Tag Archives: New Testament

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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Silva On Interpreting Scripture – A Critique

Cover of "Interpreting Galatians: Explora...

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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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What is the Gospel?

One of my favorite responses to this question was penned by Robert Farrar Capon in his book Between Noon and Three:

“The gospel of grace is the end of religion, the final posting of the CLOSED sign on the sweatshop of the human race’s perpetual struggle to think well of itself. For that, at bottom, is what religion is: man’s well-meant but dim-witted attempt to approve of his unapprovable condition by doing odd jobs he thinks some important Something will thank him for.
Religion, therefore, is a loser, a strictly fallen activity. It has a failed past and a bankrupt future. There was no religion in Eden and there won’t be any in heaven; and in the meantime Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now.” – p. 166

In short, the gospel is the end of religion!

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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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Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell

Let’s get the big questions out of the way first:

  1. Is Rob Bell teaching Universalism?  No.
  2. Is Rob Bell teaching Annihilationism?  No.
  3. Is Rob Bell a heretic?  No.
  4. Does the book Love Wins challenge traditional views of Hell?  Absolutely!

“What we have here…is a failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke

There has been a lot of hooplah over this book and I am happy about that…it is about time!

Indeed, what we are seeing is a failure to communicate, and in this case the communication has to do with the gospel and the essential truths of the Christian faith.

The church has over the centuries seemingly perfected an odd yet compelling sense of interpreting and explaining what is found in scripture.  And just like all of the reformations and revolutions that have gone on throughout those centuries we are seeing yet another in Rob Bell’s Love Wins. [If you haven’t already done so…go get it and read it!]

It seems to me that those most upset about this are also the most out of touch with the reality that the very questions Bell raises in this book are those being asked by people both in and out of the church.

As one who spends a lot of time working and talking with those who do not attend church on a regular basis, I can testify that these questions need to be answered…and the typical fare served up in the form of confessions and dogmas in Protestant and Evangelical circles is not doing the job.

There needs to be a fair amount of objectivity when reading this book.  Those who consider themselves conservative Christians can all too easily see conflict with what they have been taught.  Those outside the church also need to be objective, for Bell’s message is not one that issues a free ticket to heaven.

I strongly believe that we need to be able to visualize the stories and teachings of the early church to better understand how they affected their life together and their ministry to the world.  When it came to heaven and hell, the early church lived in the midst of paradox out of necessity. They simply did not have the systematic professional set of tools that we have today to carve out definitive answers.  Yet, they seemed to both thrive and succeed in living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such well defined answers as we have them today seem to be detrimental in at least two main ways:

  1. They cause unnecessary division among Christians
  2. They promote an incomplete picture of the narrative of the New Testament

Bell’s book seeks to look past the accepted beliefs, in effect, opening up the box and expanding our thoughts regarding the scriptures.

If Rob Bell is on the right track here, and I believe he is,  Christians all the more should lead the way to heaven.  According to his accounting those who protest the most will champion systems of belief but those who are living the faith now get the point.  Faith alone is enough, but it isn’t the end…there is more…much more.

In case you missed it, I heartily recommend this book and look forward to the dialogue that will follow.

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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 – Part 2 of 8

With an understanding of how speeches were crafted in historical narrative, and some background information presented regarding Luke’s sources, a brief sketch of the traditional views regarding the speeches in Acts may now be addressed.

It is not an understatement to point out that Martin Dibelius’ work on the speeches in Acts cleared the way for the recent tide of research on the topic.  As Joel Green points out in his article on the “Acts of the Apostles,” since Dibelius, there have been two schools of thought with regard to the study of the speeches in Acts.  One school, led by Dibelius, classifies the speeches in tradition and history and examines them as Lukan instruments of discourse.  The other led by more recent scholars such as Tannehill and Soards classify the speeches by their setting and elements and seek to understand how they unfold the narrative (Green 11).  In the midst of this has surfaced, as Green puts it, a “via media” in the writings of C. H. Gempf, through which,

literary aspirations do not preclude historical value, and the presence of Lukan style and theology in the speeches of Acts does not necessarily lead to the inference that these speeches are Lukan in origin. (11)

Clearly, while the extremes of two schools of thought have been established, the false dilemma of having to accept one or the other is absurd.  Yet, a via media, which states that Luke “would compose a speech in keeping with what could be known of the traditional data available to him” seems to be nothing more than a nod in the direction of Dibelius (Achtemeier 264).  More realistically, if one school of thought states that Luke made up the speeches because it was an accepted method of writing, and another school of thought states that he carefully sought to represent actual speeches in his writing, then perhaps a more pure via media would acknowledge that Luke used credible sources to carefully transmit, albeit according to both popular and Lukan style, the content of actual speeches given according to God’s purposes.

Then again, what if the whole idea of creating speeches cannot be clearly proven?

From this perspective come the words of some who think it quite impossible to assert that the fashioning of speeches “in character” can even be proven at all.  Stanley Porter has come up with “several problematic words or phrases” in Thucydides’ statement on speech writing (Paul, 110).  He even questions the idea of the legitimacy of a “Thucydidean View” (NovT, 121-142).  Others, who comparatively scan the historical horizon for writers who practiced such methods concede, as C. W. Fornara did, that, “there was no convention of inventing speeches for historical works,” and McCoy goes on to state “though some armchair and highly encomiastic historians, who did not bother to investigate their subject matter closely or inquire of the witnesses what was said, did so” (28).  As already clearly stated above, Luke does not fit into the category of an “armchair historian.”  McCoy further points out that there was an ongoing debate in Luke’s time and just before it regarding this issue.  He writes that, “Livy, whose use of sources can be checked when he draws on a speech from Polybius, does not seem to have engaged in the free invention of speeches; rather ‘he substantially reproduced the source-content of the speeches he inherited from others’” (McCoy 28).  It seems, then, that there might be more similarity between Luke and Polybius than Luke and Thucydides.  If we believe Luke really did careful research, then it makes sense to put these two men in the same class of writers.

