Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Confessing Church and Theology Today

Professor Jeremy Begbie has written a masterful article on the Confessing Church and the Nazis to which his last three theological points are worth the entire article:


Friday, October 9, 2015

Ravi Zacharias Quote

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Notable Books

Here a few notable books I've been reading recently:

You will surely know Winner from her previous books, some of which are entitled, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, Mudhouse Sabbath, and Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.  This is a rather deep look about ways in which we meet God that are out of the ordinary or ways in which we past over that are very easily unidentifiable.  The chapter on Smell is illuminating and challenging to say the least.  Quoting from George Orwell and others, Lauren peers into our hearts that allow smell to distance us from becoming friends with others.  She writes, "Perhaps if smelling is to be a part of my relationship with God, I might start here: trying to unlearn whatever I have been taught about the relationship of smell to virtue, trying to notice how I let smell become a barrier between me and people who might be my friends (89)."  With quotes from spiritual guides and thinkers to wisdom from her own experience, this book is a real gem.

With unflappable humor and introspection, Bible scholar Peter Enns gets to the heart of the matter concerning Scripture and our defense of it or lack thereof.  Much of the book is a foray into the question of the Canaanite genocide in the OT, the cultural and historical situation regarding it and if God really told Israel to decimate the entire people living in Canaan.  I found many of the arguments concerning the question of the genocide to be lacking in substance.  For those with an evangelical stance, this book will be tremendously frustrating, yet you will still find many points at which to either agree with or respect.

This book is divided up into very short pieces, usually 2-3 pages long that read more as very fascinating blog posts.  Yet, this book is tremendously full of wisdom and critical thinking.  Volf is the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.  He is a systematic theologian and one of the leading theologians of our time.  He has experienced great suffering in his homeland of Croatia.  This book pulls no punches and calls people on the table.  In his chapter on Evil and Evildoers he pushes back against his friend who believes it to be preposterous to call a terrorist act or person evil, for it does nothing for the situation.  Furthermore, as Volf explains, his friend believes that evil only arises out of a set of pernicious influences from abusive parents, bad genes, unjust structure and leaders.  Volf counters by stating, "Our condemnation of our deed notwithstanding, we respect an evildoer by calling her evil because we are treating her as a responsible being (23)."

Rather than end on this note, Volf goes onto mention that, "God's love is broad enough to include evildoers, the worst of them.  We know this because Christ died for their salvation no less than for the salvation for the rest of us who are one and all by nature God's enemies (25)."  With a dose of Solzhenitsyn and a firm foundation in the gospel, Volf displays a remarkable wit to challenge our dearly held beliefs and look again at what God is doing in his world.  My recommendation is that you buy this book, or at the very least check it out. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip Wesley Comfort

Longtime scholar of ancient biblical manuscripts, Dr. Comfort has been an authority on textual manuscript traditions for many years.  Here, in this updated edition, his A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is a welcome addition to the growing field of textual studies.  What do you find in such a commentary?  For one, Comfort introduces the reader to the extant papyrus manuscripts we have of the New Testament, namely the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Chester Beatty Papyri, and the Bodmer Papyri.  Also, Comfort reasons that the earliest manuscript evidence is generally followed, “documentary evidence has pride of place (31).”

One of the most significant sections of the book for me was Comfort’s elucidation concerning nomina sacra in the NT. Comfort writes, “The earliest copies of the New Testament writings (perhaps some of the autographs themselves) included these specially inscripted forms for the sacred names…some writers and/or scribes used the first letter and the last letter of the name; others used the first two letters and the last letter.  Thus, for example XPICTOC (Christ) was written as XP (line over it, very rare form), XPC (line over it), or XC line over it (the most common form).  In whatever form, XPICTOC (Christ) was always written as a nomen sacrum (37-38).”  In the LXX, the Greek Old Testament, these nomina sacra were not used, the only similarity is in the divine name of Yahweh (it would often be a Hebrew contracted form).  In some of the very earliest copies of the NT, we find other words that are deemed nomina sacra, cross and crucify are some of those examples (stauros and stauromai).  One of the reasons why a bar would be over a significant word, a nomen sacrum, was to desecularize the term, giving is sacred status (40).  Lectors and readers of liturgy would also know as a result of the nomina sacra where to provide more emphasis when reading a text, thereby giving it more weight as its heard.

The rest of the text is a careful analysis of the textual variants and commentary on the textual tradition in the various books of the NT.  Comfort pays careful attention to the very earliest manuscript and papyri traditions. 

