on theological education (again)

my wife debbie and I were talking this morning about a situation with a church in the area that we are familiar with. this church recently took on a new pastor. she had attended a special service there because some friends we have were a focal point for a portion of the service, and they had invited her to come. her conclusion afterward was that this pastor is young, in the sense that he is inexperienced. it could be his first pastorate. as we were talking about the situation over breakfast, she pointed out something very significant I think for the ultimate purpose of getting a theological education:

you need depth to go long (in ministry)

the concern was that at this point this young pastor may not have enough depth to last long with this church (it also has much conflict in its history). I realize we are eligible to receive treebeards direction “now don’t be hasty my little hobbits!” but I think its a valid concern. i also know i could get much push back for this because there are tons of pastors in the ministry with little to no formal theological education or who have a basic bible college degree, and they have plenty of depth, and have been in the ministry for a very long time. i think these situations are the exceptions and not the norm.  Even so, i also know its true that the average seminarian (i’m going to guess 6-7 out of 10) with a master of divinity leaves the ministry never to return 5 years or less after graduation so I know my case may not be a strong one either. however, i wonder if this is the exception and not the rule.

i also realize that “depth” can be relative. i wonder of those who had the training lacked the depth? i wonder how those with no training developed depth? i do not know and that’s highly subjective.

i want to assert that despite it all the ultimate value of theological education (and I think that is something well beyond the basic bible college degree) is to form in the seminarian, depth. depth of character. depth of integrity. depth of knowledge (which will lead to wisdom, if properly applied). depth of ministry capacity (and or ministerial functioning). and this depth will lead to endurance in the ministry.

getting a theological education is more than having a degree or getting the smarts or having knowledge. its about training for depth in ministry and for depth in life.


Machen on pastors and the GNT

thanks to Cliff Kvidahl, of Logos Bible Software fame, who blogs at Theological Musings for posting an article by J. Gresham Machen titled ‘The minister and his Greek New Testament‘ on the Facebook group page ‘Nerdy Language Majors.’

Here is his conclusion:

machen_photoIf, however, it is important for the minister to use his Greek Testament, what is to be done about it? Suppose early opportunities were neglected, or what was once required has been lost in the busy rush of ministerial life. Here we may come forward boldly with a message of hope. The Greek of the New Testament is by no means a difficult language; a very fair knowledge of it may be acquired by any minister of average intelligence. And to that end two homely directions may be given. In the first place, the Greek should be read aloud. A language cannot easily be learned by the eye alone. The sound as well as the sense of familiar passages should be impressed upon the mind, until sound and sense are connected without the medium of translation. Let this result not be hastened; it will come of itself if the simple direction be followed. In the second place, the Greek Testament should be read every day without fail, Sabbaths included. Ten minutes a day is of vastly more value than seventy minutes once a week. If the student keeps a “morning watch,” the Greek Testament ought to be given a place in it; at any rate, the Greek Testament should be read devotionally. The Greek Testament is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power.

If you need daily help: there is always “A Daily Dose of Greek” (which is only 2:00 minutes) of which you ca subscribe to daily emails.


Pentecost: More than Acts 1:8

Brian Fulthorp:

Good stuff here on Acts 1:8

Originally posted on Andrew Gabriel:

pente“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). For some Christians, this text is all that defines Pentecost.

However, Pentecost was a fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies. Hence, to properly understand the significance of Pentecost, one must begin with the Old Testament expectations of the future coming of the Spirit.


Beyond the prophet Joel’s expectation that the Spirit would be “poured out,” resulting in prophecy and dreams (quoted in Acts 2:16-21), other prophets also anticipated a day when the Spirit would be “poured out.”

  • Isaiah expected that when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” there would be justice, righteousness, and peace (Isaiah 32:15-18, cf. 44:3-5).
  • Through Ezekiel, God spoke of a future time of cleansing: “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my…

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mission of God

or mission of the church?

consider this….

Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation… It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission

-Christopher Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.

That’s right folks!  it’s the mission of God in which the church participates in fulfilling.  It is the mission for which the church was made.  If any church should wonder what is our purpose, why are we here, what are we supposed to be doing?  Well, in the broadest sense this is – our purpose is the mission of God.  Mission is purpose.  Our purpose is mission.

