November 2010

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Social Media Blues

I have a sort of fascination with social media. I get very excited at the thought of it. But when I actually see what people twitter about and get bored with what is actually on Facebook, I get very disillusioned with the whole idea of it. I have toyed with the idea of shutting down Facebook / Buzz several times. I think it is time to actually do it.

I long for deeper relationships with people, something that social media cannot provide us with no matter how hard it tries. It brings an air of connectedness, but in the end it is vacuous. In its wake is loneliness and a decreased feeling of connectedness than at the start. Boo.

On top of this is the time stewardship issue. Five minutes here and five minutes there on Facebook throughout the day adds up to a lot of time. If I were to have followed every impulse to be on Facebook to rather study Hebrew, I would be a lot further along in Hebrew! Seeing the number of important things to do and study, I must (at least for a time) set aside Facebook / Buzz.

I don't plan to delete my accounts, just to sign out and not sign back in. I also will still be blogging and tweeting things I find significant, and these will still probably autopost to Facebook / Buzz, but I will not be checking these anymore. So comments / questions left there will probably not find their way to me. It would be better to comment on the blog itself, or contact me via email / phone.




Mohler and BioLogos on Authority and the OT

Mohler writing once more in response to BioLogos: Science Trumps the Bible? — An Amazingly Candid (and Disastrous) Argument

These articles have been very helpful in revealing that the issue with evolution really is with biblical authority. Evolution and Christianity really are incompatible. He has some great quotes from Coyne (evolutionist) to this point. Anyone who says you can have both is being honest to neither.

Mohler has especially been showing how much of the Bible one must compromise in order to accept evolution as true. This time he shows Giberson has given up on the authority of "revealed truth" as well as the God of the OT! Giberson writes, "But who believes in this deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old?" 

Giberson responds some here: Through a Glass Darkly:  The God of the Old Testament

He is more than willing to take out parts of the OT he doesn't like and ascribe it to "the humanity of the biblical authors". He says he is okay doing this because he is not a "biblical literalist". However, he has confused the categories of the source/nature of the Bible and the way to interpret the Bible. He says he doesn't interpret literally, and then makes a statement about its source: it comes from man more than it comes from God, or man is able to blur and confuse the revelation that came from God, or in other words, not every word is breathed out by God.

No thanks. I'd rather stick with the Scripture.




Evangelical Literature on the Gospels

Studying through Luke has been great: great to get a better understanding of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and to grow stronger in faith as a result. One thing that has not been great is the evangelical literature out there on the gospels. There is such an incessant concern with sources and reliability, that the content seems to have taken second place! Commentaries sometimes bring much more frustration and annoyance than they bring perspective on the text.

I emphasize, this is in evangelical literature. This is not breaking news, I suppose. I am just now getting into these issues myself, and discovering how wide-spread talk like this is, even in the evangelical world.

In The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP, 1992), there are several such comments. The back cover says this book "presents the fruit of evangelical New Testament scholarship at the end of the twentieth century." In the article "Demon, Devil, Satan" by G. H. Twelftree, there are two brief comments that bother me so much.

In harmony with beliefs of that day, the Gospels depict demons causing convulsions, loud screaming, a change of voice or character ... (§2.8; p. 165; emphasis mine)

The key bothersome phrase here is "in harmony with beliefs of that day." He speaks as though we are now sophisticated and beyond belief in demons and other such "nonsense".

...Recent research has shown [accounts of Jesus casting out demons] belong to the bedrock of reliable data about the historical Jesus... (§4.2; p, 166)

I'm sorry...I thought Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--in their entirety--are the bedrock of reliable data about the historical Jesus. Since when are only certain portions the bedrock? What does that make all the other passages? The inescapable conclusion from such language is that other passages (or at least some passages) are not as authoritative.

I can understand comments like these coming from other kinds of works, but from something touted as the "fruit of NT evangelical scholarship", I would say this does not belong at all. If this is a correct description, then it is very sad fruit, and it is an indication that evangelical scholarship is not headed in the right direction.

Is it proper to say things like "Jesus' believed that where the Spirit was operating in him there was the coming of the kingdom of God." (§4.4; 168; emphasis added)  Is it proper to remark that "Luke maintained the view of Jesus"? Are we not dealing with the inspired word of God? 

I have come across other comments like these in this Dictionary. It is all too disappointing. If this is the fruit, then what is the state of evangelical scholarship today?

Let us be rid of the tedious and fruitless speculation about sources and focus on the content of the narrative and the message it has to communicate.




The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic?

Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope

In The Messianic Hope, book six of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series, Jewish Studies professor Michael Rydelnik puts forth a thesis that the Old Testament was intended by its authors to be read as a messianic primer. He explains at length how the text reveals significant direct messianic prophecy when read in its final form. Users will find this topical study an excellent extension of the long-respected New American Commentary series.

Really excited to get this book and read it. Just read Chapter 3 on Google Books preview, and it is fascinating!! It surveys textual-critical evidence comparing the MT to the LXX, and shows that the MT often slants away from a Messianic reading, and that the MT contains at times the influence of rabbinic Judaism.