This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on textual analysis.  Comfort helpfully gives us a background on the text families and the most important things to look for in textual analysis.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Giving Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt

At the slightest instance of gossip, do we enter into the conversation and pile up our baggage about another person’s character, personality, or appearance?  Giving each other the benefit of the doubt means thinking the best of someone and their intentions even when we get the sinking feeling that there are ulterior motives on the horizon.  Giving the benefit of the doubt means also bearing with people, loving them well even when in the past they’ve sinned against us.  The Scriptures connect the way we perceive others and also give them the benefit of the doubt through various lenses, one of which is the theme of love found in 1 Corinthians 13.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13.4-7,

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The kindness of God and his kindness have been poured out upon us in Jesus Christ.  The love of Christ bore our sins, believed in us, and had the firm hope that his work would be sufficient for our salvation, and in enduring the cross took our sin upon his shoulders and dealt fully with it.  Therefore, since this great work has been done for us and in us, overcoming our stubborn rebellion, how much more should we live a life predicated upon these characteristics of love.

When we believe the best of others, we are treating them as God’s image bearers, full of dignity, worth, and demanding our respect.  Much more than this, by believing in the good of others, in giving them the benefit of the doubt, we invite them into a relationship with us that is an ongoing partnership.  By opening up the lines of communication and trust, we give others the ability to fail without the jackhammer of condemnation from us.   But what happens when we give others the benefit of the doubt and they betray us, break our trust, and trample our positive expectation of them?

As this passage indicates, we bear with them in love, we don’t automatically cast them out to the furthest reaches of Maine.  There is no reason not to inquire what happened in their lives, in their hearts and busy schedules as to what happened.  There is also room to be disappointed or frustrated about broken trust.  The question isn’t how we respond internally about the betrayal of trust, but will we forgive them and believe again in the benefit of the doubt toward that person.  Our love for that person will endure as we think of the cross and the work of Christ on our behalf as we go forward to meet that person in forgiveness.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Recalling the Hope of Glory

Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen Ross

What is the foundational element of worship from a theological perspective?  Why do we worship in the way we do as Christians?  All these questions are encountered in the delightful and carefully written book, Recalling the Hope of Glory by Professor Allen Ross.  Ross is known for his insightful works on the Psalms (both from Kregel Academic) and his work on Biblical Hebrew.  In this book on worship, Allen begins by cataloging the lowly and unsatisfying picture of worship in many of our churches as a mundane affair that is casually done by its participants.  Instead, Ross rightly posits worship as “a transcendent meeting with the living God (39).”  The reason that so much of our worship is lacking in substance and vision is the deficit of a robust biblical and theological of worship that undergirds all of what we do and say concerning worship (38).

When we come to the fount of meaning concerning worshiping God, where do we start?  Ross clues us in on the answer by bringing us back to the Scriptures, specifically Isaiah 6.  In Isaiah 6, the holiness of God is in view, and the proper response to God’s holiness is fear and adoration, confession and commitment (52-53).  While I thought this first chapter was very illuminating, Ross’ discussion of ritual acts of worship developing our four senses was especially helpful.  He identifies in ritual actions in worship four senses which are touched in worship; namely the intellectual, aesthetic, corporate, and moral sense (57-60).  These senses taken together include the cognitive apprehension of what is going on in worship (doctrine and ritual), the beauty of the art of worship, the nature of the worshipping community, and the moral formation that is caused by engaging in worship.  This is a helpful delineation of worship and our senses because without one of these components, worship does not affect lasting change in our lives.

In the midst of Allen’s discussion regarding the Perversion of Paradise, he looks at some compelling passages that shed light on both God’s grace and God’s remedy for sin.  He writes, “When Adam and Eve admitted their sin, God replaced their temporary coverings with animal skins.  Clothing thus became a symbol of God’s grace…” (115).  Ross connects this idea of clothing with what we find in later Scriptural texts, namely that righteousness and holiness are connected to the garments of holiness, whether white linens or other glorious apparel.  The point isn’t so much the apparel itself but the holiness that comes from being in relationship with God and us revealing the holiness of our Savior.  As God’s grace was evident in God giving our first parents garments of animal skins, so it is God’s grace which grants us the white linens of holiness as we approach God as witnessed in the Book of Revelation.

This is a beautifully written and well-researched book.  I hope you will enjoy it as I surely did.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Survive a University Religion Class

Michael Kruger on surviving a University Religion Course: