On Genesis 1 & 2

from Scot McKnight’s blog:

What does it teach?

God, the God of Israel — the one and only God — created everything, including stars and humans. Creation is dependent on God and God is independent of creation; God is involved — hence, theism and not pantheism or deism. God is not gendered; humans are. Humans have a relationship to God and to one another. The relationship of man to woman is mutuality and equality, not superiority. Humans are images of God, statues of God in this world put here to represent God.

To me, this is it!  This is the message of the creation narrative.  I find it significantly far more interesting, compelling, interesting, even soul stirring than all the jibberish about the speculative details about how the world may have been made and so on.  you can read more there.


On John 20:19-23 and Acts 2

One of my NT professors from AGTS, Ben Aker has written what I would say is a tremendous article on the Biblical distinction between Regeneration and Spirit Baptism in reference to John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. Trust me, its really good!

Dr. Aker writes:

There are two Biblical texts that scholars often discuss, frequently misinterpret, and thus confuse regarding regeneration and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. In the first of these references the word “breathed” occurs. This study then will focus on the meaning and use of the word in John 20:22. I propose that “breathed” refers to regeneration and concerns an actual, supernatural event in which Jesus imparts eternal life to the first disciples through the Spirit. This paper will discuss“ breathed” under two main headings: its lexical and conceptual meanings and uses and the contribution of John’s theology to its meaning and use.

Well, it blessed me and I hope it will bless you too!

on 1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Here is, I think, a great article on this passage of Scripture in the Enrichment Journal.  It is by my NT professor Ben Aker (now professor emeritus) at AGTS.

Here is an excerpt:

Pentecostals hold two fundamental positions regarding the nature of the gift of tongues based upon 1 Corinthians 14:1–5. One group believes that this gift is addressed to God and involves such things as prayer and/or praise. They believe that the one interpreting tongues should speak a praise or petition addressed to God. Tongues in this instance never contain a “message” to believers. Further, tongues are an inferior gift. W.G. MacDonald, a proponent of this position, recently summarized his view: “Glossolalia is always directed to God, and only to Him. In form,glossolalia is spoken or sung to Him. In content, biblical glossolalia consists of worship or prayer. It consists of praise or petition, thanksgiving or intercession. Because glossolalia is unidirectional to God, it cannot be an oracular utterance. Designed for individual edification, glossolalia when properly interpreted, rests at the bottom of the apostolic scale of gifts benefiting the congregation.”1

The other group believes that, like prophecy, the gift of tongues can also be a message directed to the church when accompanied by the interpretation, and that this gift of tongues is no more inferior than any other gift when appropriately manifested.

I wish to present the case for the latter view in an inductive manner by simply allowing the Bible to speak for itself. First, let us examine the larger context of the relevant passage in 1 Corinthians….

on promoting theological education

theological famineIF you need an example of how NOT to do it – read this.   I find this approach not one that I could recommend.  I think maybe it has noble intentions as there is great need in the world for better resources for pastors and teachers in less developed areas of the world and especially in the global south where the church is growing faster then it can keep up with.   At the same time I think it somewhat misrepresents what theological education and “training for the ministry” is supposed to be about.  And perhaps unwittingly devalues the staunch realities and problems AND pain of true famines from which real people suffer.  It basically turns its back on the poor, the suffering, the oppressed.

As I see it, it is based on false juxtapositon of physical hunger and spiritual hunger.  They are not mirrors of each other.  They are worlds apart.  Many in the Western world are a far cry from true physical hunger and yet ALL human beings, rich or poor, free or slave, white or non-white are spiritually depraved and in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  It trivializes real hunger, real poverty, real suffering.

I think it reveals some ignorance (either they just don’t understand don’t know or are just not paying attention to it) of larger missiological contextual issues that are face in cross-cultural work.  It is a imposition of Western values on to other cultures which is a big big no-no in cross-cultural missions.  It reveals ignorance of the changing role of Westerners in world missions and or evangelization.  While there are plenty of places where westerns can be and are quite effective in evangelizing the lost where the national might be less effective (for a whole host of issues and reasons) the increasing responsibility of the Western Missionary is that of PARTNERSHIP, a coming along side nationals to reach the lost and to teach, tran, equip men and women for teaching/preaching roles in their own contexts.  The end goal of mission is not transference of one set of cultural values to another, it is TRANSFORMATION of the target culture to the glory of God.  I think it is not a good way to go about it and in my personal opinion, it would be best not to support this movement either financially, emotionally or any other sort.

