The new blog is here!
I will be retiring this one at a later date.
For those of you who subscribed to this one, HERE is the link to subscribe to the new one (it is a new domain).
Thanks for reading, and for all of you who made comments!
I am ironing out the final kinks with the new blog. It should be up by the end of this week. I am excited to show it off.
I am in the process of switching to a new blog platform. Therefore, I will be away for about about a week, working out the kinks and spending time on the design process. Stay tuned.
Here are some interesting stats for my career of blogging.
I would not like my life to result in the founding of a new school. I would like to tell anyone who is prepared to listen that I myself am not a “Barthian.”
Emphasize my name as little as possible. There is only one interesting name, and brining up all the rest only leads to false loyalties, and can only arouse tedious jealously and stubornness among other people And do not accept anything from me without testing it. Measure everything by the Word of God, the sole truth, which is our judge and our best teacher! You will understand me correctly if you allow what I say to lead you to what he says.
A good theologian does not live in a house of ideas, principles, and methods. He walks right through all such buildings and always comes out into the fresh air again. He remains on the way. He has his eyes on the horizon, the high mountains and the infinite sea–and at the same time also has at heart the good and the bad, the fortunate and the unfortunate, Christians and pagans, his fellow-men from East to West, to whom he is allowed to make his modest testimony.
Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His life from letters and autobiographical texts, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 417.
If there is no author, everything is permitted.
Robert Funk in Jesus as Precursor quotes a phrase from John Updike in The Centaur and uses the following to characterize the drift in Western culture:
Priest, teacher, artist.
The western world left the priest (tradition) some time ago, during the enlightenment.
For the priest reality is revealed, for the teacher reality is rational.
Now we are entering the era of the artist, an era marked by ambiguity, mystery, and aesthetic appeal.
This characterization fits pretty well with the general move in hermeneutics over the centuries.
First it was tradition, then reason, and now we are taking the literary turn. Just look at Gospels scholarship.
Doug Wilson has some preliminary thoughts on Real Marriage. As usual, it is a fun read and a different perspective.
Words written are easier to interact with (and be concerned about) than words unwritten. Pastors like Driscoll frequently get in trouble for things they write and say. This book has been called “dangerous.” In the meantime, other pastors rarely get in trouble for things they didn’t write and didn’t say. But — and here I am convinced that the Driscolls are exactly right — a lot of damage has been caused by the church’s unwillingness to address certain topics, an unwillingness to bring the whole counsel of God to bear on this subject. Silence is also dangerous. Sex is volatile. Writing about it can blow up on you. But not writing about it can do the same thing. But the damage that is caused by the sin of silent omission is untraceable, it cannot be pinned on anybody. People are just as hurt and just as damaged, and no pastoral fingerprints anywhere. Nobody is going to lose their job over it.
Stipulate whatever distance you might think exists between what Scripture says about sex and what the Driscolls say about it. That is a distance that would be a lot shorter if our translations hadn’t done a lot of tidying up for us. A Victorian Bowlderization taint continues down to the present. Pastor Mark might not get invited to your conference now, but — truth be told — neither would Pastor Ezekiel. Actually, we would invite Ezekiel because our inerrancy statement says we have to, but we would probably arrange for him to speak with a video feed on a ten-second delay.
All this said, please don’t assume that I won’t be expressing disagreements with Real Marriage, up to and including significant disagreements. The Driscolls anticipate that, and welcome it. It is only to say that I, for one, appreciate the opportunity that he and Grace have created to talk about these things. The fact that these things would never be talked about in your church does not mean they are not going on. In short, this is a good opportunity– but only if we receive it as such. The publication of this book is an event that God wants the whole evangelical world to use as an opportunity for sexual stewardship. That won’t happen if we try to shout it down.
I am reading up on postliberal Theology (sometimes known as Narrative Theology) for my review of Hans Frei’s Eclipse of Biblical Narrative.
If you want a brief history and a good explanation of what has been happening with postliberal theology and evangelicals see Roger Olson’s article in Christianity Today.
