As I mentioned before, in Colossians 1:24-29, the apostle Paul talks about his own ministry.
In verse 24 he talks he says “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” I have commented on that verse here: Sufferings for Christ’s Sake. Now he goes on to talk about his ministry in terms of servanthood.
I have sometimes encountered resistance to the idea of the “Servant Leader.” A colleague in the ministry, many years ago, was contemptuous of the idea. If you are the leader, you are in charge — that was his point of view. If you were a servant you served at the wishes of those were in authority. To him, it was a matter of who gave orders, and who served. Yet, in the New Testament, both Jesus and the apostle Paul take a very different view. Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV). It seems strange to me that my old colleague in ministry could not wrap his head around this principle from the teaching of Jesus. But, it is clear that the apostle Paul also subscribed to this view. To him, true leadership was also a form of servanthood. (more…)
In the Introduction to his book Desire Found Me, André Rabe makes the following comment:
God and our concepts of God are not identical. God seldom, if ever, reveals concepts about himself. He simply reveals himself. Such encounters deeply transform our concepts.
Just so. Our concepts of God are conclusions people have reached from the way in which God has revealed God’s self. God does not send a theology text to the human race. God encounters people in the midst of their lives. On the basis of these experiences, conclusions are drawn. Philosophy — that is to say, our general knowledge of logic and of the world and the way it works — is drawn in to fill out the picture. But, the encounter is first.
Christians believe that the ultimate revelation of God is the Person of Jesus Christ — often called by theologians “the self-revelation of God.” But, Christ’s coming into the world was for the purpose of human redemption — for more than for human information. (more…)
The only knowledge of the world that is available to us is probable knowledge. Everything in the world we live in is based on probability. We are forced to base our day to day decisions on what is probably true, what will probably happen, and so forth. I’m sitting in a chair. I suppose it might collapse. Any number of things might happen. A meteorite might come crashing through the window and kill me in the next few minutes. But, since neither of these things are the least bit probable, I need not worry about them — or even think about them.
I can’t wait for absolute certainty. I must act based on what I believe is likely to be true, what is likely to happen, and so forth. The Cartesian reconstruction (or Lockean reconstruction) of knowledge — arriving at certainty based on “sense experience” — is a mistaken quest. That kind of certainty is simply not available. (more…)
- The opening verses of chapter 3 identify the people against whom Amos is prophesying: “against the whole family that [God] brought up out of the land of Egypt.” (Discussed here.)
- Verses 3-8 speak of Amos’s own role as a prophet. (Discussed here.)
- Verses 9-15 speak of the destruction that will fall upon the nation.
The prophet calls the surrounding nations to witness against YHWH’s Chosen People.
הַשְׁמִיעוּ עַל־אַרְמְנוֹת בְּאַשְׁדּוֹד וְעַל־אַרְמְנוֹת בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְאִמְרוּ הֵאָסְפוּ עַל־הָרֵי שֹׁמְרוֹן וּרְאוּ מְהוּמֹת רַבּוֹת בְּתוֹכָהּ וַעֲשׁוּקִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ
“Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod, and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, ‘Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria, and see what great tumults are within it, and what oppressions are in its midst.’”
The people of God are on display. Their behavior is being judged by the nations around them. The tumults (מְהוּמֹת) and oppressions (וַעֲשׁוּקִים) in its midst shock even the nations. The witnesses are to assemble on Mount Samaria — indicating, as usual, that the Northern Kingdom is the main focus of this prophecy (though, compare verse 13). Amos chooses two nations as his witnesses — he mentions Ashdod, a major city of the Philistines, and then Egypt. It is, of course, significant that the invited witnesses are also traditional enemies of the nation. Before them, Israel is put to shame — before these nations who are not the chosen of YHWH. Yet, the prophet implies, they have a better sense of right and wrong. They become the judges. (more…)
The other day I attempted to tweet a link to this quote using the Kindle app, but the quote is (of course) too long. So, I am posting it here. This quote is from Robert John Russell’s book Time in Eternity: Pannenberg, Physics, and Eschatology in Creative Mutual Interaction. It comes at the end of a chapter discussing Albert Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.
