Tag Archives: early church

Book Review: Rewilding The Way by Todd Wynward

rewilding

I knew I had to read this book when it got rave reviews from three of my virtual mentors: Ched Myers, Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren. It did not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so, that I read it twice before reviewing it!

Christianity in America is changing, and for the better. For this reason, we need a guide. This book is such a guide that can show us how to live out our faith in a more complete and active manner, not simply focusing on things such as dogmatic theology or worship, but getting us out into our community and world to seek, refocus, and wrestle with how to live our faith daily.

Written in three parts, Wynward describes our situation, gives practical examples of how to change, then outlines what to do next. Both highly practical and accessible to a general audience, the book would be great for the classroom or in a small group study.

I have to admit, chapter 4 was my favorite! The author’s take on “rewilding” The Lord’s Prayer is worth the price of the book alone. Indeed, it has become too familiar to us and has lost its edge. This rewilding of the prayer makes it truly revolutionary…it encourages us to meditate on the change Jesus sought and cuts to the heart.

The book is, in fact, all about “rewilding.” Taking a comfortable narrative and throwing it back out in a manner that challenges our relaxed perspective and causing us once again the reconsider the truth of the message.

It became quite exciting every time Wynward “rewilded” something, including The Pentateuch, or at least the naming of the first five books of the Bible. But the coup de grace was seeing The Beatitudes in a completely new light. We have to ask, just what was the point of the Beatitudes. According to the author, it was Jesus’ way of giving out a job description for those who would majorly disrupt the “business as usual” mentality. This take was both thoroughly mind blowing and encouraging at the same time!

Indeed, Todd Wynward has written a gem of a book that so many today need to read to enliven their faith to a literal world’s worth of work to attend to.

Buy this book…it will revitalize and deepen your journey.

Link-Love for Rewilding The Way: 
Todd Wynward’s website
Rewilding the Way website
Rewilding the Way on Amazon
Rewilding the Way on Goodreads
Todd on Facebook

#SpeakeasyRewildingtheWay

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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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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Toward A Functional Ecclesiology… (Part 1 of 2)

Church

Image by Chewbacski via Flickr

…or, as Dave Black put it, “What Does a New Testament Church Look Like?

I liked what he wrote so much I will simply quote it verbatim:

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

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking 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 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 multigenerational 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 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.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church 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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God, Gentiles and Grace – On the Essence of the Inclusion Debate

Capernaum synagogue

Image via Wikipedia

I recently heard Alistair Begg give an excellent summary (found here, about 17 minutes into the broadcast) of one of Jesus’ most compelling confrontations.

The text at hand is Luke 4:14-30:

14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.[f]

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.

25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

Why were those in the synagogue so angry?

It is here that Alistair gives the following maxim (in a paraphrase):

The salvation which Jesus proclaimed they [the Gentiles] need, but don’t deserve.

and

The salvation which Jesus proclaims we [the Jews] deserve, but do not need.

Brilliant!  I am not sure if this is his own idea or if it has been passed down, but this is the essence of one of the primary early church debates – How do the Gentiles fit into God’s plan of salvation.

The legalists knew the Gentiles needed the One True God, but could not comprehend them receiving it simply by faith.  Surely, they must conform…look, walk and talk like us.

The legalists also knew that Jesus’ teachings bothered them.  They were just too easy, too open compared to what they knew the religious life to be.

As a result, they believed that they deserved what Jesus was offering, but did not want it as he presented it.

Alistair Begg continues by making the comparison with modern Christians:

Surely those outside the church need Jesus, but they don’t deserve it…just look at how they live.

We Christians deserve salvation, look how obedient we have been!  We just want it to look like something we would design…a nice orderly, religion that can be left at church on Sundays.

I thought this to be quite a good, though basic, summary of one of the earliest debates among the church – that of inclusion of “outsiders” and how that works out in practice.

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On the Speeches In Acts – List of Speeches

Here are a list of the speeches in Acts to go with the series:

