Theology for the Long Haul

Friday, December 31, 2010

Life and Death in the New Year

"Many people make it their policy to not talk about death, even though it is certain to visit all of us. Our lives move along a deathward trajectory that none of us, even the most vigorous, can avoid. Not only do thousands of people die each day, but it is the horizon before which we rise from our pillows every morning. The Italian playboy Casanova, for instance, resented the thought of death because it threatened to remove him from the stage of history before the end of the show. Simone de Beauvoir suggested that death instills anxiety precisely because it is “the inescapable reversal of our projects.” Whatever the reason for one’s aversion, the fact remains that children continue to kneel beside their beds testifying to this reality: “If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.” In this way, every nap anticipates death, a foreshadowing of the real thing, a fact that every theologian must keep firmly before his or her eyes."

Life and Death in the New Year

The Disciple Abides: Prayer & Fellowship

"Disciples are to follow Jesus’ example of prayer. Prayer is personal communion with the living God. It refers to the greatest privilege a Christian can have—access to God himself. Through prayer, disciples become intimate with the Lord."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now Is The Time... To Become A Follower

In an effort to increase a visible following of this blog, I will be giving away Chris Tomlin's newest Cd "And if our God is for Us." Once there are 25 followers of High Milage Hermenuetics, there will be a random drawing of all followers (new and old), so if something has held you back from becoming a visable follower, now is the time. The winner will be posted here, with more drawings to be followed at a later date.
Shameless, obvious follower seeking no doubt.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Great Quote from Carson's Newest

I am reading D.A. Carson's newest book, "Collected Writings on Scripture," and I found this quote...I had to share

“Some of us who would never dream of formally disentagling some parts of the Bible from the rest and declaring them less authoritative than other parts can by exegetical ingenuity get the Scriptures to say just about whatever we want … To our shame we have hungered to be masters of the Word much more than we have hungered to be mastered by it.

The pervasiveness of the problem erupts in the “Christian” merchant whose faith has no bearing on the integrity of his or her dealings, or in the way material possessions are assessed. It is reflected in an accelerated divorce rate in Christian homes and among the clergy themselves – with little sense of shame and no entailment in their “ministries.” It is seen in its most pathetic garb when considerable exegetical skill goes into proving, say, that the Bible condemns promiscuous homosexuality but not homosexuality itself (though careful handling of the evidence overturns the thesis), or that the Bible’s use of “head” in passages dealing with male/female relationships follows allegedly characteristic Greek usage and, therefore, means “source” (when close scrutiny of the primary evidence fails to turn up more than a handful of disputable instances of the meaning “source” in over two thousand occurrences). It finds new lease when popular evangelicals publically abandon any mention of “sin”- allegedly on the ground that the term no longer “communicates” – without recognizing that adjacent truths (e.g. those dealing with the fall, the law of God, the nature of transgression, the wrath of God, and even the gracious atonement itself) undergo telling transformation.

While I fear that evangelicalism is headed for another severe conflict on the doctrine of Scripture, and while it is necessary to face these impending debates with humility and courage, what is far more alarming is the diminishing authority of the Scriptures in the churches. This is taking place not only among those who depreciate the consistent truthfulness of Scripture but also (if for different reasons) among those who most vociferously defend it. To some extent we are all part of the problem; and perhaps we can do most to salvage something of value from the growing fragmentation by pledging ourselves in repentance and faith to learning and obeying God’s most holy Word. Then we shall also be reminded that the challenge to preserve and articulate a fully-consistent and orthodox doctrine of Scripture cannot be met by intellectual powers alone, but only on our knees and by the power of God.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Profile of a Disciple I

"Throughout the ages, different Christians have emphasized various marks for being a disciple. However, the most important factors in defining the true marks of a disciple are found in the pages of the New Testament. The New Testament offers several marks that should be common to all disciples of Jesus Christ."

Nijay Gupta reviews Dunn's "Did the First Christians Worship Jesus"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most "Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Response to “I'm Calling For A Reformation!”

Phil’s post has captured the essence of the dilemma that many students face in pursuing theological education: which institution will best prepare them for service as pastors, professors, or ministry professionals? The suggestions put forward at the end of his post addressing this concern are helpful. Each student must prayerfully consider the theological commitments, ethos, worldview, heritage, and goals of an institution before enrolling there. I agree with Phil that commitment to the ministry and mission of the Church is something necessary for Christian institutions and Christian faculty. These concerns could be grouped under the broader category of calling, i.e., what Christians are called to do and be at work and in their relationships with others. Calling is important for each individual in pursuing life in Christ and for broader institutions whose goals are shaped by the same concerns. Phil’s call for a reformation in thinking in this area is something that can be practically sought after on an individual level right now by the university and seminary student.

