Category Archives: Bible

Who Are You?

From Alan Jacobs:

In one of my classes I have been teaching the book of Job, and finding myself (not for the first time) surprised that this strange and even shocking book made its way into the canon of the sacred books of the Jewish and the Christian people. It’s fascinating to read the Talmudic commentary on Job: the rabbis did not know who wrote it (some thought Moses), they did not know when it was written, they did not know whether it is a piece of historical writing or a fable. All they knew was that it is a holy book. And that is a remarkable thing.

The best thing I have ever read about Job is the brief Introduction to the book by G. K. Chesterton. Here’s a taste:When, at the end of the poem, God enters (somewhat abruptly), is struck the sudden and splendid note which makes the thing as great as it is. All the human beings through the story, and Job especially, have been asking questions of God. A more trivial poet would have made God enter in some sense or other in order to answer the questions. By a touch truly to be called inspired, when God enters, it is to ask a number of questions on His own account. In this drama of skepticism God Himself takes up the role of skeptic. He does what all the great voices defending religion have always done. He does, for instance, what Socrates did. He turns rationalism against itself. He seems to say that if it comes to asking questions, He can ask some question which will fling down and flatten out all conceivable human questioners. The poet by an exquisite intuition has made God ironically accept a kind of controversial equality with His accusers. He is willing to regard it as if it were a fair intellectual duel: “Gird up now thy loins like man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me” (38:3). The everlasting adopts an enormous and sardonic humility. He is quite willing to be prosecuted. He only asks for the right which every prosecuted person possesses; he asks to be allowed to cross-examine the witness for the prosecution. And He carries yet further the corrections of the legal parallel. For the first question, essentially speaking, which He asks of Job is the question that any criminal accused by Job would be most entitled to ask. He asks Job who he is. And Job, being a man of candid intellect, takes a little time to consider, and comes to the conclusion that he does not know.  

Read it all here.

               

 

Creed: A Core Set of Beliefs

From The Center for Baptist Renewal, one Southern Baptist Church’s explanation of why and how they incorporated creed statements in their worship:

The Apostles’ Creed is one of the most significant compilations of Christian beliefs in the history of the church. However, Southern Baptists have avoided it throughout our lifetime, citing the Bible as their sole creed. As Southern Baptists, we deeply appreciate the insistence on the unique authority the Bible has. Yet, the writers of the creed would not have argued with that point. We think that’s why they wrote it. Imaginatively, the writers of the creed said, “we need to make sure that Christians know, in short form, the most important things the Bible teaches since most of them may not be able to read the Bible themselves.” We can imagine that such a conversation then generated this and other creeds. Thus, it is categorically impossible to claim a high view of Scripture and ignore a statement intended to highlight its central themes. Since Baptists cling to political statements thought to emphasize biblical truth (“right to life,” etc.), it is confusing to hear talk about the various theological statements throughout time as if they undercut biblical authority. We don’t dichotomize the bible from what it teaches historically anymore than we do politically, and have implemented the creeds to emphasize the biblical nature of our faith at Redeemer Baptist Church. Here is why and how that happened.

WHY DID WE DO IT?

We did it to affirm certain truths while rejecting other cultural maxims weekly, because we weekly forget our faith at the most rudimentary levels (my emphasis). Everyone determines their own god/s? “We believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” There is no reasonable reason to believe Christian claims?  “On the third day he rose again.” Christianity is splintered? We believe in “the Holy catholic (universal) church.” The creed is a way of saying, “the Bible says . . .” each week with an orienting voice. As fathers, we tried to develop a voice with our kids by which all other voices were measured. We wanted them to evaluate cultural postulations (sold as “everybody believes” this type “truth”) by what they hear from us as parents. We wanted all other male voices in daughters’ ears measured against their own father’s voice. Similarly, due to the many competing voices and stories, both liberal and conservative, throughout our culture, we felt the need to set forth the core biblical elements by which RBC could measure all other stories or voices. Further,  creeds provided a core set of beliefs for our congregation so that, regardless of the distinctions of other Christians around us, we could cling to these core elements and celebrate the fact that we were one family in Jesus (emphasis added)….  more.

