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New Testament Class

Saturday, January 16

7:22 AM New Testament 2 begins next Thursday. It’s all about becoming New Covenant Christians, about following the downward path of Jesus, about towel and basin ministries that attract not-yet Christians to the Good News.

Information leads to internalization and finally to implementation.

The famous painter Henri Matisse once said, “Artists should have their tongues cut out.” An artist’s message should come through on the canvas, not through the chatter of words. I can hear the apostle saying to Timothy and Titus, “If you need to, cut out your tongue and do your ministry, not only talk about it. Let the sheer demonstration of your kingdom lifestyle be what impacts the lives of others.”

The first book my students will read this semester is this one:

A few quotes if I may:

  • Orthodoxy is incomplete — a disastrous aberration even — without orthopraxy.
  • God is calling out a people who are committed to living lives of genuine obedience to Christ.
  • Anyone who tries to make Jesus into a conservative or a liberal must be reading a different Bible than the one I know and love.
  • It is my conviction that only when the church keeps its involvement nonpartisan can it go about its legitimate business of serving humanity.
  • Power has ruined America. Not only on the liberal left. Now it seems to have done the same for the religious right.
  • By “followers of Jesus” I do not mean mere admirers of Jesus, but people radically committed to following his example and teachings– a minority group, if you will, within a culture created by Christian majority groups.
  • Neither passive withdrawal nor pro-establishment politicking will do.
  • The American church has forgotten this servant role of Christianity. We attempt to exploit the powers rather than persuade them to conform to the way of Christ.
  • It is relatively easy to follow Jesus to the cross, but it is considerably more difficult to follow him on the cross.

As I stand before my students and listen to them talk about their churches and ministries, I see these questions in their hearts and hear them in their voices. What is keeping us from obedience? Selfishness, comfort, expediency, church tradition, fear of rejection, control. These have kept me bound for years, but they cannot accompany the downward path of Jesus. Unless you leave all behind you can’t be a real disciple.

So that’s what our class will be all about. Will we study the theme and date of Romans or the discourse structure of Hebrews? Absolutely. Will we accept Jesus’ invitation to be a disciple worthy of him? Stay tuned.

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

On Christian Freedom

Sunday, January 3, 2020

8:38 AM Hey folks! Are you a teacher? I am. And it’s “Back to School Day” tomorrow. What should be our basic attitude as teachers toward our students? A famous quote from Martin Luther comes to mind. He said:

Ein Christenmensch ist ein freier Herr über alle Dinge und niemand untertan. Ein Christenmensch ist ein dienstbarer Knecht aller Dinge und jedermann untertan.

This is from his great booklet Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen

Druck mit einem Text Martin Luthers “Von der Freyheyt eynisz Christen menschen. Martinus Luther. Vuittembergae. Anno Domini 1520.” Erstellt wurde die Schrift im Jahr 1520 von dem Drucker Johann Rhau-Grunenberg.

I supposed we could render the German as:

A Christian is the most free lord of all and subject to no one; a Christian is a dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.

Christian freedom is no more freedom to do what I please in reference to my old sinful nature as it is to do what I please in reference to my neighbor. Freedom does not allow us to ignore or neglect the needs of our fellow human beings. We are commanded to both love them and serve them. I have often told my students, “You’re not here to serve me; I’m here to serve you. You don’t exist to make my life easier; I exist to make your life easier.” What I’m trying to get across is that, even though they are my students, I see them first and foremost as persons for whose good I must be willing to sacrifice my time, energy, and convenience. I had teachers in college and seminary who loved their students that way. After I had completed my second year of Greek during summer school at Biola, my elderly Greek teacher, who used a cane, knowing that I was leaving for Hawaii the next day, hobbled all the way across campus to my dorm room and up a flight of stairs just to hand me my graded final exam and to congratulate me on a job well done. That memory is seared into my brain. The popular image today of a teacher as a cold and cruel taskmaster is completely foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. We are through love to become each others’ slaves (Gal. 5:13).

Fellow teachers and fellow students, if we love one another we will serve one another. The marks of love — please note, Dave! — include patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and faithfulness. To truly love our students is not to exploit them for ourselves but to serve them sacrificially for their good. Of course, some will try and take advantage of you, but I’m not talking about them.

So there you have it. My secret sauce for successful schooling. 

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

Books Read in 2020 – David Alan Black

Thursday, December 31

12:50 PM I’m an avid reader, as many of you are. So I thought I’d collect and photograph some of the books I read in 2020 that I enjoyed the most. 

Mind you, these are 13 out of hundreds of books I read this past year. Each has helped me get perspective on some topic or issue I was working through/thinking about. I’m pretty much a huge fan of these authors, even when I disagree with them (Scot McKnight and I do not agree on a whole lot). 

One of them even had the audacity to call for an end to church buildings (hmm, maybe like Bonhoeffer did?). Two of these authors are Greek grammarians, and we all know how much people love them

The book by James McWhorter merits a nod because it’s about language and how language works, and because he discusses these subjects with both aplomb and humor. 

