Theology for the Long Haul

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Luther Rehabilitated?

I thought this was an interesting read. Apparently Pope Benedict has an appreciation for Luther's faith and work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One of the most powerful posts I've read in a while

A friend from my Sunday school class sent me the link to this post this morning. Not only was a severely disappointed by Pat Robertson's lack of Biblical wisdom, but I was impressed with Russel Moore's handling of the subject. everyone needs to read this post, especially if you are married.

"This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Few Christians take Robertson all that seriously anymore. Most roll their eyes, and shake their heads when he makes another outlandish comment (for instance, defending China’s brutal one-child abortion policy to identifying God’s judgment on specific actions in the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, or the Haiti earthquake). This is serious, though, because it points to an issue that is much bigger than Robertson."

Here is the link to the rest...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: When What We Say is a Little Bit Gray: Part 1

In my high school year book I was voted most opinionated. It was a polite way to say I busted everyone’s chops and would most likely end up forty-five, some kind of activist, and single (boy, I showed them). I don’t like being such a dogmatic person. I work hard to shake it off.

You probably know what’s coming.

I’m about to get opinionated about something. The reason I hesitate is opinions are often rooted in being against something—and that usually ends in some sort of criticism. And while overpriced grocery stores and other common targets of my criticisms can afford to take a hit now and then, the church has been criticized within an inch of her life over the last few years. And quite frankly, we should look for ways to give her some credits instead of the continual withdrawals. So I want to be careful when I say…

There is a song played on Christian radio that bugs the heck out of me. I recognize the musical lead-in and switch the station before I have to hear a word of the lyrics, which start like this:

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet, it’s gotta be

Having no idea who wrote the song, I googled part of the chorus. In my googling, I discovered a wonderful website The Rabbit Room. On it are some blog posts written by Jason Gray explaining the criticisms he received for his song, “More Like Falling in Love”. Despite my extreme dislike for the song, I immediately had an affinity for Gray. Similar to me, he has a love of words, ie. he likes to use a lot of them. His blog posts are incredibly long, rivaled only by the length of his comment responses.

Proven by the 160-some comments on his post, Gray has gotten a lot of push back on the song. (It should be said that a huge chunk the comments were from ultra-Calvinists who were—well, doing what ultra-Calvinists do best and I won’t even bother going into it). As I hit the scroll button again and again (and again) to read what Gray had to say about the lyrics, I realized he’d fallen into a familiar pit: when you’ve said or done something people have a problem with, and now you begin to attempt to explain yourself in a hundred different ways. You mount a defense, using analogies, metaphors, and every bit of literary arsenal to explain how you were really trying to say this, not that, and so on and so forth. Been there Mister Gray. About fifty-million times. And now experience has taught me that if I say something and a large amount of people draw the same conclusion about what was said, I can’t continue to argue they heard me wrong. In humility I have to admit that I did a shoddy job of communicating and retract whatever I said. I think Gray would be wise to do this. However, I understand it is hard to renege on a song currently on the top 20 Christian music charts.

Tomorrow I’m going to write about the song “More Like Falling in Love” and the problems I have with the message it conveys, even if unintended.
It’s rooted in opinions, those pesky things that plague me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Couple Reviews from my Summer Reading

The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener

While this volume is over 800 pages from cover to cover, half of it is notes and works cited. Like Keener's other works (I’ve also read his commentary on Matthew) this volume on the “Historical Jesus” is filled with extra-biblical citations and observations. Keener’s expertise in socio-contextual study makes him a force to be reckoned with (even if this is his first work devoted to the topic). What I appreciate most is Keener’s firm grasp on “Historical Jesus” methods and paradigms, and his ability to use them responsibly (Keener's book could be used as a guide in my opinion). Keener levels serious critiques of some of scholarships earlier works (Crossan, Mack, the Jesus Seminar, etc.), while building upon the works of some influential scholars (Sanders, Davies, Hurtado, etc.). All-in-all I think Keener’s volume is indispensable, especially when read alongside other works on the same topic.

The Historical Jesus: 5 Views (Price, Crossan, Johnson, Dunn, and Bock) edited by Paul Rhodes Eddy

I can’t recommend this book highly enough as a foundational primer for contemporary Jesus studies. In one volume the reader gets 5 views, each with 4 critiques (from the other authors). By the time the reader finishes the book, he or she will have a basic grasp of the discussion and its primary points of argument. What is likely the most helpful contribution of a book of this nature is that each opinion is balanced by its critiques. While not perfectly, it forces the representative scholars to wear a rhetorical seat belt. If you want to know what people are saying about the Historical Jesus, than this is the place to start.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shocking News from Jerusalem: The Bible has Changed!

The following post by Dan Wallace was written in response to an Associated Press article...

"What shouldn’t surprise us in all this is that here is yet another piece by a respected journalist, writing for a highly regarded news agency, in which he turns a straightforward story about serious biblical scholarship into a sensationalist piece that borders on yellow journalism. When will journalists learn that the story as is is interesting and significant in its own right? Historically, journalists simply can’t relay the narrative of discovery or research of biblical manuscripts without midrashing the story and taking cheap shots at believers. This may reveal something of the shallow soil of their own theological convictions in which a robust orthodoxy never had a chance to take root."

Read the rest here...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What to do with Creeds and Councils?

I found this post by John Starke on The Gospel Coalition website and thought it was helpful. Here is a piece. You can click the link below to read the rest.

"The church—be it Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—has long debated the role of creeds and councils without reaching full consensus. Evangelicals care about sound doctrine, and we would be wrong to think it didn’t exist until the Reformation. So what’s an appropriate emphasis on creeds and councils for evangelicals in particular? What authority should they have in our life and doctrine?

