August 2008


I am trying to spend more time reflecting on the sermons that are proclaimed to us each Sunday. I love the preaching at our church but too often by the time it’s Tuesday I can’t even remember what the sermon was on. So I think I am going to begin reflecting on the our church sermons as an occasional series on this blog. 

Today’s sermon was on the various metaphors for discipleship: salt and light (Matt. 5), fishers of men (Matt 4:19/Mk 1:17) but most significantly the true vine and branches (John 15). As John 15 was read in the sermon today I couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of the word ‘remain’ (μενω). This is possibly because I was trying to follow along in my Greek New Testament and I at least knew the word μενω. But it could also be because of the 118 uses of the word μενω in the NT by far the most occurrences are in John, 40 in fact. Of those 40 occurrences in John, 11 are in chapter 15 alone, that means a over 9% of all the uses of μενω in the NT are in this chapter alone!

In John 15 the phrase ‘remain in me’ (μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί – vv. 4, 5, 6, 7) is repeated. The first occurrence is the command to remain in Christ (μείνατε, v. 4) followed by the promise that whoever remains ( μένων) in Christ and Christ in them, will bear much fruit (v. 5). Then we are warned that whoever does not remain (ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ) in Christ will be thrown into the fire (v. 6) because, it is implied, they do not bear fruit. All this is finally capped off with the final promise that whoever remains (ἐὰν μείνητε) in Christ and has His words remain in them also will be granted whatever they ask for (v. 7).

The question that came most readily to mind in this text was: how are we to remain in Christ?

This question is first answered for us. In v. 4 Christ commands us to remain in Him (μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί – imperative use of μενω) even as (κἀγὼ – combination of και and εγω) Christ remains in us. In other words, we are to live in the reality that Christ remains in us! This reality is easy to affirm but difficult to inform our daily living. If we lived our life as if Christ was truly dwelling in us, I really believe we would live much different lives.

The second answer to this question is given in v. 7. There we are told that our prayers will be answered if we remain (μείνητε) in Christ and his Word remains in us (τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ). Thus we remain in Christ by letting His word (ρημα – I don’t have time here to go into the difference between ρημα and λογος, perhaps that is worth another post another time) remain in us. 

So as I go about this week, my goal is to remain in Christ by 1) living in the reality that Christ remains in me, and 2) intentionally letting God’s Word remain in my heart. If those two things do not change the way I go about my week, I don’t know what will. These things are worth thinking on.

John McCain recently announced Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential nominee. This was revealed as a surprise ending to a long held secret. As I read the news on this and listened to the pundits chime in, I couldn’t help but have my initial reaction be one of jaded cynicism. I know next to nothing about Sarah Palin (just what major news articles have said about her) but when I saw her nominated all I saw was John McCain trying to answer Obama’s historical Presidential bid with a historic moment of his own. Sarah Palin is, in my initial reaction, nothing more than a brilliantly convenient check list:

  1. Social conservative who grew up hunting and fishing to help get that annoying core of the Republican party on my side . . . check.
  2. Young enough to balance my old fogyism . . . check.
  3. A woman to steal those Hilary supporters that are still bitter about Obama winning the nomination . . . check.

I sort of hate the fact that this is my initial reaction to what should be an exciting time in America. Let’s be honest, either way things go in November we are going to have a historic President-VP combination. But despite these things I just can’t help feeling that Obama is just a democrat and McCain is just a republican and we’re going the same old rounds again. Lord save me from my own cynicism.

Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on my first ‘Preaching Team Meeting’ for my church. Wow, what a good time. We spent the better part of two hours just talking and theologizing (yeah I’m going with that as a real word) about our church’s upcoming sermon series on, wait for it . . . the ketuvim! Such a good time.

We sat around a table at one of my favorite local pubs and talked Bible and theology for two hours. At one point I realized that this is the closest I’ll get to experiencing the famous ‘inklings.’ Thus, I like to think of this little group as my own personal ‘thinklings’ (read theological inklings) or perhaps even better the ‘pinklings’ (read pastoral inklings) since the main point of the group is to discuss how to bring Scripture to life to our church.

This brings me to the other reason that I celebrate this group and the reason I think all academics should be a part of such a group. In this group we discuss Bible and theology in the context of the church. Here is the best place to discuss Scripture. Scripture does not truly come alive when a parallel within ANE literature is found to illumine some text. Scripture comes alive within the context of the believing community. This is why all academics should try as best they can to study Scripture in this context. The late great (can you use that of a theologian?) brother Brevard knew this well:

” . . . the Bible is a particular kind of literature. It was not written to satisfy human curiosity or to evoke religious speculation on heavenly mysteries, but it is a call for faithful response during one’s whole life.” (Brevard Childs, in Rule of Faith[Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishers, 1998], 1-12. Available online)

PS – to all those who, like me, did not grow up in this kind of an environment let me assure you: a pub is the best place to theologize. Cheers!

