to a woman. I would go so far as to say that a man should not engage in the activity that can father children unless he is ready to assume the responsibility of being a father (and the woman wants him as the father of her children).
Amen and amen!

Thursday's dose of Tozer

If you are not detached from earthly possessions, every dollar you accumulate will be a blight on your spirit. If you have an understanding with God that goes clear down deep about who owns everything, then your increasing riches will not hurt you at all, because they are not yours. You will hold them for the Giver. God gave them, and you hold them for Him.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 135

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Good advice

I've been reading the long series of posts by Greg Boyd on Jordan Peterson's ideas (HT: Jim Eisenbraun). I'm up to part 14 of what was originally 15, then 19, but it looks like it's up to 20 now. Definitely worth your time, but I just read this, which rings so true to me:
This is advice I wish more American Christians would take seriously, both at an individual and ecclesial level. Instead of trying to “take America back for God” by positioning ourselves as Caesar’s wise advisers who assume we know better and care more than others about issues that divide the polis, we ought to make it our highest aspiration to simply be who God has called and empowered us to be; namely, individuals and communities that imitate God by living “in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph 5:1-2). I’m personally convinced that if Christians stopped trying to fix the world by grabbing hold of political power and simply focused on demonstrating God’s love in practical ways to all people, and especially to people in need, the transforming effect we would have on society would dwarf in significance whatever positive changes political regimes can occasionally manage to bring about. (emphasis added)
If you can find the time, definitely look into the whole series. Boyd takes a fair and balanced look at Peterson, acknowledging his many good points, but critiquing the points where it differs from a Christian response—and it does in significant ways.

Tozer for Tuesday

It is a solemn thought that the history of humanity and of nations and of churches shows that we trust in God, as a rule, when there is nothing else in which to trust. A Christian ought to be a realist. That is, he ought to stay by the facts, as they are, not invent or twist them. The simple fact is that the history of men, Israel, the Church and the nations and of individual churches shows that we trust in God last. We tend to trust in God when we have nothing else in which to trust. As other things to trust in appear, we turn from God to them and excuse ourselves eloquently by saying that we are not trusting them, we are trusting God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 128

Monday, September 17, 2018

Take a day!

! am not a Sabbatarian. I do not believe one day is above another day. But I believe we ought to have some time for God, The man who works seven days a week has no time for God, and the office that keeps open to get a few extra nickels on that seventh day has no time for God. Whether he takes Wednesday, Sunday or Friday off, he ought to take a day off; but Sunday would be the day to take off. It is a testimony and enables the man to get into the house of God and mingle and raise his voice in the songs of Zion with the people of God. We are not Sabbatarians, but we do believe that there is a time for everything, and secular business can ruin men, unless they take time to cultivate God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 123

Friday, September 14, 2018

But are we saying anything?

We could well cut down the decibels in our homes and in our churches. I am always cautious and afraid of noisy people. It takes a very wise man to talk all the time and say anything of value. So let us learn the scriptural silence.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Too busy

We are likely to be so busy that we do not get anything done, and so talkative that we never say anything. The prophets sought the silence; and in the silence, they learned what to say. Then they broke the silence by saying it and relapsed back into the silence again.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Men who cannot be silent will not say anything when they talk. It is only out of the silence that the Word speaks. In the beginning was silence, and then there was a word.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 122

Thursday, September 06, 2018


I am positively sure that nervous breakdowns do not come from working in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. They come from frustrations, hidden sins, stubbornness, refusing to hear God and wanting your own way; but they do not come from working. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 118

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Why the two-week silence

We were gone for two weeks, visiting family. Debbie's dad fell and is in rehab. We went to see him and to help her mom. He's doing better and probably will be able to go home again on the eleventh. He's 89 and not very strong anymore.

I've been neglecting this blog terribly this summer, but maybe with the advent of fall I'll be able to spend more time reading—and therefore blogging.

I've been working on some interesting projects, though. I just finished up the NICOT 2 Samuel volume (not on the Eerdmans website yet), which should see the light of day early next year. Before that I did the final volume of the TDOT, covering the Aramaic. That was pretty intense because they were trying to keep consistency with the other volumes, going all the way back to 1974. Needless to say, typography has come a long way since then and standards have changed. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun. I also did an Eisenbrauns Festschrift The Unfolding of Your Words Gives Light, and three SBL books, two of them on the LXX. The collection of essays by Rosel, Tradition and Innovation:English and German Studies on the Septuagint is really good; you should buy it when it comes out—or pick it up at AAR/SBL. Somehow I managed to crowd in The Abu Bakr Cemetery at Giza for B.J. at Lockwood Press, and Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester. All while creating a garden (which is doing wonderful! I'll try to post some pictures…), working for PSU Press part-time, and walking 5–8 miles a day.