Follow Me as I Follow Christ

In his first letter to the Corinthians, after exhorting them to do all things for the glory of God (10:23-33), Paul sets himself apart as an example when he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Notice, though, he doesn’t set himself apart as a perfect guide. He has a very important qualification: “as I follow Christ.” In other words, Paul wants his readers to recognize where Paul’s life is that of Christ’s (I would say, where it is biblical) and therefore follow him in that way. This is an easy paradigm to remember how Protestants have thought about creeds and councils: follow the creeds and councils as they follow the Bible.

Bruce Demarest, in an older Themelios article, “The Contemporary Relevance of Christendom’s Creeds” (by the way, you can look through our entire archives of Themelios, all the way back to 1975) makes the same point rather well:
[T]he creed is not only a rule; it is also a rule that is ruled. As human formulations the creeds are subordinate to Scripture, the supreme rule of faith and practice. However majestic its language, however moving its assertions, however closely it purports to approximate apostolic doctrine, the creed is a human and therefore potentially fallible document. Ultimately the creeds must be checked and ruled by the Word of God. Christendom’s creeds are worthy of honour to the degree that they accord with the teaching of the Word of God.
What Kind of Authority

Since we’ve concluded that the creeds and councils don’t have ultimate authority, which is ascribed only to Scripture, do they have any authority at all? There’s a cavalier spirit in evangelicals that is quick to say, No! But that’s a tough line to plow since our evangelical understanding of the gospel is built upon the orthodox formulations of the creeds and councils. Even the most rogue, “no-creed-but-the-Bible” evangelical still uses words like orthodox and heresy. These aren’t biblical words, so to speak, but Christian words that depend upon some sort of agreement as to what our spiritual ancestors have claimed to be good and right beliefs and what is damnable, according to the Bible.
So for Protestants, creeds and councils are viewed as norma normata, which is a fancy Latin phrase for “a rule that is ruled.” Creeds and councils are rules ruled by Scripture. But note, that it is still a rule... "

Click here to read the rest...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: Kindles, Pickles, and Other Little Things

Do you know the best thing about turning thirty-one? You spent so much emotion on the trauma of turning thirty, you just don’t have the energy to feel bad about age again. Thirty-one is quiet and uneventful, like an afternoon rain that comes and goes before it’s noticed.

Like a little daisy sprouting up after that rain, Phil bought me a Kindle for my thirty-first birthday. It was unexpected—we aren’t big gift givers. At first I was hesitant. I suspected he purchased it for financial advantages: the Kindle downloads could prove less expensive then the library fines I tend to rack up (when we moved from Indiana two years ago, Phil pointed to the town’s under-construction-library and remarked the project would probably come to a standstill since the funding was being pulled). I was also skeptical about reading from an electronic screen. There would be no paper and ink smell, no chocolaty fingerprints from the last reader, no sound of the page as it turns. What a surprise! I love that little device with its slender, gray cover. It is by far the one of the best gifts I have been given.

When we moved to South Carolina, I was determined to have a new couch. Our old “corduroy gold boat” was left in our rental in Indiana, so we were couchless. However, after a little shopping and the shock of the huge retail price tags, I baulked and ended up buying a used microfiber off craigslist. It was nice, but wasn’t really what I wanted. A few days after the purchase, my boys ran into the kitchen to tell me a water bottle spilled on the couch.

“Okay,” I sighed, “It’s just water. I’ll soak it up.”

“Actually,” said my four-year-old matter-of-factly, “It’s pickle juice.”

Later that evening, we snuggled up on the (slightly dill smelling) couch to watch the movie The Prince of Egypt. We ate popcorn, and I suddenly felt grateful for our second hand couch. If it was new, I would be way too uptight to let the kids eat on it. The pickle-juice-fiasco would have put me over the edge. With a used couch, I just half-laughed and cleaned it up.

Kindles and pickles. They got me to think about how things that are unexpected or don’t happen quite as planned often end up being the sweetest things in life. So often what I think I want is near-sighted. But I have a God who sees the big picture. Often if I rest in Him and His sovereignty, He shows me a glimpse of what I couldn’t see close up. In big and little things.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mixin' it up for the Glory of God!

What do The Case Against the Case for Christ by Robert Price and Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray have in common?

Nothing, and maybe that's the point.

A few days ago I started plowing through The Case Against the Case for Christ in preparation for my classes beginning next week (we are spending a couple days on Bart Ehrman and a couple on Robert Price as preparation for college). It has been laborious let me tell you.

In TCATCFC, Price sets out to discredit Lee Stroble and the host of scholars and teachers he references and interviews in his A Case for.... series. Price spends as much time "bleeding his heart" and venting his bitterness as addressing real issues. His argument is full of opinion and scathing criticism, but not clearly conveyed. Thankfully, I don't think he has written successfully to students or scholars. He is far too technical for undergraduate students or a popular audience and his bias lacks the professionalism needed to make sense to Academics. It is difficult to take seriously someone who, without fail, accepts the most critical opinion on all matters all of the time (whether it is the most logical or not). It's a heart problem, in my opinion.

On the other side of spectrum, I have been reading Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murry. Many of you have probably read this book (if you haven't, you must), and have found it to be as enriching and encouraging as I have. In the book, Murray encourages the believer to not only hear God's loving and generous call to salvation, but also His call to abide. I am in constant need of this reminder. Like you, I have found that a busy life is not conducive to intimacy with God. I make myself too busy to abide, and so I fail to live in all of the blessing Christ's work affords me.

So why am I reading these two books at the same time?

Because God has called me to read and understand people like Robert Price, and He has called me to care for my soul. There are many scholars and students who have sacrificed their spiritual life for the self-made glory of academia. The academic world thrives on human pride and teacher worship. The cost of seeking to glorify God in this profession (I prefer to think of it as a ministry) can be high if you don't purposefully determine to abide.

At the end of the day, there is no life other than what is found in Christ, and there is not glory that lasts--save that given by Christ at the end of one's life.

