Friday, January 2, 2015

Be Thankful for fellow Christians...

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

I ran across the following in Gordon Fee's commentary (see photo):

A couple things to think about:
(1) The Corinthian church was, to put it nicely, a church with a lot of problems and a lot of yet worldly attitudes. Yet, there had some albeit limited evidence of the fruit of the Spirit as the testimony of the gospel had been confirmed in them (v. 6).

(2) Paul, for all the rebuke he gives them, remains thankful for them and for the grace of God. They have been called holy by God (1:2) and have been sanctified from their sins (6:11), even though they have much progress that needs to yet be made in this sanctification.

(3) Pastorally, but even if you are a not a pastor, do we give thanks for God's grace in Christians's lives even when we see sins that need to be corrected and addressed? This is example of Paul's pastoral practice. Genuine thanksgiving for a genuine work of God even though we hope and pray that there is great future progress.

Imagine at this moment when Paul is writing, how far the Corinthians had come--they, like Paul, had moved from darkness into the light of the gospel--even though the church in Corinth had very far yet to go in their ethics and behavior.

The blog world is frequent with denunciations of bad practice from bad Christians--yes, yes things that are indeed sins and should be addressed. But far less is there the pastoral tact & tone of genuine thankfulness for the grace of God and the fruit of the grace even though it may yet need greater manifestation in some areas of a person's life.

*It should go without saying that Paul is not thankful for the actually sins of the Corinthians, nor does he introduce the book of Galatians with this kind of thankfulness as he is addressing those wondering from the gospel who are not or may not actually be Christians. These are things he is not thankful for and neither should we be thankful for false professors or blatant hypocrisy. But often we fail to see the grace of God in those who yes may still have far to go in their experience of that grace*

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fun Stuff for the Liebster Award

So kuddos to Jennifer Guo for nominating me for the silly meme of the "Liebster Award," which is sort of like chain mail for the biblioblog-sphere. So, I thought I'd break my with my obstructionist tendencies when it comes to chain mail memes and answer the questions that Jennifer has put to me and our fellow bloggers. (Although I must confess, I really haven't done much for blogging as of late).

These are the rules:
“The Rules” according to the Wording Well, in order to accept the nomination you must follow these following guidelines:
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to his/her blog.
  • Write 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers (they should have less than 300 followers).
  • Answer 5 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.
So five random facts about me:

  1. I lived three years on the island of Guam as a missionary kid.
  2. On my first date with the lovely lady who is now my wife, I got her into a car accident--and to make matters worse, I had not yet met her father.
  3. My first exposure to Star Wars was at about 11 or 12 reading Timothy Zahn's book "Heir to the Empire" --I was hooked on Timothy Zahn and on Star Wars so I later watched the movies.
  4. I've been roasting my own coffee beans for about a year or so now. A friend bought me a Whirley-Popper stove top popcorn popper and got me into roasting. I don't consider myself a huge coffee snob, but it does make for some good coffee.
  5. Because I have four daughters, at one point I could name all the My Little Ponies. No, I am not a Brony. Absolutely Not!

Here are my answers to Jennifer's questions:
(1) If you could have any super power what would it be, and who would your arch-nemesis be? 
Even though I collected comic books in my high school years and have continued to renew my nerd card since then, this was a hard and serious question, because with great power becomes great responsibility.

So I think I would either choose (1) teleportation with the ability to bend space & time (like Blink of the X-Men who first appeared in the Phalanx Covenant series, not the most recent movie).

Or I would just go with straight up telekenesis powers because they are so versatile you can make force shields, move things, fly etc. Some of the most powerful superheroes, especially in the Marvel Universe, are telekenitics.

My archnemesis would be an super-villian who defeats his enemies by depriving them of  sleep until they could go mad. And if he tries to deprive me of my Sunday afternoon nap, I will be an epic showdown. 

(2) Middle Earth or Narnia and why?
Middle earth because hobbits, elves, dwarfs, wizards, epic battles. Oh and second breakfasts.

(3) What’s your favorite biblical/theological topic/area?
New Testament Studies. I particularly like the sub-fields of NT Christology, Pauline Studies, and Gospels. My current research is in Hebrews, so I really am loving that too.

(4) Favorite scholars?  
I enjoy Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, Herman Ridderbos, Thomas Schreiener, G.K. Beale. Not my most favorites now but George Eldon Ladd and NT Wright were particular interests of mine in my undergrad days.

