On New Testament Ministry

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Professor Black posted this up on his blog this week.

Looks like he has made an addition or two, but nonetheless, I really like these convictions.

Someday, I’ll add a few of my own…

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

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Paul and the Pastorals – J. R. Daniel Kirk Responds

I just saw this today while perusing J. R. Daniel Kirk’s site Storied Theology (one of my favorite blogs by the way) and thought it appropriate to post up since I am in the midst of this topic myself.

His take on it here is brief, but he makes a few really good points on both the rationale and methodology behind even asking such a question – Did Paul write Timothy/Titus? – and the reasons why he came to the conclusion that Paul did not.

This is a much bigger study than I originally anticipated, but has been very insightful and has challenged me in a number of ways.

So, since some of my readers are waiting for more on this from me, I thought this post might get some thoughts flowing.

Cheers!

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Pastoral Epistles – A Short Bibliography

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are several of the sources I am working through and will cite:

Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, and Karl P Donfried.  “1 Timothy Reconsidered.”  Peeters, 2008.

  • Well balanced, recent scholarship, excellent chapters from Margaret M. Mitchell and Luke Timothy Johnson,  Karl Donfried’s comments are both commanding and centering.

Guthrie, Donald.  “The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul.”  Website.  BiblicalStudies.org.uk, n.d..

  • Older article available as a PDF, good introduction to the issue, holds to a Pauline writing of the letters.

Hylen, Susan.  “The Paradox of Women in the Early Church: 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla.”  Website.  as.vanderbilt.edu, April 2012. (JBL?)

  • Seeks to break current/basic mindset regarding the roles of women in the early church, pursuasively contends that 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla do not portray opposite perspecives with regard to the portrayal of women.

James, M. R.  The Acts of Paul and Thecla.  Website.  earlychristianwritings.com, Trans. 1924.

  • Believed to be a second century document written by a Christian bishop who was later removed from his position for having written it, Tertullian’s comments about it promote the possibility that it was popular oral tradition among the early churches.

Knight, George William.  The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992.

  • One of the first in the NIGNT series, surprisingly conservative, more surprisingly lacks insight at pivotal points, holds to Pauline authorship.

MacDonald, Dennis Ronald.  The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon.  1st ed. Philadelphia: Westminister, 1983.

  • The book that got me thinking, compares & contrasts The Acts of Paul and Thecla to the Pastorals, holds to a purposeful second century pseudonymous authorship as a corrective to Christian asceticism.

MacDonald, Margaret Y.   The Pauline Churches: A Socio-Historical Study of Institutionalization in the Pauline and Deutrero-Pauline Writings.   Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Out the gate states the Pastorals are deutero-Pauline, looks at the issue sociologically with a view to the institutionalization of the church.

Miller, James D.  The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents.  Cambridge University Press, 1997.

  • The second book that got me thinking ( I am currently on my second read), sees the Pastorals as composite documents much like The Gospel of Thomas was believed to be collected and distributed as a whole most likely in the late first or early second century.

Misselbrook, Peter.  Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus.  Website.  Misselbrook’s Musings, 2002.

  • From his notes on the Greek New Testament and downloadable as a PDF, an excellent resource to read as a commentary as you read the Greek, typically quotes conservative scholarship, portrays a Pauline authorship in his notes.

Rumney, Gavin.  “Issues Surrounding the Authorship and Dating of The Pastoral Epistles”  Blog.  Otagosh, May 6, 2008.

  • Another good introduction available as a PDF from a fellow New Zealand blogger.
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Interpreting Scripture – The Pastoral Epistles As A Test Case

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an earlier post, I challenged Moises Silva where he was basically stating that his theology should inform his interpretation of a given text.

Building on that, I have found that interpreting the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) prove to be an excellent test case.

Scholars seem strongly divided into two main groups here, and it revolves around if Paul wrote these letters or not.  Now, as I will show later, there are actually dozens if not hundreds of possibilities and suggestions when it comes to how and when these letters were written. But let’s put that aside for the moment.  The two very general interpretive camps, as I see it, come down to the inspiration and authority of scripture.