The word of God is inspired when it was written. Textual criticism is that discipline that examines the textual data we have to establish what that original text is. The Bible is inspired, but the Hebrew vowel points in the MT are not.

Very interesting. I look forward to studying more!




A Simple Reading of the Bible?

I recently listened through the messages from the 2009 "People Growth" conference, and they were fantastic. Much to be challenged about and to put into practice.

However, Philip Jenson at one point began to talk in "Biblical Theology of Ministry 2: All God's People as Prophets and Disciple-Makers" around 50:54 about interpretation, which I found rather unhelpful and harmful.  He said (among other things):

Hermeneutics is a load of nonsense . . . a silly subject . . . it's meaningless and stupid.

Never interpret the Bible. . . . The Bible is the interpretation. 

You don't interpret literature, you read literature.

Now, I appreciate much of what I heard from Jenson, and I appreciate much of what I see coming out of Matthias Media, and have a whole lot to learn from him, but I think this way of speaking is naive and harmful. I think it will lead to frustration in those trying to understand the Bible to simply be told "just read it".

He is right to avoid an overly scholastic approach, and I think he is reacting against false ideas of interpretation today which exalt the role of the interpretor as having something to add to the text, and he rightly places the focus on comprehension and obedience, but I think the way he talks about it discourages precise and careful study altogether.  (At another point, he dismissed commentaries as just scholars talking to each other.)

The question I would like to ask is, Whose reading, then, is the right one? To what, then, do we appeal when my reading of the text and yours are different. Are there not principles governing our "reading" of the text? Is all scholarship, then, in vain? Changing out the word "interpret" for "read" avoids the heart of issue.

He chooses 1Co 15 as the example text. "'Christ Jesus died' is the fact, and 'for our sins' is the interpretation." That is a simple enough passage. How about Hebrews 6? How shall we go about discerning which reading is right? Pretending that we don't have any preunderstandings approaching the text and saying "just read it" doesn't make our reading any more accurate nor our job any easier. Being aware of our biases, and having principles to guide our reading is a matter of wisdom.

I love what he had to say about people growth and gospel growth, but I don't like what he had to say about hermeneutics and interpretation. I am all  for a focus on obedience, and for the avoidance of an overly scholastic focus in interpretation. I am definitely against current postmodern trends in hermeneutics. But the way he has tried to do this, I think, encourages individualism in interpretation and discourages rigorous study. I am all for focusing on what the text simply says--but I think it is unhelpful to pretend this is always simple.




Coming to church eager, expectant, and early

Eager, Expectant, and Early from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

Joshua Harris gives some great advice on coming to church eager, expectant, and early, and also gives some great ideas about how to integrate corporate prayer time into Sunday morning.




Google Dictionary / Translator

Google Dictionary is a pretty useful tool. I've been using it for translating English <-> Chinese and it has some nice features. It gives you Chinese-English definitions along with Chinese-Chinese definitions. It also gives you some sample sentences to make sure you get the right usage. 

Google Translate is also a lot more helpful than other translating tools out there for translating whole phrases. It does more than look up word by word. There is a video you can watch that tells you more about it also.




The Necessary yet Horrible Rejection of Jesus

What a deep and heavy paradox is the rejection and death of Jesus Christ. It was the most necessary thing for our salvation, and yet it was the most horrible thing that ever happened. As Jesus said it, "The Son of man goes as it is written, but woe to him by whom he goes!"  (Matt 26:24)

Here is the great paradox in that Jesus should have been accepted by the Israelite nation 2000 years ago in faith and joy, and yet it was simultaneously necessary that he be rejected in order to accomplish salvation! The things written about him in the OT Scripture, that he would die and raise again, must be fulfilled. It was necessary. (Luke 24:44, 46)

Jesus must go to the cross, but woe to the man who volunteers he goes to it! Woe to the man who sends him there, yet Peter is not treated well for preventing him either! Who would ever suggest that Jesus be crucified, and yet, knowing what it was for, who would stop it? 

Let us stand in awe. Let us weep in reverence. Let us cherish this gift of gifts. Let us live lives of sacrifice and service to advance the gospel unto the glory of Christ!




Teaching Beyond What Is Taught

C. J. Mahaney, in Preserving A Passion for the Gospel, bounces off some thoughts from D. A. Carson. 

Teaching is accomplished not by mere communicated content, but by the excitement and passion of the teacher. What does he emphasize? What does he always come back to?  Those who listen are smart and know how to read between the lines--they will catch whether we believe what we say or not. They will figure out--in time--what our real message is, even if we don't say it as such.

Challenging and insightful. 

C. J.: 

And those we serve should see a difference between our passion for the gospel and our passion for other issues




Panel on Multi-Site Churches

Al Mohler leading a discussion panel: Perspectives on Multi-site Churches

This is something I've thought about with a raised eyebrow. This panel provided some helpful perspective.

Figured out the biggest leading motive in multi-site churches is the desire to reach more people / be "missional", and the belief that this is done better with this model. While this is commendable indeed, I did not like their idea that for one to not do this is a matter of a weak conscience and is a less faithful stewardship of resources / leadership. I also felt Greg Gilbert did a great job defending the non-multi-site view by himself, and that the others avoided his arguments with blanket assertions more than they addressed them.

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)