And what can I say about Malcolm Muggeridge? You’ve never heard of him, right? 

Reading Muggeridge is dangerous. He might actually change the way you think about Christianity. 

Muggeridge was always talking about the bankruptcy of politics and how materialistic societies are prone to hero-worship. Having by and large ceased to believe in God, we pay increasing obeisance to the king or the president, creating a kind of ersatz religion. Little wonder he was banned from the BBC. 

Behind the Ranges is about missionary J. O. Fraser. 

It’s a must read. It was a required textbook back in the day at Biola. It was Fraser who famously said: “I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third place, and teaching the fourth.” 

Finally, where would an educator be if he or she didn’t work on their craft? That’s why I was delighted to have picked up at a library sale somewhere Suskie’s Assessing Student Learning.

So there you have it. I am never happier than when I am reading a good book. How about you? What titles did you read in 2020 that you’d recommend? Let us know on your blog or Facebook page.

From Dave Black Online, December 31, 2020. Used by permission. Dave Black is the author of a number of Energion titles, including They Will Run and Not Grow Weary.

One Holy Passion

Monday, September 28

6:45 AM I love to run. You all know that. But read these words:

  • Give me one pure and holy passion
  • Give me one magnificent obsession
  • Give me one glorious ambition for my life
  • To know and follow hard after You.

That’s pretty much life in a nutshell. Wherever I am, whether in the calmness of the farm or the hustle and bustle of Wake Forest, I should be running towards my Savior. That’s the only place I’ll find sure footing.

Meanwhile, I plead with you: Do not get distracted by politics. Keep you eye on the ball. Be kingdom people. Never offer even as much as a pinch of incense to Caesar. Walk in love as Christ loved us. Ask God to bless your enemies. Pray earnestly. Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from him. Reject Laodicean self-sufficiency and complacency. Chose not fleeting fame. Look to Jesus for everything. Combine eager anticipation of his coming with faithful service until his appearance. Refrain your tongue from speaking evil. Hold forth the word of life. Make room in your life for miracles. Translate doctrine into duty. Do not surrender to defeatism. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Rejoice in the mundane and perfunctory. Check your motives. Face sin and deal with it. Love the truth. When problems come, Hallelujah anyway! One day we will “bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all.” David’s Son will yet reign where’er the sun doth its successive journeys run. But first he must be King in our hearts.

Today is all we’ve got. Let’s make it a good one and finish what we start.

Paul’s Magna Carta of Christian Liberty

(July 4, 2020) 8:15 AM Good morning, and Happy Independence Day! What better way to spend the morning than by reading and meditating upon Paul’s Magna Carta of Christian Liberty, the book of Galatians! My study focused on the letter’s second paragraph, namely 1:6-10. This morning I chose as my base English text the Good News Bible, comparing it carefully it with my Greek New Testament.

I was again reminded of just how difficult it is to translate from one language into another. Choices, choices, choices! The GNB’s “I am surprised” could have also been rendered “I am shocked” or “I am amazed.” The GNB’s “you are deserting” could have also been rendered “you are turning away from” or “you are transferring your allegiance from.” The GNB’s “there are some people who are upsetting you” could have also been rendered “there are some people who are agitating you” or “there are some people who are troubling you.” The GNB’s “trying to change the gospel of Christ” could have also been rendered “trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” or even “trying to reverse the gospel of Christ.” The GNB’s “may he be condemned to hell” could have also been rendered “may he be accursed” or even “may he be anathema.”

The list goes on and on. How does one decide which meaning is correct or best suits the context? That, alas, is the question of the ages for anyone seeking to exegete a biblical text! That’s how this works, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how this works. You labor and struggle and ponder and compare and review options until you come to your own understanding of what this or that passage is actually saying. That said, Paul’s point here is clear:

To turn away from Christ and embrace another gospel is to desert the only true gospel. We cannot finish, by our obedience, what Christ has begun. We cannot add our works to the work of Christ. Salvation is by grace alone. To add human works to the finished work of Christ is to introduce confusion and error into the church. But God will not stand for that. The Greek word translated “accursed” is anathema. Paul wants God’s eternal judgment to fall upon the false teachers. Why, to imply that Christ’s work was somehow incomplete is to make his cross redundant! There’s only one gospel and it must be kept pure at any cost. This is the message of Galatians in a nutshell.

Friend, whenever I think of Christianity as a set of external actions, as a way I have to look or act, I tend to fall into the trap of legalism. But I can’t push and shove my way closer to God. True spirituality isn’t primarily a matter of works and human willpower. It is all God’s grace. He simply draws us to himself and we’re overcome by a sense of awe and reverence, gratitude and humility. Legalism, on the other hand, is a game nobody ever wins.