Nevertheless, Einstein’s work leaves unresolved the underlying philosophical problem of the unity of spacetime. In response my proposal is that theology can offer the needed insight to resolve this philosophical problem . My beginning point is Pannenberg’s claim that the divine eternity receives and unites distinct and separate timelike events in the world into the co-presence of eternity. I then extend this claim by suggesting that the divine omnipresence unites distinct and separate spacelike events in creation by God’s ubiquitous presence to them. Thus , while it is God’s eternity that gathers up and unites separate events in time while preserving their distinctions, it is, in my view, God’s omnipresence to and in the world that gives to the world, fragmented into individual spacelike solitary events, the underlying differentiated unity that Clarke sought unsuccessfully. And if this holds true, it is surely a promising discovery about the gifts theology has to offer as it engages creatively with the natural sciences. And it in turn is particularly indebted to the theological writings of Wolfhart Pannenberg.
Russell’s book is a detailed attempt to show how science can contribute to the theoretical models used in theology, and how theology can contribute to the theoretical models used in science.
And, he is building on the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg — who was a trailblazer in the area of science and theology.
I think this is an exciting line of thought: science can contribute to theology and theology to science in what Russell calls “creative mutual interaction.”
In the chapter that follows this, Russell defends a concept of “flowing time” as an alternative to the common “block universe” interpretation of Special Relativity. The book is tough going — not because it of the writing (actually Russell writes with remarkable clarity, given the subject matter) — but because of the complexity and non-intuitive nature of the topics discussed. But, I think Christians with a background in contemporary physics — or some knowledge of it — will find this fascinating.
An urban church rejects the idea of charity and finds renewal: ““If we believe that God’s spirit is flowing down on all people, old and young, women and men — and on the poor… why don’t we treat people like that’s true?”Here: Death and resurrection of an urban church.
Greg Boyd: “Some scholars today argue that the stories recorded in the Gospels are actually intentional fabrication. In essence, they argue that Mark took Paul’s theology and robed the story of Jesus in a fictitious historical narrative. The other Gospels followed suit. The argument is clever and removes the difficulty of explaining how a legend of a God-man could arise so quickly among first-century Jews. But there are 7 major problems with this contention….” Here: Are the Gospels Historical Fiction?
Kimberly Winston quotes Lawrence Wright, one of the producers of a new documentary on Scientology: “When people see for themselves the testimony of people who have been through the Scientology experience, they’ll have a better idea of what they might be in for if they decide to join the church….” Here: HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Questions the Future of Scientology, (more…)
I find passages like this some of the most interesting parts of Paul’s letters. Here we see his motives in ministry. Here we see what kept him going. Paul is often very open about his discouragements and failures, as well as his successes. In that regard, I have always found 2 Corinthians interesting as well. Here we get to see the apostle’s motivations, his discouragements, his goals.
In the verses before, he has dealt with more theological issues — though these are issues which have very serious bearing on their lives. He writes to correct misconceptions which have become prevalent in the Colossian church. He believes that ideas influence behavior — and that is why is is so often concerned to correct mistaken theological ideas. (more…)
The great revival of trinitarian theology in the late twentieth century helped us to understand that the doctrine of the Trinity is not just one Christian doctrine among others. It is the comprehensive doctrine that gives unity to the whole Christian faith. Without it, the gospel itself collapses into incoherence. Whereas it was pretty much a dead letter in the eighteenth century, rejected by rationalists and Deists as an illogical conundrum, and held by many Christians merely as a badge of orthodoxy, it has become increasingly clear in our day that every area of Christian doctrine is illuminated and held together in unity by our confession of the Triune God.
One reason why it was regarded as unintelligible by rationalists and Deists, and as mere “ivory tower” theory by many believers, was that it had become separated from the story of the gospel.
— Noble, T.A. (2013-02-19). Holy Trinity: Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting (Didsbury Lecture Series) (p. 128). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I was extremely skeptical the moment I opened the package and saw the book.
