Emerging Concerns Part 4 – Role Model

Post-Modern Cycle Role Model As we have looked at postmodern thoughts and how it has influence the church we have laid the foundations of culture and community. We see that in this view culture has given us language and even the very meaning it wishes to ascribe to sounds and words as well as the practices or ways we approach life. Community gives postmodernism way to interpret language and practice a way to re-adapt. How life should work should not be unchangeable in this view. But as these communities arise there must be something that brings continuity and conviction. There must be someone who can bring things together and drive them forward. If not then things will just stay the same.

Why do all anarchists groups have to have a leader? – Ravi Zacharias

Looking for a Hero

You will find these ideas in various forms, however the goal is the same. Something or someone is needed who can make the ideas or enact the ideas from culture and community practically. These new ideas need a leader, a role model, someone pragmatic to drive change. But it must be understood that the concept of a leader, role model or hero in post-modern thought is not the same thing as what we traditionally think of. In post-modern thought what is achieved is more important than how it was achieve.

The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. (Alinsky 1972: 24)

He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of ‘personal salvation'; he doesn’t care enough for people to ‘be corrupted’ for them. (Alinsky 1972: 25)

Spread Anarchy - don't tell me what to doThese quotes from Saul Alinsky are a somewhat radical example of post-modern thought and we can see these ideas in the church in “Liberation Theology”.

As the church progressed in the 20th century it looked for ways to appeal to the “unchurched” public. In this “Church Growth Movement” churches adopted methods from the business world which were used in marketing. Some examples would be branding and talk-show style services. These tend to be more stylistic choices, however care must still be taken as styles can come from underlying attitudes and values or lack there of. For example the use of coarse joking or potty humor may entertain the children but can step beyond the bounds of style to a disregard for acceptable decorum and becomes inconsiderate of others senses. The bible says that we should avoid coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4). Some good ideas did proceed from this as the church made its appeal it tried to be more practical with biblical teaching focusing on application and useful systems and methods taken from scripture. The inclusion of methods from behavioral, social and psychological studies furthered this practical focus. The problem is that often it seems that the bible started taking more of a back seat.

The idea is taken further when the church brings in secular business leaders, motivational speakers and other public figures to speak and teach. Some churches will even go so far as to limit the amount of scripture used in services and even remove crosses and other christian symbols from their church even to the extent of limiting the use of Jesus name during services. As churches progress down this path one has to ask, “Do we believe that the Bible, the cross and Jesus are sufficient and compelling?” Jesus chastised the pharisees for “teaching as doctrine the principles of men” and in many ways the church has been doing the same. Sure we can learn things from others outside the church but how much should we be asking the congregation to sift through worldly ideas to find what is useful and biblically acceptable? Apart from the fully devoted child of God living under Jesus Lordship this is often done to appeal to those outside the church. Emergent thought takes it a step further focusing on what can be accomplished through these methods whether or not anything spiritual or moral is sacrificed. It should be clear from scripture that the end doesn’t justify the means. Also the warning from A W Tozer below highlights the problem with this thinking.

How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die. – A W Tozer

Reinventing Christ

The church then moves from looking for heroes to redefining Jesus and His role in the world. You might see John 14:16 “I am the way, the truth and the life” taught as Jesus teaching not that He Himself is the way but that how He lived his life is the way. The picture then that is painted of Jesus focuses on his interactions with people and particularly those that are deemed more compassionate and less confrontational unless of course the confrontation was with leadership. We like to focus on what Jesus accomplished helping others and its impact. There is value in this but the post-modern or emergent view takes this further to the point that it paints Jesus as a hero just like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. More value is placed on how Jesus changed the world practically than on how he changes our relationship to the Father and gave us hope for eternity. You might also see someone question the virgin birth and whether it should have been translated virgin in biblical prophecy. If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin then he was just a man and the objective is the same; to see Jesus as just a man. It is much easier to deal with a hero or activist than it is to deal with the fact that our rebellion was so heinous that the Author of Life Himself had to become a man to make up for our debt.

