Just wanted to send out a quick post today. Something that I didn’t realize until the last six months is that the first century Jews didn’t create a systematic theology, meaning they didn’t arrange the teachings of the Old Testament in a systematic way like Christians. This is important to understand, because it is easy to equate Pharisees with modern day Bible scholars and teachers, and become negative about doctrine/theology. In seminary, I wrote a paper on the early Jewish view of the fall of mankind. Basically the fall had little to no place in early Jewish thought. If I remember correctly Genesis 3 isn’t even referenced in the Mishnah. There are some funny anecdotes, like Adam was asleep while the serpent talked to Eve because Adam and Eve had just had sex, but nothing you could call doctrine. What the Pharisees did do was debate how to keep the law in every conceivable circumstance: how far could you walk on the Sabbath, if you could divorce your wife if she burned dinner, etc. Jesus was anti-manmade religion, legalism, and hypocrisy not anti-truth and understanding.
Here is an important corrective, or caution, to the current missional movement in the American Evangelical Church by Anthony Bradley. Churches must be missional, but there is a danger of taking it to unhealthy extremes as this article shows.
Peter Leithart has written an extremely succinct and helpful primer on baptism. I’m not sure what I think about his approach overall yet, but I certainly think he is moving in the right direction. I appreciate that he can handle the difficult passages on baptism and those indicating that some in the church will fall away. In the quote below, Leithart presents his approach to baptism texts, which I subscribe to:
First, we should takes the Bible’s statements about baptism as statements about baptism. Through Paul, God says that those who have been baptized are dead and buried with Christ (Romans 6:4) and that as many as have been baptized into Christ are clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29). By analogy with the exodus, Paul implies that those who are baptized are rescued from Egypt and baptized into Christ, the new Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Peter tells his hearers at Pentecost to repent and be baptized “for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38) and says “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). We can choose to disbelieve these things, or explain them away, but that’s what these texts say. I submit that we should believe what God has to say on the subject of baptism. That’s the starting point. When the Bible speaks about baptism, it is speaking about the rite of baptism; and what it says is true.
I was scanning through Tim Keller’s talks on YouTube and came across a talk he gave at Google. In the video below he argues that believing in God is more reasonable than not and then takes about 15 minutes of questions. Well worth watching, and an excellent example of the fruit of diligent study. We may not be called to answer hard questions about God at Google or Oxford, but chances are we are going to be asked questions like this by somebody.
The 4 Views folks are putting out a book on the role of works at the final judgment. James Dunn and Thomas Schreiner offer two of the views, which should be worth the price of the book alone. I’m very excited about this book as the role of works in the final judgment is an important and little talked about area of theology. You can read more about it here.
The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri is the best run church I’ve ever come across. I was reminded of all this tonight when I came across their website. It’s worth checking out as it reflects the same spirit of excellence as their services. Before moving to Covenant Theological Seminary, my family attended for six months to acquaint ourselves with the Presbyterian church, as we knew absolutely nothing about Presbyterians. I would guess 3,000 to 4,000 people attend, which is huge for a Presbyterian church. The main thing I learned there was how to lead a church with excellence. Their children’s ministry is so good that the church I attend in St. Louis uses their program even though it hasn’t been published. Their vacation Bible school program involves 1,000 people, most of the Christian kids in the city regardless of where they attend church. I don’t recall their band ever missing a note in the six months we attended. They tie their offering appeal to the sermon every week.
I’m posting this because we need to learn from people like this. I’m not Presbyterian, but they do many things better than I ever would if left to myself. Now by observing them, I can hopefully apply what is good in their model in a Charismatic church setting.
The next week and a half is the climax of my seminary career as my thesis is due on March 4th. Because of that I’m not going to be blogging much during that period. So instead here is an important article by somebody else about applying your Christian worldview to the issues of the world around you – Why Your Christian Worldview Blinds You.
I’m so excited. Tomorrow I get to meet my favorite New Testament scholar, Michael Bird. He has written a wonderful intro to Paul’s theology, which I reviewed here. He is probably best known for his blog Euangelion, which always worth reading.
You can find the meeting schedule here. The meetings are free and open to the public so stop by if you are in the area.
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.
This is my hundredth post on this blog. Reading through what I’ve written in the last year and a half, I’m actually pretty happy. I’ve made a new category – “Favorites” – that includes the posts I’m most proud of and believe are the most helpful. Around 15 to 20 people come to the blog a day, which isn’t bad considering I’ve done nothing to promote it. It’s interesting to see what posts people click on. Apparently, people will look through tens and even hundreds of pages of search engine results. How deep would you have to search in Google to find my post on choosing a Bible translation, for example? But people find it that way.
For those who subscribe, thank you and I apologize for all the typos that only get fixed after the posts are sent to your email. May God bless you all.