I'm currently working on the Lexham Geographical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts–Revelation and an Eisenbrauns book in the EANEC series: Life and Mortality in Ugaritic, which should be out next spring or summer (also not on the web yet).

No wonder the blog has suffered!

Tozer Wednesday

There is a notion abroad that labor is a sin or, at best, a curse resting upon us. Some Christians even have the notion that work is a disciplinary punishment, which the Lord laid at the world at the Fall. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read the Bible before the third chapter of Genesis and the Fall and you wlll see that God told the newly created couple that they were to replenish the earth and subdue it.

Replenishing the earth meant there were to be children born into the world. Anybody who imagines there can be children without work has never had children or even been around them. The command to subdue the earth certainly embraces the idea of work.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 116

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Among the Woo People

Just in time for back-to-school!

Disclaimer: I grew up a block from a university campus; my dad was a university professor for ca. forty years. While we didn't live on fraternity row, there was a sorority house just down the block. One night, a car crashed into our basement window at about 1:00 AM as a student was trying to get his date back to the sorority house before curfew. He missed the corner—and the curfew! But we did get a new window in the basement. Of course, once I grew up, I went off to college—for fourteen years, ten of them as a married student. So, I figured I had heard or seen a good bit of campus life. But this book, Among the Woo People, is a delight. It's chapters are short enough to read in a couple of minutes—and usually left me laughing or recalling similar situations from my own past.

Sure, I work for PSU Press, but even if I didn't I would recommend this book! Hey, have I ever steered you wrong? And right now, it's on sale for 30% off! Use coupon code NR18 when you check out. And then let me know how you liked it! Sure, it isn't about the ANE or biblical studies, but I'll bet you can relate : )

Tozer for a Tuesday

Spirituality does not lie in the length of your hair or the length of your beard. It does not lie in the style of your garment or the quality of your garment. The rule I would lay down is the easiest rule in the world: If it is modest and you can afford it, it is appropriate. That is all God cares about dress.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 109

Friday, August 17, 2018


Victory is certainly one of the goals in the Christian life, but whose definition of victory are we using? We strive to live the victorious Christian life, but who is telling us what that really is? We must vigorously search the Scriptures to discover God's definition of the victorious Christian life and then commit ourselves to that. No other definition is acceptable to the Christian. Because this is so utterly important, we must not misunderstand what victory is all about.

Let me point out that the victorious Christian life is not a life absent of any problems or difficulties or failures. Actually, the opposite is true. The victorious Christian life is a day-to-day or even moment-by-moment victory over enemies and situations that we confront in the way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tozer for a Wednesday

Fools chose whom they wanted to marry, but they did not think of eternity when they did it. They chose what they wanted to do with their money, and they did it. They chose what they were going to say, and they thought, Our months are our own; our tongues belong to us. Wh can tell us what to say with our tongues? Therefore, they said what they would, but they did not think of tomorrow, of the judgment day, of the awful face of God or the Great White Throne. They were fools.

Hell is full of fools, and heaven is full of wise men. There are wise men in heaven that could not read and write when they were on earth; and there are learned fools in hell that had degrees after their name like the tail on a kite. They knew everything but the one thing: They were fools.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 76

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do you believe it's possible?

It's an erroneous idea that justification is an imparted robe of righteousness put over a dirty, filthy fellow who terribly needs a bath and is filled with cooties and the accumulation of the dirt of a lifetime, who stands boldly in God Almighty’s holy heaven, among seraphim and cherubim and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect, and blithely and flippantly says, “I belong in hell. I’m a filthy man but what are you going to do about it? I have on me the robe of Christ’s righteousness and that’s enough.”

God saves only sinners, and He saves only sinners who know they are sinners. He saves only sinners who admit they are sinners; but He saves sinners and turns them from being sinners to being good men and full of the Holy Spirit. When we teach anything else, we are teaching heresy.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 73–74

Friday, August 10, 2018


This guy "gets it" about that big river in South America that sells books (and lots of other things) online:
Some may wonder, why don’t I use an Amazon link?

