Monday, December 29, 2014

Evelyn Underhill on Prayer

"In the first place, what do we mean by Prayer? Surely just this: the part of our conscious life which is deliberately oriented towards, and exclusively responds to spiritual reality. God is that spiritual reality, and we believe God to be immanent in all things: He is not far from each one of us: for in him we live and move and have our being."

'Prayer' says Walter Hilton, 'is nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts." It is ascent says Ruysbroeck, of the Ladder of Love. In the same spirit William Law defines prayer as the rising of the soul out of the vanity of time into the riches of eternity.

It entails, then a going up or out from our ordinary cirlce of earthly interests. Prayer stretches out the tentacles of our consciousness not so much towards that Divine Life which is felt to be enshrined within the striving, changeful world of things; but rather to that 'Eternal turth, ture Love and loved Eternity' wherein the world is felt to be enshrined. 

The whole of a person's life consists in a series of balanced responses to this Transcendent-Immanent Reality. Because we live under two orders, we are at once a citizen of Eternity and of Time. "

N.T Wrights Christian Origin Series Intro and Summary Notes by Andrew Perriman

I have been periodically reading through the first three volumes of N.T.Wright's Christian Origins Series for the past two years and now am halfway through the 2nd part. The three parts breakup as (1) New Testament and the People of God, (2) Jesus and the Victory of God and (3) The resurrection of the Son of God (the recently released volumes of Paul complete the series- I am not even beginning to think about touching Paul and Pauline studies now)- the whole series is massive and astounding and to read through Wrights tour of 1st Century Judaism, Christianity and the world of the New Testament is definitely an attempt at diving in the deep end for me. The books just feel "special" and historically speaking seems like a landmarker for all NT (and biblical) studies in the near future- they feel like the books people will be talking about and arguing about in 50 to 100 years from now. Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School, says on the back book jacket: "The sweep of Wright's project as a whole is breathtaking. It is impossible to give a fair assessment of his achievement without sounding grandiose: no New Testament scholar since Bultmann has even attempted- let alone achieved- such an innovative and comprehensive account of New Testament history and theology."

Because of the social and historical value of Wright's study, these books alone are worth wading through and at least being familiar with- not to mention the intrinsic value of Wright's presentation of Jesus and the world of the gospels. I picked these books up to help me go deeper into studying the gospels as I taught them, and it is nothing short to say it was a dynamite in my thought life and exploded the tunnels of possibly study and research wide open.

So have I built up excitement for the books enough yet??!! Well, the downfall or the stumbling block for the average laymen or bible student is that these 3 books combined are 1,883 pages (bibliographies not included!) and they aren't necessarily the "quick read" type of material- I remember when I first began to read vol.1 and it took me 2 hours to get through the 26 page introduction!! Eventually as I got his lingo and figured out who the heck "bultmann, schliermarcher, and harnack" were I started to move a little faster.

Anyways, this winter I am trying to plow through some more of this series and maybe even finish it and as I was getting back into it I was looking for a summary or notes online of the 1st volumet to help me review and I found this amazing resource... a 44 page dense and rich summary of notes, quotes of the first three volumes in the series. They are written by Writer, Pastor and Theologian Andrew Perriman whose has written books on "narrative theology" and the eschatology for the emerging church as well as women in the ministry for IVP, he posted his summary notes on his blog and you can download them as a PDF.

This is a really helpful introduction to the series of Wright, it is a 44 page summary of 1,883 he leaves a few things out but really gives great quotes and synopsis of the major points of Wright's project. I highly recommend either reading it as an intro to the project or as a replacement if you think you will never get into all the books. I am currently using it to refresh the parts of read and hopefully it will help me read quicker through the parts I have yet to read.

Last thing, maybe a more helpful introduction to the work and thought of N.T. Wright is some of his more popular books. It seems like he compresses his scholarly work into more bite-size portions- these are great for those who don't want all the footnotes, debates and extra conversations. The way I see it the following three volumes can be substituted by these more popular books:

1. NT and the People of God: How God became King
2. Jesus and the Victory of God: Simply Jesus or the Challenge of Jesus
3. Resurrection of the son of God: Suprised by Hope

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas- A celebration of the Incarnation

The last few christmas mornings I have enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis on the incarnation..this morning it really got to me and again was a great reminder of the joy and abundant life that enters into all life because of the one life of are some excerpts from him, its taken from "suprised by Joy" pg.50-55:

"The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God"

"In the Incarnation, God the Son takes the body and human soul of Jesus, and, through that, the whole environment of Nature, all the creaturely predicament, into His own being. So that 'he came down from heaven' can almost be transposed into 'heaven drew earth up into it', and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of the Deity, is there swallowed up. Where except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?"

"The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature's total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion- an invasion which intends complete conquest and 'occupation'."

Using the language Lewis uses in Mere Christianity- what I get out of his articulation of the incarnation is that the "bio" life (created natural life) is meant to be overrun/filled/occupied/covered like a blanket with the "zoe" life (uncreated creating life- God's life) and the incarnation event was the pivotal moment in all history where God dwelling as man did something to this world to enable us to share in and experience the eternal life of God! The incarnation event was the gateway to the coming of the new age and a seal/promise of a new heavens and new earth still to come!

I hope in the midst of the holiday thrills-turkey, gifts, movies, friends, get to celebrate the incarnation and reflect on what it conveys about life, reality, you and the people you get to celebrate the holiday with!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gen.1 by Rikki Watts

Gen.1-3 is foundational for a biblical worldview. This paper about Gen.1 in light of the Ancient Near East context by Rikki Watts, professor at Regent College looks at this foundational and fascinating chapters in the context of the ancient world it was written in.