Fulfill your calling, but also abide. You cannot accomplish the former without prioritizing the latter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: It's a Scary, Scary World, but Take Heart

As July melts into August, our little family settles into life in the South. While the majority of southerners hibernate in air conditioned living rooms, I prefer to take in the heat, as if still defrosting from thirty-one years of below freezing winters. Bike rides in the front yard, homemade lemonade in the afternoons, and long hours at the neighborhood splash pad. I love the fact that clothes put on the line at one o’clock in the afternoon are dry by one-thirty. For a girl who said she would never go south, I’ve gone south, if you know what I mean.

There’s a stereotype about the south that people are friendly. It’s so true. We know our neighbors fairly well already and I always get chatted up at BI-LO. Two Sundays ago when we arrived home from church, we even had a visitor. It was a four-foot brown snake curled up in the shade of our porch.

I am not even kidding.

It was almost enough to make me price moving trucks back to Ohio. Instead, in a panicked state, I texted my sisters. My younger sister’s response: You’re kidding me. Oh, I wish.

“Is it poisonous?” my older sister texted back.

Of course I had already checked online. There are no poisonous brown snakes in upstate South Carolina.

“So what’s the problem?” she asked.

Um, it’s a snake? Maybe that didn’t register from her townhouse in downtown Columbus’ Victorian Village where the nearest snake is fifteen miles north and in a zoo. Or maybe she just simply forgot snakes are inherently evil.

But I had not forgotten. That is why I did not go outside for the rest of the day, even after the snake had moved on. This was a normal reaction to an encounter with a snake longer than my first-born child. However, some other reactions were a little less rational. As Phil reentered the house from a brave, brave venture out, I screamed,

“Shut the door, shut the door!”

The door was hastily shut.

“Lock it! Lock it!”

This time there was only a look.

I got the same look later in the day as I folded laundry in our bedroom. I couldn’t shake the image of a snake slithering around and in a fit of mania, grabbed my unprotected ankles and leapt onto the bed.
Just a long, long stare.

What? You never get the heebie-jeebies?”

I’ve heard it said many times that fear is not a rational emotion. I beg to differ. When you take into account the things that can and DO happen in life, you begin to realize how legitimate fear is. People get cancer, die in car accidents, miscarry babies, lose jobs, produce prodigals, and a myriad of other unhappys. The chance that you or I will experience one, two, or possibly even three of these pains is almost certain. That’s some seriously scary stuff.

Jesus’ talked a lot about fear. Often He acknowledged the reality of something to be feared, but offered a word of instruction or comfort. An example of this is John 16, when He plainly told His disciples they would have tribulations, but told them to “take heart—I have overcome the world.”

To put it in my modern-day parallel: Yes, you will encounter evil-eyed serpents, but take heart (and stop wearing those ridiculous rubber boots in the yard)—I am the one who crushed the snakes head.”

It comforts me to know that Jesus never said, “Oh don’t worry about such and such, it’s no big deal and probably won’t even happen.”

No, Jesus laid the snakes of life out on the table...

It’s going to be scary.

But I am in control. I will be with you.


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Historical Jesus and Therapy for Bible Scholars

Many of you know I am currently working on my master's thesis. The topic is The Scandal of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. My goal is to find out how Jesus' teaching and ministry was an offense to some in his culture and context. I see this as useful information given the nature of Jesus words in Matthew 10:

"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. "It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. "(vv. 24-27 NASB)

That said, investigating "Historical Jesus" studies is a part of my research, and to that end I have been reading three books:

1. The Historical Jesus: 5 Views edited by Paul Eddy and including essays by Robert M. Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D.G. Dunn, and Darrell Bock.
2. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener
3. The Sage from Galilee by David Flusser (a Jewish Rabbi)

While I have gained a greater understanding of how scholars from diverse backgrounds and with varying theological commitments interpret Jesus, I have also been frustrated and disappointed. I expected to be greatly challenged by the writings of Price and Crossan especially, only to be blown away by how much one can assert from very little evidence. Price it seems, would have me believe that the ancient narrative of Attis, (whose hair grew and pinkie finger moved after death) was a source for Jesus' resurrection story....really? Crossan would have me doubt the Biblical account and trade it for a re-creation of his own, which looks more like Crossan than any Messiah of a 1st century Jew. Johnson's post-modern approach is appealing at times, Dunn makes me laugh (in a good way), Bock is predictable (not necessarily a bad thing), Flusser is informative, and Keener is awesome (though at times giving too much credence on too little evidence in my opinion). Like I said, I'm learning a lot.

Two of the most valuable things I am learning are: 1) Scholars don't know all they say they know; and, 2) All people (including those who claim to be objective) create a Jesus that reflects their theological commitments and personal concerns. The more I read from scholars like Robert Price, Bart Ehrman, Crossan and others I find their struggle with Jesus is spiritual and not intellectual. If you listen to Price speak, he can't seem to help mocking people who believe there could be divine accountability. He's afraid of hell, and so he mocks it. Ehrman also wears his heart on his sleeve. His desire to be more intelligent than his professors at Moody and Wheaton fuels his animosity towards evangelical Christians. The further I get into Biblical Studies the more I realize that the profession has as much to do with personal therapy as it does scholarship.

I am unsure at this point where all this will take me. I want to make a difference with my studies, but I am seeing that what people really need (Bible scholars included) is an encounter with the living Christ. I'm sure the answer includes both a move of the Holy Spirit, and my (and others') obedience to thier calling. My prayer is that good scholarship will open a door for unbelieving academics to encounter Christ on a spiritual and experiential level.

What are your thoughts

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up

Found this informative post from John Neilson... a must read for youth workers and parents of teenagers.

“What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about chucchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?"

Read the rest here...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not Even A Yod!