I did at one time until a bookseller friend whose work I value greatly challenged me that I was helping to dig the grave of his business. Since I want to see him, and other brick and mortar booksellers stay in business, I paid attention. He pointed out that I was essentially endorsing Amazon as “my bookseller of choice” by directing traffic to their website.…

I’ve concluded that for all the convenience Amazon offers, we are sacrificing a rich, local culture, as well as the subtler delights of relationships with librarians, publishers, and booksellers, as well as the serendipitous delight of finding what you weren’t, as well as were, looking for on the shelves of a local book store. That is not something I want to lose.

<idle musing>
And that's the issue in a nutshell. Sure, you might save a few bucks buying via the river, but what are you doing to the local culture? Not just bookstores, but the local hardware store, or other local businesses?

Buying local puts money back in the community. Buying online drains the community.

Sure, I buy online, but almost always it's only because I can't find what I need locally.
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 09, 2018


The act of accepting Christ, if it is a true act, has an instant effect upon our entire moral life, and it changes the man from being a bad man to being a good man. God will not, by some trick of grace, take evil, foul-minded, self-righteous and vile people into his heaven. When He saves a man, He saves him from sin. If he is not saved from sin, he is not saved at all! There is no act of grace and no trick of mercy and no justification that can take an unholy man into the presence of God or an evil man into God’s holy heaven. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. He came not to call people who thought they were righteous but people Who knew they were sinful. When He calls us to Himself and saves us, He saves us out of our past and out of our iniquity and by a threefold act of justification, regeneration and sanctification, makes people fit for heaven.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 73

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Why tithe?

If I were not a Christian, I Would not tithe. All of those button pushers that come along and try to show that if you tithe you’ll have more money than you did if You don’t tithe; all of that low-grade effort to get peop1e to give isn’t Christian; it isn’t spiritual; it isn’t decent. What kind of person would you be if you brought your offerings to God's house knowing that if you did you would be more prosperous than if you did not? Knowing that you will have more than if you did not tithe? That’s tithing to get more. What kind of person would you be?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 68

Monday, August 06, 2018

Religious bores?

To be as honest and realistic as possible, I will say that some people are religious bores. They have a way of introducing religion into the most impossible situations and do it out of habit, without sincerity or any spontaneity whatsoever, but only because they have been trained to do it, like trained seals. They would bore an archangel. But if an honest, happy—hearted Christian turns and talks about God, and it bores you or embarrasses you, you are in the wrong company. If you are bored with spiritual conversation (I’m not talking about religious chitchat that would bore anybody), something has gone wrong inside of your heart. The best thing to do is admit it and acknowledge it before God.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Friday, August 03, 2018


Backsliding resides in the heart, and these other things are only external aids to the devil. When a man is backslidden in heart, he tends to get a little bit bored. If a glowing, earnest Christian bores you a little; if when you are in a little group drinking coffee or soda, and it bores you a little or embarrasses you when somebody brings up the thought of God, you had better look to your own heart. Whenever talk of God and His Word and His work in the world bores us, be sure that we are wrong inside.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 65

Thursday, August 02, 2018

If it feels good…

People tend to follow what is easy and what goes the natural way. Outside of taxes and certain other duties forced upon us from the outside, either by nature or by law, we mostly do what we like to do or what is natural to us. That is fertile soil for backsliding. A person under some great pressure of bereavement or fear turns to God for a while, but the instinct to stay there is not in them. The instinct is to go the other way.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 62

Monday, July 30, 2018

Would you?

If God never answered another prayer for me as long as I live, I still want God to know that I want to serve Him until I die. If He never did another thing for me from this day on, if He withdrew His hand and let me go to pieces physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and every other way, I would still want Him to know I want to serve Him just because He is God.

The modern emphasis that God is a convenience and Jesus Christ so kindly died for us in order that we might have peace of mind is a travesty of the gospel. Sinners know it, and the liberals know it. Only we poor, lethargic evangelicals fail to see it.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 58

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thought for a Friday

We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend but not be contentious. We must present truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people. In earlier times, when men were wrong, they contended, and in contending, they became contentious. In an attempt to preserve truth, they destroyed those who held error. Let us preserve truth but injure no man.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 45

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What does your God look like?

