God is no respecter of persons…

Here are some thoughts on James 2 from brother Dave who wrote the following on his blog: (posted Sunday May 29th, 3:10pm)

While I’m on the subject of Bethel Hill, brother Chris led us in another excellent discussion of the book of James during our Sunday School class this morning. Today we were in chapter 2, a passage where James is very clear that God is no respecter of persons, which is a subject that is near and dear to my own heart as I was raised as an ethnic minority in Hawaii. Chris made it very clear that for us to show partiality of any kind would be a sin against the character of God. I don’t speak up all that often in Sunday School, but this morning I felt led to make two observations.

1) My first point was a theological one. The way we treat other people reveals what we believe about God. That is to say, favoritism has no place in the Christian life because it is contrary to the nature and character of God. Funny, I said to the class, how we Christians can study the so-called “attributes” of God — His omnipresence, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His immutability, His eternality, etc. — and yet fail to say anything about God’s impartiality.

2) I made my second point with something of the sensation of a man about to jump off a cliff with a cannonball tied to his leg. But it was a point I felt I had to make, especially in view of all the American flags flying everywhere on the church campus this morning, it being Memorial Day weekend. Our God is a color blind God, I said. I added: Our God is a dollar blind God. Our God is a status blind God. And then I said this: Our God is a nation blind God. To say or to imply that America is somehow a “holy nation” is, in my humble estimation, blasphemous.

The household of God (to which I belong by God’s grace) is the only holy nation on earth. It includes in its membership all Christians of all ages, all nationalities, all levels of social strata, all levels of intelligence. The lesson is clear. From the moment of my conversion to Christ, and from the moment of your conversion to Christ, we have been in fellowship with every other Christian in the world, be they American or Ethiopian or Chinese or Iraqi or Iranian. The Bible tells us “we are all one in Christ Jesus” — and that includes our guest speaker this morning who came to us from southern India.

It is here, on the national level, that we are called upon to demonstrate to a lost world the reality of our fellowship. We are bound together by a unity that goes far beyond mere geography or nationality let alone hobby or personal interest or political affiliation or denomination. Only when we learn to see ourselves as this kind of a holy nation, only when we learn to treasure that kind of fellowship, only when we experience this kind of trans-national love, will we fulfill our vocation as saints.

Beware of the sin of nationalism, my friends. A Christian is a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth because he or she belongs to the holy nation of the people of God. This, and this alone, is the only Christian nation. Other nations may contain Christians, and they may be influenced to one degree or another by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the people redeemed by the blood of Christ.

Of course, to be sure, our esteemed and beloved brother is *not* saying you can’t be proud to be an American or rejoice in our freedoms and so on… he is, however, without a doubt, warning us of nationalism.  Thanks for the prophetic words brother Dave.

The Meaning of the Pentateuch

Stephen Dempster, Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, gives a good review of John Sailhammer’s magum opus The Meaning of the Petateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation (IVP 2010) on the Themelios blog.

Here is an excerpt:

There is a gold mine of information in this book, which is the result of the author’s many years of painstaking and fruitful study of this part of the Bible. In some ways this book is a compendium for much of the author’s distinctive themes and terminology: text versus event, literary strategy versus literary strata, Pentateuch versus Mosaic Law, Abraham versus Moses, poetic commentary versus narrative progression, Pentateuch 2.0 versus Pentateuch 1.0, big idea versus smaller details. Whatever one thinks of this book, it needs to be part of the conversation of Pentateuchal studies in the future, particularly among evangelicals. Personally, I have found it refreshing to read a volume on the Pentateuch concerned with the final form of the text’s surface structure rather than the layers of literary strata beneath it.

Agree or disagree with Dempster or Sailhammer, I have my copy, do you have yours?  I do need to get Dempster’s book though….