The more difficult question in my estimation is bringing the discussion of calling to bear on the academy at large. It is more difficult because the academy (perhaps academies is a more accurate term) serves many different publics. Phil’s focus seemed to rest on seminaries and Christian institutions, but it is important to remember that biblical studies, theology, and church history often find their way into the curricula of secular institutions like state colleges and universities. These institutions have very different commitments than Christian institutions and often serve more diverse publics. In these environments it would likely be more difficult to arrive at a sense of calling and commitment to the ministry of the Church. Any plan for a reformation of the academy would have to specify a particular audience and grouping of institutions. One way to think about this is by comparing some of the different scholarly societies in North America. Some serve very broad publics like the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. In these societies the diversity of worldviews and commitments make it virtually impossible to affirm a common sense of calling (other than perhaps some general commitments to intellectual integrity in scholarship and to searching for truth). Other societies serve more specific publics where common commitments and a corporate sense of calling are more easily agreed upon, e.g., Institute for Biblical Research, Catholic Theological Society of American, Evangelical Theological Society.

Any call for reformation of the academy must wrestle with this question of multiple institutions (Christian and secular) serving multiple publics (Christian and secular). It seems to me that a reformation in thinking could be pursed in Christian institutions. In secular institutions it would likely need to be at an individual level (Christian students and faculty renewing their commitment to the ministry of the Church in whatever capacity they are able to in their context). The diversity of religious life and thought in North America coupled with the common tension between church and state make any attempt at reforming the academy as a whole complex and contextual, but these are not reasons to avoid the importance of seeking the renewal of Christian institutions, theological education, and ministry. Perhaps one way to move forward is focusing attention on the cooperation between churches and seminaries/higher education institutions identifying themselves as Christian. Perhaps a joint dialogue between several representative bodies like the National Council of Churches, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities could produce some fruitful results. Perhaps a grassroots campaign on the part of several churches and parachurch organizations could help draw attention to the importance of calling and ministry for their clergy and Christian employees pursing theological education. Phil’s encouragement for individuals to seek a reformation in their own thinking in this area is another way to contribute to a broader renewal of Christian education. Prayer for renewal at all of these levels is another valuable practice that churches and individuals can embrace as they seek transformation of Christian education.

Posted by Jacob, who regularly blogs at Inter Christianos.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Calling For A Reformation!

Many Western seminaries are having an identity crisis. Though the majority of students enter seminary in hopes of finding encouragement from their Bibles and passion for the gospel ministry, more and more are leaving discouraged. A smaller number are giving up on the ministry, having been convinced that their faith is no longer tenable (defensible).

How did it get to be this way? It is my belief that the modernism of the last century has paved the way. It was the modern age that convinced Christian academics that unadulterated objectivity (having no bias) was not only possible, but helpful. It was modernism that introduced the fallacy that scholarship is a calling to academics, but not to ministry. As a result a number of seminaries have come to employ ministry oblivious academics. Their teachings do violence to a student’s confidence in the word of God, resulting in people being led astray. In my opinion, there are two reasons this is happening.

1) The false belief that God calls people to scholarship, but not to ministry. In the New Testament there is no such position. The only time teaching is mentioned, it is mention within the context of the church (I Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11).

2) Christian scholarship’s (intentional and unintentional) legitimation of scholars who do not claim a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I have been reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 6:14:” Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” What can someone who doesn’t claim to live a life in relationship to Christ and the Holy Spirit possibly contribute to the interpretation of the Bible? I for one, do not think that it can be done ( I do not mean to say that non-believers have nothing to contribute, or that God cannot speak to or through non-Christians, only that if scholarship is a ministry, then nonbelievers can no longer speak into this context. It would be similar to ordaining non-believing pastors or elders).

So what might be the way forward? Well, it is a long road ahead, of that there can be no doubt. It has taken generations to get us where we are, and it will take time to reform the academy in the ways it needs. The bottom-line is that Western seminaries have some difficult decisions to make and seminary students need to strive toward biblical faithfulness, even if their teachers do not.

That said, there are Godly seminaries, and even Godly professors at some not-so-Godly seminaries. My goal in this post isn’t to undermine a scholarly and well-informed education, but to encourage necessary boundaries. Professors I have studied under that teach scholarship as ministry, have played an invaluable role in both my academic and spiritual growth.

So, how do you tell if an institution has good boundaries? Well, checking their doctrinal statement is a good start. Here are some questions you might ask.