  1. The words of the risen Jesus and the angels to the apostles  1:4b-5, 7-8, 11
  2. Peter’s speech and the disciples’ prayer prior to the enrollment of Matthias  1:16-22, 24b-25
  3. Peter’s speech at Pentecost  2:14b-36, 38-39, 40b
  4. Peter’s speech in Solomon’s portico of the Temple  3:12-26
  5. Peter’s speech to the Jewish authorities after his and John’s arrest  4:8b-12, 19b-20
  6. The prayer of the apostles and their friends  4:24b-30
  7. The speech of Peter and the apostles to the council  5:29b-32
  8. Gamaliel’s speech to the council  5:35b-39
  9. The speech by the Twelve prior to the appointment of the Seven  6:2b-4
  10. Stephen’s speech  7:2-53, 56, 59b, 60b
  11. Peter’s speech in Cornelius’ house  10:28b-29, 34b-43, 47
  12. Peter’s speech to the circumcision party  11:5-17
  13. Paul’s speech at Antioch of Pisidia  13:16b-41, 46-47
  14. The speech of Barnabus and Paul at Lystra  14:15-17
  15. Peter’s speech at the Jerusalem gathering  15:7b-11
  16. James’ speech at the Jerusalem gathering  15:13b-21
  17. Paul’s speech in the middle of the Areopagus  17:22-31
  18. Paul’s speech to the Corinthian Jews  18:6b-d
  19. Gallio’s speech to the Corinthian Jews  18:14-b-15
  20. Demetrius’ speech  19:25b-27
  21. The speech of the Ephesian elders  19:35b-40
  22. Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders  20:18b-35
  23. Agabus’ speech in Caesarea  21:11b-c
  24. Paul’s speech to the disciples in Caesarea  21:13b-c
  25. The speech of James and the Jerusalem elders  21:20b-25
  26. The speech of the Jews from Asia  21:28
  27. Paul’s speech to the Jerusalem Jews  22:1, 3 to 21
  28. Paul’s speech before the council  23:1b, 3, 5, 6b
  29. The Pharisees’ speech in the council  23:9c-d
  30. Tertullus’ speech  24:2b-8
  31. Paul’s speech before Felix  24:10b-21
  32. Paul’s speech before Festus  25:8b, 10b-11
  33. Festus’ speech  25:14c-21, 24 to 27
  34. Paul’s speech before King Agrippa  26:2-23, 25 to 27, 29
  35. Paul’s speech(es) during the sea voyage to Rome  27:10b, 21b-26, 31b, 33b-34
  36. Paul’s speech to the Roman Jewish leaders 28:17c-20, 25b-28
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On the Speeches in Acts – Part 1 of 8

In this extended series of posts, I hope to shed some light on the issue of how authors in the first century went about recording speeches in historical writings and more specifically, Luke’s account of the speeches found in his Acts of the Apostles.

There are several questions at hand: How did Luke include speeches that most likely he did not hear in person in his account of the Acts of the Apostles?  Can these speeches be taken as authentic?  Did Luke fashion the speeches to fit the story he was writing?  How might this affect the veracity of the account?

My investigation will focus more on the historical and literary points to consider, but ultimately, the study has important apologetic implications and  I will address those in Part 7.

So, let’s begin!

Upon even a cursory reading of the book of Acts, the importance of the speeches contained therein is readily apparent.  The sheer amount of space given over to this type of discourse reveals one overarching fact: the author of this book used speeches with purpose.  Of course, discerning this purpose within the study of Luke-Acts has been the quandary of bible scholars for years.  Questions regarding the authorship of the speeches, their historicity, and their theology abound.  As such, the purpose of this essay will be to survey the speeches of the book of Acts with a view to answering some fundamental questions that arise from their study.  Upon review of some very general observations about these speeches, topics such as the sources of the speeches, traditional opinions on the speeches and how they should be studied, their form, function, and themes will be analyzed with a view to proposing their purpose within the book of Acts.

The speeches of the book of Acts occupy some 25 percent of the narrative within the book of Acts (Aune 125).  Stated from another angle, Marion Soards wrote that 365 verses out of the total 1000 in the book of Acts are given over to speeches and dialogues (Soards 1).

In order to grasp the basic message of these speeches and their placement within the book, Soards’ model of delineating them in sequence can be referenced in the Appendix.

One of the first things a modern student of the book of Acts must do is realign their understanding of how historical narrative, and especially in this case, the speeches within the narrative were written.  In the twenty-first century, moderns seem to want “just the facts.”  Yet, curiously, despite the popularity of The History Channel, it is a good story that causes millions to flock to the box office every year.  This is just the type of realignment necessary for a more pure understanding of the writing of historical narrative in Luke’s time.  In a recent work, Barbara Shellard wrote that,

ancient historians were primarily trained not in history but in rhetoric, which formed the basis of their educational system.  They aimed to convince the reader of the truth of their account of events, and the speeches they wrote were appropriate for the circumstances rather than verbatim records. (19)