What is the mission?

Why nothing less than Isa 49:6:

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

How might that happen?  How do we go about accomplishing that in practical terms?

Well, I think the “great commission” might provide and answer:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

That’s pretty much it!  The way we’re to mission the church made for is to

  • Make Disciples
    • Baptize those Disciples
    • Teach those Disciples
      • teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded..

So some might be thinking ‘Right!  So HOW do you do that??!!”

Well….. I my personal opinion, as an Arminian Synergist is that it’s in part up to you how you decide to do that.  :-)

and… I guess that’s why we write blogs and books and curriculum so on, yes?  :-)


Substitutionary Atonement…

is still a vital teaching of the Bible, in my not so humble opinion.  I know many are dropping it like a hot potato, but I think they are wrong.  Yes, perhaps here are elements of all theories in the atonement, but if you ask me, I think Substitutionary Atonement is still front and center of the gospel message.

Michael Kruger writes about how it goes back to the early church (most say it can’t be found before Anslem, but Kruger differs. How so?  Read his post.   Here is part:

The Epistle to Diognetus shows that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness are not wholesale inventions of later Christians, but were present, at least in seed form, early in the history of Christianity. Did some Christian groups hold other views of such matters? Sure. But the continuity between the teachings of this epistle and the writings of Paul himself (see especially Romans 5) make it evident that the substitutionary atonement/imputation view goes back very early indeed.

It seems to me that for the longest time, and I mean hundreds of years, the primary theory of the atonement has been penal substitutionary theory (PSA) of the atonement. Then, in the last decade or so some theologians have been leading the charge to in claiming that PSA is un-Christian and “cosmic child abuse.”  They’ve done the ‘ol switcheroo.  The benched PSA and put Christus Victor (CV) out as the main theory that is most biblical.  I disagree, and I know I stand alone in this.  For me the primary model of the atonement is PSA and then all others are subordinate to it.  I know its bad to build a theology on one verse and I really don’t want to do that here but I really like the book of Galatians (Paul’s first letter) and it kind of gets right to the heart of the issue right off the bat there…  In Galatians 1:3-4 Paul writes:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Well, there you have it – straight from Paul.  Jesus gave himself over… he substituted himself on our behalf. Why? To deliever us from the present evil age.  K.  For me, that kind of settles it.  Yeah, its a bit strange I know.  But I see substitutionary atonement coming first in way that results in our deliverance from the effects of the present evil age.

This is the message of the cross… Jesus gave himself over voluntarily for our sins that we might be delivered and set free from the present evil age.

Now, if you ask me, that’s powerful stuff.


Frank Macchia on Rev 5:13-14

Frank Macchia offers here a

Palm Sunday Reflection:

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:13-14)

This passage in chapter 5 of Revelation depicts all of creation implicitly exalting the Lamb of God as the place where God reveals wounded and suffering love for the sake of redemption and liberation. This text occurs at the front of the book, just before John reports on the riders that will bring the violence of the nations to expression, spreading plague and death (which opens the very next scene in ch.6). The readers of chapter 6 are meant to ponder: What will make the violence against the earth so egregious is the fact that the creation is already devoted to the Lamb and the Lamb is already exalted as its God-intended destiny. Though bruised and wounded by violence, the creation according to Revelation will surely rise again in fulfillment of its long-standing song of praise to the Lamb. The violent forces of antichrist will attempt to seize Lordship but will not succeed, for God will act decisively to put an end to the forces that seek to destroy the earth (11:18). The praise of creation will not be silenced by the madness of violence and will end up having the final word! Think on this: Palm Sunday led to crucifixion but resurrection was on the horizon. Crucifixion was not able to silence the authentic praises of Palm Sunday. So also in this present age: The violence will not be able to overthrow the reality that praise affirms and prophetically grasps. Praise and protest connect and nourish one another. To those who suffer from violence: Keep singing. Your praises will have the final word, not only in the eschaton, but right now as a light that shines in darkness, as a witness to human dignity and its destiny in God.