Category Archives: Ministry

What Kind of Church?

8:22 AM Mornin’, yall! Let’s return for a moment to the picture I posted the other day of this Catholic “community” in North Dallas.

St. Rita Catholic community

Is that how you would describe your “church”? Peter Savage once wrote a fascinating essay called “The Church and Evangelism.” It appeared in The New Face of Evangelism, a book that was edited by C. René. Savage suggested four models of the church that are in operation today in North America. Here they are:

1) The lecture hall. This is the church where people go primarily to listen to sermons. I’d say that in many traditional Baptist churches, this model most definitely applies. The pastor is even called the “preacher,” the service “the preaching service.” I myself have always been attracted to meetings like this, especially where there is excellent Bible teaching. You know, you go in with an empty notebook and come out with a full one. You know, the kind of church where the pastor says “Now the fifth thing I want you to know about this Greek verb is ….” Yep. Suits me to a T.

2) The theater. This is the church people attend because of the drama of the service, the great music, as well as a good sermon. And have you noticed — even the architecture in our churches encourages this view of the church? As in a secular concert hall or theater, you have programs and ushers, cushy chairs (instead of hard pews), and you expect to be royally entertained for about hour. Participation on your part? It doesn’t exit, except perhaps to applaud.

3) The corporation. This is the highly-programmed church. For every need there is a provision. When our children are growing up, this is the kind of church we often are attracted to. We gotta make sure there is a good children’s ministry and a good youth group and lots of exciting events to attend.

4) The social club. The focus here is not so much on the word or on entertainment or on programs but on social works. Food drives. Car washes. Community service.

Savage then goes on to discuss the church as the New Testament seems to depict it: as a community of obedient followers of the Lord Jesus. The emphasis is on sacrificial living rather than on knowing the truth about the Gospel. The note of genuine community is primary. Hierarchical titles that tend to create distinctions among the brethren are discouraged (the elders are known by their first names). Have we ever seen churches like this? Yes, indeed. They were called the Anabaptists. Here’s what they stood for:

  • serving instead of ruling

  • breaking down walls instead of isolationism

  • biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition

  • brotherhood instead of hierarchy

  • the towel instead of the sword

  • the headship of Christ instead of that of any pastor

  • the way of peace instead of “just war”

  • the church as a living organism instead of as a human institution

  • the reign of God instead of a political kingdom

  • the catholicity of the true church instead of sectarianism

  • the power of suffering instead of the cult of power

  • the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars

  • loyalty to their heavenly citizenship instead of loyalty to the principalities and powers

  • Spirit-orientation instead of forced structures of church life

  • being a “light to the nations” instead of a Christian enclave

  • suffering instead of inflicting suffering

  • knowing Christ instead of merely knowing about Him

  • faith that works (in both senses) instead of dead orthodoxy

  • effectual grace as a living reality instead of as a theological dogma,

  • every-member ministry instead of clergyism

  • baptism into Christ instead of baptism into a denomination

  • a unity that is lived instead of a unity that is merely extolled

  • welcoming the despised and marginalized instead of ignoring them

  • a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge

  • individual conscience instead of theological conformity

  • volunteerism instead of professionalism

  • and allegiance to Christ instead of allegiance to the state

Significantly, in this kind of a community, Christ’s followers are all seen as brothers and sisters, each with a vitally important contribution to make to the whole. Church is now characterized by direct relationships, by reciprocity, by obedience to the Gospel, by deep fellowship, by mutual assistance, by participation by all of its members. The church no longer exists for itself but for others. Its kingdom call is reconciliation of people to Christ through the Gospel. Church growth for growth’s sake is now seen as a form of missional mutilation. There is a reawaked awareness of the value of spiritual gifts. It is a community created and animated by the Spirit. It is, moreover, a missionary community. The gathering exists only for the going. There is a keen sense of responsibility for evangelization and church planting in other nations. Mercy ministries also have their place.

Folks, we live in a techno-age, that’s for sure. Even yours truly just got an iPhone! In this kind of a society, the church can easily morph into nothing more than a smoothly-running machine with a veneer of power. Of course, there is a biblical alternative. I think the Anabaptists nailed it. For them, church was a radically biblical, caring community of believers totally sold out to Jesus and His reign.