Older theologians: I enjoy Warfield, Bavinck, Geerhardus Vos, John Calvin, Athanasius.

(5) If you’ve been to SBL, describe a favorite memory. If not, describe what you’d be most excited about if you were going next year. 
Haven't been there yet. 

So that's it. Sorry but I'm going to pull a Nick Norelli and not nominate anyone mostly because I haven't been following a lot of blogs lately and the twitter friends I'd probably nominate are the ones Jennifer already did.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You Really Don't Want Christian Doctors? Really?

Over on Slate, there is an essay entitled "In Medicine We Trust." The subtitle is "Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?" Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit had linked to the article. Like him, I find myself saying "Oh Good Grief". Is this the end game for Western thought and especially humanism? "We can't have missionaries keeping people alive because hey people might start believing in God, especially the Christian one."

This essay really bugs me for a number of reasons. It is amazing the amount of self-critical awareness the article lacks.

If you think about it:
(1) the writer would rather have suffering Africans have no medical care, then missionaries doing their best but not having ideal amounts of funds. (I am kind of borrowing on Margaret Thatcher's great line the liberals would rather the poor be poorer so long as the rich aren't rich).

Think about it if you are genuinely starving, you'll take a poor meal from a kitchen with a "C" on a health inspector rating, then no meal because it's not a "A".

(2) the writer makes the assumption that there is some sort of artificial way to separate values and morals from the practice of medicine. As if when you are non-religious you can practice a sort of value-neutral approach to medicine. We all would agree both Christians and non-Christians have consciences--things are ALWAYS going to impact your conscience. No one is objective. Yet this article seems to assume the non-religious can be more objective in the practice of medicine which is philosophically naive at best. [if you are not a Christian, ok, but one should be a little more self aware (at least be aware of the critique of postmodernism against neutrality and objectivity)]

(3) The person doesn't want to see Christians proselytize. Fair complaint. But why is it assumed that anyone saying "I do this because I believe in God's love" is inherently manipulative? If you follow the writer's logic, offering any type of hope (something metaphysical outside of scientific and/or emotional) to people in trouble would be manipulative. What is really motivating the author's opinion is unbelief which they use to leverage the charge of "manipulation".

The writer might as well say: "I don't want those suffering to get medical care if they might end up converted". Are we really saying "I don't want people to get help AND LIVE if they are going to become a Christian (which I reject as untrue)." If you are truly a humanist wouldn't your first priority be to keep people alive, even if you feel the need to counter what you believe is a lie? At least the people would still be alive, albeit "misled".

(4) The author seems blissfully unaware of the impact the rise of Christianity had on medical practice and the development of health care in the first centuries and beyond.

(5) How many times is the critique of Christianity that it cares about heaven and not people's suffering (not really a fair critique if you look at Christianity's history). Now when people are actually helping keep people alive, we can't have that.

Just curious but has anyone suggested hidden racism in keeping Africans from getting help?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Relearning the Foolishness of the Cross

This statement is quite telling:

And while we grieve rejection, we should not be shocked or ashamed by it. That probationary year unearthed a hidden assumption that I could be nuanced or articulate or culturally engaged or compassionate enough to make the gospel more acceptable to my neighbors. But that belief is prideful. From its earliest days, the gospel has been both a comfort and an offense.
It is from an essay over at Christianity Today about Vanderbilt's rejection of any group that hold to distinctives,  especially Christian doctrinal statements.

There is a lot of ironic points in the essay which could make for "see we told you" moments--as a good number of more conservative commentators have been saying for years. However the essay is helpful as a cultural marker and pointer to the direction things are heading--even if people have noted this for a while.

It is also a disappointment to see that the idea of the university is being lost in favor of radical pluralism where discrimination is valued more than discernment--shibboleths more that reason arguments and debate.

The larger point is that the quest for a more culturally acceptable for of Christianity does not end as the purveyors hope. Props to this group for not compromising basic orthodox convictions, such as the resurrection-- but it is impossible for Christianity to win the favor of its cultured despisers. Paul knew this as early as 1 Corinthians when he spoke of the foolishness of the Cross. Whether we like it or not the academy today is largely looking for a wisdom that comports with worldly standards--as wisdom which cannot in the end ever find allowance for or acceptance of the gospel.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Was a Farce

Less than a decade ago, when the Emergent/Emergent/Emerg-whatever was all the rage, the rallying cry was than many of the voices that were opening and broadening themselves were just trying to get back to Ancient Christianity... one still grounded by the Nicene & Apostles Creed.

