Lastly, my goal is to begin reviewing, at least, some books upon completion. With that said, I am considering this to be a list in flux, specifically for the purpose of allowing “hot reads” to enter the list for reviewing purposes.
Last year I completed my Master’s degree, and, by God’s grace, I am going to begin my Ph.D. in New Testament studies in 2013 (which, right now, seems far away, but I think it will be upon me before I know it…). With that said, I have a few advisory items for the young and aspiring biblical studies/theology student:
Last week, I spent Tuesday through Friday in San Francisco at the annual meeting for The Evangelical Theological Society. Here are six things that I took away from my time there:
In order to live in San Francisco, you must be at least one of the following: Asian, hipster, homosexual, or rich.
If you are going to converse with Mike Bird, you will, most likely, have to ask him to repeat himself on more than one occasion.
I love higher academics – specifically of a biblical/theological nature (I have never felt more of an external/internal push to get my PhD than I did this last week).
I hate higher academics (there is a certain sense of arrogance that comes with higher academics [e.g. whom you know, what you’ve written, where you teach, how many languages you know, etc.] – my prayer is that I will always be connected to the local church in such a way that will help me stay grounded.
I want to go back to San Francisco (but not without my wife), which quickly entered into my top three American cities (with Chicago and Boston being my top two, in that order).
I need to go to conferences like these with at least one other kindred spirit (i.e. another brother sharing the same passion for biblical/theological education [e.g. see Jesse Mileo, Ryan James Reedy, Chris Mayberry, Bill Streicher, and Peter Gurry]).
Well…if there is one thing Michael J. Kimpan and I can agree on, it’s our disdain for country music.
I just can’t get with it.
When I was in junior high school, some of my friends were listening to country music, and in an attempt to fit in, I gave it a shot…one shot. Thankfully, soon after, I discovered rock music and have never looked back.
So, see, we can agree on some things.
Actually, it appears that we can also agree on Joel Osteen, in that I also don’t foresee any of his books climbing to the top of my list of “must-reads”.
However, in agreement with Mohler, I must admit there appears to be some level of disconnect between Osteen’s answers (which, from the interviews I’ve seen, is pretty typical), namely he cannot perform a same-sex wedding ceremony because he believes homosexuality to be sin, and yet he could attend such an event, thereby giving both his acknowledgment of and approval to such an event
Based on Mohler’s response, Michael, whose post made Red Letter Christians syndication, posits the following question: “i wonder what mohler thinks of the fact that jesus frequented house parties thrown by prostitutes?”
In my opinion, there is also a disconnect within Michael’s thinking regarding attending/performing a homosexual wedding ceremony and frequenting house parties thrown by prostitutes. Michael continues:
i’m pretty sure jesus didn’t endorse men and women using and selling each other’s bodies for sex. yet there he was, sitting, eating, talking and drinking with them. and the pharisees saw that as an endorsement of their behavior. i can hear them now: ‘that’s moral and theological nonsense. ministerial malpractice.’
These statements need dissecting…
First, to be sure, Michael and I are in agreement that Jesus did not endorse men and women using and selling each other’s bodies for sex. No argument there.
Second, Michael and I are also in agreement that Jesus sat, ate, talked, and drank with sinners. We cannot get around that, whether we want to or not (Matt. 9:11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30). However, we don’t know, precisely, his level of interaction with prostitutes, that is, we don’t know if he attended their “house parties” (Matt. 21:31-32). But, for the sake of argument, let’s say he did sit, eat, talk, and drink with prostitutes in their own homes. Does this necessarily equate with attending/performing a homosexual wedding ceremony? My contention is that it is not equivalent.
If we are going to insist that the only true way to love a homosexual well (and, therefore, point them either overtly or covertly to Christ) is to attend/perform a homosexual wedding ceremony (even though we might consider homosexuality to be sin), then this would seem to equate that, in order to truly love sinners well, Jesus should have gone with, celebrated with, and congratulated prostitutes as they sold their bodies and publicans as they stole from people…All the while saying, “Look, I know what you are doing is sinful, but I love you, so I want to be here and support you in this”.
To me, at least, that’s a non sequitur.
Again, remember that even Michael intimates that “jesus didn’t endorse men and women using and selling each other’s bodies for sex”.