Much modern discussion of Gen.1-3 is weighed down or distracted by talk of science/evolution and modern controversies relative to readers of the 21st century. While these things are important, and I don't want to disregard them at all, it must be said that we often forget to ask the question: What did Gen.1 mean for the ancient Israelites wandering around in the wilderness? What would this text have sounded like or meant for them as they were recently released from slavery and awaiting a promise land? The below paper by Rikki Watts is an in-depth quality look at Genesis in light of it's ancient near eastern context. Watt's explenation of Ancient Eastern creation myths and how they compare/contrast to Ezekiel opens up for me the fascinating and foundational nature of the opening chapters of the Bible!

Jurgen Moltmann and Miroslav Volf (Theology of Joy)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Poem about the teachings of Jesus

Last year I was blessed to teach the gospel of Matthew. I concentrated on teaching about the "teachings of Jesus" an incredibly humbling and amazing thing to "teach about". At the end of my time studying Jesus' teachings I wrote this poem without much thought was what came in a spur of a moment as a total reaction... almost a year later I stumbled on them again and agreed even more with my spontaneous reaction, figured I would post it here...

Glorious tensions arise
pouring out from the skies
sun rays rain down
and all this in the vehicle of words
how could vibrations uttered thousands of years ago 
still shake the day
how could questions asked then 
still be unanswered
how could all of man’s progressively triumphant wisdom
be silent in the face of his words
how can I hear such greatness
and defy them knowingly

Repent for the kingdom is at hand

Excerpt from Expositers commentary on MT. 27:9-10 by D.A. Carson

We have been going through the prophets lately, and that means we are looking at all the NT quotes in prophetic literature. In doing so, we find some interesting and puzzling quotations. Verses that dont seem predictive become "fulfilled" verses attributed to Jeremiah seem irrelevant to the NT context and not in context with the OT book?! This is definately not the norm or absolute of NT references, but it happens enough. One of the more tricky ones is Matthew' quoting of the blended citation of Jeremiah and Zechariah. Here is what D.A. Carson has to say about in his commentary:

D.A. Carson’s Commentary on Matthew 27:9-10

Three aspects of this complex quotation need discussion.

  1. The ascription to Jeremiah.
On the face of it, the quotation is a rough rendering of Zec 11:12-13. The only obvious allusions to Jeremiah are 18:2-6; 32:6-15—Jeremiah did visit a potter and buy a field. It is difficult to imagine why Matthew mentioned Jeremiah instead of Zechariah, even though Jeremiah is important in this gospel (cf. 2:17; 16:14).

We should first note that no extant version of Zec 11 refers to a field; thus Matthew’s attributing the quotation to Jeremiah suggests we ought to look to that book. Jeremiah 19:1-13 is the obvious candidate, where Jeremiah is told to purchase a potter’s jar and take some elders and priests to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. There he is to warn of the destruction of Jerusalem for her sin, illustrated by smashing the jar. A further linguistic link is “innocent blood” (Jer 19:4); and thematic links include renaming a locality associated with potters (19:1) with a name (“Valley of Slaughter”) denoting violence (19:6). The place will henceforth be used as a burial ground (19:11), as a token of God’s judgment. In other words, the quotation appears to refer to Jer 19:1-13, along with phraseology drawn mostly from Zec 11:12-13. Such fusing of sources under one “quotation” is not unknown elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Mk 1:2-3). Jeremiah alone is mentioned, perhaps because he is the more important of the two prophets, and perhaps also because Jer 19 is more important as to prophecy and fulfillment.

  1. Meaning 
How did Matthew understand the OT texts he was quoting? The question is not easy, because the two OT passages themselves can be variously explained. It appears that in Zec 11 the “buyers” (v. 5) and the three shepherds (vv. 5, 8, 17) apparently represent Israel’s leaders, who are slaughtering the sheep. God commands Zechariah to shepherd the “flock marked for slaughter” (v. 7), and he tries to clean up the leadership by sacking the false shepherds. But he discovers that not only is the leadership corrupt, but the flock detests him (v. 8). Thus Zechariah comes to understand the Lord’s decision to have no more pity on the people of the land (v. 6).

Zechariah decides to resign (11:9-10), exposing the flock to ravages. Because he has broken the contract, he cannot claim his pay (presumably from the “buyers”); but they pay him off with thirty pieces of silver (v. 12). But now the Lord tells Zechariah to throw this “handsome price at which they priced me” (probably ironical) to the potter in the “house of the LORD.”

The parallel between Zec 11 and Mt 26-27 is not exact. In Zechariah the money is paid to the good shepherd; in Matthew it is paid to Judas and returned to the Jewish leaders. In Zechariah the money goes directly to the “potter” in the temple; in Matthew, after being thrown into the temple, it purchases “the potter’s field.” Nevertheless the central parallel is stunning: in both instances the Lord’s shepherd is rejected by the people of Israel and valued at the price of a slave. And in both instances the money is flung into the temple and ends up purchasing something that pollutes and points to the destruction of the nation (see comments on 15:7-9; 21:42).