I don’t know why I’ll telling you this, dear reader. Nothing I just wrote is new to any of you. I think Gal. 1:6-10 just reminds me of how Paul seems to be saying, “Dave, on this Fourth of July, do not forget what was purchased for you on the cross of Calvary. Stand fast in that liberty from both legalism and license by which Christ has set you free. God did not pay such a price merely to shine you up a bit and add his righteousness to your own. It is by God’s grace, his unmerited favor, that you are saved. As you live looking to him for every need of body, mind, and spirit, enjoy the freedom from fear and worry and all the evils that would enslave you.” I think it was Phillips Brooks who said, “Grace stands for Great Redemption at Christ’s Expense.” Whoever it was, that’s what it is.

Independence Day is a beautiful day for the people of the USA. Let us celebrate every year with grateful hearts, beautiful fireworks, and food aplenty. Happy Fourth of July!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

On Critical Scholarship

(June 29, 2020) 8:10 PM Hello bloggers and bloggerettes! I was humbled to have been invited to speak to the Christian student organization at Princeton University in May. Obviously the trip had to be postponed to next year. There is a beautiful grassroots movement arising among the university students of our land. Thousands of young people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the church in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. The irony is that, just as millions of American evangelicals are running away from science, many non-evangelicals are running away from it too. There are many reasons for this. One is the professionalization of the academy, beginning in the late 19th century. Biblical scholarship became the exclusive domain of graduate schools and seminaries. Another issue that divided evangelicals concerned the “scientific” approach to the Bible. Many evangelicals of the 20th century objected to methods that had originated in German scholarship. These methods were thought to call the authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture into question. However, believing critics began to accept these newer methods without their underlying presuppositions. They found both insights and errors in biblical scholarship. They called for renewed honesty in dealing with critical issues in the biblical text and began to integrate their findings into their faith journey. I believe that if evangelical Christianity is to shed its anti-intellectual and anti-scientific trappings, it also has to shed its isolated and divisive politics, since the former is the direct consequence of the latter. My professors in Basel combined heartfelt devotion to Christ with a love of theology. They practiced a rigorous intellectual life and embraced cutting edge science. I believe it is indeed possible to enter the intellectual centers of society (like Princeton) without compromising the Gospel and the authority of Scripture. God, after all, is the author of both science and the Bible. I’m not advocating for an intellectual elite or arguing that the life of the mind is more important than that of the heart. The effort to think Christianly is simply an effort to take the sovereignty and providence of God over the world seriously. By contrast, the trend of political activism moves people to shut down their minds, to reject public discourse, and to drive a wedge between Christian thinking and Christian doing. As Christians, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our minds. At the very least, this would involve an effort to think across the whole spectrum of modern academia (history, philosophy, science, linguistics, politics, medicine, ethics) within a specific Christian framework.

All this and more is what I would have spoken about at Princeton. The mind, the arts, the sciences — all these spheres are created by God and sustained by his glory. A vision of education that pits Christian intellectual inquiry against “secular” intellectual inquiry will only deepen the chasm between the church and the world. 

Blessings on you all, and keep growing, thinking, and loving!

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of a number of Energion Titles including The Jesus Paradigm, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, and The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul.)

Two Things We Must Do

(Monday, June 15) 8:38 AM My reading this morning was in one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, Hebrews 13.

There are two things we must do as followers of Jesus, and the church must lead out in this matter (see verse 16):

Do not neglect to do good and to share with others who are in need, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Being a Christian consists of more than loving God with our entire heart, soul, strength, and mind. It also consists of loving our neighbor as ourselves. The earliest believers in Jerusalem illustrated their love for God through (Acts 2:37-47):

  • Evangelistic preaching
  • Christian baptism
  • Apostolic teaching
  • Genuine relationships
  • Christ-centered gatherings
  • Fervent prayer

But they also showed their love for God through showing love for their brothers and sisters by sharing whatever they had. In fact, “All the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need” (Acts 2:44). Thus the 7th mark of a New Testament church is sacrificial living. Love for God is always matched by love for others. They are two sides of the same coin. They always go hand in hand. So if we say that we love God and see a brother or sister in need and then don’t help them, how can God’s love be within us? “Little children,” writes John (1 John 3:18), “let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” This is what the impoverished Macedonians did. Writes Paul (2 Cor. 8:3-4):

They gave not only what they could afford, but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to, and not because of nagging on my part. They begged us to take the money so that they could share in the joy of helping the Christians in Jerusalem.

Fellow saints, how easy it is to praise God in the Sunday service and neglect our ministry to the needy. Praise must be put into practice by relieving the needs of the poor. In fact, the author of Hebrews sees our deeds of mercy and love as sacrifices of praise. Y’all, we need so many things today, but perhaps most of all we need a afresh awakening of social responsibility. We need to be people who do a lotta listening, a lotta learning, a lotta loving, a lotta living out the Gospel we proclaim.

Lord God, come and make us givers, not takers. For when the needy are helped and the oppressed are defended and the blind see and the deaf hear, will not many have to marvel and confess that Jesus the Nazarene is surely among us in all his saving power?

From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, and many other books.