Those who hold strongly to inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration have a very difficult time accepting that anyone other than Paul himself wrote these letters.  Some may go as far as to say that he used an amenuensis (basically, someone we might understand to be a secretary) assist with the writing, but that the words are Paul’s as he was inspired by God to write them.

Those who are not as interested in inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration are seemingly quite ready and able to see other options, writers and possiblities for the production of these letters.

So, right out the gate, Silva’s model reveals it’s product – the text says what you believe it should say.  If the interpreter is an Evangelical, they read it as coming from Paul.  If the interpreter is not theologically predisposed, they read it as quite possibly coming from sources other than Paul.

Now this is where it gets interesting.

There are all sorts of theological issues embedded in these letters.  Probably the top three in contention these days are the issue of the role of women in ministry, the qualifications for ministry and the formation of scripture.

I would like to address these issues in future posts as I work through these three short letters because, for the most part, these issues can be interpreted in very different ways depending upon how the letters are approached.

Those that know me, will recall that I came from some pretty conservative theological roots.  None of my training for ministry, formal or informal, ever attempted to teach anyone but Paul the Apostle as the author to these letters.  After all, that is what the text itself says, right?

Right???

Any thoughts on this before I dive in?

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Crucifixion – Peter Rollins’ Book Insurrection

I am currently reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Peter Rollins’ book Insurrection and just had to post up this quote:

To believe in the Crucifixion means nothing less than participating in it. We miss something crucial if we take the biblical witness as a mere signpost that points to a distant time in history. Christian belief in the Crucifixion is not about accepting some historical event; we are not invited to merely affirm or contemplate the death of Jesus on the cross, but to undergo that death in our own lives. And just as Jesus was cut off from everything that grounded him, so our participation in the Crucifixion will involve the same troubling, terrifying process. (pg 29)

The Apostle Paul speaks of this often…Galatians 2:20 immediately comes to mind, but I don’t think many Western Christians can identify with truly embracing, let alone expecting to experience the terror of “being crucified with Christ.”

Rollins indeed pushes the limits in attempting to move his readers from a place of comfort and rest to one of a more legitimate identification with Christ, a place where in following him we must inevitably die, and not just once, but multiple tragic and painful deaths throughout our lives.

Clearly, this is not easy to accept. Recall how many walked away from Jesus deeply vexed because of his “hard sayings.”

Rollins challenges us to for once take Jesus seriously and to be willing to literally lose everything just as Jesus did…a hard saying, indeed.

Silva On Interpreting Scripture – A Critique

Cover of "Interpreting Galatians: Explora...

Cover via Amazon

I recently re-read an old text I read years ago entitled, Explorations In Exegetical Method: Galatians As A Test Case by Moisés Silva – Grand Rapids, Baker, 1996.  It is now available as Interpreting Galatians: Explorations In Exegetical Method. (As best I can tell, the pages I am about to work from are still in the current edition.)

The one thing I really admire and enjoy about Silva’s work is his candid approach and his ability to mellow out the rough edges often produced in academia, in this case, specifically regarding exegesis.  He has an intriguing ability to “pull back the curtain and reveal the Wizard” while still valuing the process of academic study of the Bible.

However, one set of comments struck me as particularly unsatisfactory.

In the Epilogue: Reader and Relevance, Silva is outlining the relationship of exegesis and systematic theology and makes the following claim:

…my systematic theology should actually inform my exegesis…my theological system should tell me how to exegete..[this is] indeed the only real option.  (207)

Here I think he has gotten the cart before the horse.  In fact, compare what he wrote to the definition of the word eisegesis:

- an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.

One’s theology is based upon interpretation (good or bad) of the necessary events, communication and texts.  As such, a theologian (and that covers anyone from novice to professional who intends to utilize or put into practice what they read in the scriptures) formulates and systematizes his or her ideas based upon their understanding of what they have seen, what they have been told and what they have read.  Additionally, one’s culture, experiences and proclivities  further dictate the conclusions made.  All of this allows them to form their belief system, their theology, for better or for worse.