So the criticism was that Evangelicals with their boundaries were just turning in to Fundamentalists.

Is there a "orthodox" Christianity that is broader than evangelicalism? Of course, let's not be naive. But this was always a red herring.

Now, apparently if you call someone 'UN-orthodox' when they walk away from those actually ANCIENT boundaries of ACTUAL orthodoxy--well you're just mean, cruel and fundamentalist.

Compare this and this.

It just goes to show... it was never about orthodoxy... it was about self, self-identity and self-definition. For all the rage about community, the individual was/is supreme.

The push for a broader Christianity within orthodox bounds was a farce. It was a farce the whole time.

Kinda reminds of me of this little parable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Covenants

"Without a covenantal understanding of the Bible, you will travel through life in what seems like a practical way, but when the storms come or when you get lost, you will have no solid framework to go to or to lean on in those times. Even for those who say “I lean on Jesus,” which we all should, you can’t lean on Jesus if you don’t understand who he is, and that comes from a correct understanding of Christ through covenant. You can lean on your own construction of Jesus, you can lean on your modified Jesus who suits your wants, needs, and personal beliefs, but you cannot lean on the true Jesus of Scripture apart from understanding who he is as the Federal Head and Mediator of the New Covenant. To grasp this understanding, all you have to do is read through the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Hebrews."

--This is comes from Zachary Brian Lee over here on his blog. The emphasis is mine. Apparently is a a baptist who "likes" covenants (I say that tongue in cheek), pretty much the category I find myself in, as with all the best historic baptists.  

I was originally attracted to this post because of the title: "It’s More Than a Relationship: It’s a Religion"

But he's exactly right about "covenant," its a concept that often goes missing but is foundational to Christian thinking. It gives meat to bones of doctrine and an anchor to so many Scriptural ideas. Yet it is far too often missing in our practical conceptions--particularly if you are outside of Presbyterian circles.

As they say, read the rest:

Here's his conclusion:
We must move beyond this pagan understanding of a nebulous spirituality that we slap the Christian label onto, and we must move back to the understanding that has been present in Church history for 2000 years and for thousands of years beyond that, going all the way back to Adam. We must return to the objective, substantive, true understanding of God through covenant. It is the only way to preserve the true Christian faith and guard it against false teachings and heresies that wolves attempt to bring in and devour us with. To understand that Christ is King, Prophet, and Priest, we must understand those roles as determined by Scripture in their covenant relationship. If we do not understand the covenants, how will we know in what way Christ is the High Priest? Why does he need to be a priest and who does he need to be a priest for outside of an understanding of covenant demands and laws? The covenant is a precious truth that God has not just given us to think about or dwell on intellectually or in abstract philosophy; God has actually reached down into time and space and has established a covenant that all who believe may partake in and that covenant has real implications for every single area of our lives; the way we treat our neighbor, the way we do business, the way we vote in elections, the way we raise our kids, even the way in which we dispose of human waste! God has graciously revealed himself to us and offers himself to us in the form of covenant relationship. Without the covenant, we do not have a true picture of God’s love. You do not understand love and you cannot understand love until you understand God’s covenants. Let us look to the Scriptures and seek that covenant bond that God graciously and freely establishes with a people who were once not his, but now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, belong to him in the New Covenant, which supersedes all other covenants in promise, power, glory, and finality.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bruce Metzger on the Ascension

Michael Bird has a great post on the Ascension. He quotes Bruce Metzger:

“Ascension Day proclaims that there is no sphere, however secular, in which Christ has no rights – and no sphere in which his followers are absolved from obedience to him. Instead of it being a fairy tale from the pre-space age, Christ’s ascension is the guarantee that he has triumphed over the principalities and powers, so that at his name ‘every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:10-11).”

Almost sounds Kuyperian...and this coming from a Princeton man... perish the thought.

Bird goes on to highlight three important aspects of the ascension.
  1. Jesus ascends to heaven so that he can send the Holy Spirit to his followers. 
  2. Believers embryonically share in the reign of Christ by virtue of their union with Christ. 
  3. Jesus’ work of mediation continues in his heavenly session.

And for those who want to "sermonize on the ascension for hours" (as Bird puts it) I offer this, with the audio,  also check the tag for the blog too.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...