One final and most compelling point that McCoy makes is regarding the “internal debate among historians” even before the Roman Empire who argued “whether distortion or free invention was allowable in a historical work in the service of higher rhetorical aims” (McCoy 29).  It becomes increasingly clear, then, that the idea of a “Thucydidean View” is a phantom, perhaps only visible to a few.  In light of this evidence, perhaps it should not be so difficult to give Luke the benefit of doubt with regard to his sources and purpose in the faithful representation of the speeches of the book of Acts, especially when he can be so trusted with other historical facts, names, and places.

How, then, did Luke shape and craft the speeches to fit into the whole of the book of Acts?  What was their substance?  How did they relate, if at all, to those of his contemporaries?

To begin to answer these questions, the issue of form should first be addressed.  In short, Luke’s speeches had similar essential elements to those of his contemporaries, yet were specifically diverse.  In general, the essential elements, at least in the major speeches and somewhat in the minor speeches, can be seen in the standard forms of the Greco-Roman speech:

1.        exordium/prooimion…catches the audience’s attention

2.        narration/prothesis…sets forth the facts / proof/pistis…sets forth the arguments that support one’s case

3.        peroration/epilogus…sums up arguments and stirs audience…often an impassioned summary  (Lanham 171…114)

4.        interruptio/aposiopesis…stopping suddenly in mid-course, leaving a statement unfinished…sometimes for effect  (Lanham 20)

The points at which Luke’s speeches essentially replicate are seen in the following points:

1.     appeal for hearing, including a connection between the situation and the speech,

2.     christological message supported with scriptural proof,

3.     offer of salvation, and (often)

4.     interruption of the sermon by the audience or by the narrator himself (Achtemeier 264).

Again, in general, these are the four points where most, if not all of the similarities will be found.  Therefore, while there is a similarity in form and style, there are no further viable points of comparison with Greco-Roman speeches (Soards 143).  Beyond that, one may wonder what, if any points of comparison may be found in the Deuteronomic or Hellenistic speeches.  Soards succinctly states that there are some similarities, but especially because of the apologetic tone of many of the speeches of Acts, that there are no real points of comparison (157-160).

At this point the forms and content of the speeches must not only be seen as their most distinctive feature, but their most purposeful as well (Soards 161).  While purpose will be examined more specifically in the next post, one point must be made clear: Luke’s concern was to advance through these speeches a distinct (though not at all points distinctive) view of God’s purpose (Achtemeier 264).  So, while conventional similarities exist in the style or structure, the content forcefully drives home the point of the story – the supernatural revelation of the gospel to all nations through common means.

Achtemeier, P. J., J. B. Green, M. M. Thompson.  Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature

and Theology.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.

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

1987.

Dibelius, Martin.  “The Speeches in Acts and Ancient Historiography.”  Studies in the Acts of the

Apostles. Ed. Heinrich Greeven.  Trans. Mary Ling.  New York: Scribner’s, 1956.

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

Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1997.

McCoy, W. J.  “In the Shadow of Thucydides.”  History, Literature, and Society in the Book of

Acts. Ed. Ben Witherington.  Cambridge: University Press, 1996.

Porter, Stanley.  The Paul of Acts: Essays in Literary Criticism, Rhetoric, and Theology.

WUNT 115.  Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999.

_____.  “Thucydides 1.22.1 and Speeches in Acts: Is There A Thucydidean View?”  NovT 32.

1990.  121-142.

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

Westminster/Knox, 1994.

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Early Church Studies Quote of the Week – On Translation

First page of the Codex Argenteus, the oldest ...

Image via Wikipedia

This week’s quote comes from Dave Black on translation (scroll to Jan 22nd 2011 at 8:50 AM), also found here:

No controversy has been more overworked these days than the one over modern Bible translations. It is thought a crowning virtue to be opinionated about what is the “best” translation. But no translation of the Bible is perfect. (This includes the ISV of course.) There is much artificial whipped-up enthusiasm among Christians today who have found the “perfect” translation that “finally gets it right.”. . .One of the distressing developments in our superficial church culture is a cheap familiarity with New Testament Greek. It is fashionable to give the impression that we (and we alone) know what the Greek really says. I have sometimes referred to this as “evangelical Greek” or, in my less sanctified moments, “philological voodoo.” There is no place in evangelical biblical scholarship for the frivolous approach by which we claim for ourselves an inerrant understanding of Scripture. None of us who has labored in the task of Bible translation is ever worthy to claim perfection for our product. That includes me, and it includes you.

I love reading Dave Black’s comments because he is speaking from a place of wisdom.

He is simply advocating humility in our approach as students of the scripture.

The goal is to strive to find the clearest and most approachable words while at the same time retaining faithfulness to the best originals we have.  As such, no one, not even the best trained experts (and it appears that is who Dave Black is speaking to), can claim ultimate precision when it comes to translation.

Language is always in flux, so any translation can miss the mark in any number of ways.  That is why we, as teachers, will always essentially be striving to explain the message of the Bible to our hearers in ways that they can readily hear, apprehend and live out among their peers.

At least, that is how I attempt to approach the task!

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How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

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