Wow.

What a church.

What a community.

 

Cessationist or Continualist?

8:32 AM Are you a cessasionist or a continualist? I want to go on record and affirm that I am a passionate continualist.

  • I believe we ought to continue the pattern of simple, radical, life-style evangelism begun in the book of Acts. After all, it worked for the early church.
  • I believe we ought to continue bearing a humble, faithful, and consistent testimony to Christ, as the early believers did. Let moderns appeal to the sensational and spectacular; even the early church knew of signs and wonders. But the greatest work of the church has not been the spectacular but rather the faithful day-in and day-out living of normal everyday Christians.
  • I believe we ought to continue the pattern of church discipline as practiced by the early church and call out “play Christians” that only go through the motions thinking they are Christians but unaware they are only pretending. When the secular press begins to mock our inflated membership statistics, isn’t it time we did something about it?
  • I believe we ought to get out of our cozy churches and put Christ on display in the world’s darkness where we are needed. For the early Christians, the field was the world, and the corn of wheat had to die if it was to please God and bear fruit. Why, then, do we sit around debating theological puzzles when we ought to plant our lives in the ugly soil of the world?
  • I believe we ought to continue the emphasis of the New Testament upon every-member ministry, since we are all priests – every one of us – of the Most High God. No church in the New Testament had a single pastor who did all the work. If you have such a leader in your church, fire him – and then hire him back immediately as your CEO, “Chief Equipping Officer” (Eph. 4:12).  
  • I believe we ought to continue the early church’s rejection of blind patriotism. The only Christian nation the Bible knows is the blood-bought, born-again purchased people of God.
  • I believe we ought to follow the example of the apostle Paul and eschew the excellence of human oratory and any appeal to human wisdom. Nothing about the Gospel pleases this world – nothing! – and we are never so foolish as when we try to dress it up in the garish garments of this age.
  • I believe we ought to continue the example of the early church and reject position and power as the measuring sticks of success. Why should we seek prominent seats in the kingdom when our Lord promised us not seats but suffering? Obedience cost John the Baptist his head and Jonathan Edwards his pulpit. What has it cost us?

So … are you a cessasionist or a continualist?

(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.)

Worship, Service, and Mission

9:06 AM My good friend Craig Bennett is back from a transforming retreat. He tells all in his latest post called Stripped away. Craig notes:

I have to say that at this point in time, I am ruined for the lifestyle of traditional church. Our modern churches are too safe. They are too “ME” centered. While its true, most churches proclaim Christ and him crucified – it seems to me that most neglect the important part of living out Christ and him resurrected within the midst of our communities. There is little sense of the importance of mission in the midst of our community.  There is little sense of the importance of those who we walk on by.

This is so right on! In recent years I have come to view church in a vastly different way than I used to view it when I was a younger teacher. I have, in fact, adopted a new set of theological assumptions that color my theological world and the way in which I view church and missions. My former worldview was deeply shaped by twentieth-century evangelicalism. In my experience, to be an evangelical Christian was to be a good church goer. Christianity was fundamentally about us. What was lost in this view was both the missional dimension of the church and the cruciform nature of Christianity. Today my definition of discipleship has shifted considerably from that of being “a good church goer.” Discipleship means following Christ in obedience. It means participating in God’s mission in the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is exercised primarily in the broader culture rather than within the church. Missional theology, understood through the framework of the book of Acts, invites us to express our discipleship not only in doctrinal formulations (though these are vitally important) but also in missional practices and concrete acts of service.

For this reason, like Craig, I can’t be content any longer to talk about a missional theology without at least exploring its implications for its transformation potential. God’s concerns are much bigger than the typical church’s concerns. Take worship for example. Understood biblically, worship is not a gathering of individual Christians seeking an intimate experience with God. Rather, worship is the offering of our lives sacrificially to Him daily (see Rom. 12:1-2). Worship is not merely an occasional activity of the believer. Instead, it defines the core of Christian discipleship: We are called to be worshippers in every sphere of life by participating in the Triune God’s mission in the world. This can take place only through intentional “neighboring” practices and in relationship with non-Christians. The key is for ordinary Christians (like you and me) to develop their capacity to serve their neighbors in love. The work of the Spirit is crucial to this renewed participation in society. Christians are to embody the ethics of Jesus before a watching world, providing it with a limited but powerful glimpse of what it means to be a bearer of God’s image. The Gospels clearly present Jesus as constantly moving into unfamiliar territory across cultural barriers and social lines. And at the heart of it all is the cross – the profound need for reconciliation through Jesus Christ, in whom God has acted to overcome the enmity of human sin. True Christian discipleship always means taking part in Christ’s ministry in the world in a dynamic yet concrete fashion.