The Bible and History

I recently got a copy of Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Galatians in the newly developing Zondervan Exegetical Commentary set and he start out the commentary with a quote from Martin Luther and then writes the following:

Here is the Martin Luther Quote:

Therefore, God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise fools.  In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace.  Therefore, no proud saint, no wise or just person, can become God’s material, and God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled in him.  He remains in his own work and makes a factitious, pretended, false, and painted saint of himself, that is, a hypocrite.

then Schreiner goes on….

Amazingly, Gordon Fee writes from quite a different perspective, saying that his goal is to help people read Galatians “as if the Reformation never happened.” (cited from his Galatians commentary in the Pentecostal Commentary set). On the one hand, Fee’s goal is laudable.  He wants to read the text on its own terms.  On the other hand, it is remarkably naive and ahistorical, for he pretends that he can read Galatians as a neutral observer of the text apart from the history of the church.  I am not suggesting that we mist read Galatians in defense of the Reformation, no am I denying that the Reformation may be askew in some of its emphasis.  But it must be acknowledged that none of us can read Galatians as if the Reformation never occurred.  Such a reading is five hundred years too late.  Nor can we read Galatians as if the twentieth century never happened or apart from the works of Ignatius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and the like.  We can consider whether Reformation emphasis were wrong (I will argue that they were not), but what we cannot do is read Galatians as if we were the first readers (21).

As I ponder this more I wonder because how are some who may not be well read on the Reformation know what happend?  and what of the supposed lay person who may not have access to those kinds of resources?  Why can’t a person just come to the Bible as it is and glean from it, its message (and for Galatians, the message of freedom in Christ; freedom from feeling as if we have to somehow earn or work for our salvation)?

To really understand this ever and always pertinent letter, must we read it as the reformers did, or in conversation with the church fathers?

What say you?

Just how important is reception history in the reading and study if the Bible?

Quote of the day on Israel

From Bruce Watlke’s An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan, 2007).

Zionists who claim the Land on the basis of the Bible wrongly fail to distinguish between the cursed Canaanites and non-cursed Palestinians, between holy war and secular war, between covenant fidelity and the denial of its relevance, and above all, between being politically “in the Land” and its fulfillment of being spiritually “in Christ.”

I think Waltke is largely right with this quote. All too often we get the modern state of Israel confused with biblical Israel when they are not the same thing. It is that kind of thing that causes me to disdain the politicalization of it all by such groups as Hagee’s CUFI. If you want to reach Jews I think there are better ways to do that.

HT: Dale Brueggemann (the quote was put up on his facebook page and he quoted from his Kindle so I do not have the exact location at the moment).

nirvana in a cup.

Perhaps this is old news but I suppose if there is any doubt we live in a post Christian culture, this photo exemplifies that to T…

Gone are the days when things were primarily “like heaven” or as if one had “died and gone to heaven.” For one, most don’t even believe in heaven anymore and many Christians argue we aren’t going there anyways, or it is more like a brief layover, etc. Everyone wants to be spiritual but few if any want to be Christian. This photo, to me, while probably standard marketing than anything else, exemplifies the increasing anti-Christ element of American culture. It’s a shame, but it is also reality and it is bound to get worse as time goes on.

post rapture photo

so this photo was going around yesterday and many laughed and scoffed and mocked…

one friend of mine shared on his Facebook page:

There is a stong temptation to think or say “God, thank you that I am not like that Harold Camping” in smug self-righteousnes and pat ourselves on the back for how wise we are. Instead, why not be filled with gratitude that God, by his grace, has saved even more foolish, rebellious helpless sinners such as us, and look forward to the day very soon when we will see the One we love with unveiled face.

and Dave Black had shared:

[the big lie isn’t the false teaching of people like Camping so much as…] The Big Lie is our false orthodoxy, our pseudo religion, our finger-pointing self-righteous Evangelicalism. We are too smart to be duped by false prophets who predict the return of Christ on such-and-such a date but too blind to see our own cheap substitutes for the real thing. Some call this pseudo-Christianity, others Christendom. I think “Churchianity” says it well. We choose simulated piety, and God lets us reap the consequences of our choice.

