A friend posted a helpful and funny link containing a chart designed to tell you when to comment or ask questions in class and when to keep quiet. My favorite one is “Is your comment an attempt to teach the professor something you think he doesn’t know” if so “STOP! Don’t speak!” You’d be surprised how common that particular one is.
Today marks the beginning of my final semester in seminary. How the time has flown! I have a great lineup of classes this term:
The World of the New Testament – Concerns the life of Jews, Greeks, and Romans during the time of the New Testament
Prophetical Books – Covers the major and minor prophets. This is with Dr. Collins who was editor of the OT for the ESV. I’m weak on the minor prophets so I should learn a ton.
Historical Books – Covers narrative historical books of the OT. Again I’m pretty weak on these books. I know the story, but don’t know how to read them theologically.
Pentateuch – I’ve already taken this class, but the professor who is teaching it was on sabbatical at the time. Supposed to be one of the best classes at Covenant when he teaches it.
God and Humanity – A systematic theology class concerning, you guessed it, God and man. Dr. Williams (author of Far as the Curse is Found, a great intro to the Biblical story) is an excellent teacher, once you get used to his somewhat brusque approach.
Master’s Thesis – I’ve got until March 4 to turn in 60 to 80 pages concerning Matthew’s reports that faith can move mountains. I didn’t realize the deadline was so soon until the beginning of last week. February is going to be a very, very ugly month. Every morning I tell myself “you only have to write 2 pages today” so as not to panic.
My Master’s Thesis is on Jesus’ teaching that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer if you believe for it, specifically the passages in Matthew relevant to this topic. Of course, this is one of these are fundamental passages to the prosperity gospel camp. This afternoon someone recommended I take a look at Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori’s Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Several sections discuss the social effects of the prosperity gospel. While they point out the many potential negative issues related to it, surprisingly they also repeatedly suggest it may have positive effects. For example, consider the following excerpt:
One observer we interviewed in Manila was far from cynical in her analysis of the Prosperity Gospel, even though she was not a Pentecostal herself. In her opinion, the biggest problem that poor people face is that they have no hope for future advancement. Prosperity Gospel preachers provoke people to think in new ways, and while members may be disappointed if they are expecting a quick fix, they may also start organizing their lives in ways that allow for upward social mobility. Furthermore, some of these Prosperity Gospel preachers actually offer sound advice regarding lifestyle change, budgeting, family planning, and business investment… Hence, while some Prosperity Gospel preachers may rely more on magic than sound theology, there may be a latent effect in which individuals start thinking differently about their lives and therefore may pursue courses of action that result in upward social mobility. pp. 176-7.
This is interesting. I’d never considered that possibility. There are still huge problems with treating God like a free vending machine, but hopefully it does cause the poor to reach for something better as they have opportunity.
I’ve been going through Jesus’ travels in the book of Matthew this afternoon, and was struck by the healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter in chapter 15. At the end of chapter 14 Jesus is in Gennesaret, which is on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew 15:21 says “And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.” That’s 50 miles away! While there, a Canaanite woman begs Jesus persistently to heal her daughter and he does. That’s verses 22 through 28. In verse 29 he walks back to the Sea of Galilee, another 50 miles.
So according to Matthew, Jesus walks 50 miles, heals a Canaanite girl, and then walks 50 miles back. Did Jesus do other things on the trip? Probably, but I like how Matthew focuses on the one. It’s as if Jesus walked 100 miles to help that one girl. Yes, God cares about the one!
It’s been many years in coming, I don’t even remember how long I’ve been waiting for this, but NT Wright is finally releasing his definitive work on Paul in 2013. Michael Bird spells out the release here.
In other NT Wright news, I just found out last week that Wright has published his translation of the New Testament. It is called The Kingdom New Testament. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but Robert Gundry has an extensive review of it here. Gundry concludes:
Does KNT work, then, as a translation in the sense taken for granted by J&J [Gundry’s moniker for the average church-goer] when reading both KNT’s subtitle, “A Contemporary Translation,” the back ad’s description of KNT as “modern prose that stays true to the character of the ancient Greek text … conveying the most accurate rendering possible,” and Tom’s own statement of having “tried to stick closely to the original”? No, not even by the standards of dynamic/functional equivalence, of which J&J are ignorant anyway. Too much unnecessary paraphrase. Too many insertions uncalled for. Too many inconsistencies of translation. Too many changes of meaning. Too many (and overly) slanted interpretations. Too many errant renderings of the base language.