In the light of these relationships between the events surrounding Jesus’ death and the two key OT passages that make up Matthew’s quotation, what does the evangelist mean by saying that the prophecy “was fulfilled”? As in 2:17, the form of this introductory formula shrinks from making Judas’s horrible crime the immediate result of the Lord’s word, while nevertheless insisting that all has taken place in fulfillment of Scripture (cf. 1:22 with 2:17). What we find in Matthew, including vv. 9-10, is not identification of the text with an event but fulfillment of the text in an event, based on a broad typology governing how both Jesus and Matthew read the OT (see comments on 2:15; 8:17; 13:35; 26:28, 54). Because of this typological model, Matthew can introduce the commonly noticed changes: e.g., the one on whom a price is set is no longer the prophet (“me,” Zec 11:13), but Jesus.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NIV Expositers Commentary on MT.2:15 quotation of Hos. 11:1

The OT quotation almost certainly comes from Hos 11:1, which refers to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. In what sense can Matthew mean that Jesus’ return to the land of Israel “fulfilled” this text? Four observations clarify the issue.

(1) Jesus is often presented in the NT as the antitype of Israel, or better, the typological recapitulation of Israel. For example, Jesus’ temptation after forty days of fasting recapitulated the forty years’ trial of Israel (see comments on 4:1-11). Pharaoh had to let Israel go because Israel was the Lord’s son (Ex 4:22-23). Thus it is only fitting that Jesus also come out of Egypt as God’s Son, for already by this time he has been presented as the messianic “son of David” and, by the virginal conception, the Son of God (see also 3:17).

(2) The verb “to fulfill” (GK G4444) has broader significance than mere one-to-one prediction (see comments on 5:17). Not only in Matthew but elsewhere in the NT, the history and laws of the OT are perceived to have prophetic significance. Hebrews, for example, argues that the laws regarding the tabernacle and the sacrificial system were from the beginning designed to point toward the only Sacrifice that could really remove sin and toward the only Priest who could serve once and for all as the effective Mediator between God and humankind. “Fulfillment” must be understood against the background of such interlocking themes and their typological connections.

(3) It follows, therefore, that the NT writers do not think they are reading back into the OT things that are not already there germinally. Regarding v. 15, Hos 11 pictures God’s love for Israel. Although God threatens judgment and disaster, yet because he is God and not a man (11:9), he looks to a time when in compassion he will roar like a lion and his children will return to him (11:10-11). In short Hosea himself looks forward to a saving visitation by the Lord. The “son” language is part of this messianic matrix; insofar as that matrix points to Jesus the Messiah and insofar as Israel’s history looks forward to one who sums it up, in that sense Hos 11:1 looks forward to Jesus the Messiah. The NT writers insist that the OT can be rightly interpreted only if the entire revelation is kept in perspective as it is historically unfolded (e.g., Gal 3:6-14).

(4) If this interpretation of Mt 2:15 is correct, it follows that for Matthew Jesus himself is the locus of true Israel. This does not necessarily mean that God has no further purpose for racial Israel; but it does mean that the position of God’s people in the Messianic Age is determined by reference to Jesus, not race.

Friday, September 12, 2014

List of christian leaders who agree with an old earth interpretation

Christian leaders who advocate old-Earth interpretations of the Bible (or acknowledge that the Bible could allow for an old Earth) From Geochristian:
Many top advocates of Biblical authority accept an old Earth as completely compatible with Scripture — This shoots down the common YEC assertion that Old Earth = Compromise.
J.P. Moreland’s advice to young-Earth creationists — It is better to take the second-best interpretation of Scripture if it works well with outside evidence, as opposed to taking the best interpretation of Scripture if it flatly contradicts the outside evidence.
C.S. Lewis, evolutionist — Lewis believed that biological evolution posed little threat to Christianity.
William Jennings Bryan — the prosecutor at the Scopes trial hated evolution, but had no problem with a very old Earth.
J. Gresham Machen on the age of the Earth — Machen was a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy and Biblical inerrancy, and had no problem with the idea of an old Earth.
John Piper and the age of the Earth — Here’s what is important: God created the universe, Adam and Eve were real, the creation is good.
John Piper and the age of the Earth — part 2 — John Piper makes a stronger statement about the age of the Earth.
Augustine and Darwin — well, we really don’t know what Augustine would have said about some things, but here’s some speculation
Spurgeon distorted — Answers in Genesis has a hard time swallowing the fact that the great preacher Charles Spurgeon accepted an old Earth
Fundamentalism and creationism — B.B. Warfield, James Orr, and William Jennings Bryan (of Scopes trial fame) were all old-Earthers.
Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis — Augustine didn’t read Genesis in the same literal way that the young-Earthers do.
Spurgeon 0n science — In Spurgeon’s mind, both the “irreligious scientist” and the “unscientific Christian” are wrong.
Derek Kidner on Genesis — From the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series.
Francis Schaeffer on the age of the Earth — from his book Genesis in Space and Time.

Geocentric christian blog- Oldearth creationist view

My last post was a link to a biologos documentary "from the dust" about creation and evolution and understanding the beginning chapters of Genesis. In followup to that I will throw out this blog I found while searching on the topic- a blog written by an old earth creationist named Kevin Nelstead who is a geoligist living in montana....he describes the purpose of the blog in this way:
"The primary objective of The GeoChristian is to increase science literacy among Evangelical Christians, especially in the areas of the Earth and environmental sciences.  I aim to discuss controversial topics in ways that are sound both Biblically and scientifically, and to do so in a way that treats all readers with respect."
His credentials to write about the Bible and science are:
  • M.S. degree in Geology from Washington State University
  • B.S. degree in Earth Science from Montana State University
  • Teaching certificate in Chemistry from University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • Additional schooling: University of Utah, Missouri Baptist College, Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA)
  • Almost six years of service as a missionary/teacher with ReachGlobal (Evangelical Free Church of America)
  • Membership in the Geological Society of America, the American Scientific Affiliation, and the Affiliation of Christian Geologists

