getting the history part of grammatical-historical

Just a thought that occurred to me while listening to Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds …It is extremely helpful to Bible interpreters to have an understanding of the culture and history in which the Bible was written. This particular “Great Courses” offering touches on some points of history that help us in understanding the culture the early Christians were saved from. I think that I am reading the New Testament with better understanding as a result.

Even better than this course are two other offerings: Herodotus: The Father of History, an excellent presentation by Elizabeth Vandiver and the actual work of Herodotus: The Histories.

These works are full of secular misconceptions and there are sometimes misrepresentations of Biblical information contained in them. However, one thing I’ve found fascinating is the Greek mindset on display. I suspect that many Greeks of the ancient world viewed their pagan superstitions cynically, yet they most likely “hedged their bets” and went along or adopted them as a “cultural practice.” Nevertheless, whether true believers or no, they had a culture to overcome in coming to Christ. “The Greeks look for wisdom.”

As we consider the preaching and teaching of the apostles in the context of the thinking of the day, we can gain insight to perhaps preaching and teaching the pagans of modernistic and post-modernistic society as well.

My Romans Commentaries

I recently finished preaching through the book of Romans. My usual method of preaching in our church is verse by verse exposition. I usually am working on one or more books of the Bible in our regular preaching sessions. I call my method “the glacial approach to exposition,” which is to say, “I go slow.”

I began my Romans series on September 23, 2007. We finished 318 messages later on November 15, 2015. Of course there were interruptions for special speakers, mini-series, special occasions and Christmas (I usually take a month or more off for Christmas, preaching on a special Christmas theme each year). [Read more…]

it’s a people business

Saw an interesting political clip on Breitbart the other day. It’s TV host Chris Matthews complaining about Obama. I first ran into Matthews on TV when the Clinton scandals were active. He was quite antagonistic to Clinton, but he is a liberal Democrat politically and a Catholic, so I have big disagreements with him on a lot of issues. Still, he’s a guy I like in spite of these disagreements.

And of course, I was interested in this clip because the headline talks about Matthews going after Obama. I don’t particularly like Obama’s politics either.

But take a look at the video, because I want to make a point about the ministry from something Matthews says about politics.

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salt and light questions

A few years ago, I heard a clip of a prominent evangelical leader justifying the new evangelical decision to pull back from separatism. The gist of the statement was something like this:

The fundamentalists lost any chance at influence of the world by their over-emphasis on separatism.


Just how well is that influence thing working?

Is North American culture today MORE or LESS influenced by Christianity today than 60 years ago?

Is it the mission of disciples to be salt and light in such a way that they have influence in the culture of the world?

If yes, how would we go about that?

It appears that whatever the new-evangelical strategy was, it didn’t work. I’ll concede that if fundamentalists thought they would influence the world somehow, they failed also. So, let’s just posit for a moment the notion that those who follow Christ are called to be salt and light in the world, and therefore to somehow have a position of influence in the world. One would presume that influence should be towards an increase in Christianity, for starters, but failing that, one would at least hope for some influence on the culture.

So, again, exactly how should we do that?


first among equals?

In a comment in an earlier thread, Dan offers these observations and questions:

My question has to do with the definitions (as are popularly understood or employed) of authority, leadership, and decision-making. You stated in your example that “someone who is an expert has more authority in the area he has gained expertise.” Then you state that the theologian presumably has more knowledge and that should “carry weight,” but you backed off from authority. The congregation, you say, should make the decisions. But certain people have “spiritual leadership.” I’m probably pretty much on board with your ideas, but I think a little more definitive explanation should accompany words like authority, leadership, and decision-making if we are using them to distinguish activity or degree of control. Okay, I guess I have not yet formed a question. My question is how do you definitively distinguish between authority and leadership in the above areas. More precisely, what does it mean for a pastor, for example, to have responsibility of spiritual leadership, but not of a decision-making form? (especially in view of some verses that mention obeying your leaders.) Expound, if you will.

As I said in my initial response, this is an excellent question. It gets at the heart of church life and government.

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are your people stupid?

A recent blog by Mark Galli of Christianity Today includes this “gem”:

The place [the National Pastors Convention] is full of pastors who are either exhausted, burnt out, frustrated, or missional. They all amount to the same thing: a simmering anger about the church.

For most pastors that anger is directed at stupid lay people, stubborn church boards, or indifferent church bureaucrats. But “the church,” and especially “the Western church” or “the American church,” is the object of a myriad of derisive and sarcastic comments.


Pastor, would you say your people are “stupid”? [Read more…]

on Christian fellowship

I’d like to draw your attention to the subject of Christian fellowship. In my view, the subject is largely misunderstood these days. Many mean ‘having coffee with my Christian friends’ (substitute any other kind of social activity for ‘having coffee’ — that works too).

Champ Thornton at EX vilis CATHEDRA stirred my thinking on this subject with his post: “Together for What?”. I prepared two Bible study lessons from that beginning which can be found by following the links here and here.

At the outset, let me say I have nothing against ‘having coffee with my Christian friends’. You can even leave out the ‘with my Christian friends’ part! I often tell people that coffee is a Baptist distinctive: “True Baptists drink coffee … confirmed Baptists drink it black.”

But seriously, the subject of Christian fellowship involves much more than social interaction (and can be devoid of social interaction entirely).

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rampant secularism

Douglas Todd is the very fine religion writer for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. By that I don’t mean he is a believer, he may be, I just have no idea. I mean that he is an excellent writer with a keen eye for trends in religion. He now has a blog on the Vancouver Sun site. Today’s entry is an eye-opener in some ways … not that it surprises me, but rather confirms what I have long sensed. The post is entitled “Secularism is the new default position – almost everywhere“. A few snippets:

Fittingly, British Columbia, gets a good dose of attention. The study repeats what many already know about B.C.; that it’s arguably the most “secular” region in North America. That 36 per cent of British Columbians have “no religion,” and another 21 per cent say they’re affiliated with a religion, but virtually never attend.

No surprises here, but perhaps outsiders might be surprised to know it. There is a ready antagonism to the gospel that surrounds us when we witness.


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beyond outrage . . . a call for a theology of culture

Two recent posts are offered on the approach fundamentalism needs to be taking in the 21st century. The first is outrage is easy, the second is outrage is easy . . . or is it?

My arguments in outrage is easy . . . or is it? fall along what I consider to be traditional fundamentalist argumentation in the last half of the 20th century, i.e., an opposition to compromised associations. I think the argumentation is valid, yet the argumentation fails if the issues over which I object are inconsequential.

Let me try to illustrate [I know that I am often guilty of obtuse language]: Person A engages in practices/preaching that the Fundamentalist shuns and proclaims wrong. Person B does not engage in those practices/preaching but is willing to overlook these matters and joins with Person A in cooperative religious efforts. The Fundamentalist, according to my argumentation, shuns Person B because his association with Person A constitute a violation of clear commands of Scripture to ‘touch not the unclean thing’.

If the practices/preaching of Person A are not, in fact, wrong, then the Fundamentalist is wrong in shunning either one.

Regardless of any other factors, this is the crux of argument against compromised associations. The shunned preaching or practices must be sufficiently antagonistic to the cause of Christ to warrant the shunning [to whatever degree the shunning takes place].

I say ‘sufficiently’ because we are all fallible men and we tend to want to give others the benefit of the doubt to some extent – or at least, we ought to. I say ‘to whatever degree’ because there are what some call ‘degrees’ of separation. It is not my purpose to agonize over such degrees here. I am simply looking at the essential argument as I made it in the earlier post.

It seems to me that the issues we most argue about today in the shunning/separation/fellowship debates is largely culturally focused. Whether it be the culture of music, motion pictures, dress, the use of alcohol, or any other issue you care to name, the argumentation is largely focused on culture. Some say the problem is simply a matter of taste. In the area of music, the ‘good old hymns’ of broad fundamentalism are nothing more than the popular music of the late 19th to early 20th century. Some might add that culture is not theological, no doctrines are at stake, your criticism is nothing but Pharisaism, etc.

In this article, I am going to contend that the challenge to orthodoxy we face today is a much more subtle attack on orthodoxy than we have faced heretofore.

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on the ongoing effects of ministry

I’d like to inaugurate blogging on the new site with a post about the effect of ministry. Sometimes men will labour in obscure places, doing things that seem to amount to little, yet God Himself is working through them, little though they realize it.

My wife received an e-mail from a friend who, along with her husband, laboured for many years here on the Island. My brother now pastors the church they started.

Our friend told us that they received a call last week from a man, now in his eighties, thanking them for coming to the Island and leading him to the Lord. That has to be at least 15 years ago. Our friend rejoiced in being used of the Lord to bring just one man to the Lord through years of difficult frustrating ministry.

Well, that’s not all.

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