1) What does this seminary believe and teach about the Bible’s authority?
2) What is their primary mission…is it the preaching of the gospel and discipleship?
3) What institutions did the faculty come out of and what are the values of those institutions?
4) How committed is an institution to the ministry of the church?
5) If the institution publishes an academic journal, read some articles. Ask yourself if the articles strengthen or weaken the ministry of the church.

These are my thoughts...What are yours?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finding Our Place in God’s Story

In recent months the Christian community that I belong to has been directing much of its attention on Sunday mornings to Christ’s place among us and to the role of the Holy Spirit in renewing our lives. In doing this we have journeyed trough a number of passages in Paul’s writings. Some of my favorite moments on this journey have been our discoveries of connections between Scripture and the life of our congregation. Just like the Christians of Paul’s era, we are living in a society that often misunderstands the values of humility, forgiveness, simplicity, and peace. Like them, we are inundated by a culture that has many conflicting messages. The good news, the gospel message for us, is that the confusion and anxiety of our world have a remedy: the Love of God.

The whole extent of the Christian life can lead us to no greater realization than the simple truth that God’s love conquers all things. It was God’s love for the world (that is, the people in the world not its value system) that led Him to send His Son to us (John 3:16). It was Christ’s love for us that led Him to the cross. It is the same love that binds all Christians together in the unity of the Holy Spirit. It is the same love that heals our pain and inspires us to live in obedience to Christ for the sake of others.

In our search to discover God’s calling for us as individuals and as Christian communities we must never forget the basic foundation of our new life in Christ: unconditional love. Jesus summarized the entirety of the law and the prophets in terms of this (Matthew 22:37-40). The whole story of redemption illustrates this as God continuously reaches out to humanity in love; untimely, with His very Self (the incarnation and the indwelling of the Spirit in each believer). He is forming a family from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelations 5:9). How do we find our place in this story? How do we say “yes” to the love of Christ on the cross and to the Spirit of Pentecost? How do we accept our identity in His family?

I think the answer is threefold: first, to embrace the view of the Narrator, second, to line our personal stories up with His, and third, to remind ourselves of the magnitude of God’s family. We embrace the view of the Narrator when we try to see the world as God sees it. Power, prestige, self-sufficiency, and other values of our society give way to the values of the Kingdom. We see in “the other” the image of God. We sense God’s love and concern for the unfamiliar person. We go to work, to school, to the hospital, or to the grocery store with John 3:16 in the back of our minds. As we start to see the world in this way the Spirit invites us to offer our lives as worship to God (Romans 12:1). We begin patterning our mindset and approach off of Jesus and others in the great story. We begin to see the themes of forgiveness, sacrifice, and resurrection lived out around us and in us through simple daily routines and transactions. Christ sends us to be in the world as the Father had sent Him (John 20:21). Christ sends us out to invite others into His family.

Finding our place in God’s story is exciting and challenging. Sometimes we can be discouraged when our lives don’t seem to measure up to our Christ-like intentions. Sometimes our efforts to reach out to others in love are misunderstood. We can rejoice though in knowing that, as Christian author Thomas Merton puts it, “the desire to please” God “does in fact please” Him (even when we fail to attain perfection). It is exciting to see God’s power shining through our human weakness. He is at work in us and we can take delight in knowing that He will complete what He has started (Philippians 1:6). The Master Story Writer never tires of writing parts for us in His book. His plot is infinitely more interesting and fulfilling than what we can write for ourselves. Let’s journey on to discover what is waiting for us in the next chapter of God’s story.

Posted by Jacob, who regularly blogs at Inter Christianos.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It’s Not About You (Even If You’re a Student)

"Christian schools could do their part to stop perpetuating the notion that what the world needs now is you sweet you. True, this ad is urging students to think of the world before themselves. But it’s hard to stop thinking of myself when I’m told that am unbelievably awesome."

It’s Not About You (Even If You’re a Student)

Monday, December 13, 2010

For Parents: C. S. Lewis on Loving Aslan More Than Jesus

"If after watching "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (which released in US theaters this weekend), you find yourself or your kids feeling drawn to Aslan with alarming emotion, don't assume it's just the result of some cinematic spell. Aslan had that effect even back when he was knowable only through words on a page.

A concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. In his response, Lewis offered this relief:

Laurence can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that's what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.

And he gave this recommendation for a prayer:

If I were Laurence I'd just say in my prayers something like this: "Dear God, if the things I've been thinking and feeling about those books are things You don't like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them. . . . And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again." (quotes from C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children, pp. 52-53)"

C. S. Lewis on Loving Aslan More Than Jesus: "C. S. Lewis on Loving Aslan More Than Jesus from the Desiring God blog."

Contrarian Reflections on Individualism

"Individualism has debased evangelicalism into a kind of syncretism; spiritually, we need instruction on how to meet the challenges.In a recent and generally excellent book on ecclesiology, Jonathan Leeman devotes not a few pages to denouncing the individualism which, as he sees it, is one of the evils that blinds many people, especially in the West, from seeing how important the church is in the Bible. In short, on all sides we are being taught that individualism dominates Western thought, and it is bad."

