XBox 360 and a Fasting 180

Fasting has been a part of Christian worship from the beginning. Yet, fasting is an oft neglected discipline at least for much North American Protestantism especially those with an aversion to liturgical calendars.

In Christian circles, we often put those who engage in spiritual disciplines on a pedestal. And yes, we are right to point to those teachers and mentors who worthy of emulation. Yet, in doing so, the “ordinary” Christian can use this lionizing of fellow saints often serves an excuse for our inability to do likewise. Moreover, I think sometimes it causes us to misunderstand the very men and women we are exalting.

This thought occurred to me during a Sunday School class when the topic of fasting came up. As we spoke, I became aware that our common assumption was that great men and women in the history of the Church engaged in fasting in order to pray and commune with God. And there is ample evidence in the texts we have in the tradition to validate and confirm that this assumption that fasting can enhance and lead to deeper prayer. Yet, as I facilitated this discussion, I experienced one of those wonderful paradigm shifts. Continue reading “XBox 360 and a Fasting 180”

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Dispensationalism, Dividing the Word, Dividing Walls and all on Flat Earth

A Mystery:

How does a 21st Century Norwegian become a King James Only, Dispensationalist, Not Merely Young Earth but FLAT-EARTH Creationist?

A Living Riddle:

To @aigkenham @CreationMuseum Outer space does not exist, Ken. We live under the firmament on a flat earth which is still. You should know.

When I first saw this Tweet chastising Answers in Genesis’s Ken Ham, I thought it was a jest. The type of jest I might make to emphasize the limits of literalism and to note that every literalist stops being a literalist somewhere. Or do they?flat-earth

I doubt there are many young earth creationists who adopt a biblical biological perspective when it comes to human conception or medicine. If they did, their doctors would prescribe heart medicine for mental disorders and fertility doctors would treat women only and treat the discovery of ova like AIG treats the discovery of background radiation in space and carbon dating.

Out of curiousity, I replied to this tweet and asked, Do you really believe the earth is flat? The individual responded with “Of course I belive the earth is flat that is what the Bible teaches.” I had found someone who was at once more consistent and more of curiousity than Ken Ham.
Continue reading “Dispensationalism, Dividing the Word, Dividing Walls and all on Flat Earth”

Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review

Wirzba, Norman. Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity New York: HarperOne, 2016. (238 pages + notes & index)


Now available on Amazon.com.

As the subtitle suggests, Duke University Professor Norman Wirzba seeks to remind his readers that love is the heart of Christianity. I do not say at the heart but is the heart because Christian community is rooted in love as revealed in Jesus Christ. And this incarnate love—this incarnate lover— ought to be the driving force behind Christian witness and practice. As the body of Christ, the Church, exists in a world mired in and, indeed, enamoured by sin, followers must regularly be called back to the way of love and Wirzba’s book is one of those calls.

Way of Love is first a letter to the churches. Like the letters of the Apostles that make up the bulk of the New Testament, this letter contains admonishment, encouragement, and a call to keep Christ and therefore love as the heart and goal of what we as followers say and do. In this sense, Wirzba is not telling us something new but telling us the “old, old, story” again in a new and refreshing way. Continue reading “Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review”

God Has Spoken 2: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book

“Some modern theologians say, ‘God doesn’t speak.’ Well, He says, He does.”

J.I. Packer from Lecture at Regent College

God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible 3rd Edition

Chapter Two: The Lost Word

Apparently, although I have not scientifically verified it, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Likewise there is more than one way to lose the Word of God.

Losing the Word

In the second chapter of God Has Spoken, Packer draws an analogy between the famine of the Word announced by the prophet Amos to the people of the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century BC and his contemporary situation. That is, while Creator God spoke to the people through the prophets to His people, there came a time when a refusal by the people (especially those with power) to listen to God resulted in God answering with silence. If you won’t listen, then I will stop speaking or I will make you deaf.