It made me wonder about the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector where the pharisee thanked God he was not like the tax collector and all the tax collector did was beg God for mercy and forgiveness. Which one would be shown mercy in the end?

on being left behind

I was thinking about the whole problem of Harold Camping and his claims that the rapture would happen today. I was wondering if he might actually be an atheist. I mean who did he think he was to say he put the numbers together and determined the rapture would occur today? Did he think he knows more than Jesus who himself said one one knows the day or the hour not even the angels or the son of man?

Perhaps he isn’t an atheist per se (maybe a Christian Atheist?) but I felt his actions actually contribute to the problem of atheism and agnosticism, that Things like this actually help to create atheists. Why? Because it can lead people to places of disillusionment and unbelief, even incredulousness (especially for his followers who are probably even now still in their delusion may be having a lot of questions). Now, I grant that anyone who actually may have had even so much as a moment of doubt as to if Camping might even possibly be right might deserve to go to a place of unbelief… Most will probably just scoff at such notions and mock God and Christianity as a bunch of buffoonery. Even many Christians including myself mocked it all. And I think that is a shame. This is for sure not an instance where foolishness shames the wise. No, not at all. The wise probably just kept their mouths shut about it all and ignored it altogether.

If there are to be instances when the foolish shame the wise it shouldn’t be in silly date-setting but in proclamation of the gospel among the nations and or the living of cross-centered and cruciform lives in service to others and to the gospel.

So, I would not be surprised if more instances of atheism and agnosticism set in (maybe it will, maybe it won’t) because of all this. At the same time, I encourage people to keep their hearts and ears open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, it can be a good time to give witness to Jesus in word and in deed. You can be sure nearly EVERYBODY is talking about this and it could lead to good conversations at break time or at the store, at the ballpark or who knows where.

Maranantha come Lord Jesus!

My Seminary advice

someone asked:

Any advice to someone facing their first semester of seminary (MATS program, after 20 years out of the academic environment)?

(this person wants to teach).

My advice:

my biggest advice is pray hard about getting the MDiv, it’ll pay more ministerial and academic dividends in the end…

just go in with a open heart to learn

(he’s also getting differing views on as to do the MDiv or the MA)

okay, I side with those who say go for the full MDiv but I guess if you want to to the MA-PhD track right there at …. then that could work. The MDiv will give you broader general ministerial skills and abilities that you can always use in ministry (even teaching) and could broaden your qualifications for what you can teach (and get you probably right into ordination, depending on your district, I was able to go right to licensing with my MDiv).

Also, I personally advocate doing the Bible language classes (at least one year GK; one year HB and one exegetical methods course for each as a minimum) which will also make you a better teacher – but that can be hard to do in the 2 year MA unless you make yourself a biblical languages major. You may also think you don’t need preaching courses. You’d be wrong. Everyone needs to take preaching classes…

So my advice is take Greek and Hebrew!! (and then Inductive studies in the Greek and Dr …..’s advanced Hebrew classes).  I know some wince at this but it is absolutely essential to being a solid bible teacher and as hard as it may seem, too many get their MDiv or MA and take the minimum in the languages or only one and not the other and no exegetical methods courses and it shows…

Also in the advanced classes you get good training in exegetical method which will also ground you in general biblical studies issues – so lots of birds with one stone.

I say all this because you get one chance at this bro. one chance. Once you are done that’ll be it. No time to study Greek or Hebrew and so on. Now is the chance. Some things are always changing such as leadership and approaches to ministry so you can always read a book or go to a seminar but there are also some things that don’t change, like the Bible and the biblical languages – get grounded in those… now, while you can.

hope that helps.

addendum to my reply 

I understand that theological method is important as well and forming a theology is important to learn how to do and so seminary can be the best place to do that – additionally the same is true with historical method and studies and it can be hard to get Bible languges, Theology and History all in the MA…