His "creed" in a short and long form is below:  

Creation creed — short version

As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin

Creation creed — long version

As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe—all that is seen and unseen—was created from nothing by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when the creation took place, nor does it state the extent or work of Noah’s flood
I believe in a real Adam and Eve as individuals—the first humans in the image of God—and that we are all descendants of this family
I believe that all humans retain the image of God, and are therefore of very high value
I believe in a real Garden of Eden, which was at a specific location in Mesopotamia, and that the Edenic paradise did not cover the entire Earth
I believe that the natural world has inherent value, and that humans are called to be good stewards of the creation that God has given us, for the glory of God,  for the good of all humanity, and for the sake of the creation itself
I believe in a real fall into sin through Adam’s disobedience to God’s command, and in real consequences for that sin that continue to this day: human physical and spiritual death
I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin, and that those who put their faith in him as their savior will spend eternity with him and with each other in the New Heavens and the New Earth

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on Historical Criticism and Fundamentalism and Inconsequential theology/ethics from Resident Aliens

From Resident Aliens:

Historical Criticism and Fundamentalism- two sides of the same coin: 
"Tragically, many of us are trying to preach without scripture and to interpret scripture without the church. Fundamentalist biblical interpretation and higher criticism of the Bible are often two sides of the same coin. The fundamentalist interpreter has roots in the Scottish Common Sense school of philosophy (fundamentalism is such a modernist heresy), which asserted that propositions are accessible to any thinking, rational person. Any rational person ought to be able to see the common sense of the assertion that God created the heavens and the earth. A Christian preacher merely has to assert these propositions, which, because they are true, are understandable to anybody with common sense.
This historical-critical method denies the fundamentalist claim. Scripture, higher-criticism asserts, is the result of a long historical process. One must therefore apply sophisticated rules and tools of historical analysis to a given biblical text, because one cannot understand the text without understanding its true context. Presumably, anybody who applies the correct historical tools will be able to understand the text.
Both the fundamentalist and the higher critic assume that it is possible to understand the biblical text without training, without moral transformation, without the confession and forgiveness that come about within the church. Unconsciously, both means of interpretation try to make everyone religious (that is, able to understand and appropriate scripture) without everyone's being a member of the community for which the Bible is scripture. Perhaps the recent enthusiasm for so-called inductive preaching- preaching that attempts to communicate the gospel indirectly, inductively through stories rather than through logical, deductive reasoning- is an attempt to understand scripture without being in the church. Inductive preaching presents the gospel in a way that enables everyone to "make up his or her own mind." But we suspect that scripture wonders if we have a mind worth making up! Minds worth making up are those with critical intelligence, minds trained to judge the true from the false on the basis of something more substantial than their own, personal subjectivism." (pg.163-164)

Theology and Ethics:
"Not that we are much better off in our seminary courses in theology and ethics. There we are introduced to assorted theories of moral rationality and justification. We debate whether or not a deontological or a teleological ethic is to be preferred; or what is the correct understanding of love and justice. Christian ethics and theology are reduced to intellectual dilemmas, schemes of typology rather than an account of how the church practically discusses what it ought to be. The situation is aggravated as contemporary theologians and ethicists write for other theologians and ethicists rather than for those in ministry. Which helps explain why those in ministry read fewer and fewer books on theology and ethics. It also explains why he have the new discipline of "practical theology," which is supposed to translate academic theology into something usable. Theology, to be Christian, is by definition practical. Either it serves the formation of the church or it is trivial and inconsequential. Preachers are the acid test of theology that would be Christian. Alas, too much theology today seems to have as its goal the convincing of preachers that they are too dumb to understand real theology. Before preachers buy into that assumption, we would like preachers to ask themselves if the problem lies with theologies which have become inconsequential."  (Pg.164-165)

Talk by MIT Chemist on the integration of science and faith (two thumbs up)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Found a new resource today.

It has a listing of major books, articles, commentaries and other stuff that is categorized for each book of the bible as well as bigger categories like OT, NT or biblical theology. Some of them are links to free pdf's. Below is their purpose:


To make high quality theological material available throughout the world, thus providing Bible teachers and pastors with the resources they need to spread the Gospel in their countries. This is achieved by:
  • Digitising and uploading in co-operation with authors and publishers, rare and out-of-print theology books and articles. Over 20,000 articles are now available for free download here or via the subject menus on the left hand side of the page.
  • Providing detailed bibliographies for Seminary level students and ministers.
  • Providing a single cross-linked resource made up of five websites collectively known as "Theology on the Web". Click here to read more. You should also be aware of the disclaimer here.

Intro to Modernism and Postmodernism

john Stackhouse : Postmodernism: A Bad Thing? A Good Thing? Or Just a Thing? from CSPS on Vimeo.

An informative and entertaining presentation of the last few hundred years of western philosophy and society from "modernism to post-modernism".

