on Spiritual Gifts

spiritual-giftsAndrew Ferris has posted an updated interview he had with Ken Berding on his 2006 book What Are Spiritual Gifts?: Rethinking the Conventional View (Kregel) that I think is well worth your time to read and consider.  Especially in light of Tim Gombis’ recent post, Disnefying Spiritual Gifts.

What Berding does and Gombis too, is take the whole longstanding notion of what spiritual “gifts” are and turns it on its head!  Traditionally and probably also because of our highly individualistic culture in the West we tend to view view the “gifts” in terms of the individual and in terms of abilities. what can an individual person do with the gifting or abilities the Holy Spirit has given him or her: teach, pastor, faith, knowledge, healing, serving, etc.

Berding re-thinks this conventional view – he turns it on its head.  Instead of a spiritual abilities view it is about ministry – a spiritually empowered ministry.  Consider the following from the interview:

Could you summarize some of the reasons you think the spiritual ministries approach is correct—as opposed to the special abilities approach?

Yes, let me limit my response to ten reasons. If you want to see these explained more fully kenneth_berding(along with other key arguments), you will need to take a look at the book. But these will get you started.

1. Many people assume that the Greek word charisma means special ability. This is a misunderstanding of how words work and confuses the discussion.

2. Paul’s central concern in Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12-14—the “spiritual gifts passages”—is that every believer fulfills his or her role in building up the community of faith. That’s what he’s writing about; that’s what he cares about. The Corinthians, not Paul, were the ones who were interested in special abilities.

3. Paul doesn’t use any ability concepts in his extended metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. His illustration is all about the roles—or the ministries—of the various members of the body.

4. The actual activities that Paul lists in Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12 can all be described as ministries, but they cannot all be described as abilities.

5. The idea of ministry assignments is a common thread that weaves its way through Paul’s letters. The theme of special abilities is not an important theme in his writings.

6. In approximately 80 percent of Paul’s one hundred or so lists, he places a word or phrase that indicates the nature of the list in the immediate context. There are such indicators in all four of Paul’s lists. This is significant because indicators such as the words appointed, functions, and equipping instruct us that we must read these lists as ministries.

7. When Paul uses the words grace and given together, he’s discussing ministry assignments—either his own or those of others—in the immediate context. This combination appears in two of the three chapters that include ministry lists.

8. Paul talks in detail about his own ministry assignments and suggests that, just as he had received ministry, all believers have also received ministry assignments.

9. The spiritual-abilities view suggests that service should flow out of our strengths; Paul says that sometimes—though not always—we’re called to minister out of weakness. The weakness theme in Paul’s letters does not work with the idea of spiritual gifts as strengths.

10. Neither Paul nor any other New Testament author ever encourages people to try to discover their special abilities; nor is there any example of any New Testament character who embarked on such a quest.

There you have it.  You can read on to learn more but I think this is a much needed paradigm shift in thinking about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of both the believer and the believing community, the People of God.  I am not sure where Berding stands on the issue but I see this as a highly egalitarian view not just of the gifts (keeps individuals from being elevated over others) but of ministry in general.  It really does put service back into the purpose and intent of the ministries of the Spirit.  Helps to downplay the “disnefying of gifts” to take this view.  This is good stuff!

a thought on “grace”

I recently picked up a copy of Siegfried Schatzmann’s A Pauline Theology of Charismata (Hendrickson, 1987).  It is his PhD dissertation from SWBTS.  It’s a packed 103 pages of reading and highly technical reading on the use of “charismata” in Paul’s letters.  It’s a good work.   As well one should he starts out exploring the etymology of the concept and it is quite interesting.  Consider the following:  (sorry I am not able to access Greek fonts at this time so you will forgive the transliterations and keep reading?  Thx!  🙂 )