Some Christians have taken all the justice, judgment and hatred of sin out of the nature of God and have nothing left but a soft god. Others have taken love and grace out and have nothing left but a god of judgment. Or they have taken away the personality of God and have nothing left but a mathematical god—-the god of the scientists. All these are false, inadequate conceptions of God. Our God is a God of justice, grace, righteousness and mercy. While He is a God of mathematical exactness, He is also a God who could take babies in His arms and pat their heads and smile. He is a God who forgives. So We had better make the study of His Word the business of our lives to find out what He is, and then we must conform our views to His.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 41–42

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tozer for a Tuesday

When truth has been revealed in the Word of God, our business is to find out What that truth is, and in all of our teaching conform to that truth. We are not to edit or change it, but to let it stand just as it is.

Let an engineer be wrong about a position, and if he builds according to that wrong concept, his building will collapse around him. Let a navigator be wrong about where he is taking his ship, and his ship will run onto a sandbar or a rock and shatter, sinking out of sight. Nonconformity to the truth brings disaster. The enormity of the disaster depends upon the high level or the low level of the facts you have before you.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 40

Monday, July 23, 2018

Do your own thing?

What we must remember is that only he who takes orders from Jesus Christ belongs to Him. The evangelical church is in the process of compromising this very thing and ignoring “thus saith the Lord.” Yes, we want any benefits that Christ may confer upon us. We want His help, protection and guidance. We even get misty-eyed over His birth, life, death, teaching, and example. The problem comes when we will not take orders from Him. Christ cannot save the one He cannot control. To claim to be saved while ignoring His commandments is to live in utter delusion.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 35–36

Friday, July 20, 2018

The church is an "also ran"

Our literature is no different. If there is a best seller out in the world, you can be sure it will be imitated in the Church eventually. Instead of writing great literature that honors God, the Church and the things of heaven, we are duplicating the dreary, morally questionable literature of the world. It seems to be a trophy to some writers to see how close to the edge they can get and not fall over. I have a news bulletin. They are not in danger of falling over the cliff; they have already fallen and do not know it yet.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 29

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Are you bored?

Boredom with religion is conceivable, but being bored with God is not. Those who have encountered God and His mighty, awesome presence could never come to the point of boredom. Religion, however, with all of its tiresome dos and don’ts, sets us up for such boredom. Anyone who tries to follow his religion religiously experiences great moments of boredom in the minutia.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 28

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tozer again

In the Early Church, everybody was part of the ministry team. Everybody was expected to go out into the world and preach the glorious redeeming message of Jesus Christ. Certainly, there were categories—such as elders and bishops and apostles. The Church ran quite efficiently by all Christians working together, each of them knowing where they belonged, and doing their part. Now we have teams of experts who only know the letter of the law. We have people who have become religious snobs putting on a show for Christians in the hopes that the Sunday offering would be more than sufficient to subsidize a lifestyle of greed. It is not hard to see that a spirit of Babylon creating a condition of spiritual lethargy has invaded today’s Church—all of this orchestrated by spiritually impotent theologians.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 23

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tozer for a Monday morning

However, a new, updated translation of the Scripture is not the answer. It is amazing that i n a generation of Christians with more modern translations of the Scriptures than all the other generations put together, it is just about the weakest group of Christians we have ever seen.

It is not by reading the Scriptures in the original languages or in some contemporary version that makes us better Christians. Rather, it is getting on our knees with the Scriptures spread before us, and allowing the Spirit of God to break our hearts. Then, when we have been thoroughly broken before God Almighty, we get up off our knees, go out into the world and proclaim the glorious message of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 22

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pastors and leaders

Then we have celebrities who are leading our so-called worship today. This mirrors the culture around us. To be a leader in the Church, a man does not have to have spiritual qualifications as much as a personality and a celebrity status. The converted football player wields more influence in churches today than the man who is before God on his knees with a broken heart for his community. Celebrities are now leading us, but they are not leading us down the same pathway the Fathers Of the Church established.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 19–20

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tozer on worship

The average Christian today is addicted to exterior pleasures. Can any Christian church survive today without a heavy dose of entertainment? It is the culture of fun, fun, and more fun. Performance has replaced worship. We no longer have worshipers but rather observers and spectators who sit in awe of the performance. The demand is for something that will make us feel good about ourselves and make us forget about all of our troubles.