Interesting new thoughts for me was calling postmodernism a "ptsd" movement...a reaction to the war, disappointment and failure of the enlightenment process. I like and agree with his consensus of Postmodernism as not a good thing, a bad thing but just a thing

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Barth on the church and the word of God

Karl Barth- God Here and Now:

"The sovereignty of the Word of God is always the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. When the Church recognizes in the witness of the prophets and the apostles its own foundation, the source of all wisdom and the norm of its teaching and life; when it dares in obedience, in the exposition and application of this witness, to proclaim God's Word itself; when it baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; when it calls men to the Lord's Supper as to the visible proclamation of the death of Jesus Christ and thus to the true spiritual food of His body and blood given for us; and further, when this witness runs and works in the Church itself and in the world; when it awakens to life but also executes justice; when it brings peace but also causes discomfort, struggle, and suffering; when it gives answers but also raises new questions; when men are called out of the world so that they are sent forth again into the same world as sheep among wolves; when the question of the just state is raised by the free gospel in an unavoidable way- then all of that, together and in each of its parts, insofar as it happens in truth and non in mere appearance, all of that is the one sovereign act of the Word of God as it unfolds, reaches out near and far, works directly or indirectly. Always it is He himself, Jesus the Lord, who is acting in all that." (pg.19-20)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Athanasius views of Creation

Here is a great excerpt from Athanasius' book "on the Incarnation" that presents his views of creation. It is valuable for seeing the traditional and classic christian views of creation that were strongly and clearly communicated already 300-400 years after Christ's death. I am not well versed with the "creation debate", but I think any christian who tries to reconcile the science of evolution with the teaching of Scripture should not easily sidestep or wipe away these two pillars of christian thought: (1) There is a mind behind the universe and (2) God created "ex-nihilo" out of nothing- he was pre-existent before matter. I would be interested to see how. (For a website supporting the dialogue between orthodox christianity and modern science see

(2) In regard to the making of the universe and the creation of all things there have been various opinions, and each person has propounded the theory that suited his own taste. For instance, some say that all things are self-originated and, so to speak, haphazard. The Epicureans are among these; they deny that there is any Mind behind the universe at all. This view is contrary to all the facts of experience, their own existence included. For if all things had come into being in this automatic fashion, instead of being the outcome of Mind, though they existed, they would all be uniform and without distinction. In the universe everything would be sun or moon or whatever it was, and in the human body the whole would be hand or eye or foot. But in point of fact the sun and the moon and the earth are all different things, and even within the human body there are different members, such as foot and hand and head. This distinctness of things argues not a spontaneous generation but a prevenient Cause; and from that Cause we can apprehend God, the Designer and Maker of all.

Others take the view expressed by Plato, that giant among the Greeks. He said that God had made all things out of pre-existent and uncreated matter, just as the carpenter makes things only out of wood that already exists. But those who hold this view do not realize that to deny that God is Himself the Cause of matter is to impute limitation to Him, just as it is undoubtedly a limitation on the part of the carpenter that he can make nothing unless he has the wood. How could God be called Maker and Artificer if His ability to make depended on some other cause, namely on matter itself? If He only worked up existing matter and did not Himself bring matter into being, He would be not the Creator but only a craftsman.

Then, again, there is the theory of the Gnostics, who have invented for themselves an Artificer of all things other than the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. These simply shut their eyes to the obvious meaning of Scripture. For instance, the Lord, having reminded the Jews of the statement in Genesis,

“He Who created them in the beginning made them male and female . . . ,” and having shown that for that reason a man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife, goes on to say with reference to the Creator, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” 

How can they get a creation independent of the Father out of that? And, again, St. John, speaking all inclusively, says,

“All things became by Him and without Him came nothing into being.”

How then could the Artificer be someone different, other than the Father of Christ?

(3) Such are the notions which men put forward. But the impiety of their foolish talk is plainly declared by the divine teaching of the Christian faith. From it we know that, because there is Mind behind the universe, it did not originate itself; because God is infinite, not finite, it was not made from pre-existent matter, but out of nothing and out of non-existence absolute and utter God brought it into being through the Word. He says as much in Genesis:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;4

and again through that most helpful book The Shepherd,

“Believe thou first and foremost that there is One God Who created and arranged all things and brought them out of non-existence into being.”5

Paul also indicates the same thing when he says,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which we see now did not come into being out of things which had previously appeared.”6

Saturday, August 2, 2014

C.S. Lewis on reading classics (from his introduction to Athanasius' "on the incarnation")

Some great wisdom from C.S. Lewis about reading classic books and a "mere christianity" passed down throughout the ages that can challenged our fashionable modern attempts at christianity. the preface and the whole book can be found here


by C. S. Lewis

here is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

    This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

    Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

    Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quote from Noll on "Christian Thinking about the World"

Mark Noll on christians thinking about the world from his book "Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" (pg.130) 

"For Christian thinking about the world, the key question is what happens to a community when it tries to work out a Christian orientation to, say, the conundrums of modern nuclear physics, to the complexities of health care reform, to the meaning of traditional legal principles for a pluralistic society, to the interpretation of classic texts, to efforts at evaluating Communism in the twentieth century, to the issue of how music reinforces or subverts traditional morality, to the debate over which books should be assigned as the literary canon- that is, to the whole range of modern questions in which it is absolutely essential to exercise sensitivity concerning the interpreter's stance over against the data being interpreted, criticism about the way pre-commitments influence conclusion, and critical awareness of the symbiotic connections between methods and results. If that community's habits of mind concerning those things to which the community pays most diligent attention and accords highest authority- that is, to the Bible and Christian theology- are defined by naive and uncritical assumptions about the way to study or think about anything, so will its efforts to promote Christian thinking about the world be marked by naivete and an absence of rigorous criticism."