So, instead of insisting that we must attend/perform a homosexual wedding in order to truly demonstrate our love to the individual, perhaps we should be willing to stand for what we believe is biblical whilst also loving the sinner (Luke 14:26), for we do not see evidence of Jesus endorsing the behavior of prostitutes and tax collectors (and in fact, he called them sick [Matt. 9:12]) and, yet, we still see that they loved Jesus, believed Jesus, and followed Jesus.
Michael, then, offers a generalized warning, that “regardless of where our conviction lies in the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, let us tread cautiously…”
I couldn’t agree more with this part of his statement…
But, then he states, “lest we mistake standing up for our beliefs with standing in the way of people entering into right relationship with God”.
With that statement, I think Michael has shown his hand (as long as I’m interpreting his statement correctly).
To me, he is intimating that a homosexual wedding ceremony is bringing their love and life into the covenant of godly living. But, again, this statement doesn’t follow, because what I (in theory) am standing up for is in direct disagreement to the assertion that a homosexual wedding is “people entering into right relationship with God”. In other words, if, in this specific situation, "standing up for my beliefs" affirms that homosexuality is sin, then I am most certainly not "standing in the way of people entering into right relationship with God" because what I believe they are doing is sinful. In fact, you might be able to make the opposite argument, in that standing up for my beliefs (based on my understanding of the biblical texts) is a means that God might use to actually bring them into a right relationship with him. With that said, this issue, to be sure, can only be addressed with a full discourse on the (potential) sinfulness of homosexuality.
To, perhaps, begin this conversation, I would point our readers to the following articles as an introduction:
Lastly, we should be cautious in calling people out as Pharisees (which, again, if I am interpreting Michael’s subtle thought process correctly, is precisely what he is doing). In fact, he seems to equate Osteen with Jesus and Mohler with the Pharisees. Is this equation not also harsh? Oddly enough, Michael has written another post surrounding a different Mohler post, wherein he states that we need to just “shut up and love people”…
And yet, Michael seems quick to call Mohler a self-righteous Pharisee because of his willingness to take a stand for what he believes. I think we need to employ caution here.
Do we not all have Pharisaical tendencies at times?
In conclusion, I will return to a partial agreement with Michael in declaring a desire to tread cautiously within these discussions/debates/etc. because of two reasons: Jesus Christ and people. Above all things we are called to love God, honor him, and bring him glory - even when that means potentially telling someone that they are in sin. However, we are also called to love people, and, lest we forget, on the other side of our debates are people, not just ideas and theories, but people.
Let us love, and love well, regardless of where we fall in this debate.
I hope that I have been gracious, even in my disagreement, and that these discussions between Michael, myself, and our readers will prove beneficial for the Church and the promotion of God’s glory.
I was once asked to blog as part of my homework assignments for graduate school. I remember thinking something like, “Do people even read blogs?”
If I’m honest, at the time, I thought the assignment was a little silly.
But, now, approximately five years later, here I am.
I’ve come a long way…
And, in fact, it is with a sense of honor and humility with which I enter into a new series of blog posts.
Michael J. Kimpan, a fellow blogger, recently approached me about his desire (one which I share) to "bridge the gap" between people (specifically, in our case, bloggers!!) who do not see eye-to-eye on certain philosophical and theological perspectives. His desire is to promote healthy dialogue amongst fellow Christians, while not accepting the “agree to disagree” excuse.
Therefore, we are going to pursue this line of dialogue with what we might call a bit of charitable “back-and-forth” blog posts/open letters/etc. surrounding various philosophical and theological concepts.
I must also admit the feeling of trepidation when approaching something like this. Please know that it is not my intent, nor do I believe it is Michael’s intent, to earn points in a “besting of the other guy” mentality. In fact, to quote John Piper in his response to N.T. Wright:
The final judgment feels too close for me to care about scoring points in debate…the prospect of wasting my remaining life on gamesmanship or one-upmanship is increasingly unthinkable. The ego-need to be right has lost its dominion, and the quiet desire to be a faithful steward of the grace of truth increases.
Piper then states that he believes Wright shares this same mentality, and so I will echo Piper when I say that, at least on this point, both Michael and I agree.
Well, here we go again. Let’s see what happens in the blogosphere regarding this recent bit of news.
If you haven’t heard, Rob Bell is leaving his church. Moreover, it now appears that we know, at least in part, the impetus for Rob’s departure.
Now, I’m not going to attempt to decipher Bell’s personal intentions. I don’t know the man; in fact, I’ve never even met the man. And, to be sure, we should remember the hailstorm that came when bloggers began attempting to decipher his recent bestseller, Love Wins, a bit too early (which, in retrospect, was more often than not a critique of his public promotional video, which I am convinced, in the end, was appropriate). Still, it is with a bit of trepidation that I try to offer a few thoughts regarding the public news of Bell’s departure.
What concerns me most is what appears to be a relinquishing of any kind of Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, accountability-infused pastoral ministry.
Let me explain.
First, in regards to relinquishing a Christ-exalting gospel-centeredness, all that has been offered regarding the spirituality of Stronger is that it will include “spiritual overtones”. What does that even mean?! (I suppose that is on par for Bell, though, as he leaves us with more questions than answers.) Instead of providing a robust, Christ-centered gospel, we are left with vague and opaque “spiritual overtones”. I have no doubt that Bell wishes to share “the message of God’s love with a broader audience”; however, if Christ is not intrinsically present, then there is no salvific value to any of it. If we relinquish the gospel, it is because we have relinquished Jesus Christ, for he is the gospel. I’ve written previously about what I think the message of the gospel is, so I will leave you with that.
Second, Bell (along with others) has already been criticized for leaving his ministry to “pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities”. Now, if you are being called by God to pursue something else, you better do it. Moreover, we ought to pause when questioning someone’s calling, for only God and the individual know their true calling (in these situations I often remember the statement made by my Bibliology/Prolegomena professor regarding claimed spiritual experiences; he said, “You cannot tell someone that they did not experience what they claimed to have experienced, for only God and that person truly know what, or if, they have experienced). And yet, my concern, to echo Stetzer and Warren, is the potential for ego-feed and/or lack of pastoral accountability in completing future projects. My hope and prayer is that Bell will come under a good church to keep him accountable as he pursues these future strategic opportunities.
So…I’m back. A short-lived "hiatus", if you want to even call it that. I’ve decided that blogging provides too great of an avenue for fleshing out what I’m thinking; therefore, if you read this, you will have to continue to deal with me, at least to a certain extent, for some time…
With that said, I’ve been thinking through something recently…
What is the purpose of a “devotional” time or “quiet time” before the Lord, and does that necessarily have to be distinct from an academic biblical/theological pursuit?
To be sure, I am going to make a distinction between the “reading” and “praying” parts of a “devotional” time, namely, in focusing on the “reading” aspect.
Now, some background to my conundrum:
Throughout graduate school, this was a constant struggle of mine – Do I need to set aside a time to read, for instance, a Proverb or a chapter from one of the gospels everyday, although I am, in one of my classes, working through the Greek in Galatians? Do I need to be, for instance, reading a Psalm everyday while, in another class, I am studying Scripture attempting to discern the hypostatic union of Christ?
Or, once I finished graduate school, I found myself prepping for sermons, etc., and I found myself trying to discern whether this prep-work needed to be separate from a daily “devotional” reading? Is not an exegetical study of Eph. 2:1-3 (i.e. the total depravity of man) “devotional”?
Or, the events of these past few months have relit my passion to write on a pastoral level, which I have done here, here, and here. But in these pastoral pursuits, does this equate to a “devotional” time, or do I need something separate?
Or, lastly, as I work for/with Dr. Preston Sprinkle on researching his various Pauline quests, this problematic question still lingers…
What’s the purpose? What’s the difference? Is there a difference?
This is an announcement for the masses…or, at least the 10 people that read this blog…
I am going on a blog writing hiatus.
And although it would appear that I am going on hiatus far too early into my blogging career, at this time, it seems to be the most appropriate course of action.
DO NOT BE ALARMED!
The life events that are leading me into this hiatus are good life events!
For instance, I am developing and teaching courses this fall semester (and, frankly, I am behind in my studies).
Also (and this is the primary reason for the hiatus), I have been afforded the distinguished honor and pleasure to begin working as a research assistant for Dr. Preston Sprinkle.