Evangelicals and postliberals find much in common when they meet as they did at the Wheaton Theology Conference in April 1995. Above all else, they affirm one another’s devotion to Scripture; thus, they are both “back to the Bible” movements in theology. Many postliberal theologians, however, see the majority of evangelicals as “premodern” in their attachments to objective, propositional revelation and literal historicity of Scripture’s stories. They fear that this leads inevitably to a divorce between Scripture and the explanatory schemes and theories that get built up into systematic theologies and rational apologetics based on propositional truth claims that end up replacing the literary form of Scripture.
Evangelicals, on the other hand, are uneasy about postliberal theology’s general disinterest in Christianity’s “objective truth” and the Bible’s “space-and-time historicity.” To most of us, the Yale theologians seem to go too far with postmodernism’s “incredulity toward metanarratives.” That is, they appear ambiguous and ambivalent regarding the question of Christianity’s universal truth status relative to competing accounts of “the ultimate nature of reality.”
My fellow PhD student, Raymond Johnson, has a good article about Christians and their tipping ways (or lack thereof).
This comes from the literary critic Erich Auerbach, who Hans Frei greatly admired, and at least partly caused him to write his famous The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative.
Far from seeking . . . merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, it seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history. Christians who tell these stories, stories that are rich, enigmatic, sometimes puzzling and ambiguous, can find that their lives fit into the world they describe — indeed, that our stories suddenly seem to make more sense when seen in that context.
I have been watching these fascinating videos featuring Milton Friedman. The videos begin with a short piece on the economy by Milton Friedman, and then end in a debate on the issues in the Chicago Library. The debates at the end are the most interesting, with Friedman responding to their questions and accusations.
Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American economist, statistician, academic, and author who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades. He was a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Among scholars, he is best known for his theoretical and empirical research, especially consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.
The newest 9 Marks e-journal is out, Reclaiming Sunday School. Jonathan Leeman and Trevin Wax write.
Churches kick adult Sunday school to the curb for a host of reasons: they don’t have enough teachers; they don’t want to burden Sunday schedules; they believe it’s a relic of the past.
Basically, adult Sunday school is a dinosaur, right? That’s why young churches often don’t have them, and mature churches let them carry on as they’ve always done.
You file into the “Fa-Ho-Lo” class (faith, hope, love) that you’ve been attending for years. You chat with friends about Saturday’s college games for 10 minutes over a cup of Folgers finest. The leader calls for prayer requests and updates. That’s another 15 minutes. Then come the 35 desultory minutes of the study itself, which breaks down into 25% instruction, 25% marginally helpful remarks by classmates, and 50% rambling by two particular classmates.
If this is your experience with Sunday school, like you we’re tempted to kick the whole affair to the curb.
But wait! Do you know what you might be missing? What if we could use it to pack gospel-centered biblical content into our congregations? And equip the saints for the work of ministry? And change our church cultures in everything from dating, to evangelism, to knowing God’s will?
If we content ourselves with a 45 minute Sunday sermon for instructing the saints, we’re letting the Friday night movie beat out our time investment into them by double.
That’s why the two of us want to push the retro envelope and encourage you to reclaim adult Sunday school. If you don’t have it, get it. If you have it, consider how you might make more of it. In the immortal words of Huey Lewis, it’s hip to be square.
The two of us have slightly different ideas about how to structure a Sunday school program. Trevin wants to cycle good material through fixed classes. Jonathan wants to cycle people through good classes. But the big point of agreement is this: don’t be afraid to teach. And teach comprehensively and systematically. That’s our challenge to you.
Jonathan Pennington starts us off with a Sunday school apologetic. Ed Stetzer offers an interesting historical perspective. And Jamie Dunlop and Trevin consider several different advantages of holding adult Sunday school classes. Garrett Kell and Juan Sanchez get into the nuts and bolts of reform, and Jonathan, Jamie Dunlop, Michael Kelley, and Bobby Jamieson get specific about strategies for Sunday school. If you only have time for one article, jump straight to Jamie Dunlop’s on changing a church’s culture.
