Category Archives: Discussion

When a Loved One Goes Home

7:10 AM The Celebration Service yesterday on campus affected me deeply. I took away several things:

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1) I am infinitely more fragile and helpless than even I think I am sometimes. As I watched the video of Becky’s life, I was a basket case. I longed to see her again in this life, to have her slip into my arms for a few minutes in one last embrace. But that was denied. My lover was dead. And I grieved.

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Harmony in the Church

11:16 AM Commenting on harmony in the church, Howard Marshall (New Testament Theology, p. 347) writes:

Such harmony could arise in two ways. One possibility is that there is considerable toleration of different points of view, so that people do not fight over differences of opinion on nonessential matters. The other possibility is that people are united because they are in agreement about how they should think and act.

Our generation will not get back on track until it hears this message loud and clear. Let’s say, for example, that you are in a traditional Baptist church and have a desire (which you share with your pastor and others) that the church move forward toward what all of you consider to be a more biblical ecclesiology, in this case a plurality of elders (“elder-led congregationalism”). This desire, if pursued, is likely to lead to divisions in the church if carried out selfishly – that is, if you fail to consider the other person’s needs rather than just your own. So, although you are convinced that having multiple elders is a healthier and more biblical pattern for the church than a single pastor, you are not interested in fighting to get your way. In seeking to introduce change to our churches, there can never be any irritation or ridicule toward someone with whom we might disagree. We must banish from our mindset once and for all both censoriousness and contempt.

At the same time, it is still possible (and, I think, both desirable and needful) that every congregation consider carefully what the Scriptures teach “about how they should think and act” (as Marshall puts it). I think this is what Paul means by “having the same mind” in Phil. 2:2. He is referring to a disposition of like-mindedness whereby we bring to the table an attitude of unity, cooperation, amity, and harmony. This is a far cry from putting our brains in park or neutral. And it is certainly no excuse for sloppy thinking. There must be agreement in the congregation that the Word of God comes first, and that whatever course of action is decided upon must be dictated by conviction and not simply by convention. We would all do well to remember that it is our duty to have biblical convictions, and that it is our equal duty to allow others to have theirs. But I’m talking about convictions, not blind allegiance to tradition.

So, what do you think?

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

What It Means to Give Glory to God

8:20 AM Good morning, thoughtful bloggers and bloggerettes.

I know I’ve been blogging a lot lately. Please don’t get tired of all this posting, especially not the posts coming at you from my heart. Unless I’m badly mistaken, you ponder many of the same questions I do. This morning, for example, I was really trying to wrap my head around the Christian’s purpose in life. We often say, “Why, it’s to glorify God, of course!” I have no problem with those words. But are we willing to pray, “Lord, glorify Yourself through me“? The reason I say this is because God sometimes has some strange ways of bringing glory to Himself. Lazarus’s sickness was for the glory of God (John 11:4). Peter’s death was to be a means by which he would glorify God (John 21:19). Much discussion, I believe, has confused rather than clarified this matter of glorifying God. It is possible to glorify God more by death than by life, in sickness than in health, during those twisted, terrifying periods of life when everything seems dark, even in those drab and normal days when nothing is “happening.” It is easily possible to so idealize “glorifying God” that we come dangerously close to denuding the expression of any meaning. Look at your life. By the world’s standards, it may or not be successful, but that’s really irrelevant. Satan is a great imitator, and he has a false gospel, a false discipleship, and a false sanctification. Especially vulnerable are those who get caught up in following some famous Bible teacher’s pet theories and religious vagaries, never settling and abiding in the Truth themselves. It is of first importance that the Christian learn to glorify God no matter what happens to him or her, whatever it takes, whatever it means, even if it means being dropped to the bottom of the ladder, even if it means stooping to drudgery or bending low in unappreciated service to others.

Saving grace is always serving grace, and if we are not serving we had better check our theology. If we do not learn how to bring the glory above down into the misery below and come from the clouds to the barrios, then we do not really understand what it means to glorify God in sickness and in health, in life and in death, by what we do and what we forego, in body and in spirit, theologically and practically. As the Master, so the servant. No one can die and rise with Christ and live comfortably in a world like this. He bids us come and die. The early Christians wore scars but we want accolades. Do you have any wounds to prove that you have been in the battle? Or is “glorifying God” a mere slogan? True Christian activity should be the outflow and expression of our intimacy with God. Genuine discipleship will cost us everything we have. It cost John Bunyan his pulpit and John the Baptist his head. It may cost you your family. As we talked about yesterday, people call themselves “Christians” who are not Christian. The noun has yet to become an adjective. Our actions do not match our motives. We need to become Christian Christians.