There is much discussion in recent decades concerning the singularity (or plurality) of thought among 1st century Jews. Some have gathered from the Qumran manuscripts and Josephus that there was an overwhelming amount of diversity. I, for one, think this is impossible to know for sure, but I am cautious to attribute too much normalcy to the beliefs of the Qumran sect, who was just that... an apocalyptic sect. Josephus was also not without his bias. I believe the more accurate rendering of Jewish theology of Scripture is found in the Bible and in sources like those quoted below.

That said, I read an interesting account in The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener (this one's taking me a little while) concerning the 1st century Jewish viewpoint on Scripture:

Jesus underlines the permanence of Scripture's authority in a graphic hyperbolic manner, declaring that not even the smallest letter would pass away (Matt. 5:18// Luke 16:17). His recorded language apparently alludes to a more widely known story, probably known to Jesus' original hearers, but perhaps not to most of Matthew's and surely not most of Luke's audiences. Jesus' "letter" (NRSV), "smallest letter" (NIV), "jot" (KJV) or (literally) iota (the smallest Greek letter) undoubtedly refers to the Hebrew letter yod, which Jewish Teachers said would not pass from the law. Some said that when Sarai's name was changed to Sarah, the yod removed from her name cried out from one generation to another, protesting its removal from Scripture, untill finally, when Moses changed Oshea's name to Joshua, the yod was returned to Scripture. "So you see" the teachers would say "not even the smallest letter can pass from the Bible." Likewise, sages declared that when Solomon threatened to uproot a yod from the law, God responded that he would uproot a thousand Solomon's rather than a word from his law.

Wow, many "so called" evangelicals would consider this language to be fanatical. I don't. As Christians we know that our faith is the fulfillment and consummation of the Jewish faith, and the Old and New Testaments were written by the same God and carry the same authority.

Is your Bible missing some things? What parts do you skip over? What parts do you remove? Who is God in your life? Who has the authority? Is it the Bible? Or you? If it's you, you should be scared.

But don't take my word for it. I think God would uproot a thousand Phil Vander Ploegs before He would uproot one yod from His word.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Really Cool: Now you can read the Isaiah Scroll online

All Bible Geeks know that the best preserved and complete ancient copy of Isaiah was found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Since it was discovered it has found its home in a nuclear attack proof shrine at the Israel Museum. While one used to have to travel to Israel to see this amazing artifact, now you can see and read it online (if you know Hebrew). It's really cool. Thanks to Dr. John Byron at for bringing this to my attention. Check it out!

Here is the link...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Darrel Bock defends the 2011 NIV

I have a lot of respect for both Darrel Bock (Dallas) and Doug Moo (Wheaton). Below is Bock's thoughts on the new NIV.
"I regard the recent response to the NIV 2011 by some as unfortunate. The SBC resolution came from the floor and not from the committee that studied the question. I suspect the CBMW has invested too much in the gender issue to look at these texts in a balanced manner. Their theory of translation was questioned in the original dispute by many top evangelical scholars and the credentials of those working on the NIV are impeccable."

Read the rest here...

Mass Murderer in Norway a Fundamentalist Christian?

I am always disappointed when media takes the opportunity to misrepresent the Christian faith with bad assesments and information. Since when did choosing "Christian" from the list of religious preferences in facebook make someone a Christian? Why identify a person who could in no way be a Christian, as one for public consumption? The Bible is clear. We do not judge a Christian by their facebook profile, but the "fruit" they bear in life (Matt. 16-20). Murder is a sin, murdering 85 youth is demonic. As little faith as I put in humanity's ability to do the right thing, I cannot attribute this behavior to the human spirit. I for one, will denounce this man's connection to the faith of Christ, and will pray for the salvation of his soul. Though one cannot hope to be a Christian while exhibiting such murderous hatred (I John 2:3-5; 9-11), anyone can be saved if they repent.

My prayer for this confused man is that he would find the true Lord and turn to Him. The beauty of the cross is that even Anders Behring Breivik can be forgiven.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Short and Sweet, Sweet and Sour: A Reacquaintance with Abandon

I don't think I realized while I was in seminary how unaccustomed to simple faith I had become. No doubt, I would have thought (and expressed to you had you asked me) that my faith was growing. As a student I have been trained to examine the Bible, religious practice, and my spiritual experiences with a  critical eye. Now preparing to teach for an organization that is dependant on the financial support of others, I am faced with a daily need for simple and unyielding faith. While I can (and do) pray, I am solely dependant on God's provision for myself, my family, and my coworkers. While it may be tempting to ask God for, or to seek a way out of such a challenge, I'm asking God to grow me through it... I think it's good for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesdays: Saving the Kids

Sometimes the Lord gives us practical object lessons to show an element of truth. This past Sunday the youth pastor at the church we attend, Seth Buckley, shared one such story. I’d like to pass it on to you.

On a family walk in some deep woods near their home in South Carolina, Seth’s two sons asked to take a different trail. Because the two trails ran alongside one another, eventually merging, he agreed and the family split into two groups. Seth and his wife walked on for some time, enjoying the time alone together and the beauty around them. But suddenly, Seth heard a scream. It wasn’t the scream of the boys playing or even someone possibly hurt. It was a scream of pure terror. The barks of wild dogs accompanied it.

Seth took off sprinting through the woods.
The distance between the two trails was not great, but the brush was thick. He tried desperately to push branches out of the way as he ran, but he found himself wildly careening into brambles, limbs, and stumps as he ran madly towards the screams of his sons. When he got to the clearing, he saw both of his boys lying in the dirt. The older son had pulled himself on top of the younger. A few wild dogs advanced toward the pair. Seth burst out from the woods like a man possessed. He hurled himself in the direction of the dogs, and screamed like a wild man.

