Theology for the Long Haul

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...