Jesus was not a moralist who came to make bad people good; Jesus is a savior who came to make dead people alive – Ravi Zacharias

Not only is Christ reinvented as a social hero but the gospel may be redefined. True the bible talks about how God deals with those that never have the opportunity to hear the gospel but the outcome seems somewhat ambiguous. It is probably ambiguous because we are commissioned to go into the world and spread the gospel. But even this idea of spreading the gospel is being questioned. You may hear questions or comments such as, “People can find the way Jesus lived in other religions and remain in that religion”. This is called inclusivism which essentiall states that though we are saved through Jesus Christ as the only way to the father one doesn’t have to have knowledge that it is Jesus they are believing. You can follow the path you are on and believe you are worshiping God XYZ and then find out you were really trusting Jesus in the end, at the final judgement. They are not saved apart from Christ but saved without knowledge of Christ. Another view takes it further and just asks them to see the way Jesus lived and just pull from that as they continue on in their native religion. Again this puts the focus on the way Christ lived and takes it away from the work which He did on the cross. I have heard renowned Christian leaders whom I respect greatly make similar statements. Paul’s talk in Acts 17 at Mars hill should make it clear that the early church taught that other gods where not gods at all and that faith in Jesus was the only way.

In the next article I will bring it all together into the final stage of the post-modern or emergent perspective and take a look at the end of it all. The final article will take a look at post-modern focus on society and society building or in emergent christian movements on uses of the term “kingdom”.

Emerging Concerns Part 3 – Community

Culture - Community - Motivation/Role Model - Society/Kingdom

In the previous article I addressed the role of Culture in post-modern thinking and how one might encounter it in the church. From the idea of meaning proceeding from or coming from culture, we are left to question meaning and even, what can we really understand . This next stage in post-modern, emergent thinking builds further off this foundation of culture. The cultural setting or backdrop can be seen in the Bible; so what are the implications? Each culture records its history and ideas. We have all read books from other times and places; Don Quixote, or the Iliad to name a few. Often we learn something new; a different way to look at things. The question is, did God meet people where they were at and accommodate their flawed views of the world and how life should be ordered?

Again you will see this in many ways in the church, some more subtle and others more radical. One teacher points to how the bible has been misunderstood and used to justify tragic action and wonders whether the Bible is the best God could do. Another professor compares passages in the Bible to other ancient writings. For example; in Psalms 103:12 we see “as far as the east is from the west”. In an Egyptian hymn, a deity is praised for his judgment, the guilty are assigned to the east and the righteous to the west. When we find thoughts and stories that resemble those in scripture does this mean scripture proceeded from them? Could it be that ancient people having heard oral traditions and through seeking stumbled upon bits and pieces of truth…? Isaiah 9:2 tells us that “the people in darkness have seen a great light”. Did not the Word (the great light) proceed from God informing those stumbling in darkness of the real picture of reality and intentions and created order of God?

While the Bible certainly has an ancient backdrop this becomes gradually overstated making the Bible more and more the product of man and less a work of God. We are then left to wonder what the Bible may mean for us.

The idea that Scripture may mean something different for us is gaining traction. Quite a few modern evangelical teachers and others have built off these questions and propose a progressive approach to understanding the Bible and how it should be applied or even if it should be applied anymore in some cases. They leaned back on these ideas of culture and meaning shedding doubt on the understandability of the Bible.

A college friend of mine commented on how information is now more readily available and searchable so it must be harder for false teaching to gain acceptance and therefore the call in Jude to contend for the faith may not have the same meaning for us. (see my response: In Danger of Being Non-Contenders) It does seem right, so much has changed, can we apply the Bible to ourselves and others as the ancient church did? After all, we have grown up with the ideas of evolution and progress; are we not better now than the cultures that preceded us? After all we have the printing press/copy machine, computers, light bulbs, and nuclear power. We have different social structures than that of biblical times. How then do we decide what to take from the writings of these other times?

Such teachers proposing a progressive approach point to places in the Bible we’re Christians met to make decisions and propose that we need to figure out how to apply the Bible in community. You will run into teachers that talk about the passage where Jesus tells his disciples what they bind here on earth will be bound and what they release will be released in heaven. They may also talk about common practices and views of the time and propose that what the Bible says was being built from traditions outside the Bible. This verse on binding however is misrepresented. A clearer understanding may be seen if we look at the Amplified translation.

Matthew 18:18 Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.

Matthew 5:18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away , not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished . 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments , and teaches others to do the same , shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

Certainly there is a place for those that study the Bible, scholars, to meet and discuss what the bible is saying. As we read the Bible we need to consider their guidance. We see this in the AMP bible in which scholars expound upon words. Binding and loosing does not mean we seek how we together want to apply it but we seek it’s real meaning and God’s intention apart from our time and our society and the way it wants to structure itself.  Admittedly there are uncomfortable circumstances and teachings in the Bible, but are we seeking the will of a community or the will of God.  God can speak across time; the question is not can we understand but do we want to understand?