Amazingly, the dogs retreated and ran back into the woods.
He helped the boys up and they ran the rest of the trail. It was only when they were clearly out of danger it became apparent that Seth was hurt. He had a couple of deep gashes that were bleeding and the rest of his arms, chest, and legs were scraped and stuck with burs. As his wife attempted to temporarily stop the bleeding, Seth’s younger son asked him, “Does it hurt real bad?”

As Seth tried to explain that the pain didn’t really matter when he compared it to having his boys safe, he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit come on him. He realized what a clear illustration the Father had just given of His own love.
He began to tell his sons that when he heard them scream, he didn’t stop to think about anything. He didn’t consider retracing the trail, which would have been safer and without obstacles. He just ran to save his boys. In the same way, Christ didn’t consider Himself when He came for us, when He died on the cross for us. We were the helpless boys, lying face down in the dirt, desperately in need of a Savior. And Christ—because of His deep, unyielding, unmovable love towards us—was the Father, running at full speed, the only thing on His mind,

“I’ve got to save My kids.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trevin Wax: The Missional Youth Group

I found the following post from Trevin Wax profound. If you work with your church youth group or serve youth in some capacity, you should read this.

"The best way to ground young people in the Word and to empower them for future ministry is to involve them in a mission-based youth group. By mission-based, I am not implying that the teenagers would be going on monthly mission trips or doing weekly door-to-door evangelism. I use the term “mission-based” to describe a missional attitude among the teenagers and their leaders.

The Attraction-based Model

Many youth groups today are “attraction-based.” The youth minister focuses on organizing events in order to attract the youth to the services. The goal of this model is noble. Big events and fun activities can serve as a successful evangelistic tool and can greatly help young people get involved in church. The Bible allows for diversity in how we strategize in getting the gospel to people.
The problem that some attraction-based models face is that too often the events themselves become the ends and not the means. Success is defined by the size of the crowd, not by the fruit seen in the lives of those in attendance. Furthermore, when the attraction becomes the end goal and not the means to an end, those who attend are usually left with just a “spoonful of sugar” and no medicine at all. The sweetness may attract a crowd, but the youth group is no longer offering anything of substantial spiritual value."

Read the rest here...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesday: Grace Requires Obedience, Obedience Gives Grace

by guest blogger Stacy Guevera

I don’t know why I get so surprised in my walk with King Jesus when I find He wants me to do something and it’s truly the most uncomfortable thing I can think of.


Just thinking of that word I want to hyperventilate (where’s the brown bag?).

A situation arose recently with another family-member-in-the-Lord who I know only to a small degree, and what transpired in this situation in front of some who DON’T follow Christ, truly broke my heart into a million pieces. I just knew, almost from the get-go, the Lord would ask ME to confront them and share (in love and a gentle spirit mind you - Gal 6:1) how the Lord was not pleased, nor glorified. The Lord gave me verse after verse I was to share with this person. But my heart beat fast at just the thought of this. I need You to help me do this, I was already praying to God.

So, I took a couple days and prayed and sought the Lord as I knew the time was getting closer for me to confront. My heart was beating faster and faster and the “collar on my shirt” was getting awfully tight around my neck with the anxiety that swelled up in me. But I knew it had to be done. If I’m going to be a follower of King Jesus myself, I need to know, accept and obey that the “uncomfortable-ness” of these kinds of things that will, do, and are happening, every single day – and yes, even in the Body of Christ. We are commanded to confront our brothers and sisters (James 5) and bring them back to the Truth.

After some serious prayer and even seeking counsel from an elder - I obeyed. I have not heard back from the person I confronted, and yes, my anxiety is still there. All kinds of thoughts race through my head. But I have been reminding myself that it’s not about me in this situation if this person is going to be mad or offended or fill in the blank, but it’s about our Lord, His kindness and Kingdom. I myself have been on the receiving end of confrontation too many times to count and so I have been praying for this person to receive it with God’s grace.

Underneath all this uncomfortable-ness though, the Lord has filled my spirit with His peace that surpasses all understanding (and boy does it really surpass understanding!), and I find myself with a heart of thankfulness. I’m thankful that He chose me to speak for Him and that He also trusted me to follow through with it. Confronting was a true test of faith and obedience. Though it's not even really about me.
The saying is true: “The Lords Will, will never take you to a place His grace won’t follow”.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Did the Apostle Peter have a Bad Hermeneutic?

This essay written by D.A. Carson is both interesting and helpful. Though the title may seems heady, I think this post is helpful for anyone to read. Carson takes on a topic oft discussed in colleges and seminaries, and offers a thorough and satisfying reply. I for one, am far more intellectually satisfied by Carson's explanation than with the alternative (which I have heard far more often).Here is the question Carson addresses:

"I’m reading through Acts this month. In Acts 1:20, Peter’s talking about Judas and quotes Psalm 69, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it.' But Psalm 69 doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Judas. In fact, that psalm seems somewhat anti-gospel. It’s all about David wanting God to smite his enemies, but Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” Did Peter have a bad hermeneutic? If someone tried to quote a psalm like this without apostolic authority, would you call them crazy?"

Read the post here...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Six Steps to being an Ecclesial Theologian

This is an interesting read for theologians in pastoral ministry, or pastors who want to become more theologically astute.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to disagree about Bible translations

I thought that this brief post was interesting. In it Andy Naselli lays out the location of various translations in the spectrum of literality, and then gives some thoughts on the SBC's recent decision about the 2011 NIV. It's a quick read...check it out.

Note: The chart above was lifted from Andy Naselli's blog and was originally published in
"How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth,",by Fee and Strauss p. 28

Read it here...

Buy the book here (I just purchased the kindle edition $9.99) ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travel Plaza Tuesday: The Father's Good Gifts

In a late night phone conversation, a friend and I discussed the trials and struggles we had collectively experienced over the last few years. She recounted a night in the midst of her family's financial crisis where they hit a low point.