It is true, there is a DERTH of theological and or ministerial resources for pastors, teachers, and leaders in the now dominant Christian world.  They are really truly asking for and desiring materials for them to tach and train folks in the Word to be sure the Bible is being well understood and followed  and adhered to in their own contexts.  But see even that raises issues as to the idea that they are looking to us for resources because (and I happen to have just enough world experience to know) they see us as successful and good and blessed by God so they want to learn from us and to emulate us.

Instead I think it would be good to help the best we can but not from the point of view of “theological famine” necessarily but in partnership in obedience to the great co-mission.  Partnering with them to teach and train their own people and maybe even from their own cultural perspectives – seems to me like a kind of theological colonialism to think we should go there and train them from our view so we know they are getting it right.

This is why I am a HUGE advocate for promoting Inductive Bible Study and that in a community context much like what we see in Mike and Tim’s book: People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf and Stock).  That way we are working best to not IMPOSE our theology on them, but instead EQUIPPING them to study the Bible and draw their own conclusions in a way that is faithful to the Bibilcal text.  That way, we could learn something too!  🙂

Well I think that is enough of that!


Book Review: People of the Book

It is with thanks to the kind folks at Wipf & Stock that I had a chance to read and review Michael Halcomb and his friend Timothy McNinich co-authored work People of the Book: Inviting Communities Into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf & Stock, 2012).

Halcomb.PeopleOfTheBook.79276Michael is a PhD student at Asbury, I believe under Ben Witherington and blogs here.  Timothy is a pastor in the Vineyard denomination.

One of the many goals in Christian discipleship is to help people know God and to make him known.  One of the primary ways we come to know God and make him known (along with prayer and participation in a community of faith) is in teaching folks how to read and study the Bible, the primary source of the Christians faith life and practice.  A major barrier to all that is time.  We live in a time crunched world.  It can take a lot of time to  learn to read and study the Bible in a profitable way that contributes to a person’s spiritual growth and development.  Given the limits of time and resources (and the widespread demise of Sunday schools in churches) how is the church to go about educating folks in these matters?

Halcomb and McNinch provide a way!  Their book People of the Book, provides the Pastor or church leader, even Bible study leader a way to help facilitate study of the Bible in short time segments (roughly 45 min to 1 hr).  Their book provides principles necessary for good Bible study in a group setting.  The strongest emphasis is the need to do Bible study in a group setting and rarely if ever in a solitary setting.  Why?  Because group Bible study or communal Bible study helps safe guard against wild misguided interpretations and applications or what they call appropriations of the Scriptures.  When done together in a community setting, it is far more beneficial and fruitful for all involved, and it make the process easier.

The ultimate goal of “Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation” which is the subtitle of the book, is to promote interpretive integrity by studying in a community context and downplaying interpreting the Bible through a lens of individuality, something we in the West are prone to do.  Remember, the Bible was written to whole communities of people and congregations, not to individuals.  Though I&II Timothy and Titus were initially written to individual persons, they were then communicated to congregations.  There are very few if any uses of the singular “you” in Paul’s letters for example.  So it is important that as much as possible Bible study be done in a community context.

Halcomb and McNinch discuss six movements in the process of studying a passage or book of the Bible.  The process they present is much like the Inductive method but has some slight nuances and the biggest one is that it be done in a communal context meaning in a group together where perhaps pairs of people work on different movements at the same time then have the things learned be shared together so all can see and learn from one another.

The first movement is observation (20).  Observation involves looking at the text (any set of verses being studied) and seeing what can be observed about a text at the surface level by asking lots of questions of the text (the primary path to understanding).  The main way to do this is by way of recurrance ( finding repeated words, phrases, concepts, in the text).  This helps really get at the details and specifics so you can know what the text says.  You might do this by asking the who, what, when, where, how kinds of questions.

