Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times

Dear Abe,

Recently, my wife and I moved to a new town to look for work. My wife is very beautiful. The other day, I noticed a local business owner checking her out. Is there anyway I can turn this into a job opportunity?

Sincerely,

Married in Memphis Continue reading “Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times”

Seminary = Cemetery

Having spent many years studying and working in Christian Graduate School setting I have heard the Seminary/Cemetery play on words many times from students, professors, and churchgoers.
“Oh, my son is off to cemetary to study the Bible.”

While, for the most part, in my experience, the reference to Seminary as Cemetery was made as a friendly jest with no ill intent. That is, my fellow Christians respect those who dedicate their time and energy to the hard work of studying Scripture and Theology. (Yes, it is hard work. Have you ever learned a foreign language?)

Nevertheless, usually in less overt forms, I too have experienced resistance and suspicion with respect to my “expertise” in theology and biblical studies. I suspect one question spoken or unspoken to be something like, “Why does anyone need to study and go to school to understand Christianity? After all, Christianity is a simple faith that is available to all.” Now, I think this question is a good question. When asked, I have an answer. So did the second century theologian, Irenaeus. Continue reading “Seminary = Cemetery”

Beyond the Veil: Keeping God Safe in His Box

God’s Empowering Presence

When Gordon Fee, retired Professor of New Testament at Regent College, reached the tearing of the Temple curtain that coincided with Jesus death on the cross, he described this as the Spirit of God rending the this thick curtain and shouting, “Get me out of here.” Fee’s book on the Spirit in Paul’s writings is fittingly titled God’s Empowering Presence. The Temple was a symbol of God’s presence in the midst of God’s people. Yet, the New Testament authors and I believe Jesus himself saw the Temple as a barrier to what was truly important to the Creator God, that is God desires to be with his people.

Although many Christian readers miss it, a key theme in both the Old and the New Testaments is the Creator God being present with God’s people. While some might see the climax of the Exodus in the parting of the Red Sea or the receiving of the ten commandments, it seems clear that for Moses and the author of Exodus the construction of the Tabernacle and the descent of the glory of God into their midst is the true climax of this narrative. Continue reading “Beyond the Veil: Keeping God Safe in His Box”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 4: St. Augustine II:  More on Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis

A Fundamentalist is a person who thinks he doesn’t have a hermeneutic. — Richard Beck

Shortly after reading Book II of Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, I came across the above quote via facebook. Beck’s statement rings true and helps me articulate an important difference between Augustine’s “literal interpretation” of the early chapters of Genesis and the modern “literalist reading” of Ken Ham and other Fundamentalists of the same material. Even where Augustine sounds a great deal like Ken Ham, and at times, he does, Augustine is aware of his role as an interpreter and so of his limited understanding of God, the cosmos, and the text. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 4: St. Augustine II:  More on Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 3: St. Augustine (354-430 AD) and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Vol I, Book 1.i-xvi)

The Ham-Handed Hermeneutics posts serve two main purposes. On the one hand, I seek to test Ken Ham and AiG’s claims that the Church has always interpreted the early chapters of Genesis in a literal fashion and in such a way that it entails a belief that the cosmos is approximately 7,000 years old. On the other hand, out of personal and scholarly interest, I seek to present thoughtfully and faithfully how the Church Fathers interpreted the early chapters of Genesis and their assumptions about the age of the universe. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 3: St. Augustine (354-430 AD) and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Vol I, Book 1.i-xvi)”

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)

In this chapter on theological diversity in the Old Testament, Peter Enns offers an engaging and helpful introduction to what most biblical scholars Christian and non-Christian have come to recognize as simply being the nature of the Old Testament. Moreover, for many of us with strong commitments to the authority of Scripture, the recognition of theological diversity in the OT has not only enriched our understading of the Scriptures themselves but of the God who inspired them including what it might mean to be creatively inspired by the Creator.  There are three key aspects to Enns chapter on diversity in the OT.

  1. The Old Testament is not a flat text. It is a textured text. Not all books can be read in the same way and some work needs to be done to understand the different genres in the Old Testament.
  2. The books of the OT were written in differing time periods and show signs of being edited to some degree and therefore to some degree there is evidence of the develoopment and revision of thought over time and according to chaning circumstances.
  3. And related to the latter, there are ongoing arguments, discussion, and unresolved tensions within texts and between texts of the Old Testament. (Some of these tension are resolved by and in Christ Jesus.)
  4. Continue reading “Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)”

Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection

One of the strangest elements of the teaching of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (and that’s saying something when you are talking about people who insist human beings and dinosaurs co-existed) is that with all the fuss they make over the theory of evolution, their position entails the acceptance of an accelerated evolutionary model.

Ham and the folks at AiG insist that the earth (and, indeed, the cosmos) is less than 7,000 years old. The cosmos originated in 4004 BC or 0 anno mundi (See their time-lines.) In keeping with their literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and based on the well-known Noah story, they also insist that there was a global flood in 2348 BC. During this flood, Noah rescued 7,000 “kinds” of animals. Kinds should not be confused with the modern scientifc term species. Nevertheless, from these 7,000 kinds (which included some dinosaurs) all the land animals, aviary animals, and most of the amphibious animals are descended. Continue reading “Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection”

Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 2): A Slow Book Review Part Deux

“The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature”

In this chapter, Peter Enns offers a very helpful summary of some of the more significant and relevant ANE literature like the Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh. In doing so, he quite correctly notes that these discoveries and their relevance for biblical interpretation have not been adequately addressed by Evangelicals.

As I re-read this chapter, I was struck by the challenge that Evangelical Scholars face in conveying their academic findings to their evangelical community. Sadly, as Enns himself has experienced and frankly most of us in academia have experienced at one time or another, presenting new discoveries and talking about Israelite writing and thought in its historical context is frequently met with suspiscion and defensiveness. Many Evangelicals have been taught explicitly or implicitly to see engagement with extra-biblical material as somehow compromising “biblical” faith and as a relativizing movement.   Continue reading “Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 2): A Slow Book Review Part Deux”

Book Review: Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 1)

Since it is the tenth anniversary of the publication of Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation, it seems like a fitting time to re-read it. So, as I read it I will post a little review and reflection on each chapter. This past year, I have enjoyed reading Enns’s more recent book The Bible Tells Me So. While I do not agree with some of Enns’s conclusions and interpretations of particular biblical passages, I think Enns does a great job of expressing and bringing to the foreground questions that many Christians have but, in some cases, are afraid to ask. The Bible Tells Me So is written for a popular audience and adequately presents many of the issues that evangelical Biblical scholars grapple with on a regular basis. I have and will continue to recommend this book.

Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker Academeic, 2005)


Chapter 1: “Getting Our Bearings” Continue reading “Book Review: Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 1)”

The Book of Revelation: My Picks for the Best Books on this Book

 

“And though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.” — G.K. Chesterton

In many of my posts, I focus on Genesis. So, why not turn my attention to another controversial and misunderstood book at the back end of the Scriptures, The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John of Patmos? If one is allowed to have a favorite book in the Bible, then this book has become mine thanks in large part to my beloved professor Gordon Fee. In the year of our Lord two-thousand, Fee taught a course at Regent College on The Book of Revelation. When we asked him if all the Y2K talk and the year itself influenced his decision to teach this course at this time, he smiled, laughed at himself, and said, “You know. I never even thought of that.” That answer is an indication of how free he was from the dispensationalist background of his youth. How could that be? Continue reading “The Book of Revelation: My Picks for the Best Books on this Book”