"We were in the deepest pit. We were so depressed. Finally, we opened up the Bible and preached ourselves happy again!" she laughed.

As the time neared eleven o'clock, we had concluded that while neither of us enjoy pain or sorrow, there was a resounding gratitude towards the Lord for the refining work He does through it. We meditated on how we could see each situation as a display of God's love and mercy towards us--and we could only thank Him for it!

"But be careful," my friend warned, "Sometimes we get so used to the Lord teaching us through hardships, that it becomes easy to overlook His love shown through blessings."

She was right. It is my tendency to see God's sovereign hand leading me through the valleys, only to overlook it when I am in the meadowland. Almost like a kid who feels his dad's love when he takes the car keys away, but never acknowledges the fatherly love shown when his dad bought him the car.

The day after our late night conversation, I was given an object lesson in this truth.

I took my boys to Hatcher Garden's--a ten mile nature preserve nestled into a commercial area of the city where we live. Almost immediately we fell in love with this beautiful place. As far as nature walks go, Hatcher Gardens is decidedly orderly, but instead of feeling sterile, it feels as if you have been included in the preservation project. Such care is shown in the way each flower, bush, and tree is tended.

Right in the middle of the garden is a tiny waterfall, lit up by sun that streams through the trees overhead. As the boys climbed the steps built alongside the waterfall, I headed for the bridge that straddled it. It was then I looked up and noticed the inscription on the header.

The bridge overlooked the waterfall for years before we moved to South Carolina. It was not built for me. But I did feel the love of the Father that day as I stood on the bridge that bears my name. I know that He led me to it. I could feel Him rejoicing when I found this special place and how much He delighted in showing it to me.

I am so grateful for "the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (I John 3:1 partial). No matter what package they come in--sorrows or blessings--our Father gives the best gifts.

Francis Chan on his new book Erasing Hell

Despite the fact that Francis Chan looks like he's wearing scrubs and is in an institution (a new way to look at Crazy Love), I thought this video made some great points. I am looking forward to reading the book.

Watch here...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Churches with No Doctrinal Statements...The Blind Leading the Blind?

Over the course of the past decade I have noticed the rise and decline of churches that resist identifying their doctrines, history, or affiliations. I understand the temptation. In a world so divided as ours, a church can benefit from not being labeled. In one sense, I see the benefit. All denominational names and most theological identifications bring baggage. Some things might seem better left unsaid. But are they? Let's consider this...

Sally Christian comes to your church. She doesn't know what the church's doctrinal beliefs are but attends for 6 months, during which time she  develops friendships and invites some of her other friends. One Sunday morning you give a sermon that reveals a belief that deeply concerns Sally. Now she is torn: Does she value the relationships she has made or her heartfelt conviction? Now she has to choose.

When a church doesn't identify its doctrine up front it can lead to two negative ends: 1) Confusion - no one really knows what is and what is not important to believe; and 2) attenders learn that relationships are more important than core beliefs. Unfortunately there are churches that propagate both of the above, but I think most churches without doctrinal statements simply don't think through all of the implications.

We must ask ourselves... what does our lack of clarification teach people? Is it worth it just to buck tradition and be seen as innovative? If your church is reacting you WILL attract reactive people. A sturdy house cannot be built on such a foundation. Let our houses of worship be houses of truth. As such, we can give direction to those who are disillusioned and burned. The blind cannot lead the blind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Being or Mourning?

When I flip through my CD case, there is a disc with little black and red flowers on it that haunts me. I pause for a long moment to study it and then hurry to turn the sleeve. It is the album Kansas by Jennifer Knapp. You might own a copy.

I bought mine on a whim at the tail-end of my first year of college. I had become disillusioned with the freshman year party scene at Valparaiso University and Kansas’ lyrics were a fresh breath of truth, honesty, and need that resonated with me. After a week of listening to the CD, I was inspired to reread the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, I was born again.

Because the album was instrumental in my salvation, I felt a deep connection with its artist, Jennifer Knapp. She became part of my story—a sister in Christ I deeply admired.

Then she came out.

It’s old news for most Christians. For me it has remained a fresh hurt. My “older sister” went her own way—I can no longer look up to her.

A few nights ago I was reading in 2 Samuel, where Samuel the prophet told Saul that [Saul’s] sin had caused the Lord to reject him as king. A portion of verse 35, chapter 15 reads, “Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul…” Immediately following, in verse 16 the Lord says to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul seeing that I have rejected Him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

I had to wonder about the pain that Samuel experienced watching the spiritual demise of his leader and king. It was enough to cause him to mourn long enough that God had to tell him to stop.

Jennifer Knapp is the Saul I have mourned for too long. Honestly, I think most Christians have mourned someone beyond the appropriate time. Often it’s the pastor who hurt them or the Christian who let them down. Sometimes it’s the disappointment of never finding a spiritual mentor to help them through the struggles and trials of life.

But I’ve decided for me, I can’t dwell on that anymore. It’s the young girls God’s brought into my life over the last year that have convinced me. There are already too many 30-somethings lamenting the loss or absence of a spiritual mentor, oblivious to the young eyes turned towards them in desperate need of the same thing.

So who’s your Saul?

Maybe more important: Will you become a Saul to someone else? If that’s the case, maybe the Lord is telling you as He did to Samuel, that it’s time to move on. Fill your horn with oil, and go.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I'm Not Intellectually Satisfied With Dating Matthew and Luke After 70 AD.

The deeper I go in Biblical Studies the more I realize that Bible scholars don't always make the best historians. For decades the scholarly consensus has dated both Matthew and Luke in the 80s or 90s AD. They do this for three primary reasons.

1) Jesus' prophetic reference to the destruction of the temple in Matthew 22:7; 24: 1-2.

2) The assumption that Matthew and Luke used Mark extensively as a source. ( I agree with this one, but keep my seat belt on)

3) The assumption that it took decades for Matthew and Luke to do this.