Xarismata is derived from the root word xaris.  Whereas the former is used sparingly, the latter occurs profusely both in secular Greek literature and in the NT.  Xaris, in the Pauline letters generally translated as “grace,” and xarismata, the unique NT term for “gift,” develop from the stem, xar-.  “Grace” is probably Paul’s most fundamental concept by which he expresses the event of salvation.  It is crucial to understand, therefore, that “grace” does not, for Paul, convey the notion of God’s disposition or attitude towards mankind but rather God’s gracious “act.”  Rudolf Bultmann appropriately summarizes the foundational character of xaris in Paul as “God’s eschatological deed.”  Paul’s Theology is this appropriately described as “charitocentric”; xaris denotes God’s “fundamental gift of salvation” to humanity.  By no means must this be construed to mean that Paul considered “grace” as God’s generous act in the past only.   Every cursory study of such passages as Rom 3:24, 5:15, and Eph 2:5,8, shows that grace, as God’s eschatological event in Christ, is experienced in the present and also transforms and characterizes existence in the present.  This understanding of xaris, then leads to its correlate, xarismata.  Yet, the further probing into the significance of the relatedness of these terms mus await the exegesis Rom 5:15, 16, and of 6:23.

This is interesting.  So often we talk about grace as God’s unmerited favor towards us, and probably this is true, but as seen in Schatzmann, it in fact refers to God’s act of salavation!

Yes, this is interesting.

on “the ministry”

Did you know we are all called to it?  Why yes, it’s true.  If you are a Christian, that is, a person who is trusting in Christ alone for your salvation from the wrath that is to come, you are called to “the ministry.”  Whatever do I mean you ask??  Well, i’m glad you asked.  Consider the following from 2 Corinthians 5:

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

So you may be wondering, what is this ministry of which you speak?  It is the ministry of reconciliation.  No, it wasn’t just Paul’s job or the Pastor’s job or the Evangelist’s job to reconcile people to God – it is the Christian’s job.  The moment you became a Christian you were called to the ministry of reconciliation.

See, when Paul uses “us” and “we,” in most cases, though not always, it might be what you could call a “corporate” we or us.  Maybe like the Spanish “nosostros”?  A plural “we” of sorts.  And not just him and the guys writing with him, but Paul and his audience, you and me, the reader.

God didn’t just reconcile Paul or Timothy, or Silvanus, or your Pastor, Teacher, Evangelists.  He reconciled all of us, and through Christ, gave all of us the ministry of reconciliation.  We are ALL ambassadors for Christ!  And as his ambassadors we have a message we bear to others on his behalf – the message of reconciliation.

It’s interesting ambassador is used here in conjunction with the ministry of reconciliation.  Isn’t it the case that in some countries what we call ambassadors others might call “minister of…”  Well, we are all ministers of Christ.  Ministers have a message.  The message is that God has reconciled humanity to himself through the atoning work of Christ on the cross!

It’s a great message, and it’s a great ministry!  🙂

Truth of the Day: On the Charismatic Renewal

‎”Pentecostalism and the charismatic renewal have jointly given believers what historian Chris Armstrong calls Pentecostalism’s chief contribution to Christianity: an awareness of ‘a deep well of living water from which everything else flow[s] … the personal, relational presence of the living God.'”

It’s true.  Like it or not.  Believe it or not.  Pentecostalism and the Charismatic renewal have contributed to the overall spiritual health and well being of the Body of Christ at large.  How?  By being consistent in their message about and adherence to and reliance upon the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.

Read more here.

Book Review: J.R.R. Tolkien

Thanks to Kregel for the opportunity to read and do a review of Colin Duriez’ recent biography J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend (Lion Books, 2012).

tolkienTo be honest, I did not read the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings books when I was Highschool.  I am not even sure I had heard of them.  Further, I am not sure what was going on with me during those years but I was not even really interested in Literature much.  It might have been part of the fact that I am more of a visual learning and things like watching TV were more how I learned than by reading books per se.  Well, sometime during college that changed and I learned to read books as a way of learning and things like language and literature began to be more appealing to me.  Learning NT Greek at my home church may have helped too.

When the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring came out, I decided to get the books and start reading them, from the beginning.  I have a dear friend who I refer to as my resident Tolkien scholar and he was able to give me some direction and I was also able to talk and reflect on the stories with him as I went through.   By resident scholar I mean he has read the stories some 20 times or more and owns and has read extensively all the back story material too – he KNOWS Tolkien inside and out.   So I had The Hobbit, The LOTR set, The Silmarillion, and The Unfinished Tales along with a Guide to Middle Earth!  I was set.

Additionally I took a weekend seminar on Tolkien in Seminary and learned quite a bit about the context and background and various interpretations of the legends of Middle Earth.  So I was happy to have a chance to read Colin Duriez’ biography.

