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