The various scholarly and literary pursuits in which I will now be involved will take up much of my time.
Attempting to forecast the completion of this hiatus is difficult.And, although I do still plan on providing the bi-weekly “Take a Moment…” blogs, it does not appear that any additional substantive material will be provided.
To be sure, I still have some ideas mulling around in my head regarding certain blog series (i.e. homosexuality and inclusivism), which I do plan on addressing when I return.
My hope and prayer is that God has used this blog to benefit your walk with Jesus Christ, and that you will continue to be blessed by it until, and certainly after, I return.
Last night I went to see my dear friend, Ryan Graham, play a show with his band, Good Luck Varsity, after being on tour for about two months.In fact, they were able to bring the entire tour with them back home, which was fun to see them interact with the brothers they had made during these last two months (to certainly include my opportunity to enjoy a really good metal-core band!).
Now, I’m getting old.I don’t particularly enjoy going to shows very often (perhaps it’s too “scene” for me now), and if I do make it out to a show, I generally try to stay as far away from the “mosh pit” (or whatever it’s called these days) as possible.However, it’s not only my age that keeps me out of the “mosh pit”, but, rather, I enjoy watching the bands play and express their passion through music by the various antics performed while on stage (metal-core bands certainly have some of the most entertaining antics!).
I’ll come back to this in a minute…
I’ve heard before that a “calling”, in regards to ministry, can be broken down into three parts:
You have a passion to do something;
You have an opportunity to do that something; and
You have been affirmed in your doing of that something.
This breakdown of what it means to be “called” has been personally helpful, as I’ve considered my future and what it means to be “called” to teach, write, and disciple.
Now, back to last night…
As I stood near the back corner of the room watching Ryan play, I suddenly felt deep gladness in my heart, because he is following his “calling”. Now, most people will grumble and complain that those who play in bands need to “grow up, get a job, and become a man”, and although I believe that might be an eventual necessity (it’s what I had to do), it is, nonetheless, encouraging for me to see Ryan presently pursuing what he feels “called” to do (for he certainly has the passion, opportunity, and affirmation of what he is doing).
Please hear what I’m not saying: Not everyone who simply has a passion for music should immediately quit his or her job and start touring.Instead let this be an opportunity for pause, wherein we might contemplate what it means to be “called” in our own lives.May we consider the above three requirements and see where we are in relation to living out our “calling” in relation to the ministry of Jesus.
I’m happy for Ryan; I’m happy for his ministry; and, I’m happy that he is honoring God in his ministry.
It’s important for people to be right… or, if I’m honest, it’s important for me to be right.
As I’ve studied and taught philosophy and logic, I’ve begun to learn the “art of argumentation”, and the honing of this skill has certainly infiltrated my quest for biblical/theological expertise.
Over these last few months, as I’ve patrolled the blogosphere, I’ve noticed that this is a primary preoccupation amongst bloggers and those commenting.
Whether the conversation is about God…
We want to be right.
It seems, though, that the two primary camps at the forefront of biblical/theological argumentation (the neo-liberals and the neo-Calvinists [I’m painting broadly here]) have vastly different ways of expressing their claim(s) to accurately interpreting the Bible.
For instance, those within the neo-Calvinist camp (which I would generally place myself within) seem fixated on making propositional statements; whereas, the neo-liberal camp seem fixated on asking questions.
But don’t be fooled; winsome and provocative questions can be just as affirming of truth and accuracy as are propositional statements.Consider what Kevin DeYoung has to say on the matter:
Don’t think for a second the questions don’t communicate something…Words mean something and words do something. Whether the sentences end in question marks or not…who could think for a moment that I am not teaching something? This is not mere provocation. It is not an expression of searching inquiry or humble wrestling. My questions pack a rhetorical punch. They tell you what I think is foolish and what is wise. They suggest that some beliefs are noble and others are not. They tell you what God is like and what you should believe about him. My questions teach.