Thus, when we speak of worship today, a much wider definition is needed. The church does not gather in order to worship. Believers gather as worshippers who have found their vocation in sharing in the community of Christ as He sends them like sheep among wolves to minister to the needs of others. This, as I said, represents a major paradigm shift in my own understanding of Christian worship. As I see it, too much of what passes as Christian worship today is unaffected by the world. It stands aloof, isolated, and ingrown. The incarnation and crucifixion are sung about but the realties behind these truths are rarely put into practice. Rather than participating deeply in the life of the world, the church holds itself apart from the world. This leads, in turn, to a highly individualistic conception of discipleship – a kind of anthropocentricism focused solely on an individual relationship with Jesus that fails to take into account the wider fabric of the Christian community, not to mention the Triune God’s life and activity with all creation. What remains is a watered-down, emasculated version of worship in which the vocation of the church as a missional, worshiping Body is severely diminished.

One of the key trends in the world of seminary training today is the struggle to understand what a “missional” church looks like. I would suggest that a good place to start might be our understanding of New Testament worship. Such an understanding may well open up new possibilities of thought in matters such as congregational polity, leadership, and even missional theology.

(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.)

Of Christian Scholarship and Missions

8:37 AM Good morning folks! Got time for a “missions moment”?

I’ve been teaching fulltime now for some 36 years, beginning with my alma mater, Biola University in Southern California. But for the past several years I’ve also been a fulltime “missionary.” This is not merely a matter of semantics. By mediating scholarship and service, I’m trying to cope with the incessant tug-of-war between the classroom and directly facilitating the Great Commission.

Are you going abroad again?” is a question I’m often asked by students and colleagues. As part of my equipping ministry, I spend most of my so-called vacation time each year taking the Gospel to the nations as a tentmaker. My “scholarship,” no doubt, has suffered as a result. I should not want you to feel sorry for me in the least because of this, however: there is no sacrifice involved. Strangely enough I feel a bit like the apostle Paul who said, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). Because I have been entrusted with this commission, and since there is really no choice for me in the matter, there is no sacrifice.

What is it, you may wonder, that led to this shift in perspective in my life? (I am often asked this question.) It is simply this. The more I study the New Testament, the more I am faced with this reality: If we are truly Jesus-followers, we cannot refrain from giving our lives for the world. Tertullian’s oft-quoted testimony shows how the church’s essential function is practical service in Jesus’ name: “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another…. Look how they are prepared to die for one another.’”

I claim, then, that service in the world is the apex of Christian living; it is the center, not the circumference. One sad aspect of the professoriate is that scholarship and missions are sometimes divorced. (Not in my seminary, of course – wink.) Truth is disconnected from life. But the church’s mission to give itself for the world – the world that God loves – belongs to the academicians and theologians among us as well as to the accountants and salesmen. After all, the point of teaching Greek and Hebrew and church history and theology is not to make our students dependent on their teachers but dependent on the Head, so that each of them, and all of them together, might allow Jesus to live among them and in them and through them.

In other words, a seminary is designed to help Christians be Christians. Not just to talk “Christianese.”

It would be fascinating to comb through the entire Bible to discover how many commandments it gives us. Yet two commands sum up all the Bible’s demands on believers: Love God, and love others. To return, then, to my point: Every Christian is called to share in the evangelization of the world. I see no reason why academics should be given a pass. How foolish to think that we are exempt from living for the Gospel. I am not against attending academic conferences or writing books or giving lectures – I have done all of them – but much current scholarship, I feel, is a laid-back, pleasure-oriented, “hot tub” pursuit (apologies to J. I. Packer). I recall Kierkegaard’s warning that there is nothing quite as dangerous as the abuse of Christian scholarship (Provocations, p. 201):

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

No, my friends, we cannot evade our responsibility. Missions is the work of the church. That work is for all believers. It is for all the regions of the world. Only as a missionary agency does the church justify its existence.

(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.)

Co-Opting God for Our Political Agendas

6:04 AM Much is being written in the blogosphere these days about American exceptionalism, voting, military service, the pledge of allegiance, etc. The discussion reminds me of another conversation that took place between the 16th century Anabaptists and their Reformed forebears. (History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.) Perhaps I should tell you where I stand.

Claiming God’s special blessing for our nation (or race, or class, or group) is nothing but hubris. We co-opt God for our political agenda whenever it suits us. As Lincoln put it in his Second Inaugural:

Neither party [North or South] expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained…. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other….

Radical Christianity pursues a different path. Rather than trying to get God to be on our side, it tries to be on God’s side. This means, among other things, putting God’s purposes ahead of our own group or nation’s self-interest. This is the original NT message called the Gospel. It is a practical vision that creates a people who transfer their human identities from national loyalties to a new identity as the global people of God. Their mission is both to proclaim and live the kingdom of God, in contrast to the selfish kingdoms of this world. This “new nation” of Christ-followers does more than preach the Gospel. It lives it. Wherever you see Christians welcoming Muslims into their community and befriending them for the sake of the Gospel, wherever you see pro-life churches going beyond mere words of protest and actively supporting pregnant women financially so that they can carry their children to birth, wherever you see believers offering hope where nobody else does – there you will see kingdom of God in practice.

In his book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, reveals how the Republicans in the Bush administration sought the votes of evangelicals but had no real interest in leading a new Great Awakening. “This [is the] message that has been sent out to Christians for a long time now: that Jesus came primarily for a political agenda, and recently primarily a right-wing political agenda – as if this culture war is a war for God. And it’s not a war for God, it’s a war for politics. And that’s a huge difference,” said Kuo in an interview on 60 Minutes. His point? Mixing evangelical faith and Washington politics-as-usual is antithetical to the Gospel.

Herein lies one of the greatest challenges of modern American evangelicalism. Today God and conservatism have practically merged into one. The “wonder-working power” of politics now drives a large segment of the Christian right. But sin is our trouble, not liberalism in government. To treat cancer by temporary measures is to endanger the victim still worse. David Kuo will probably be considered a neurotic pessimist by his cheery fellow-preachers, but he is right and they are wrong, even if he learned his lesson the hard way. Modern political machinations – whether by the right wing or the left wing of evangelicalism – are nothing more than fads that work up mere optimism and positive thinking. Whenever government tries to make men good without being righteous – something the devil would love more than anything in this fallen world – the professing church becomes cluttered with hosts of superficial saints who never sell out to Christ.

Anyone who reads the New Testament will see that Jesus refused to identify Himself with any of the politico-religious parties of His day, whether they were called Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, or Zealots. Likewise, Christians today must maintain an ultimate commitment to Christ and eschew loyalty to a political party – any political party. It is indeed a decadent citizenry that rejects sound doctrine and heaps to itself politicians to tickle its itching ears. Yet who will deny that this is happening? Mr. Kuo is undoubtedly aware of the risks he is taking in airing his criticisms. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered the 1978 commencement speech at Harvard, one newspaper said, “Prophets are not popular. They are uncomfortable people; they make poor house guests. Not only are they not honored in their own countries but sometimes not even in their own times. The greatest of them have been labeled as arrogant, self-righteous, presumptuous, unpatriotic.” Mr. Kuo’s experience is a reminder of how easy it is for well-meaning Christians to substitute political activism for genuine compassion. As long as good people try to remedy conditions with temporary palliatives there will be a need for prophets like David Kuo. That’s because lostness – not liberalism, not libertarianism, not “compassionate conservatism” – is our problem. We are sinners, blind, even lepers, and to try to make people religious without making them righteous only makes them harder to reach with what they need most.