Therefore, ancient historians such as Thucydides in the fifth century B.C.E. used speeches to enhance their report by fashioning speeches “in character” (Bailey 166).  The ability to do this was a rhetorical skill known as “prosopopoeia,” which might be better understood in this generation as a form of literary impersonation (Lanham 124).  The question of why this was done is a valid one, especially because it seems foreign to our twenty-first century understanding of history writing.  One must consider at least two main reasons, and yet a third that should set the mind at ease concerning the constructing of speeches.  First, as a rhetorical device, a speech might have been inserted to make the narrative more interesting for the reader.  Second, even if a speech was actually given by the character in question, it was most likely not transcribed for the history writer to reference at a later date.  Finally, it developed one’s impression of the character, just as similarly, in the movies, the personality, motives, and actions of characters are developed (Bailey 166-167).  It is important, then, in the words of Shellard, to “judge Luke’s writing by the standards of his own time, and not our own” (19).  Perhaps, then, a more realistic appreciation for Luke as a writer in his own day as compared to ours can be grasped.

However, must the conclusion be reached that all writers of history used such fanciful methods in the improvising of speeches?  Moreover, would Luke have done this?  The answer is increasingly being answered in the negative as scholars of late have begun to look past a historical-traditional approach and move toward a more focused understanding of the importance of each speech within Luke’s narrative (Green 11).  From the opening of his gospel, Luke’s intent can be discerned. For he states that he desired to:

set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 NRSV)

These words clearly affirm that the research Luke did was indeed “careful” and “orderly.”  Luke’s choice of the word diegesis, “an orderly description of facts, events, actions or words” (Lk. 1:1) and diegeomai, “to give a detailed account of something in words” (Lk. 8:39; 9:10; Acts 16:10; 9:27; 12:17; 16:40) reveal that he went to great lengths to ensure a truthful account (BDAG).  As such, Luke’s purpose in writing historical literature can be placed in a most honorable category, in that he chose to see truth reign in his account in comparison to what was both accepted and popular within the same genre of his day.  Further, one must not forget that had Luke not, as best he could have, faithfully represented the speeches of the apostles of the early church, Luke-Acts most likely would not have achieved canonical status after generations of careful review and critique by his peers in the faith.  A final note on the issue should also be made regarding Luke’s choice of the word “diegesis” in Luke 1:1 over Mark’s use of “euangellion” with reference to the gospel narrative (Aune 116).  This drives home the point that Luke clearly chose to be as faithful as possible to the truth of the events of the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, to prove that his intent had changed with the Acts narrative would be no simple feat.  In fact, Gasque explicitly writes, “those who believe that the author of Acts invented speeches tend to dismiss the speeches of the third gospel…as evidence for the author’s methodology in the Book of Acts” (62).  To posit that Luke did not remain faithful to his stated purpose is tantamount to discrediting him; the burden of proof rests with the critic.

At this point, the sources Luke might have used must be considered.  Invariably, Luke could have used any combination of eyewitness accounts, oral traditions, and written reports available to him at the time of his writing Luke-Acts.   Aune, while revealing the unlikelihood that written evidence was in existence, wrote that Luke had three options with regard to the material used for the speeches:

(1)     To interview those present or (if he were present) to recall the substance of what was actually spoken,

(2) To freely improvise speeches according to the principle of appropriateness

(3) To combine research and memory with free composition. (125)

Aune goes on to state that Luke used option number three.  This is highly plausible, but quite possibly insufficient.  If, as James Dunn has so well stated in his recent work “Jesus In Oral Memory” that oral tradition played a large part in the sources used to compose the gospels, perhaps it is just as plausible that such oral traditions were passed on from gathering to gathering as the early church met and discussed the faith, words, and deeds of the major characters in the book of Acts.  Dunn even uses Luke’s retelling of the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts as the primary example of his faithful handling of oral tradition, stating that he would indeed handle the oral traditions of Jesus in like manner (9).  More will be written about this in the discussion of the content of the speeches in Acts, but Dunn’s point about the oral traditions of the early church, especially as they relate to Luke, must not be overlooked.  Further adding to the category of Luke’s credibility, Dunn writes that,

Luke was himself a good story-teller, and that his retelling of the story of Paul’s conversion is a good example not simply of the use of oral tradition in a written work, but of the oral traditioning process as a whole.” (9)

So then, it appears that at the very least, there was also the well of oral tradition that Luke would have been able to draw from in order to carefully transmit the essence of the speeches within their proper historical context, thus fulfilling his purpose from the beginning.  Overall, for these reasons, it seems unlikely that while some ancient historians could and did fashion speeches for the sake of their purpose that Luke would have done the same.  Perhaps, in Luke’s estimation, this literary device was simply an unnecessary convention for the material he was writing.