While there are scholars who date Matthew and Luke earlier, they are few. I find this to be disappointing on a number of levels, the greatest being that it doesn't seem smarter to me. While I would agree it is likely that Luke and Matthew both utilized Mark (as well as eyewitnesses and other written and oral sources) it is not necessary (or to me probable) that it would take 30 to 40 years for Matthew and Luke to do this (Most scholars would date Mark to the late 50s or early 60's AD). This assumption is often based on a theory that Matthew and Luke were written by communities rather than individuals (a theory that we have NO evidence outside of theory to support). I would agree with Martin Hengel, R.T. France, D.A Carson and others who would assert a more realistic relationship between the Gospels.

Regarding Jesus' prophetic teaching in Matthew 22: 7; 24:1-4, I am reminded of my post on naturalism from last week. If a scholar is a believing Christian, why would it be difficult to believe that Jesus spoke a prophecy that came to pass. Why would we attribute this statement to Matthew's apologetic, without the historical evidence to substantiate such a hermeneutic (some believing scholars have made concessions like this one so that unbelieving scholars could in good faith affirm their exegetical skills). I, for one, cannot reconcile such a naturalistic worldview with my faith or my mind.

Now, I'm not saying that Matthew and Luke could not have been written after the destruction of the temple, nor am I trying to marginalize friends who would disagree with me, but I do want to challenge students of the Bible to think for themselves and to not be afraid of challenging the long-held assumptions of the guild. This is how we progress. Fresh minds and new insights keep us all honest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Testament Textbook I'm Looking At For My Students

Since I was given the responsibility of developing curriculum for the High School students in the SCBEST (Spartanburg County Bible Education in School Time) program this coming year, I have been researching New Testament and Old Testament surveys. In this endeavor I have sought out a text that is; informative, formative, accessible to high schoolers, and reasonably affordable. I have found this text to be excellent in all of these categories. The text provides both excellent (while concise) contextual information (including lots of relevant color photos), and good (yet accessible) interpretations of the Biblical text. One unique aspect of the text is that it orders the books by author, and seeks to convey the authors' pastoral intent. I really like it. Since it is accessible for high schoolers, it is accessible to anyone interested in knowing more about the New Testament and its context. I highly recommend it.

You can buy it here for $16.49 with free shipping...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

HMH reached 10,000 pageviews today!

Thank you High Mileage Hermeneutics readers, for helping us reach 10,000 pageviews. Keep coming back and we'll keep giving you interesting things to read.

Blessings to you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Largest Christian Denomionation in America Rejects the 2011 NIV

According to Denny Burk, one concerned man stepped forward at the convention to voice concerns, leading to a 90% vote to reject the new version.
Here is the link to the officail resolution

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If the complexity of our human genome requires 10,000 original persons, how many persons does it take to pay for the sins of billions?

Some times I read what my brothers and sisters in Christ are saying, and I am confused. Christianity Today recently published an article on the Historical Adam. In this article it was noted that recent research confirms the need for 10,000 original human persons to account for the complexity of the human genome. The question the readers are left with is whether this new research disproves a literal Adam and Eve. Here is my question. Does God work in miraculous and supernatural ways? If He does, than why would humanity have to originate with 10,000 people?

Why are Christians even tempted to be naturalists?

Is it possible to be a naturalist and a Christian?

Here is the tough question. If God was not able to birth humanity from an original couple made in His image, than is He able to save us by sending his Son to die on a cross? If believing in Adam and Eve is foolish, than belief that God came to the earth, lived as a man, died for our sins, and rose from the dead is far more foolish.

If you are a Christian, than you're faith and salvation are based upon some things that human beings will never be able to test,verify, or explain.

Believe me, I am not an advocate for ignoring new research. Christians need to deal with science's reasonable conclusions, but I am not willing to doubt the Genesis account because it is unreasonable. The very nature of miracles is that they do not make sense. If we don't serve a supernatural God, than we are fooling ourselves if we think that faith in God has any value at all.

Just my thoughts what are yours.?
Also, don't forget to read Tim Keller's article below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tim Keller: Sinned in a Literal Adam, Raised in a Literal Christ

Question: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve, how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue.

"Compared to other questions laypeople ask pastors about creation and evolution, I find the concerns of this question much more well-grounded. Indeed, I must disclose, I share them. Many orthodox Christians who believe God used evolutionary biological processes to bring about human life not only do not take Genesis 1 as history, but also deny that Genesis 2 is an account of real events. Adam and Eve, in their view, were not historical figures but an allegory or symbol of the human race. Genesis 2, then, is a symbolic story or myth that conveys the truth that human beings all have and do turn away from God and are sinners.
Before I share my concerns with this view, let me make a clarification. One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C. S.Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not think the lack of such belief means he cannot be saved. But my concern is for the church corporately and for its growth and vitality over time. Will the loss of a belief in the historical fall weaken some of our historical, doctrinal commitments at certain crucial points? Here are two points where that could happen."

Monday, June 13, 2011

D. Bock: An Example of the Conceptual Fallacy

"This entry critiques a remark made by a very prominent European at the European Forum, who shall remain nameless but whose ministry has been an wonderful beacon to many. The remark illustrates a tendency in some European contexts, especially in the United Kingdom, to downplay certain core Christian ideas.
The remark was that many Christians spend so much time discussing being born again, when the expression is only used once by Jesus. Jesus, he went on, talked about knowing God, following him, and taking the message of the knowing God to the world. Now the second half of this remark is correct."

Read the rest here...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Inerrancy and Radical Disciplieship

I found this article by Colin Hansen to be enlightening. It begs the question... Is  faith in a fallible Bible more intelligent or just naive? I am interested to hear your perspective.

Check it out the article and leave your thoughts for further discussion.

Moved to S.C.

