Archive for December, 2007

History of Bible Interpretation

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

I just listened to a neat episode of Theology Unplugged, from folks over at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. It’s a half-hour broadcast called The History of Interpretation Through the Reformation. If you go over to the entry in their blog (link below), you can listen to the broadcast through streaming audio. (Meaning, you don’t have to download a file to listen–you can listen with a player in your browser.)

They give a sketch of how people interpreted the Bible in the early church, how things developed into the authoritative teaching structure of the Roman Catholic Church, and how things changed at the Reformation. (They promised that in the next episode, they’ll talk about German higher criticism. Isn’t that exciting? 🙂 )

The History of Interpretation Through the Reformation

P.S. In the previous episode, they talked about the way Matthew uses the Old Testament to point to Christ in ways that sometimes seem like inventive exegesis. (As in, did the OT writer really intend that verse to point to the Messiah? What’s going on?)

The Meaning of Faith – From Michael Patton

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

In my drafts, I’m working on a post about the definition of faith. The working title is “Faith: Does It Have To Be A Blind Leap?” (Though I think I’ll change it to “Blind, Near-sighted, and 20/20 Faith”.) It deals with the definition and use of the word “faith” in the Bible, challenging the idea that faith inherently means something like “blind leap”. Some people will contrast faith and knowledge, saying that if you know something, you don’t have faith–as though faith implies you lack solid knowledge. Hebrews 11:1-3 notwithstanding (“faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”), I don’t believe that’s quite right, and I want to explain how and why.

I bring this up to refer you to a fine entry Michael Patton just wrote on the same subject, called Can I Just Define “Faith” However I Please?. He approaches it from the angle of how perceptions of faith developed since the Reformation. He uses the three elements of faith that the Reformers discussed: notitia (the content of the information or proposition), assensus (intellectual assent), and fiducia (personal trust or reliance).

This is why many in the church today have the right information (notitia) but they blindly trust in that information without considering it in a critical manner. Notitia and fiducia without assensus is blind faith.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that this kind of faith cannot be real, but I am saying that it is dangerous. The more I read about those who have “walked away from the faith” the more I see that their faith was void of this important element that solidifies the truth in their heart.

Am I saying that assensus is the most important aspect of faith? Not at all. All three are equally important. What I am saying is that it is the most neglected. When assensus is neglected, Christianity has no more legitimacy than any other worldview. This is unfortunate.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

— Translated from the Liturgy of St. James, 4th Century

New Feature – A Mailing List!

Monday, December 24th, 2007

If there are a lot of blogs you want to read, it can be bothersome to have to go to each blog individually to see if there are new entries. There are two ways around that problem: Mailing lists and RSS feeds.

Mailing Lists

I just installed a new plug-in for my blog that will let you subscribe to a mailing list. Any time I post a new entry, you’ll be notified by email. You can unsubscribe at any time. The subscribe form is available on the sidebar to the right, and also has its own page, linked up above.)

RSS Feeds

The snazzier solution is something called RSS feeds–it stands for Really Simple Syndication. If you’re already familiar with RSS, you probably already noticed the feed links in the sidebar. If you’re not familiar with RSS, and want to find out more, you can read this introduction, or the article at Wikipedia. In a nutshell, when you subscribe to an RSS feed, you don’t have to go to each of your blogs individually–your browser itself can keep a list of your blogs, and tell you whenever new entries are posted. Most major news sites also have RSS feeds for their headlines. (The link for a feed is often marked with this icon: RSS Feed)

You can set up a Google Reader page for your RSS feeds. If you use Firefox, I recommend the Sage plugin. (It makes a sidebar in your browser with a list of blogs you’ve subscribed to; any time a new entry is posted, that blog turns bold.  Here are some screenshots.)

Here are the links for my feeds–one for the entries, and one for comments that people post:

RSS Feed Entries (RSS)

RSS Feed Comments (RSS)


Keep in Step with the Spirit

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

I recently started reading Keep in Step with the Spirit by J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God. The first edition came out in 1984, and it was recently updated for a second edition. It’s a study of the new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit, dealing with questions that affect the life of every Christian as we seek to “walk in the Spirit”–to live the Christ-centered, God-honoring life for which we were created and saved.

Taking a few excerpts from the Amazon description, it is “not merely a theological study, but a rousing call to encourage believers to implement the Spirit’s directives in their lives.” It is a “radical call to personal and corporate revival”, in which Packer “restates the Christ-centeredness of the Spirit’s ministry, reaffirms the biblical call to holiness, and even-handily assesses the charismatic movement.”

The last part is of particular interest to me. I purchased this book as part of my own extended study into charismatic issues. My personal background is lacking in charismatic-type manifestations. (This is not to say that God has not worked powerfully in my life, or that I’ve had no experiences. But I don’t remember anything that I thought of at the time in charismatic terms.) When it comes to stories of manifestations, my natural inner tendency is to be somewhat skeptical. And since I joined an independent charismatic church last January, I am forced to consider these matters carefully. (To clarify, Hope Chapel does not engage in the sort of chaotic practices that Paul critiqued in 1 Cor. 14. In the main meeting, our charismaticism is mainly manifested in a joyful, energetic worship style. Those who attend are from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of views about spiritual gifts & prophecy. And the teaching is strongly biblical, and centered on Christ.) (On another side note, I value the fact that Hope is more charismatic than I’m used to, regardless of what conclusions I end up coming to. I think it’s beneficial to be at a church that’s a little more something than you’re used to, within limits–it’s a way of challenging you to learn, to consider, to practice discernment, and to get outside the traditions you hold to just because it’s your background.)

So, I’ve been wrestling with questions related to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, such as: How we are to expect the Spirit to work in our lives and in the church, what it means to hear the voice of God, how we are to discern the will of God, and how we are to exercise discernment while maintaining an open and humble spirit and an expectation of the power of God. (more…)

A New Blog

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I’m sorry, it’s been a while since my last post. I have one written on the Holy Spirit, but I want to give it a little more thought, so it’s stuck in my Drafts page.

For the moment, I’d just like to share a new blog with you. It was just started by a friend of mine named Katy, from my small group. The name is Life in the Shadowlands. I’ve read the first entry, and it promises to be delightfully edifying. Welcome to the blogosphere1, Katy!

[1] Oh dear, isn’t that an ugly word?