Often, those within the neo-Calvinist camp are accused, by those in the neo-liberal camp, of arrogantly claiming their confidence in their biblical exegesis (which is usually demonstrated via propositional statements).And, although I am willing to admit that I can, at times, struggle with this claimed theological arrogance, can we be sure that a similar form of arrogance is not found in winsomely and provocatively posing questions?In other words, regardless of which camp we fall in, we ought to be cautious in disparaging someone because of their assumed arrogance, when we might be akin to the same form of arrogance in our assertions of biblical superiority.
Perhaps this is a prefacing post, as my plan for the next few posts is to think through an issue that is becoming heavily discussed in the media and the blogosphere.
The issue…is homosexuality.
Is it a sin?
Was Paul only talking about man/boy pedophilia?
Is the Bible even clear on this issue?
How are Christians supposed to relate to homosexuals?
Can a homosexual be a Christian?
These are going to be some of the questions that I plan on thinking through over these next few weeks and months.And, although my intention will be to eventually make propositional statements regarding what I see as biblical truth claims, my hope is that those who would want to disparage me for “arrogantly” stating such-and-such, would instead consider their hearts before disparaging, and, in the end, if an attack is necessary, attack the argument, rather than the arguer.
So much mayhem has happened recently due to Mark Driscoll’s facebook post regarding effeminate worship pastors…
Rachel Held Evans' blog response has gone viral, and now World Magazine has responded to her response. Although I personally would not have suggested that Driscoll make such a comment public, I also, in partial agreement with World Magazine, don’t think that those, namely Evans and her various supporters, have treated Mark fairly – as concerned as they are with him treating others lovingly and fairly.
Perhaps, instead of attacking people (wherein we are often employing the old saying of "the pot calling the kettle black"), regardless of which side you are on, we could, instead, espouse a bit of biblical acumen and leave our attacks to shoddy exegesis and diluted philosophy rather than character?
Remember, we are all fallen.We all make mistakes.Some of us just have grander stages for which to make these mistakes.
In other words…
Take a chill pill.
**EDIT: Driscoll has published a short article, perhaps in response to this whole situation. I wonder if Rachel Held Evans will do the same.
**Although I was going to wait and publish this post next week, based on some current situations amongst pastors I respect, I thought it might be best to submit it now.**
I love John Piper.I love Mark Driscoll.I love Matt Chandler.I love Kevin DeYoung.
Have I mentioned that I do not have a personal relationship with, nor have I even met, these men?
And yet, I claim that I love them because their ministries have heavily affected my view of God, life and faith.Or, perhaps a better term to use would be “hero”.Those four men listed above, amongst others for sure, are, for me, heroes of the faith.I look at these men; I see their love for God, in Christ; I see their intelligence; I see their successful ministries; I see their blogs, books and articles; and (if I’m honest) I see their popularity (i.e. they are great spiritual/ministry leaders – and who doesn’t want to have followers?).To me, these men are the epitome of successful pastor/theologians.
However, I have recently found myself thinking through hero admiration v. hero worship; and I am concerned that those of us (including me!) within the New Calvinism community might be prone to hero worship, which is an idolatrous slap-in-the-face to God and His gracious sovereignty in placing these men in their respective ministries.
Last fall I went to my first Desiring God national conference in Minneapolis; it was a great experience.First, the conference subject matter: Think; and, secondly, it felt like I was rubbing shoulders with some of New Calvinism’s elite.Prior to Al Mohler’s session, I went to save seats near the front of the auditorium, wherein I eventually found myself sitting across the aisle from John Piper and several of his staff members.It was in that moment that I really began to ponder hero admiration v. hero worship, for, as I snuck peeks across the aisle (as if John Piper were that cute girl in your high-school class), I found myself completely star-struck, raising him up ever higher on the pedestal of Theologian Par Excellence.
Isn’t there danger in that?
Does it breed a certain type of idolatry?
Does Piper not have sin issues (which, in fact, might have been the reason he took a leave of absence recently)?
Does Piper not argue with his wife?
Does Piper not have hunger pangs?
Does Piper not have the occasional runny nose?
In other words, although I don’t know the four heroes mentioned above, I am confident that they would admit their own sinfulness, normalcy, and memories of early ministry, wherein they might have also dealt with hero worship.Therefore, let this be a reminder that we all put on one pant leg at a time; we all crave to be admired; we are all still wretched and depraved sinners before a majestically righteous God; and we have all been appointed to do the work God has set before us.