Difficult Topics and Doubting Thomas

I had some great discussions today with coworkers about the authorship of the Pentateuch and how to handle such topics in a school setting like ours. It reminded me of something I wrote a while ago on how difficult topics should be treated: 

It is undoubtable in the process of continued learning that many staff will wrestle with difficult passages and theological quandaries that have no simple or immediate answer. These discussions consist of but are not limited to topics such as: creation/evolution, historical adam, mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, historiography and the Bible, inerrancy and authority of scripture, the nature of the historical Jesus, justification by faith, gender roles in ministry and marriage, calvinism/arminiasm, the nature of God’s foreknowledge and various views of the second coming. Those who think there are only two views on all of these above issues, my view and the wrong view or the traditional view and the liberal view, do not do justice to the complex and difficult nature of these topics and the reality of multiple interpretations throughout church history and the church today.

Many of the above topics have been made into book series that display four or five views on each issue, indicating there is more than one “evangelical/christian” view on many of these issues. It is possible and likely that some in the SBS community will disagree with this point or seek to phrase it differently or remove a few of the topics above. That’s fine, disagreement is great for conversation and that is the point- how do we handle the disagreements and tensions that arise as we continue to learn? It is my personal opinion that we ought to encounter the plurality of interpretation and theological viewpoints with humbleness and energetic seeking after the truth; we should seek not to allow fear, name-calling, pride and one voice louder than the others to dominate and steer the conversation. We should seek to avoid both knee-jerking reactions to all things different and a gullible embracing of everything as long as it’s not orthodoxy.  If Jesus is the “way, truth and life” than we as his disciples have nothing to fear from serious engagement in learning truth, for all truth is subservient to him. It is absolutely essential to note here that what are talking about is in the domains of personal wrestling and private conversation not public profession or instructive teaching in the classroom. To talk about what we allow staff to think and question and what we allow staff to teach is to talk about two different things, it is important to realize the difference. Many of these discussions that are wrestled with among staff are not things that need to be thrown out in a lecture or student small group setting. And for that matter it is not even the aim of this program to force questions and challenging views on staff. The question remains though of how to handle staff (and students for that matter) who naturally and personally have these questions arise on their own and seek to privately wrestle through these things (not teach them). I propose that we should treat the serious questions, doubts and challenging views existing in the church today as Jesus treated doubting Thomas. Not with the idea that we are perfect like Jesus and all who question are doubters, but rather encounter the honest questions with love and a simple showing of the evidence (in this case the holes in his hands). So we must encounter these topics of difficulty that have a wide range of interpretation with both love and the simple exchange of evidence from both sides.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A few blogs on Higher Education and Scholarship

Surfing the blog world today and came across a few blogs with the same subject and all of them good.

1. James K.A. Smith on Courageous Scholarship

2. Michael Bird's Advice to Christian Scholars

3. Roger Olson on Academic Freedom, Statements of Faith and Christian Universities

I will include below the full text of James K.A. Smith's's shorter and really well as the video from Michael Bird.

James K.A. Smith:

On "Courage" in the (Christian) Academy

[a few thoughts composed on my iPhone on the shore of Little Platte Lake]

Someone has said that academic squabbles are so nasty only because they are so unimportant. Nonetheless, many academics like to see themselves as "courageous"--exhibiting intellectual heroism, taking stands that are unpopular, leading to some kind of "martyrdom."  This is the kind of "courage" you claim when you've dodged the draft and type with hands never blemished by a callous. 

This self-understanding of academic "courage" takes specific forms among Christian scholars, and is perhaps ramped up by adding religious stakes to the mix. Again, the scholar likes to imagine himself or herself as "courageous" for saying unpopular things, for speaking truth to power, for questioning the status quo. 

There are "progressive" versions of this in which the courageous scholar-martyr is marginalized by evangelicalism for taking unpopular stands that are nonetheless supported by "science" or "justice" or "democracy" or "experience" or what have you. As a result s/he is critcized, bullied, rejected, ostracized, ignored, excluded, etc. But the courageous scholar is willing to endure such sacrifices for the sake of Truth, Justice, Science, Progress, Diversity, etc. 

But progressives don't have the corner on the courage market. There are conservative Christian scholars who tell themselves the same story: they are willing to risk marginalization, exclusion, derision, even appearing the fool in order to stand up for The Truth against academic trends, intellectual fads, and the temptations that roll into the university under the guise of Progress.

But when one looks at these scenarios more closely, I think one will see that, in fact, neither is risking very much. Those "courageous" progressives don't really value the opinions or affirmations of conservative evangelicalism anyway. What they really value, long for, and try to curry is the favor of "the Enlightened"--whether that's the mainstream academy or the progressive chattering class who police our cultural mores of tolerance. Sure, these "courageous" progressives will take fire from conservative evangelicals--but that's not a loss or sacrifice for them. Indeed, their own self-understanding is fueled by such criticism.  In other words, these stands don't take "courage" at all; they don't stand to lose anything with those they truly value.

Similarly, "courageous" conservatives who "stand up" to the progressive academy aren't putting much at risk because that's not where they look for validation and it's not where their professional identities are invested. They are usually "populists" (in a fairly technical sense of the word) whose professional lives are much more closely tethered to the church and popular opinion.  And in those sectors, "standing up to" the academy isn't a risk at all--it's a way to win praise. When your so-called contrarian stands win favor from those you value most...well, it's hard to see how "courage" applies. 

But here's what we don't often see: Christian scholars who have vested their professional lives in the mainstream academy willing to take stands that would be unpopular at the MLA or APA or AAR. Conversely, we don't see many conservative scholars willing to defend positions that would jeapordize their favored status with popular evangelicalism. 

Now both of those options would require courage.