Well HMH readers, I'm all moved and ready to start posting again. New posts coming soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Exegetical Parody"

A funny parody written by Bible scholar Mois├ęs Silva...

"It is approximately the year 2790. The most powerful nation on earth occupies a large territory in Central Africa, and its citizens speak Swahili. The United States and other English-speaking countries have long ceased to exist, and much of the literature prior to 2012 (the year of the Great Conflagration) is not extant. Some archaeologists digging in the western regions of North America discover a short but well-preserved text that can confidently be dated to the last quarter of the twentieth century. It reads thus"

Read the rest here...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Darrel Bock Reviews Bart Ehrman's "Forged"

 A helpful review from a solid NT evangelical scholar. Bock tackles each chapter individually, considers the textual and external evidence, and leads the reader to a more academically honest  conclusion. 

"...what is crucial to note is that the case is weakest where it is the most important, in the canonical books. Here Ehrman has “framed” the biblical materials. He sets up the biblical materials for a fall by saying look how often this was done later and by many both orthodox and not so orthodox, so it was a common practice. To get here in the canonical books, Ehrman dismisses external tradition, contradicts his own arguments about imminent expectation and the church’s self understanding about being in the last days, minimizes the influence of hymnic or traditional materials in these sources as well as any role for a secretary, constructs a portrait of conflict and diversity in the early church that the early sources do not support, and ignores evidence of the church having more structure early to set up supposed contradictions between biblical authors. This list of problematic factors is so long and Ehrman makes these moves so effortlessly that it is easy to see why an unsuspecting reader might think Ehrman has made a good case. My hope is that this review in multiple installments has caused one to pause and see that the case for forgery in the Bible is not at all as likely as Ehrman has contended. Contrary to Ehrman’s opinion, case, and hyped book cover, it is quite likely that after all the Bible’s authors actually are who we think they are. "

Read all the installments here...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dr. John Piper talks with Rick Warren about the Doctrine of the Purpose Driven Life

"John Piper and Rick Warren were to sit down for a one-on-one conversation at the Desiring God National Conference in October of 2010, but unforeseen circumstances prevented Warren from being there. On May 1, 2011, they were able to film the interview, which lasted an hour and a half.
Piper explains that he read The Purpose-Drive Life with a fine-tooth comb and significantly disagreed with certain Reformed critiques of the book. The heart of the interview is Piper seeking clarification and confirmation from Warren on various doctrines and distinctives. Piper explains his intentions like this:
My aim in this interview is to bring out and clarify what Rick Warren believes about these biblical doctrines. In doing this my hope is that the thousands of pastors and lay people who look to Rick for inspiration and wisdom will see the profound place that doctrine has in his mind and heart..."
You can read or watch the rest here...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reconstructing The Pooh Community: Richard Bauckham

This essay from Richard Bauckham is hilarious. If you’re a Biblical Studies buff you must read it....

New Testament research is a field which has much to learn from comparative study—
from observing the trends and results of research in parallel fields of study. So I begin
my lecture this evening with an excursion into just such a parallel field—an excursion
from which we may be able to return to recent trends in research on the Gospel of
John with a fresh angle of vision.
Probably most of you will be familiar with the Winnie-the-Pooh stories—the
popular children’s books traditionally attributed to A A Milne. But you may not all be
familiar with recent developments in Winnie-the-Pooh scholarship, which has been
revolutionized in recent years as a result of one major methodological breakthrough
which virtually all Pooh scholarship now takes for granted. This is the seminal insight
that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories can be read on more than one level. Ostensibly, of
course, they are the story of a group of animals living in a forest, who are in some
sense identified with the soft toys belonging to Christopher Robin. But on another level
they are the story of the community behind the books, that community of children for
which the books were written. In the Winnie-the-Pooh books one specific community
of English children early this century—now generally known to scholars as the Pooh
community—has encoded for us a wonderfully revealing account of itself. With this
methodological key it is possible to a large extent to reconstruct that community: its
character, its history, its passions, its factions. For example, this community of children
is clearly situated in a rural and rather isolated context—a small English village, one
should assume. All the action of the story takes place in a forest, and the small caste
of characters seems to live entirely in a world of its own. The outside world never
impinges. Awareness that other children exist beyond the inward-looking circle of
the Pooh community is indicated only by the very generalized and vague references
to Rabbit’s friends and relations.
Clearly the Pooh books were written for a specific community with a strong sense
of its distinctive identity—a closed, one might even say sectarian group which prided
itself on its special insider knowledge. We can see this in features of the writings which
would have baffled any outsider but provide the insider with confirmation of their
special status as privy to a kind of esoteric knowledge. Several times we find alleged
explanations which to the outsider would not be explanations at all. For example:
When I first heard his name [Winnie-the-Pooh], I said, just as you are going to say,
‘But I thought he was a boy?’
‘So did I,’ said Christopher Robin.
‘Then you can’t call him Winnie?’
‘I don’t.’
‘But you said—‘
‘He’s Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don’t you know what
“ther” means?’
‘Ah, yes, now I do,’ I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is
all the explanation you are going to get.”
[London: Methuen, 1963] p 1)
Or again:

Nobody seemed to know where they came from, but there they were in
the Forest: Kanga and Roo. When Pooh asked Christopher Robin, ‘How
did they come here?’ Christopher Robin said, ‘In the Usual Way, if you
know what I mean, Pooh,’ and Pooh, who didn’t, said ‘Oh!’ Then he
nodded his head twice and said, ‘In the Usual Way. Ah!’
In that passage, Pooh, the bear of little brain, fails to understand, but the readers can
pride themselves on their own superior understanding. Clearly we are dealing with
sectarian literature which not only belongs within the group but bolsters that group’s
sense of superiority to the world in general—the general reader who cannot begin to
understand what ‘the usual way’ would be. Click below to read the rest!