The Church Fathers were fanatic worshipers, and their worship carried with it a heavy cost, which incidentally, they gladly and eagerly paid. The grandsons are now observers with an appetite for entertainment that has gone wild. They are addicted, with an insatiable appetite, to have one thrill followed by an even bigger thrill. They are as fanatic about entertainment as their fathers were about worship, which explains the difference.—A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 18–19

<idle musing>
Tozer wrote/preached this in the late 1950s! I wonder what he would think now? : (
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Beyond words

The Spirit-baptized life trades in holy mysteries. When Pentecostals speak in glossolalic tongues, they do not know what they are saying, and that is very much an appropriate epistemic space to occupy. In some sense, they do not need to know what they are saying because what is happening at such moments resists and defies description beyond the surface, since the One at work is infinite, transcendent, and thus beyond words. Pentecostals at various moments implicitly sense this dynamic in their spirituality. For instance, we have already alluded to how Smith speaks of testimonies that have a "I know that I know that I know" quality—they operate out of a certainty principle that runs deeper than conventional forms of cognitive or linguistic affirmation. [James Smith, Thinking in Tongues] But then again, when Pentecostals move from their spirituality to the theological task, the temptation to register their intuitions in a kind of totalizing and corrupting discourse persists. As a case in point, some Pentecostals suggest that these tongues are spiritually edifying, that they encourage the believer, and so on. The danger of such comments is that they signify a benefits orientation toward the Christian life that is in need of a dark-night purging of its own. On the contrary, and first and foremost, glossolalia stands as a phenomenon that points to the superabundance of the God Pentecostals believe they experience in their worship settings. This effulgence, this glory, this radiance simply defies logo-centric parameters. Glossolalia points in this direction, and Pentecostals and others have continually sensed this.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 176

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Life is complicated—sometimes very complicated

[Simon] Chan wishes to expose an overreahzed eschatology as the chief culprit at work in the inability of Pentecostals to see trials and difficulties as part of the Christian life. He believes that, when Pentecostals fixate on signs, miracles, and the like, they lose sight of how Christian existence really is. The spiritual life cannot be a movement from one peak to the next; quite the contrary, "progress in the Christian life may involve many dark nights and many re-fillings of the Spirit, each experienced in greater degree of intensity." [Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 79] Pentecostals may not be forthcoming in claiming this dynamic, for typically their tendency is to emphasize the powerful demonstration of God's power, the victorious battle against sin, and the manifestation of an awe-inspiring miracle. However, if these are the emphases, what happens when their contraries are very much in evidence? What if the sought miracle does not take place? What if the battle against sin is ongoing? What if God appears to be absent or missing? As Paul Alexander has noted of his own experience, an awkward silence typically ensues in such cases, one quickly Filled by counterevidence and countertestimonies.[Paul Alexander, Signs and Wonders, ch. 1] The questions are often dismissed, ignored, or reinterpreted; they cannot be lelt to stand. Nevertheless, these concerns are valid because they are true to experience. They point to the multifaceted nature of life in general and the Christian spiritual life in particular.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 167–68

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Customer service?

My phone died today. It wasn't even a year old, ten months to be exact. So I set up a chat session on the phone provider's web page. As you log in, they ask for details about the problem. So, I proceed to type in the issue, complete with the fact that I have already removed the battery, sim card, and sd card and reseated them all.

I wait a couple of minutes and the person on the other end asks what the problem is…hmmm…I thought I just told them. Oh well, I retype the issue—and wait another couple of minutes before they ask me to remove the battery, replace it, and try powering it on again. Hmmm…I thought I just told them that. Oh well, I'll humor them.

No change in the phone—what a surprise : (

The agent types, well, we'll just have to reset it then. OK. Remove battery, replace, and press the power and up volume at the same time. No change, as expected. Agent types, we'll check to see if it's eligible for exchange. Several minutes later: it is. Ok, needs all my contact information, address, etc. And phone number. Hmmm…it doesn't work! I give them Debbie's.

More exchange about how to return it, etc. Finally, "Would you like to participate in a survey about this exchange?" Sure, why not? They reply, "Great! You will get a text message…" Face palm! I don't have a phone that works! Response, "Well then I guess you won't be able to receive the text message." Oh, the irony!

You gotta either laugh or cry. I'll laugh. Without a phone for at least a week, which isn't so bad, I guess. Unless someone wants to call me or text me : ) Good thing most of my work interactions are via email!