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Newest Edition of Themelios is Availiable for Download!

Well, it's finals week and I'm busy out of my mind. Somehow it makes me feel better knowing I can read the new Themelios when my finals are over

Here is the link

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

He Is Born!

But we believe in the Incarnation, not because we can make complete sense of it, but because it makes sense of everything else...

How can someone cry out, I need thee, precious Jesus, for I am full of sin, if Jesus is a mere man? Or what can he do but judge us if he is only God? The reality of our sin can only be put to right by the Incarnation. We have committed the highest offense against the highest and most worthy Being. But Jesus can both sympathize with our needs and fully atone for our sins. How?

The Son, in putting on the form of a servant, did not lose any of his glorious perfections. He is eternally great. Yet he took to himself a nature that can be stricken and bruised, that can be cursed and forsaken, and that can bleed and die. The Son did not change his divinity into humanity, nor confound the two natures into one, but united the two in one Lord and Savior.

He Is Born!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jesus vs. Paul | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

A valuable and timely article by Scot McKnight. Personally, I find the purported dichotomy between Jesus and Paul excessively reductionistic. Scholars too often forget that the Bible does not offer us a comprehensive account of all that Jesus or Paul taught.Thankfully God provided us with the both the gospels and the letters. Scot's location of unity in the Gospel itself is a good starting point I think.

Jesus vs. Paul | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

The Best Defense of Old Testament Ethics

Check out this great review by Justin Taylor! I am going to have to pick up this book as soon as I finish Carson's newest... it will likely show up in my next set of book reviews.

The Best Defense of Old Testament Ethics

Scot McKnight is also posting reviews of this book

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Pastor Your Family

"I get home from work between 5:30PM and 5:45PM each night. But I have to prepare myself before 5:30PM so that I can hit the ground running when I walk in the door. Though I am invariably tired from my day's work, I have to remind myself that the most important part of my vocation happens after 5:30PM

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All Biblical Studies Students Should Watch This! 10 Lessons for Future Scholars from D.A. Carson

Watch Video Here

"Fight with every fiber of your being the common disjunction between “objective study” of Scripture and “devotional reading” of Scripture, between “critical reading” of the Bible and “devotional reading” of the Bible. The place where this tension usually first becomes a problem is at seminary. Students enter with the habit of reading the Bible “devotionally” (as they see it). They enjoy reading the Bible, they feel warm and reverent as they do so, they encounter God through its pages, some have memorized many verses and some chapters, and so forth. Seminary soon teaches them the rudiments of Greek and Hebrew, principles of exegesis, hermeneutical reflection, something about textual variants, distinctions grounded in different literary genres, and more. In consequence, students learn to read the Bible “critically” or “objectively” for their assignments, but still want to read the Bible “devotionally” in their quiet times. Every year a handful of students end up at the door of assorted lecturers and professors asking how to handle this tension. They find themselves trying to have their devotions, only to be harassed by intruding thoughts about textual variants. How should one keep such polarized forms of reading the Bible apart? This polarization, this disjunction, kept unchecked, may then characterize or even harass the biblical scholar for the rest of his or her life. That scholar may try to write a commentary on, say, Galatians, where at least part of the aim is to master the text, while preserving time for daily devotional readying.

My response, forcefully put, is to resist this disjunction, to eschew it, to do everything in your power to destroy it. Scripture remains Scripture, it is still the Word of God before which (as Isaiah reminds us) we are to tremble, the very words we are to revere, treasure, digest, meditate on, and hide in our hearts (minds?), whether we are reading the Bible at 5:30 AM at the start of a day, or preparing an assignment for an exegesis class at 10:00 PM. If we try to keep apart these alleged two ways of reading, then we will be irritated and troubled when our “devotions” are interrupted by a sudden stray reflection about a textual variant or the precise force of a Greek genitive; alternatively, we may be taken off guard when we are supposed to be preparing a paper or a sermon and suddenly find ourselves distracted by a glimpse of God’s greatness that is supposed to be reserved for our “devotions.” So when you read “devotionally,” keep your mind engaged; when you read “critically” (i.e., with more diligent and focused study, deploying a panoply of “tools”), never, ever, forget whose Word this is. The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it."

This is why I admire D.A. Carson. Here is some good advice for those working toward a master's degree or a PhD in Biblical Studies.