If there is to be today a new politics of faith based on the cross of Christ, it will have to meet critically these issues. This means for me personally that it is not enough to question the just war tradition or to condemn the Constantinian compromise in the abstract. Nor is it enough to rail against the Christ-washed militarism being offered in His name by our politicians. Nor can I merely exegete Jesus’ mandate in the Sermon on the Mount disinterestedly. The only responsible Christian ethic is for me to become an active participant in service and sacrifice for the sake of the Prince of Peace. I must discover what it means to rid myself completely of the baggage of self-will and to plunge into the tranquil sea of God’s will where alone I will find joy. There are countless situations in my life in which I must decide to put the interests of others above my own life-interests. The power of nonviolence is an important step on the downward path of Jesus, but only if I deliberately chose such a path can “peace on earth” begin to be realized. At the very least, this means for me:

  • rejecting the mindset of Western imperialism
  • refusing to support the notion that Christian missions benefits from the spread of empire
  • preaching the cross instead of the protection of the sword
  • placing love of enemy at the heart of the Gospel rather than at its periphery
  • affirming an allegiance to Christ that transcends national boundaries or roles
  • bearing witness of sacrificial service in the name of Christ
  • helping to move peace toward the center of the church’s witness in the world
  • teaching about the alternative model provided by the historic peace churches
  • living a life of radical discipleship
  • being willing to suffer in the spirit of the cross and to undergo a literal baptism unto death if need be
  • focusing on the cross as the center of my faith and life
  • manifesting the firstfruits of the kingdom of peace in mutual aid and love with the community of faith
  • repudiating any coercion or manipulation of faith by the state
  • praying constantly that God would move to ameliorate the hatred and pride that provide the occasion for war
  • struggling to perfect my life by the Holy Spirit in the confidence that the Lord is at work
  • being nonconformist yet involved in attempts at reconciliation worldwide
  • preaching the Gospel persuasively and powerfully in deed as well as in word
  • maintaining warm Christian fellowship with all who sincerely follow the guidance of conscience with regard to military service, including those who feel obliged to render such service

In the end, while I cannot say that I am currently a peace church pacifist, this is irrelevant since pacifism, unlike the just war tradition, is not as much a dogma to be believed as a lifestyle to be practiced. The work of a genuine peacemaker must be to call civil governments to account and to help limit the violence when conflict is actually in progress. At the very least there is never any reason to glorify revolution or war or to utter blatantly warmongering statements such as were made by candidate John McCain in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. The downward path of Jesus to which the Gospel calls us requires both peacefulness and peacemaking, and the history of the church shows our urgent need to be reminded of these twin emphases again and again in view of the church’s compliance with violence.

(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.)

Was Timothy a Pastor?

11:54 AM Last night I read a new book entitled Called to Lead by Anthony Robinson and Robert Wall. It’s a commentary on 1-2 Timothy. These are said to be “letters to a young pastor” (p. 4), and we are told that “These are a pastor’s letters to another pastor” (p. 5). Hence, “we who are called to pastoral leadership may turn to these letters with special interest, anticipating a particular benefit” (pp. 5-6).

Of course, a few moments of sober reflection will poke massive holes in the assumption that 1-2 Timothy were written by a pastor for pastors. This cliché reflects ignorance of the history of the early church and especially the book of Acts. A reading of Acts 20, for example, will show that the church at Ephesus already had elders (note the plural) when Timothy was left there as Paul’s personal representative. I grabbed from my shelf Homer Kent’s commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. On p. 19 he notes, “The function Timothy fulfilled in the early church should not be confused with the present-day pastor.” He is absolutely correct. Neither Paul nor Timothy was a “pastor” in the NT sense of the word. Paul was an apostle, and Timothy was his “official delegate to assist the Ephesian church with its officials in conducting the affairs of the church” (p. 19). I’m not sure it is helpful to ignore these basic historical facts when interpreting these letters.

The Doctrine of the Church: 8 Points

4:48 AM Looking forward to our study of the doctrine of the church on Sunday mornings. Much of what we call “church” today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.

  • The Lord’s Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.

  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.

  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.

  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.

  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.

  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.

  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.

  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers.

The New Testament shows us that the need great of modern Christianity is to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the New Testament.

(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.)