Christians have always affirmed the authority of the Bible. The earliest Christians affirmed the authority of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings which Christ and the apostles read as witnessing to the character, covenant and promises of the God of Israel and to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of those promises and climax of those covenants. At the same time, particular texts written by the apostles and their close associates were used in much the same way. These are commonly referred to as the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Continue reading “God Has Spoken 2: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book”

Advent, Christmas & the Nativity: Immanuel, God With Us, Is that good news?

Merry Christmas!

In Matthew’s Gospel, he states that the birth of Jesus fulfills Isaiah 7:14.

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:20-23

Fulfillment in Matthew:

Matthew employs the phrase “this was to fulfill” a number of times in his gospel before citing a passage from the Old Testament. While his fulfillment language can sometimes refer to a rather direct prediction, like the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, the city of David, this prediction/fulfillment scenario does not exhaust the phrase.

The phrase is better understood as meaning something more like “this (event) brings to completion” or “this (event) is the fullest expression of”. As far as we can tell, no Jews were expecting the Messiah or Messsiah(s) to be born of a virgin. Continue reading “Advent, Christmas & the Nativity: Immanuel, God With Us, Is that good news?”

Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity

Following from the idea of sola scriptura (scripture alone), many Christians, primarily those coming out of the Protestant traditions, have come to think that if people will just read the Bible they will become followers of Christ. That is, they seem to suggest that acceptance of the Bible as an authoritative text for life precedes acceptance of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savio(u)r.

In convincing the world of this basic though generally erroneous assumption, we Protestants have unfortunately been quite successful. I am reminded of this through my recent interactions with non-Christians of various kinds.

To witness our success, take some time to listen to how non-Christians portray Christianity. For a moment, you might see yourself as in a mirror, it may be a funhouse mirror but it is a mirror, nonetheless.

When you do take time to listen, to ask questions, to create space for your neighbo(u)r to give voice to their ideas, frustrations, fears, dreams, desires, and concerns, I think you will hear what I hear quite consistently. That is, in the distortions of the funhouse mirror, this view of the authority of Scripture is an accurate reflection of what they hear from Christians. Continue reading “Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity”

WWJT or Christian Twits on Twitter

As I returned to blogging this past August, I also signed on for the Twitter experience. I love it. That is, as a person whose brain produces one liners (even in my dream life), the world of word limits is a limitless world for wordplay & witticism. If only everyone could be a Steven Wright . . . So, in what follows, do not think that I oppose witty repartee or sarcasm. For instance, if anyone follows me on Twitter or reads my blog posts, you will see that I regularly poke fun at Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis. Continue reading “WWJT or Christian Twits on Twitter”

How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “

Given that my post How to Teach Genesis 1 in 30 Minutes remains one of my most popular posts, I thought my readers (new and old) might appreciate a little more detail and a slower walk through the process.

While my previous post was aimed at a single session, this series will hopefully aid those who teach introductory or survey courses either in an academic or church setting.

Related Posts: Why Seven Days?Review of Michael Cosby’s Interpreting Biblical LiteratureHave Sex and Eat: The First Two CommandmentsWhen is a Snake not Merely a Snake?Review: Pete Enn’s Inspiration & Incarnation 1

Mistakes to Avoid:

Mistake 1. Beginning with Genesis

Do not begin with Genesis. As I have stated elsewhere, I think the majority of textbooks and biblical overview courses make a pedagogical error in beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” In any other subject, you teach the basics first before you jump into the really difficult material. You don’t jump into Hamlet before you teach grammar and the basics of poetry.

What’s a rhyme? What’s a simile? What’s a metaphor? Am I reading a comedy or a tragedy? If Romeo & Juliet is really a love story, then why do they die in the end? If Hamlet is a tragedy, why are there so many funny moments? Is that another dirty joke? Err, I mean, Is that more ribald humor? How come the clowns aren’t funny? Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “”

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”