In this biography you learn much not just about the man but you learn about how he thought and the major events in his life that in the long run all in some way contributed to his developing the world and wonder of Middle Earth.  Many elements of the Shire represent the area where Tolkien grew up.  He and his brother led a Scouting for Boys group that contributed to qualities and characteristics of characters in the stories.  Samwise Gamgee telling Gollum there was only one way to properly cook Coney (rabbit) would be one example of Scouting skills that found its way into the story.

I think most people know that the Elvish languages spoken in stories were all invented by Tolkien.  Tolkien had three passions in his life: Old Norse, festivity, and classical philology.  He began his studies in the Classics but eventually found himself (and by way of his mentors) better suited to Comparative Philology and that helped him go deeper not just into the languages but also the history of languages and their development (he could site read old Icelandic saga straight off the pages with no helps).   The classical romance seen between Aragorn and Arwen is in many ways a reflection of the relationship between Tolkien and the love of his life, Edith.  The were forbidden to be together for quite a few years by Tolkien guardian who was concerned that Edith would prevent Tolkien from being successful in his academic pursuits and so be able to have a career and provide for her.  They would meet secretly and haphazardly until they were allowed to marry.

Tolkien took a summer trip to the Alps once, this could have provided background for scenes in the various mountains in the stories.  We know that he was involved to some degree in both world wars, and so there are ties to that.  He was not a fan of modern technology and preferred the quiet life of Oxford, which is reflected in the life of the Shire.  The Shire represents all that is good and Mordor and  Isengard represent the onset of modernization that Tolkien didn’t care for.  It also reflects the awfulness of war.

From the Back cover: “Tolkien had a difficult life for many years: orphaned and poor, his guardian forbade him to communicate with the woman he had fallen in love with, and he went through the horrors of the First World War.  An intensely private and brilliant scholar, he spent over fifty years working on the languages, history, peoples, and geography of Middle Earth, with a consistent mythology inspired by formidable knowledge of early northern European history and culture.  J.R.R. Tolkien became a legend by creating an imaginary world that has enthralled and delighted generations.  This engaging and accessible biography brings him to life.”

Honestly, this sort of thing is probably only going to satisfy and interest the devoted Tolkien fan.  Many people have seen the movies and so stopped reading the stories but I think those who have allowed themselves to keep reading the books, will enjoy learning more about the man and the life behind it all!


God (through the Holy Spirit) is (still) at work!

came across an article today on the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments and the author, Donald L Tucker, in his conclusion to his survey of the Spirit in the Bible, discusses some implications for today and his first point I thought was really a really great one for consideration.  He writes:

So, what does all of this quick panorama of the Spirit in the Old and New Testament mean today? Well, first of all, we need to recognize that God is at work. Even today, the Spirit still moves, although sometimes mysteriously.

We expect the Spirit to speak in a gentle whisper, a still small voice, but it comes as a roaring wind. Sometimes God breaks in through the violent and unexpected, the alien and unusual. Remember: The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 4); the Spirit grabbed Ezekiel by the hair and lifted him to his feet (8:3)4; Philip was removed from a flourishing evangelistic campaign to preach to only one man and was supernaturally transported from one place to another (Acts 8:9-40).

You may not control the Spirit: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NIV). You may not control the Spirit, but you do well to let the Spirit take control of you. Sometimes it’s unpredictable, even unbelievable-healings that can’t be explained, supernatural intervention and protection, baptism in the Spirit and speaking of unlearned languages. These mean that the Spirit of God is still at work!

I don’t know about you all, but really, this is one of the reasons I am sticking to my guns being a Pentecostal.   One of the core beliefs of Pentecostals is our belief in and heavy reliance upon the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, that the work of the Spirit via the Church and the gifts to which he imparts the Church are still for today and still quite active!  I mean, really what would we do without the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians trying our best to live in discipleship to Jesus and carrying on his mission in the world?  Come Holy Spirit!

missiology matters!

i have come across a new (to me )blog, it’s called missiology matters!  my two passions are the Bible and cross-cultural mission – this is a blog I have subscribed to so I will be following it!  If you have similar interests you may want to do the same.