For some reason I signed up for Mike Morell‘s Speakeasy program. It’s one of those programs where bloggers can get free books in exchange for reviews. I don’t know what possessed me to sign up. I don’t need any free books — I have far too many already. And, I don’t review books on this blog — though I often mention books that I’m reading.
I guess my thought was that the Speakeasy books might occasionally be interesting — who knows. I didn’t lose anything by signing up, and I might occasionally be alerted to something offbeat and interesting. So, I started getting the Speakeasy emails — adding that to the growing clutter in my email inbox.
I responded to one of the offers one day. Quite a while later the book arrived. The book was Desire Found Me by André Rabe. It looked self-published to me from the moment I laid eyes on it. A note in the opening pages says that the cover art work was produced by the author’s wife Mary-Anne. My first thought: “Oh, no, I just got a book from some crackpot.” My second thought: “And I’ll have to write about it on my blog to stay in the Speakeasy program.” (“Oh well,” I thought, “small loss if I don’t.”) (more…)
The opening verses of chapter 3 identify the people against whom Amos is prophesying: “the whole family that [God] brought up out of the land of Egypt.” They are the people that God has especially known. But, their special relationship with God implied a responsibility to live a life that reflected the character of the God who redeemed them.
Now, in verses 3-8, Amos talks about his own role as a prophet.
It begins with a series of cause and effect questions: when you see a certain effect, you can infer its cause? Or, as we might say: “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” They go like this:
- Two people are walking together —> they must have made an appointment
- A lion roars in the forest —> the lion must have caught something
- A bird falls into a snare —> there must have been a trap
- A snare springs up —> it must have taken something
- A trumpet is blown in the city —> the people must be afraid
This is another one of Amos’ rhetorical devices, he is leading up to something — the last cause and effect is a little different: (more…)
I fear, wherever riches have increased, (exceeding few are the exceptions,) the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore do I not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.
Guest blog by Steve Holmes. Steve is a Baptist minister, who teaches theology in St Mary’s College in St Andrews, Scotland. He teaches in the areas of historical and systematic theology, and also on homiletics.The main areas of study are: evangelical Christianity, Baptist theology, and constructive theology. He is particularly interested in the doctrine of God, and how the Trinity relates to philosophical ideas of God in history (particularly the church fathers) and in recent theological reformulation. He is also interested in the doctrine of salvation, particularly the atonement.
Steve blogs at Shored Fragments where he explores “theology and culture from an Evangelical perspective.”
I have had a couple of conversations with (good, close, affirming, valued) friends recently in which I have been challenged to be less generous in argument: ‘truth matters, and we need to contend for it!’ – that sort of line. I confess that this makes me uncomfortable. (more…)
On March 3 I wrote about the theme of reconciliation in Colossians 1:21-23. Yeah, but I left something out.
I said that the passage seemed (to this person who has spent a large part of his life looking for such things) to fall into a nice, neat sermon outline:
- The need for reconciliation: “And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds….”
- The purpose of reconciliation: “…as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him….”
- The condition of reconciliation: “…provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard….”
- The scope of reconciliation: “…which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”
Nice little (old-fashioned) sermon outline, huh? Yes, but it’s missing something. At the time, I was very consciously leaving out point #5: The means of reconciliation. (more…)
The Old Testament is a wonderful gift from God to us. It is wonderful that we have this record — so ancient, so fascinating. These were the Scriptures of the earliest Christians — who turned to them to understand what God had done in their midst in Christ. It was the context of these Scriptures in which Jesus himself had taught — to a community shaped by it’s stories and laws and prophecies and poetry.
And if anything is central to the Old Testament itself, it is the first five books.
No doubt the material we currently know as the books of Moses (or the Pentateuch, or the Torah — that is, Genesis through Deuteronomy) were assembled and edited in the period of Israel’s exile in Babylon — they became especially valuable to the people in the times of the exile and then the re-establishment of the nation — they served to teach the people who they were in the light of their history as the people of YHWH. But, the stories themselves go back much further. The people of Israel knew themselves to be a nation that had been delivered by God from Egypt — and the exile, no doubt served as a time to gather those stories together. (more…)