Aune, David.  The New Testament in Its Literary Environment.  Philadelphia: Westminster,

1987.

Dunn, James D.G.  “Jesus in Oral Memory: The Initial Stages of the Jesus Tradition.”

NTGateway. June 2000.  <http://www.ntgateway.com/Jesus/dunn.rtf&gt;

Gasque, W. Ward.  “The Book of Acts and History.”  Unity and Diversity in New Testament

Theology: Essays in Honor of George E. Ladd. Ed. R. A. Guelich.  Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1978.

Green, J. B.  “Acts of the Apostles.”  DLNT.  Eds. R. P. Martin and P. H. Davids.

Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1997.

Lanham, Richard A.  A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms.  Second Ed.  Berkeley: University, 1991.

Plumacher, E.  “diegeomai.”  Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.  Vol. 1.  Eds. H. Balz

and G. Schneider.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

Shellard, Barbara.  New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources, and Literary Contexts.

JSNT Supp. 215. Exec. Ed. Stanley E. Porter.  London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Soards, Marion.  The Speeches in Acts: Their Content, Contexts, and Concerns.  Louisville:

Westminster/Knox, 1994.

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Things That Make You Go, Hmmm – Romans 1:11-12

OK, so Paul is introducing himself to the church in Rome and he needs to gain their trust and respect.

How does he do it?

He writes:

“For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.  When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

So, bringing a gift, that should help.  But more importantly a spiritual gift, something expressly given him by God to give away to the churches for their spiritual gain.

Then, he further expresses what will happen when they meet.  Encouragement between them – Paul to the church in Roma Rome (tip of the hat to my ancestors!) and the church in Rome to Paul.

Now, how does that happen?  What does it look like?

Paul knew that Christian ministry flows two directions.  The church, after all, is a body.  All the parts serve, nourish and enhance one another.

He shares and encourages others and the church shares and encourages him.

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On Pastoral Ministry And Financial Stability – Part 1 of 2

I just stumbled across a well written article on Pastoral Ministry (via Dave Black’s site) and the question of salary or pay for this work.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done so!

The full article is here.

I particularly liked the following concluding thought:

“If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.” (Darryl Erkel)

Consider what would happen to the church if such a model once again became the norm?  I can think of ten things right off the top of my head that would make the church stronger, yet I cannot think of one single thing that would make it weaker.

So, the question as I see it is this:

What was the reason for the change?

Fundamentally, the answer is found throughout the Bible as we read story after story.  This is nothing new to God.  He has seen this over and over for years, centuries, millenia!

The answer centers around one central idea – God is not enough.

Ponder that, and I’ll post more on this topic later…

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Early Church In The New Testament And Apostolic Fathers

Just came across a fellow blogger’s interview with Dan Wallace.

In asking Dan what some of the biggest trends in NT studies might be over the next decade or so, I found this quote interesting:

“There are also key areas in NT study that are heating up, issues that need to be honestly examined in the next couple of decades by all sides. Among these are the relation of the Apostolic Fathers to the NT (in terms of quotations from the NT, emerging canon consciousness, ecclesiological developments, the Fathers’ view of grace, and whether the AF and the NT reflect the earliest form of Christianity or just that form that became the dominant one).” (Emphasis mine)

Apparently Dan thinks that there will be/should be an emphasis on the Apostolic Fathers (AF) specifically to ask if their representation of the early church is an accurate reflection.  He also obliquely suggests in this statement that perhaps the New Testament (NT) itself may or may not accurately reflect “the earliest form of Christianity.”

Now, I found this fascinating!  Mostly because it is my personal opinion that most of the writings from Apostolic Fathers do not accurately reflect the earliest forms of Christianity.  I am persuaded that what they do reflect accurately is how the church looked and functioned as it was on an organizational and institutional trajectory. 

To ask this same question of the New Testament is ultimately compelling. 

Could it be that we don’t have an accurate picture of the first Christians and how their communities looked and functioned? 

Is it possible that what we see today is more a picture of how those early churches developed in two, three or four generations? 

How might this have affected our canon? 

Could certain books have been chosen because they were a better representation of the dominant trends among the churches?

I believe that indeed we are missing some of the clearest pictures of the earliest churches in the New Testament.  The Bible simply does not answer the specific questions asked by a Westerner (especially a California native) in the 21st Century, but the essence of it is there.  Frankly, I have always wondered if some of the material in the New Testament reveals more or less of the trends and changes in the earliest church practices and beliefs.  Of course, I would love to have more pointed and specific answers, but I still believe that all that is truly necessary is there in the texts we currently call the New Testament. 

Thoughts???

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