Bottom line, we invite you to consider what you might be missing.
Denny Burk gives his review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage.
Even though I have some theological and pastoral disagreements with this book, I am grateful for some significant common ground.
A good word from Ray Ortlund:
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8
How can we draw near to God in 2012? Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel. They are not heroic. They only require faith and honesty.
One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it. Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15). And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence. It is his way. God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342). Let’s open up. If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us. But the truth is, he draws near to broken sinners who own up. What if we saw, in our very sins, the nearness of God awaiting us with greater mercy than we have ever known before?
Two, let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. No one grows in isolation. We grow in safe community. Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches. It should be common among us gospel people. It should be our lifestyle. We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners. But so often, someone must break the ice. I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession. Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment. If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out. But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16). What if in 2012 we were, to one another, unshockable friends, down on our knees together, not judging one another but praying for one another? Surely God’s nearness would be there.
The Criterion of Dissimilarity according to Norman Perrin’s Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus states that:
the earliest form of a saying we can reach may be regarded as authentic if it can be shown to be dissimilar to characteristic emphases both of ancient Judaism and of the early church.
Although not all scholars who use this criterion follow this exactly, it seems that this method is problematic from the start. In other words, if it could come from the early church or ancient Judaism, then it did.
The burden of proof seems to lie with the one making this hypothesis, rather than the other way around.
Are Jesus’ saying really to be regarded as inauthentic if it coheres with ancient Judaism and the early church? After all Jesus himself was a Jew and the early church built their theology around Jesus’ teaching.
“This is a gospel issue,” is a phrase I have heard repeatedly.
But what does that phrase actually mean? How are we using it? And why are we using it?
In some sense, everything is a gospel issue. When I am scrubbing my teeth in front of the mirror, I am to do this for God’s sake. I am to get those teeth as clean as possible because Jesus has died for me.
But in another very real sense, it is right for you to look at that last paragraph as rather bizarre. If I were to blog about how everyone should nightly brush their teeth for no less than 2 minutes, because this is a gospel issue, I hope there would be some blowback.
Because when we say, “this is a gospel issue” what we are really trying to communicate is that it is vitally important.
But the language is now being used to cover all categories.
The blade has been dulled from over-use.
Now across the blogs, ones view on immigration, multi-site, ministering in the city, elders, limited government, and Tim Tebow’s under pants have become gospel issues.
If all things are gospel issues, then nothing is a gospel issue.
In all reality, this phrase is usually used as a threat. If you throw in that this is a “gospel issue” then anyone who disagrees with you must be “anti-gospel.”
And no one wants to be anti-gospel.
But I really don’t think it is helpful to use this term for so many categories. There can be healthy disagreement on a number of issues and to label it a “gospel issue” draws lines in the sand that could be more divisive than unifying.
I want Christians to hold onto the gospel tightly, but I don’t want the above phrase to be thrown around flippantly or even for rhetorical effects.
Gospel issues concern where one stands before God Almighty. And sure, there are massive implications to our relationship with God. But if we spread the net too wide, we might actually miss where the concentration needs to be, and come back with an empty boat.
The Second Vatican Council says:
For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as of old the Word of the eternal Father, when he took to himself the weak flesh of humanity, became like other men.
Mary Healy takes these words and goes on to explain how just as there can be imbalanced Christologies, so there can be forms of scriptural interpretation that fail to hold the divine and human aspects of Scripture together. She says:
Mary Healy, “Behind, in front of…or Through the Text?,” in Behind the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 181-195.
Dale Allison in his book Studies in Matthew argues that “the star” in Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10 was once understood as being an angel. However this interpretation has been lost for at least the last 100 years because of Origen’s comments on the star, and the advent of modern astronomy. Here are some highlights of his argument.
Dale Allison, “The Magi’s Angel,” in Studies in Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 17-41.