Two talks on productivity

After two weeks of vacation I am jumping back into work...yesterday I decided to listen to a few random talks on productivity from youtube....It was inspiring and had some good practical ideas.

Robert Jenson on the Reading the OT

I was back in the states for two weeks on vacation and the only talk I listened to during that two weeks was this one. My brother was listening to it and I sat along. Enjoyed it. It was my first time listening to Robert Jenson, but it will not be my last.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Food for Thought: Douglass Green, Christotelic Aproach and NT use of OT

Earlier this month Westminster theological seminary released Douglass Green an OT professor who had served there for 22 years previously because of his "christotelic" approach of reading the OT, specifically exemplified in this paper that interprets Ps 23. as a messianic psalm (but not as you might normally imagine messianic). 

I like that Westminster admits this is not a heretical view but graciously says it is one that will just not fit within their boundaries, I also like that they put up Green's hermeneutical views as well as other staff's who contrast/challenge his. I do not like that they chose to dismiss an employee after 22 years for this.

Read through Green's paper on ps.23 (link above)....would you ask someone to leave your school, pastoral staff or institution after writing that??

Here is a good explanation of "christotelic interpretation" and why some react to the extreme usage of christotelic interpreting of the OT written by William B. Evans a former classmate of Douglass Green at WTS
What are the characteristics of christotelic interpretation?

First, there is a rejection of grammatical-historical interpretation as the only legitimate hermeneutical approach to Scripture. Yes, they say, it is important to understand the biblical text in its original linguistic and historical context, but we can’t stop there. Grammatical-historical interpretation is a creature of modernity, and earlier Christian interpreters were not tied to it—the NT writers sometimes interpret OT texts in ways that likely would not have occurred to Isaiah or Hosea. Also, grammatical-historical interpretation asks what the text would have meant to the original human author, but the Bible is also divinely inspired and our interpretation must take this divine origin and perspective into account as well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

History of Interpreting the Bible

While I was in Bangladesh for the past two weeks I watched this video by Walt Russell from Biola University on the "the history of interpretation". It is a good basic run through of the history of hermeneutics and how it affects us as readers of the Bible today.

You can go the youtube page for the teaching and find the whole course that it is a part of on there as well.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Joseph Charachter Sketch

(I'm teaching Genesis in Bangladesh in a few weeks. here is a summary of my notes on Joseph, he is one of the characters in the book I have not really gotten to cover too much when I taught it the last two times..but this time I concentrated my preparation time on the last section of Genesis and for the first time his story and character really came alive to me)

The Joseph story is a highly complex, interesting, deep and multifaceted story that weaves several different directions to bring to culmination the story ranging from the creation of the cosmos to how Abraham’s family ended up in Egypt. The focus given to Joseph in this book rivals (if not greater) then the amount of text and focus given to Abraham. The story on the surface is somewhat simple, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and ends up rising to a powerful position in Egypt where he then reunites with his brother and family and ends up helping them in a time of famine; the result of this is that Israel and his family move to Egypt and thus concludes the book of Egypt. Beyond this simple chain of events is a much deeper and complex story, that deals with the dreams, the interpretation and fulfillment of dreams, and coinciding with this how divinity interacts and affects this world full of men who do just as much acting and affecting; the story also shows how evil and selfish motives run rampant and the world and yet in the end are “used” by God for good. Dreams, evil, the Lord’s favor, blessing, cult prostitutes and lying adulterous wives, famine and abundance fills the great story of Joseph. 

Joseph as a character in the Bible grows in glory when compared to all the other saints his life parallels and echoes and echoes and repeats, for always in some way Joseph was the first. Joseph is a symbolic man of wisdom, like Solomon and Daniel after him, whose wisdom (from the Spirit of the Lord) far outweighs the wisdom of the nation around him and yet he is used to council and guide the kings of the nations like Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and Daniel and the kings of Babylon; men of wisdom whose wisdom blesses the nations. Joseph and Jesus have parallels that are quite obvious and not just the result of stretched interpretation. Both Joseph and Jesus come to power and rule through hard times, Joseph betrayed by his brothers and put in prison, Jesus betrayed by his disciples and sent to the cross. In both stories the suffering servant becomes the royal ruler. 

Ultimately, Joseph’s story is a story about God. God’s providence and power to do “what he means to do” inspite of and even sometimes through the evil and wicked intentions of man. Joseph is a picture of what it looks like when the spirit who hovered above the waters at the beginning of creation fills a man and uses him to bring wisdom through times of abundance and famine. I believe Joseph is a sort of picture of what it looks like to “be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it”. Someone who functions as an image of God whether they are in power over egypt or in prison with the baker and cupbearer. Joseph’s story is a story about God because it begins with a dream from God and then tells the story of how God goes about fulfilling that dream. This is God’s dream for the world- to use the betrayed, forgotten younger sons and prisoners to be a blessing to the nations in times of abundance and times of famine. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Here are some good blog articles I enjoyed reading through today, when possible I want to start posting a list of various blogs I enjoyed and would recommend.

1. Critical theology for an age of Global Crisis by Carl Raschke

" is clear we have transitioned from an age of promise to an age of crisis.  And in an age of crisis theological thinking itself must don its own “prophetic” vestments and become a critical theology. 
The notion of a critical theology today is not something totally unprecedented.  During the 1920s and 1930s with the memory of the  catastrophe of the First World War and the lowering specter of economic depression and fascism focusing everyone’s attention, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner proclaimed the tenets of a movement known as “theology of crisis”, later renamed neo-Orthodoxy. 
The theology of crisis challenged with a bold, no-holds-barred , and uncompromising polemic the socially meliorative and culturally accommodative strategies of Protestant liberalism, which had prevailed for many generations. Its message centered for the most part on the futility of incorporating the latest intellectual fashions “into the church” and reminded its readers routinely that Christianity is not the crenellated redoubts of “religion”, but the lonely watchtower of faith, which is the only honest stance we can adopt when we see everywhere the fixed stars of theoretical certainty falling from the sky."