The author of the blog is Robert Priest, a missiology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

You might wonder what is missiology?  Very simply is it the study of missions.  Here is a brief statement from the blog:

Missiology is an interdisciplinary discipline which, through research, writing, and teaching, furthers the acquisition, development, and transmission of theologically-informed, contextually-grounded, and ministry-oriented knowledge and understanding, with the goal of helping and correcting Christians, and Christian institutions, involved in the doing of Christian mission.

For more read the blog and give it a follow (and this post too)!

Even so, I think these kinds of things are important for pastors to be reading up on.  You’d be surprised how much of missiological thinking and praxis can be applied to local church life and contexts, especially given the increasingly diverse (even pluralistic) our congregations and communities become.  Good pastors and exegetes of the Bible need to be well read in a broad area of issues, missiology is one of those.  That is, in my personal opinion!


Book Notice: Flourishing Churches and Communities

My Church history and Christian Ethics professor and chair of the PhD in BIble and Theology department at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary has a new book out that I think is gonna be good and well worth the purchase!

Description from the site:

Pentecostal Front CoverPentecostal Christianity is just over a century old, and yet its impact in that time as an evangelistic force for Christ has been astonishing. One foundational scriptural understanding of the Pentecostal movement is that the Spirit empowers us to carry out the work of the gospel. Without a dependence on the work of the Spirit, we are mere humans.

Dr. Self provides here a vivid picture of what it looks like for followers of Jesus to take the Great Commandment and the Great Commission seriously in the context of their own local communities. His concern is that our view of discipleship is lacking a clear integration of faith, work, and economics. Christians have the means to bless their local economies in unique ways that can transform coworkers and neighbors alike as Christ is glorified. This primer aims at wholehearted discipleship that extends beyond our Sundays at church and into our workplaces the rest of the week.

With a strong biblical understanding of the all-encompassing nature of true discipleship as integral to the kingdom of God, combined with a unified view of church history and an appreciation for all members of the church body, Flourishing Churches and Communities presents a vision for Christians that is as beautiful as it is challenging.

Like I said, I think it gonna be a good one!

Book Review: Your Deepest Dream

deepest dreamIt is with thanks to the author and my former seminary Dean, now President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington, Joe Castleberry for a  review copy of his book, Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s True Vision for Your Life (NavPress 2012).

Current trends show that as much as 83% of Americas live lives and work jobs they do not like and do not find fulfulling.   For a variety of reasons, many folks are not living out their deep dreams, if they even know what it is.   And maybe that is where the mix up is.  Many of us tend to think life is all about us and fulfilling our dreams.   The back cover tells us, “Life isn’t about fulfilling your dreams – it’s about discovering the dream that will fulfill you.”

Do you have a dream?  Do you know what that dream is?  Are you able to express it, see it, have an idea what it might look like?   Have you discovered what it is?  If you know what it is, are you in pursuit of it?   This book is about you.  It is about you and you discovering your deepest dream, whatever that is.  I can hear some people saying, its not about me, it’s about God.  Stop right now.  That’s not what this is about.  You can have a dream and being in process of discovering it and living it out and still be in full pursuit of God – because really, that is what your deepest dream is, to be in pursuit of God, following hard after him in whatever way you can.  It is okay to dream.  It is okay to have a dream and live in pursuit of it.  We all have one, deep down inside of us.  One of us has a dream that either we are in process of discovering or re-discovering.

How do you discover your deep dream?  You need to know yourself, you need to know God (its the deepest desire of us all)(this is where Dr. Joe gets into the heart of the gospel message and calls us all to repentance in him – this is not at all a “Your Best Life Now” kind of book), embrace your destiny (we all have one), be a leader (we all are in our own way), serve others, live a life of integrity (this is the most important part), be humble (connected to knowing yourself and knowing God), be tenacious (have what some call “sticktoitiveness,”), stay forgiving (this is the next most important thing), keep that chin up and stay positive.  Be shrewd.  “God has placed that dream deep within you.  It’s so much more than earthly aspirations and includes a strong moral center, experiencing a vital relationship with God, and living a rich, satisfying life with godly character.”  (again from the back cover).

Are you unsure of what your deep dream is, or how to come about realizing what it is?  Reading this book will help set you on the path to discovering or even re-discovering your deepest dream.

It is a good and even challenging read!  I know I needed it, and I know others do too.  If you or someone you know needs it, don’t hesitate, be sure they get this book.