commentary

Jul

24

2011

Multiplying of Social Networks

Google has recently unveiled its social network offering: Google+. (Some have interestingly pointed out it is much more than this, but that doesn't make it less than this.) I actually think Google+ is pretty cool, and see a lot of advantages it has over facebook from the get-go. (By the way, if you want an invite to Google+, let me know.)

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Jun

29

2011

Source Criticism and Intentional Narrative

(Whew, life has been busy these days, and posts have been few. I formally apologize to both of my readers for keeping you waiting. =)

The Gospel writers were intentional in writing everything they did. They were narrators, not copyists.

I think the source criticism movement has forgotten about the ending of the Gospel of John: "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." Sadly, the picture that many have of the (synoptic) Gospel writers is that they were limited to source documents they basically copied from, of course with some stylistic adjustment here and there. 

Such is certainly not the case.

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May

02

2011

Osama Is Dead, Shall We Rejoice?

Heard the news yesterday that Osama bin Laden was killed recently by American troops. While there is no doubt the man is worthy of death for his crimes, I am very uncomfortable with the spirit of celebration that went on at his death.

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Mar

27

2011

Jesus of History is Christ of Faith

Reading commentaries on the gospels has been wonderfully mind-numbing and particularly frustrating these days. I feel like I'm reading about someone / something different than I expect / intend to. Even evangelical commentaries seem so often to detheologize what is there. Bock's commentary on Luke even has been discouraging in this regard; perhaps because I had high hopes for it. At the end of the day, it seems like not much is left, especially with regard to the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of salvation.

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Mar

16

2011

Disaster in Japan from a Holy and Good God

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in his Preaching and Preachers something to the effect that a preacher should always respond to large-scale disasters / crises. I was considering preparing a sermon for this Sunday on the sovereign freedom of God and the urgent need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, and pray for and evangelize the lost.

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Feb

14

2011

Living by Principle, Not Practice

Yesterday I attended a conference here in Taipei by Stephen Tong (唐崇榮). Many people in our church had become quite a fan of him, and so I thought I'd take this chance to hear him speak. The topic was "The Key to Victory over Premarital Love/Sex" (婚前愛與性之得勝秘訣). I was greatly encouraged to see him address this important topic, and to see the huge auditorium of people  filled with people desiring to hear about this topic. 

But towards the end of the third session (the only one I attended), he began an aside on the question of masturbation (自慰), and his answer to this question was basically that it is not always wrong. I was shocked! I disagree strongly with his answer. Yet, his reasoning alarmed me even more.

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Dec

20

2010

Stupid Commentators

1 Timothy 2:5 reads, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Henry Alford comments:

The stupidity of such writers as Baur and the Socinians, who regard such an expression as against the deity of Christ, is beyond all power of mine to characterize.

Love it. Commentators just don't write this way anymore! Let us not be so enamored with "political correctness" or with "academic respectability" that we refuse to call a spade a spade.

The rejection of God is foolishness, stupidity. Read Psalm 14:1 and Romans 1! The rejection of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh is indeed the indication of a darkened mind. At least that's what Jesus said.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

1 Timothy 2:5 says Jesus himself is indeed fully man. As man, he is fully capable to be our intermediary to represent us before God. The text says nothing about his divinity. The glorious truth is that he is both! His divinity neither affects his humanity, neither does his humanity affect his divinity.

We do people no favor when we give them illusion that their rejection of Christ is either a morally neutral or intellectually respectable decision.

Nov

16

2010

No Pass from Theological Responsibility

Al Mohler, No Pass from Theological Responsibility — The BioLogos Conundrum

The controversy between Biologos and Mohler continues, as they keep publishing articles directed at him and he keeps responding. Public debate calls for public responses. Mohler doesn't let them off easy.

Nov

08

2010

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.

Nov

03

2010

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.

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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...)