2. Is the Gospel a "how to message" by Jackson Wu

I have recently found Jackson Wu's blog and enjoy it because of his focus on China and gospel/politics. In this post he is basically summarizing the point of Scot Mcknight's book "king Jesus Gospel", good thoughts and good post.

3. A back and forth between Tim Challies and Brian Mclaren.

This is an interesting set of posts. Tim Challies called out Brian Mclaren for being a "false teacher" and did so in a clear and non-hateful way. Mclaren responds graciously and explains his position. I agree and disagree with both of these guys on some things, it is just an interesting back and forth to follow to (1) see how accusation and response can be carried out well by two guys attempting to "speak what they believe to be the truth in love". and (2) it put's Mclaren (who has become very popular in the last 10 years) on the spot for some of the things he has written and done and it forces people to see the lines that are drawn in the conversation between the "neo-reformed" and the "emerging/progressive" (their words).

4. Living through a Revolution by Philip Jenkins

Interesting post by Jenkins about how fast the homosexual "revolution" has occured, and then a final bizarro twist of where he says this will go in the next 10 years (transgender rights). It was insightful for me because I have not seen the full history of this discussion played out, for many in my generation it may seem that "homosexual rights" is just commonplace table talk, but realizing how fast this has come upon us in the last 10 years could be good for some people to see and then step back and assess the sweeping change that is happening so rapidly.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekly Talk: The Uncertain Future of Protestantism

I found this talk on First Things Website, a website that has recently become a regular favorite of mine, about the future of protestantism. It is a long two hour talk that features opening 10-15 minute introductions by three speakers (peter leithart, fred sanders and carl trueman) and then a 1 1/2 hour conversation between the three of them and the moderator. If you don't have time to watch all of it, I at least recommend watching the opening introduction presentations. Below is a summary from the first things website about the talk: (find the talk and whole summary here)

"Peter Leithart, an ecumenically-oriented apostle of “Reformational catholicism” faced down Fred Sanders of Biola, a spokesman for the “unwashed masses of low-church evangelicals” and Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, an unapologetic representative of Calvinistic confessionalism. Those hoping for a hard-hitting debate, or a quick and full resolution of the questions, were bound to be disappointed: the three interlocutors were much too patient, irenic, and thoughtful for that. No, it was a conversation, and like almost all good conversations, inconclusive, an invitation to further conversation."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Two Smaller Videos by David Bentley Hart

These are two shorter clips, the first one longer than the other, by David Bentley Hart (what a name!). The first clip is him talking about God using three different words: being, consciousness and bliss. It is a short snip of one of his newest books entitled "The experience of God". A book that guardian newspaper called the "one book every atheist must read". The 2nd clip is only 12 minutes and is a short bit of him talking about allegorical readings of scripture and how it ultimately destroys fundamentalist views of God and the Bible.

Hart is a greek orthodox theologian who will possibly be a little bit startling or puzzling for some evangelicals listening to him. But he is well worth the listen even if their are points of disagreement (for the most part I have none with these two clips) is worth watching just to see an amazing display of intellect and knowledge, Christianity fully explored using the mind...I love it! It is jumping into the deep end, even if it seems a bit confusing...hold on (i had to rewind a few spots to listen to them again) the very least you'll increase your vocab a bit, at the most youll be the middle, what better things are you gonna watch on youtube?!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Good blogpost on Apologetics and Movies

I enjoyed reading this blog today at the gospel coalition site entitled "Our Fearful Apologetics" and would recommend it to all especially new students of the Bible. I often hear conversations about "biblical inerrancy" or the truth of the gospel that are conducted in such a shaky, fearful, defensive and argumentative tone. It is does not seem to me to be a faith set firmly on the cornerstone, but instead a faith that might be wobbly if someone has a better argument or different view. Instead of going into some difficult conversations to learn and love we often go into them to win and beat the truth into someone.

It's a short blog, worth the read.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Testament History by the People (aka. wikipedia)

  • Ok let's face it....Wikipedia is here to stay (at least for now). I hear a lot of people hate on wikipedia, but I see way more people using it. I admit it's not the most credible source and I don't let my student's cite it....but....I will admit that when i have a quick question on a date, name, time or basic survey of a topic...often the first place I go is Wikipedia. 

So I love Wikipedia and I love NT history (if you read this blog, you see the gospels and nt history are the two things I am most often writing about) what does wikipedia have to say about New Testament history....Wikipedia's page of the "historical background of the New Testament" is shockingly long and thorough. One day I would love to give a full listing of all the different subjects in NT History/Gospel scholarship that Wikipedia covers but for now I just recommend you scan over the link. I enjoyed looking at the tables of content just to see a neat and nice outline of how one could cover NT history. Good idea...cover the sects before Jesus, then Jesus himself and then the christian/jewish story post-resurrection. 

More then just reading Wikipedia's article, contribute to it....thats the whole point!! Don't just read it with your nose stuck up, if theres something that's wildly liberal (or conservative) then simply write in another view on the encyclopedia, add a quote or a thought to balance it out. Add to the conversation don't just glare at it....I love that about wikipedia.