(Just to be clear – I only wish that the picture in this post is the pub where we met last night. No, that picture is the famous Eagle and Child, known affectionately as the Bird and Baby, where the actual inklings met.)

I consider myself a ‘fan’ of very few things; one of those things, however, is Terry Brooks. I was introduced to Terry Brooks when I was twelve and my dad gave me a copy of The Sword of Shannara. My life has never been the same since. I was always something of a reader growing up, but I trace my real love for reading to that book, no question. I guess it is this history that has really made me a ‘fan’ of Terry Brooks. And I do consider myself a ‘fan’ in the true sense of the word. There are other authors that I enjoy, there may even be other authors I enjoy more than Brooks but I am only truly a ‘fan’ of Brooks.

Let me explain my ‘fandom.’ Not only do I own a signed copy of Brooks’ original trilogy (purchased when I met him in person at a book signing, though I already owned copies of all three of the books separately), but I own two copies of the Sword of Shannara with the original cover (and am always on the lookout for more, in case my copies get worn out), and he is probably the only author that I always purchase as soon as his books come out, in HARDBACK! Some have criticized Brooks’ books for being childish or knock-offs of Tolkien but the fact of the matter is this: he got me into reading and his books have never failed to entertain me.

So, the fall is approaching (he’s a pretty regular publisher) and Brooks is out with the conclusion to his Genesis of Shannara trilogy so I am off to Barnes and Noble to pay way too much for an over-priced book that I will probably only read once. But such is the price of fandom.

We got the opportunity to go see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ last Saturday. To review it in one sentence is very easy: IT IS AWESOME! This is the second performance I have seen live. I have seen the movie and have listened to the CD of the original Canadian Cast with Colm Wilkinson, who blows away any other performance of the Phantom, so many times I even have his inflections memorized. 

All that being said, I really really enjoyed the performance that is currently at the Keller Auditorium. It took me a while to really appreciate Richard Todd Adams as the Phantom, but by the second high note of Music of the Night, he had me sold (he was no Colm Wilkinson, but, hey, who is?). And his interpretation of the Phantom, was noticeably creepier and psychotic than others I had seen. There were even moments where he brought Heath Ledger’s Joker to mind (and it was not inappropriate). For an understudy Kelly Jeanne Grant was a phenomenal Christine and Greg Mills as Raoul was a fantastic, deep and rich performance. All in all it gave me shivers, as it does every time I see it or hear. I highly recommend it!

After looking at 1 Samuel 15 and seeing how the LXX translated the verbs with God as the subject I thought it would be good to see how Num. 23:19 handled a similar subject to 1 Sam. 15:29. Below is an oracle of Balaam which he declared to Balak concerning the reliability of God to bring about what he has spoken about Israel.

Num. 23:19 οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς διαρτηθῆναι οὐδὲ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἀπειληθῆναι αὐτὸς εἴπας οὐχὶ ποιήσει λαλήσει καὶ οὐχὶ ἐμμενεῖ 

Translation:

Not like a man is God to be deceived nor like a son of man to be threatened, when he has said will he not do? When he speaks will it not remain?

Translation Notes

εἴπας and λαλήσει

The future verb ποιήσει requires that the aorist participle εἴπας be translated in a temporal sense, ‘when he says(said)…’ in the form of a question (cf. NETS). The next clause starts with a future λαλήσει (‘when he says’) and continues (more…)

One of the things that becomes evident when you begin formal Bible study is that you begin to question the protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Here is what I mean by this. As you begin your ‘formal training’ you begin to acquire what can only be called ‘special knowledge’ (sounds very gnostic). You now know Greek and Hebrew (and for those select few, Aramaic). You know more of the historical backgrounds of the texts (or at least what current scholarship thinks it knows about those backgrounds). You begin to exercise, what your professor tells you is a ‘sound hermeneutic.’ All this is ‘special knowledge’ that the average person in the pew does not have. 

Now, imagine yourself in church and people begin asking you questions (they know you’re in seminary after all). You begin to rattle off what you heard in last week’s lecture on the book of Romans, talking about historical background and the Greek root of verbs, and the average person begins to doubt in their own ability to read the Bible themselves. 

Here is my problem. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture came about (at least the Protestant formulation of it) in rebellion against the medieval catholic view that only the church (i.e., non lay-people) could interpret Scripture. When I look at the church today, it seems to me that we have replaced the ‘church’ with the ‘academy.’ If you haven’t written a critical commentary on the Gospel of Mark who are you to interpret it? As I begin to be a true (whatever that means) student of Scripture I find myself utilizing my recently acquired ‘special knowledge’ and finding great insight from it. However, as a Christian and a churchman I have to maintain that the basics of the message are accessible to the average person in the pew given the illumination of the Spirit and the proper amount of study. All that is to stay, I think I still need to confirm the basic idea of the perspicuity of Scripture (to say nothing of post-modern, or reader-oriented hermeneutics) but I’m still working out how.

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