 

Bewitching Heresy

“It is not strange to see that the most dangerous heretics have many followers, every error being a friend to some lust. ”   Alexander Nisbet (1623-1669)
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Timothy 4:3

Written For Our Instruction

This morning I read two essays that stressed the importance of Christians reading both the Old and New Testaments.

From Joshua Heavin on The Danger of Ignoring Old Testament Scripture:

Even amongst the most Bible-oriented churches, many of us spend the bulk of our time teaching and preaching from the New Testament rather than the Old. Moreover, when preaching and teaching from the New Testament, preachers and teachers often rely mainly on personal anecdotes or pop cultures references for illustrations rather than the Old Testament…. [which] arguably hinders disciples from becoming trained to make connections across our canon of sacred writings.
…we need to reaffirm or rearticulate how the Old and New Testaments are related. Jesus is not the fulfillment of Israel’s story such that Israel’s story is now obsolete because of God’s new action, nor because a new God has acted to supersede Israel with the Church as a ‘New Israel.’ Rather, Jesus of Nazareth’s particular history as Israel’s Messiah is the fulfillment of Israel’s story in his own person through his incarnation, appearance, kingdom-inaugurating words and deeds, crucifixion, death,  resurrection, ascension, present rule, and intercession.
In other words, there would be no gospel and no Christian hope without Israel, through whom the one God freely determined to bind Godself in covenant relation. The Messiah, who gifts the Holy Spirit to gentiles for adoption as sons and daughters of Abraham, makes us co-participants as gentiles in the cosmos-renewing story of Israel’s God. Paul indicates that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4) and that events in the Old Testament such as the wilderness testing “happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Hence, those who are ‘in Christ’ become re-readers of Israel’s Scriptures in light of Christ’s death and resurrection at the end of the ages.
From the other article, some of this Baptist pastor’s points in extolling the benefits of using the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) to guide church’s worship and teaching:
  1. The Breadth of Scripture: [F]ollowing the RCL helps the congregation hear the entirety of Scripture over the course of three years.
  2. Affirming the Church universal: Every Sunday, while our people at our local congregation are hearing the words of John 2.13-22 so also are myriads of congregations hearing these same passages. We are one congregation in the midst of the Great Congregation. Not only across space, but across time.
  3. Shaping the congregation: The seasons of the Church Calendar provide us opportunity to pause at intervals to consider various aspects of our discipleship.

He states another important benefit:

Because the RCL has us read from four passages of Scripture each Sunday, we see the value of poetry, history, prose, prophecy, and epistle. We see them as equally important to our devotion.

 

Read it all here.

Evasion

In a recent essay Alan Jacobs asks “What do we see when we look at ourselves?”

…This essay has been, I hope it is now clear, a series of stories of evasion. Human beings wish to believe in a pure and good inner self led astray by “cultural forces”; or a conflicted self that is concerned not with righteousness but only with happiness and unhappiness; or a self afflicted by and seeking to throw off the burden of a flawed and inadequate past; or no self at all. We will, it seems, do almost anything, construct almost any story, to avoid the recognition that something is deeply wrong with all of us, that whatever it is causes us to do what is wrong, and that we cannot plausibly blame that wrongdoing wholly on external forces.

…. We will tell ourselves almost any tale—we will describe all our sins and crimes from the outside in—rather than confront the darkness of our nature.

This line of thinking is not liberating, but to our doom.

Jacobs points out “…there are older, more rigorous, more deeply engaged models of selfhood which strenuously deny that selves are unified and authentic—that see the human self as real but constituted by its divisions.” [he continues]

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . .

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

For St. Paul there are indeed selves, but they are never simply unitary, they have no obvious “core,” their territories are always and strongly contested.

The essay.