I’m excited (and a bit anxious) about how all of this is going to turn out in my life. God, true to form, is shaking things up. Which is why I’ll keep writing, keep sharing with you my struggles and aspirations and frustrations and victories. Because you are part of His work in my life through your prayers and emails, part of this awesome journey we call life. And that, my friends, is good enough reason to keep blogging.

God richly bless you,

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

What is the Church? A List

5:05 AM At the risk of repeating myself …

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

Think about it.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Are Americans Persecuted

10:35 AM Jonathan Merritt’s latest post is called In the Middle East, Not America, Christians Are Actually Persecuted. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to boycott Target because their employees wish you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Xmas.” (Yes, I used Xmas intentionally.)

Case in point: In Ethiopia, Tesfai’s 8-year old daughter was decapitated and her headless body was thrown down the village well, simply because her family was Christian. Yet Tesfai has never complained. He truly loves his enemies.

Jonathan puts it so well:

Let’s be clear: protecting religious freedom is a serious concern, and believers should speak up whenever they feel the free practice of any faith—not just their own—is threatened. But what is happening in America is not “persecution.” Using such a label is an insult to the faithful languishing in other parts of the world where persecution actually exists—places like the Middle East.

The true scandal of the North American church is that, while we are getting stuffed with the Gospel over and over again, most of the rest of the world is waiting to get a single bite. Folks, we need to ask ourselves seriously why God has blessed America so richly. The answer seems clear to me: So that we might share our rich material and spiritual resources with others. That’s a worthy goal to strive for, don’t you think?

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

13 Things Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You

1:36 PM The Reader’s Digest once published an article called “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Well, here are “13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You.”

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there.

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek did not have to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament revelation. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can.
7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine.)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun. At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”
13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase.

Now who wants to tackle “13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

12:13 PM Steve Scott’s latest essay is a real winner: Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs. Steve points out the irony that those Christians who want smaller and smaller government are often the same Christians who want more and bureaucracy in the church. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I referred to this as the “FDR-ing of the church.” Steve writes:

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On the Authorship of Hebrews

Richard Ousworth has published a fine piece called What Are They Saying about the Letter to the Hebrews? (.pdf). Much of it is a review of Alan Mitchell’s recent commentary in the Sacra Pagina series. As someone who has published a number of essays on Hebrews, I was interested in this quote about authorship:

Let us begin, then, with authorship. It continues to be obligatory,
apparently, to quote Origen’s remark, cited by Eusebius (Church History
6.25.14) that ‘only God knows’ who wrote the Epistle, though in fact – as
Mitchell correctly points out – Origen did in several places defend the
Pauline authorship of Hebrews (see e.g. Letter to Africanus 8, Contra
Celsum 3.35 and 7.29). It is surprising, though, that Mitchell spends as
long as he does dealing with the only recent serious defence of Pauline
authorship, by D.A. Black in Faith and Mission 18 (2001). Some of
Black’s arguments are seriously flawed, and every modern commentary
offers a long and convincing list of reasons for thinking that, while there
are intriguing parallels between Hebrews and some Pauline theology –
and of course the reference to Timothy at the end of the last chapter – this Epistle simply cannot be of Pauline authorship in any meaningful sense.

I dare say I am honored to have been mentioned as someone who has given a “serious” defense of Pauline authorship. I strongly disagree, however, with the notion that Hebrews “cannot be of Pauline authorship in any meaningful sense.” If you’d like to know why, see my essay. Suffice it to say here that the external evidence continues to be overlooked in certain circles, and it is the external evidence that, in my view, is probative.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus Paradigm, and Why Four Gospels?. Used by permission.)

Vocation to Ministry?

From Dave Black Online:

10:36 AM I have a question today, a question to which I do not know the answer. When will appeals for vocations to the ministry end? And when, in their place, will the church encourage all of its members to seek God’s will for the area of ministry in which they can most effectively be used by Him? I propose that we never again use the expression “call to the ministry” unless we are careful to apply it to each and every Christian. All this will neither be easy nor popular. Yet at some point it must be done. One of the main reasons for burn-out in the pastorate is that it is often carried out alone. The New Testament never envisaged such a predicament. Ministry needs to be shared. Jesus realized this: He sent out the apostles two by two. Paul realized this when he appointed elders (note the plural) in every church. And it needs to be modeled by today’s Christian leaders. It is not until church members are enthusiastic about their own God-given gifts that we will succeed in being the Body of Christ.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

Hekastology

7:17 PM Today in Greek class we went on yet another rabbit trail, this time along the path of ecclesiology. Church structures must be participational rather than representative, I told my students. My excuse to bring up this topic? A very good one indeed. The vocabulary to today’s lesson included the adjective hekastos, which, as everyone knows, is one of the my all-time favorite New Testament Greek words — so much so that I even invented a new word in the English language in its honor (see my book The Jesus Paradigm for a reference to the doctrine I call Hekastology).

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