Silva gives three reasons in defense of his statement above (pgs. 208-210):

1.  Systematic theology is the attempt to reformulate the teaching of Scripture in ways that are meaningful and understandable to us in our present context…the very process of organizing the biblical data – to say nothing of the use of a different language in a different cultural setting – brings to bear the theologian’s own context.

2. Our evangelical view of the unity of Scripture demands that we see the whole Bible as the context of any one part…the whole of Scripture as having come from one Author, therefore, to that extent a systematic understanding of the Bible contributes to the exegesis of individual passages.

3. Everyone does it anyway.  Whether we mean to or not, and whether we like it or not, all of us read the text as interpreted by our own theological presuppositions.

As I have already stated, my biggest problem with Silva’s first statement is that he has placed the cart before the horse.  If we consciously bring our theological grid to the table, we will force what we read through that grid.  A classic example of this is the debate around Romans 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (NASB)

The typical historic protestant interpretation of this takes faith as that of the individual, and consequently, the rest of the letter is interpreted with a view to “the human predicament” as Stendahl rightly observes in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles.  So, just as Silva describes it, everyone keeps following that same trail of viewing Romans as dealing with the grand theological and protestant scheme of the fall of man and God’s answer to that theological problem.  Have you heard of The Romans Road?  This is a classic example, but I digress.

In comparison, here is my translation of Romans 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God, saving everyone who believes – “both the Jew first and the Greek.”  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed though faithfulness to the faithful, as it has been written, “The righteous One by faith will live.”

I offer this simply as an example of a different view, and there are many others.  Here, I am considering that Paul did not intend to write “The Romans Road” but instead, to quote Stendahl, “Paul is seeking clarification, understanding and support.”  (Final Account, pg. 13)

All this to say that I believe that while it is true that we all “bring our theological baggage to the table” to paraphrase Silva, it is important to not simply accept this and run with it, but to expand our horizons by asking quite simply what this meant to the original audience.  In doing so, we set aside our predisposed theology as much as possible in order to gain insight and understanding that we have not previously or already taken hold of or appropriated.

Silva’s second statement is a perfect illustration of his first.  He brings his “evangelical  view of the unity of Scripture” to the table quite forcefully , as he states that this theological grid “demands” the unity of Scripture, that it came from “one Author” – God.

While I understand that God inspired scripture, I don’t know that this demands that we force all of the authors experiences written over hundreds and hundreds of years and all of the different literary genres into one pre-determined mold.  Doing so simply makes more of a statement about our enlightenment heritage than it gives credence to the original setting and storyline of the texts in the Bible.  In short, Silva, and many evangelicals, have swung too far to the right on this interpretive pendulum and are seeking to grasp a comfort that is literarily and historically unattainable.

We can hold lightly to the fact that all of scripture reveals God’s desire to relate to us without having to use this theme as a rigid guide to interpreting scripture.  In doing so, we are able to see more objectively what these texts say and how they relate o us today.

Silva’s third point is classic!  The first thing I thought was that old saying we probably all heard as kids,

If Jimmy jumped off of a cliff would you?

Simply stating that everyone does it is lame – pure and simple.  So, just because everyone does it we can too? I don’t see how this lemming mentality makes for a strong case.  In fact, it basically allows for a status quo interpretation.  Well, what if the popular interpretation is lacking?  What if it is completely wrong?

Yes, we all bring our “theologies” to the table.  So what!  Learn to set them aside and think more objectively.  See what others have to say, yes, even those who you disagree with.  Then return to the table, compare it to your own system and make good adjustments based on good interpretive principles.

In short, don’t be afraid to think outside the box because that is exactly what most of the writers of scripture were in fact doing – challenging their current beliefs and ideologies.