Need an Interpreter

8:12 AM When preachers use Greek from the pulpit, should someone be required to interpret (see 1 Cor. 14:26-32)? A preacher, for example, might etymologize. “The Greek word here [name the word] is composed of two roots [name them in Greek], the first meaning ____ and the second meaning ____; hence the word means ______.” The problem is that these definitions often do not comport with actual New Testament usage. The preacher has committed the root fallacy, exposed so long ago by Don Carson and others (including moi). Here’s the problem: Who in the congregation is able to check the accuracy of remarks like that? This is where Paul’s teaching about tongues in 1 Corinthians might have an application. You will recall that Paul requires the one who speaks in a tongue to provide an interpretation at the same time. Or else someone else would have to be present who could show the value (or non-value) of its worth for the edification of the Body. In this way Paul sought to rob the tongues-speaker of the subterfuge and mystery inherent in “unknown tongues” without discouraging initiative of the right kind.

Maybe this is a good reason to always have a Q & A session after we preach/teach. I’m told that even the Golden-Mouthed orator Chrysostom allowed questions during his sermons.

Just a thought.

(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.)

The Banner of the Cross above All Other Flags

Recently PBS published a story called Colorado Springs Evangelicals. The new head of Focus on the Family is interviewed in depth. His goal? To engage the culture without becoming “wrapped around the axle of politics.” He is so right about this! The bottom of the bottom line is simply this: politics and religion don’t mix. Look, you are I are called to follow Jesus and advance His kingdom, which is “not of this world.” It’s also important to remember that the earliest Christians loved and supported their communities. They did not look down on lost sinners. It’s a beautiful thing when you begin to hear people at Focus on the Family admit that it was a mistake to become cultural warriors. The truth is that our activism has been a loud gong that has drowned out quiet voices, so that the culture has lost interest in anything we have to say. The people who have changed the world have always been risk-takers who climbed down through torn up roofs while the rest of the world slammed doors. I was a stranger at first to this kind of thinking, but my reading of the Gospels completely changed all that. (See my The Jesus Paradigm.) I don’t believe that God needs an advocate in DC or a faith-based organization to promote His kingdom. So I urge us all to be careful who we pledge allegiance to. Let’s be careful to raise the banner of the cross high above all other flags. So watch (or read) this interview. It should make us all uncomfortable. But the more you read the Gospels, the more your comfortable life will be interrupted.

(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.)

On Hermeneutics and Praxis

5:46 PM Good Wednesday evening to you, thoughtful bloggers! I’ve been preparing for my course on hermeneutics at Odessa Theological Seminary next month in Ukraine. For what it’s worth, I’ve been jotting down some initial thoughts about hermeneutics. I’m calling them “Tentative Tenets of a Course in Hermeneutics.” I want to be clear that I’m exploring this train of thought. Here goes:

1) In studying hermeneutics, the emphasis must always be on “praxis” as opposed to mere abstract thinking. We need to “do” theology and not just teach it.

2) This means that theology must be incarnational, must be brought down to earth, must always be oriented to the pastoral needs of the church.

3) In my view, missions and theology belong together. As Paul says in Rom. 12:1, we must present our “bodies” to God as living sacrifices because deeds can be done only through bodies. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, His heart and mouth.>

4) Thus hermeneutics — the science of interpreting Holy Scripture — is an eminently practical discipline. The Bible itself stresses the importance of practicing the truth. The apostle Paul places an extraordinarily high value on deeds (see Eph. 2:10).

5) That said, hermeneutics, as I understand the task, is a high-risk enterprise. We study so that we may love and obey Christ. And He promises us trouble.

6) In short, hermeneutics is from beginning to end a way of life. Great theology must always produce relevant Christianity. Once this is recognized, we can begin to separate ourselves from the dark seductiveness of modern-day Gnosticism. At the heart of hermeneutics lie sacrifice and service, endurance and suffering, and above all fidelity to the Great Commission and a rejection of any lesser cause.

Anyone taking my class in Odessa will be faced with these questions. These are monumental issues. I trust that my students will leave the class championing the inextricable link between theology and spirituality, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, knowing the truth and practicing it. We need to rediscover the fact that hermeneutics does not mean merely the study of Scripture but rather the relational activity of trusting, living, obeying, serving, and glorifying God, through death if necessary. Knowing Scripture, in other words, involves obedience. It is the chief function of hermeneutics to unleash the power of the Lord in the midst of His people so that we do His will and thus bring glory to His name.

Friends, we need constant vigilance against substituting knowledge for action. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To honor the King rightly, we must never forget this.

Long live the King!

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.)