But there is a body of religious literature characterized by all those traits, viz., the ancient Jewish targums, which rendered the Hebrew Old Testament into the Aramaic language. So KNT’s similar combination of translation, paraphrase, insertions, semantic changes, slanted interpretations, and errant renderings—all well-intentioned—works beautifully as a targum. Which apart from the question of truth in advertising isn’t to disparage KNT. For the New Testament itself exhibits targumizing, as when, for example, Mark 4:12 has “lest … it be forgiven them” in agreement with the targum of Isaiah 6:10 rather than “lest … one heals them” (so the Hebrew), and as when 2 Timothy 3:8 has “Jannes and Jambres” in agreement with a targum of Exodus 7:11-8:19, which in the Hebrew original leaves Pharaoh’s magicians unnamed. Hence, Tom’s Targum. Trouble is, J&J won’t know they’re reading a targum.
I’m back from a week with the family at Disney World (St Louis to Orlando is one heck of a drive, but a great time was had by all). I’m presenting a paper on the 22nd at the Covenant Theological Society about Jesus’ teaching that “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” so I am busily trying to get that finished.
During a break today I was scrolling through Adrian Warnock’s blog and came across a couple of posts concerning John Piper’s understanding of the Christian’s experience of the Spirit that I wanted to pass on. In the first one Warnock cites John Piper on the reception of the Spirit in the book of Acts. In short, he says that in Acts people could tell, and were expected to be able to tell, when/if they received the Holy Spirit. Really great stuff from Piper and I appreciate his honest questioning. I’ve written something similar myself, but for a Baptist to say that the reception of the Spirit in Acts is discernible is very different than a Charismatic saying as much. In another post, Warnock cites Piper basically proclaiming himself a Charismatic in that he says the reception of the Spirit in Acts is experiential and, at least sometimes, subsequent to initial faith. I had no idea Piper thought this. Both of these citations are old so he may not believe this anymore; I’ll have to research this. Very exciting regardless, particularly as John Piper is so influential in the body of Christ at large.
I’m reading snippets of Daniel Mark Epstein’s Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson before bed every night. Last night I read about the instant healing of a young girl with severe rheumatoid arthritis. After presenting the account, Epstein reflected on Sister Aimee’s miracle ministry:
The healings present a monstrous obstacle to scientific historiography. If events transpired as newspapers, letters, and testimonials say they did, then Aimee Semple McPherson’s healing ministry was miraculous. Since a miracle by definition is a thing which defies reality, there is no place in scholarly or scientific history for recurrent miracles.
It would be convenient if we could find some evidence that Sister Aimee’s miraculous healings were faked for the benefit of publicity; but there is no such evidence. Alas, the documentation is overwhelming: very sick people came to Sister Aimee by the tens of thousands, blind, deaf, paralyzed. Many were healed, some temporarily, some forever. She would point to heaven, to Christ the Great Healer, and would take no credit for the results. (p. 111)
Though, Epstein then attempts to explain the healings as a natural occurrence, I doubt even he really believes tens of thousands of miracles in Sister Aimee’s ministry occurred naturally, simply because people found her compelling.
The interesting thing about living in the modern era is that, while many assume modern biology and physics has rendered Christianity absurd, there is also the fact that there is more documented evidence of miraculous activity than ever in history (and yes I’m talking to you Cessationists as well). It is simply unreasonable in the modern era to not believe in some form of supernatural intervention. While Christians must take the challenges of biology and physics seriously, we also must remember that we have evidence too.
My wife and I recently upgraded our internet to a 30 MB/sec modem. The modem has several brights lights and no off switch. We keep the modem in our bedroom and so have to unplug it every night as we like to sleep in absolute darkness. I have found the simple act of unplugging our internet every night the most helpful step I’ve taken to improve/maintain my purity in the last few years. Personally, I’m morally weakest late at night and first thing in the morning. In the past, if I was unable to sleep and got up, I would browse the internet and occasionally end up looking at things I shouldn’t have. Opening that door made purity harder during the day, causing a downward moral spiral. Now that the internet is not an option I read a book or pray instead. The last several months have been the cleanest I’ve experienced in many a year. Unplug your internet at night.