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Quoteable – On Baptism…and Pastors

From Dave Black’s Jan. 29, 2012 blog:

You know there is no place in Scripture that says a ‘pastor’ must baptize someone.

Representation of baptism in early Christian art.
Image via Wikipedia
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The Essence of Theology and Ethics – Redux

Faithfulness: Fruit of the Spirit Commission

Image by Nutmeg Designs via Flickr

In college I took a class on Christian Ethics. At the time I was deep in the “Reformed stage” of my journey, so I read a lot of the classic writers in that arena.

I decided to center my final paper around a quote I found quite compelling:

Grace is the essence of theology and gratitude is the essence of ethics.G. C. Berkouwer

At the time, and for many years, this made good sense.

Until now.

Just last night, I recalled this quote and realized that it didn’t seem to fit any longer.

So, I propose a revision:

Faithfulness is the essence of theology and unity is the essence of ethics.

In short, this is a paradigm shift from the traditional historic Protestant way of thinking.

The core of theology is understood to be both God’s faithfulness toward us and our faithfulness to Him and to one another through community. The core of ethics is unity, primarily with each other (the “One Anothers” of the New Testament) and obliquely with the world at large as well as with Him and in His reign over all.

Thoughts?

Jesus Gets Career Counseling?

Yet another zinger from the NakedPastor!

 

The Present Evil Age…And The Plan To Overcome It

Coat of Arms of North Korea

Image via Wikipedia

Feeling a bit like Jude today…I was going to write a post on hermeneutics and methodology, but was a bit taken by a link shared by a good friend of mine regarding the death of  North Korea’s “Dear Leader” [gack!!!] Kim Jong-Il.

As one born and raised in America, all to often I take for granted the blessings I have just by living in this country.  As messed up as it is, even now, it is far and away a better place to live than many countries where fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are tortured and killed for their faith.

Such is the case in North Korea.

A quick word association would be about all most Americans could produce in a discussion on North Korea.

Kim Jong-Il = Bad!

But why?

Take a look at the videos on this page from Justin Taylor’s blog regarding Kim Jong-Il’s Diabolical World.  Here are some really good reasons why “Diabolical” is quite fitting.

In many respects, these Christians can better relate to Paul’s intent when writing to the Galatians,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (emphasis added)

And in writing to the Romans,

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…

Here in the United States, we simply cannot relate to true persecution from the state, and so, we have over the generations tended to bend and morph the gospel into a personal event as opposed to a kingdom event…a present event over a future event.

Indeed there are very real personal aspects to the gospel, but we miss the point if we fail to see the story in its original setting and incorporate its ramifications into our lives in the present.  The early Christians saw the bigger picture of the establishment of the kingdom of God over all – that was the “good news” they embraced and faithfully hoped for in spite of a very real,  flourishing and torturous Roman empire.

Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to faithfully stand in opposition to a worldly empire and to be a “concrete demonstration of the intentions of God.” (Perriman, The Future of the People of God pg. 60)

As difficult as it is to write, the illustration can clearly be made for this present generation.  Those Christians dying for their faith in North Korea are an example of God’s intentions.  Indeed, Perriman pushes the idea even more fully when he writes,

The churches recapitulate in their own existence, in the present time, the story of Jesus’s suffering and vindication as a foreshadowing or guarantee of the future victory over pagan opposition and the public, oikoumene-wide vindication of the family of Abraham – when, in the language of the Son of Man community, those who have suffered with Jesus will be brought with him before the throne of the Ancient of Days to receive ‘dominion and glory and a kingdom’ (Dan. 7:14) (The Future of the People of God pgs. 100-101)

So, as I looked at the videos about the atrocities in North Korea, as sad as it was and continues to be, it assured me of the defeat of this evil empire.  For, according to the Apostle Paul, the church stands as a witness to the fact that God has given Jesus the nations as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8) and His kingdom will defeat this present evil age.

Evil simply cannot prevail.  The Story will continue in the age to come…

God will repay each person according to what they have done.  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6-10 NIV)

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