Once that is done and recorded, the next step is interpretive synthesis (27).  This involves a “communal interpretive conversation” where “some hypotheses about what the author of the text was trying to communicate to his original audience utilizing our own best insights and the studied interpretations of biblical scholars.  The goal is to come up with a shared synthesis of meaning (27).”   Like working a puzzle you work the edges then work the pieces until it forms a picture, observation might be working the frame of the puzzle, interpretive synthesis could be putting the pieces together, together.  🙂  One area of difference Halcomb and McNinch have from what is typically taught is that in the search for meaning doesn’t involve looking for supposed “timeless truths” or in asking the question “what does this mean to me?” kinds of things.  Instead, in pursuing interpretive synthesis the goal is simply to determine the meaning of the text as it stands, the best we can figure in its original context and setting.  The whole “what it means to me?” issue comes in a later movement.  It’s the same basic approach to when one is determining meaning in various kinds of literature.  The main difference however lies in what we do with that meaning, how we let it influence us that differentiates between studying the Bible and studying other literature (29).

The next movement is to look at the ancient implications.  What would it have looked like in the time of writing?  It seeks to respect the intentions of the writers and seeks to know what they wanted folks to hear through their writings.  It overlaps with interpretive synthesis and helps in transitioning to the fourth movement – appropriations.

Appropriations is working to bridge the gap between the past and the present.  For Halcomb and McNinch appropriation is different than the typical “application” element of Inductive Bible Study.  Appropriating involves determining “which realities of God’s nature and character do our biblical authors bear witness?” (39).  So, after having made some observations to ask questions of the text and making an interpretive synthesis, appropriation ask, “so what do we learn about God from all this?”  What does this passage. text, book, teach us about God’s character, ways, or reality?

After appropriations there is modern implications.  Modern implications involves bringing the implications from the past forward into our own contexts.  But that can only be done after you “bridge the gap” between past and future with appropriations.  This is finally when you can ask the question “what does it mean for us today?”

Once we consider the modern implications the final movement in communal biblical interpretation is devotion.  This is the ultimate goal of all Bible study – personal and corporate transformation that leads to greater levels of devotion.  It is also what separates it from mere academic exercise and makes it an act of worship, and hence why they do not call it “application.”  Devotion is meant to capture “the whole-life whole-community response to the God of the Bible” (45).

This is a great book and if you want to know more about these things and what they say about it all you will need to get it!  Following the lay out of the movement for communal biblical interpretation the authors follow up with four different case studies where the reader can see how it all works in varying contexts from a home Bible study to a church service, to a cross-cultural setting (I remember Mike sharing about going on this trip).  There is a final chapter on tips for facilitators and how to go about leading such groups and getting something like this going.

If it has made you tired just looking at all this, thinking man that’s a lot of work and there are only so many hours in a day.  Well, it isn’t that much work as it takes everyone to get it done, there is little actual prep time since the work is being done as a group and different folks do different parts of the study, all the facilitator has to do is keep things moving along!

I think Mike and Tim have done a great job with this book and that those brave pastors and or church leaders who are willing to relinquish control over the direction of the study and allow a communal interpretive approach ought to go for it!

on the Gospel of Mark

Congratulations to Joel Watts on his new book published by Wipf & Stock.  Looks like it should be a pretty interesting read!

Here is a description from the website:

Watts.MimeticCriticism.22895What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis? The Evangelists were not recording a historical report, but writing to effect a change in their community. Mark was faced with the imminent destruction of his tiny community—a community leaderless without Paul and Peter and who witnessed the destruction of the Temple; now, another messianic figure was claiming the worship rightly due to Jesus. The author of the Gospel of Mark takes his stylus in hand and begins to rewrite the story of Jesus—to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.

Joel L. Watts moves the Gospel of Mark to just after the destruction of the Temple, sets it within Roman educational models, and begins to read the ancient work afresh. Watts builds upon the historical criticisms of the past, but brings out a new way of reading the ancient stories of Jesus, and attempts to establish the literary sources of the Evangelist.

I really like that line “to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.”  Awesome!  Just from this description I could see a lot of implications for the local church and implications for how it will bring transformation to preaching and teaching as well.  I look forward to when I can get it and read it.  🙂

Good job Joel!

ps. he is doing a giveaway.