"Wyclif Giving 'The Poor Priests' His Tra...

“Wyclif Giving ‘The Poor Priests’ His Translation of the Bible” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concepts of personal Bible study and private interpretation are key to the reformation.  In the 14th Century John Wycliffe found that many clergy hadn’t even read the Bible and just taught what they were told.  The church had become a political force sanctioning or influencing wars to keep nations and groups in check as well as a tool to control their populace through the sacraments and fear of loosing eternal life if these were with held.  Much of this was put in place by the church under the over-site and direction of a community of church leaders.   Wycliffe started to teach against the church’s political entanglement, accumulation of wealth, indulgences, and trans-substantiation and was removed from Oxford.  He requested and was granted a small Parish.  But the problems in the church burdened him and while in prayer God reminded him that Greek, the language the New Testament was written in, and Latin, the language it was translated into, were both the language of the people.  The Bible wasn’t written in highfalutin language.  Wycliffe translated the Bible into English and was later put on trial as a heritic.  The trial was interrupted by an uncharacteristic earth quake before the judge was to make a verdict.  God gave His Word to us and it is not so tied to culture and it is meant to be personal; “for I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin”.

Yes, the bible does recognize authority and community oversight and even calls for us to submit our selves to the authority of the community we live in.  While the bible itself tells us that such authorities and community oversight has been put in place by God it doesn’t mean that they are infallible and the bible doesn’t justify a blind following.  For example in the case of Saul God allowed authority to be put in place that was corrupt to enlighten his people to where their faith should have been.  When David called for a census which God was opposed to it was the people that were punished for their blind obedience.  We all have a personal responsibility to the truth and in that the Word of God is quite individualistic.  It was Joshua who said “Choose this day whom you will serve but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”.

So let me summarize where post-modern and emergent thought leads with regard to community.   The first stage builds upon culture and gradually reduces the Bible to something proceeding from man and the culture at the time.  It may acknowledge God’s influence on the Bible but will over-state the influence of culture on the Bible and understanding the Bible.  From this the second stage is to promote a progressive way of understanding the Bible.  Often the uncomfortable situations in the Bible are highlighted as reasons why we need to reinterpret the Bible.  So essentially in post-modern thought which is founded on humanism and evolution we find ourself in a culture and we take the thought of our current culture as well as the thoughts of past cultures and put them together to evolve the next generation and its culture.  This is done by communities that meet together to consider these thoughts and the predominant (natural selection) community prevails.  This is a far cry from our God who as creator made man in His image and who is the one that is to build, guide and direct us.  If these things are true then scripture should read that a great light entered their world and for us it is no longer a great light but is a dim light from which we can glean a few things.  But scripture says a great light has entered THE world; both our and theirs.

These are just some of the things to watch out for in the Church and Christian academia with regard to culture and community.

See:  Authority and Authorship

Emerging Concerns Part 2 – Culture

Culture - Community - Motivation / Role Model - Society / KingdomIn the previous article on Emerging Concerns I addressed the topic of Post-modernism and the Emergent church at a more academic or philosophic level. Here in this article I hope to break the concerns down and describe them more at the level in which they are seen or heard about in everyday life. This article will focus on Culture and subsequent articles will cover the other topics in the progression of post-modern thought. Post-modern thoughts and ideas may have started in Universities, the Arts and political circles but it has made its way down to everyday life. It can be found in both subtle as well as radical forms. So it is time to be more practical in how we look at it.

Views of the previous generations placed value on facts, truth and knowing how things work. Now people are more cynical about the truth, we distrust that the sincerity and value of truth might extend beyond my community and group of friends. How many times have you heard someone say “well that is your opinion”? Which is essentially saying all your opinions must be wrong so I have no problem ignoring it; even if you are just restating something from the bible, it’s your interpretation so its still your opinion. This really is where post-modernism and the Emergent Church starts. After all we have friends, family, a heritage, and a language; don’t the ideas and how we look at the world come from that? Is not all this which we term our “culture” the spring board from which we face life. The individualism of the past few generations was all too self-focused and lonely. But then few ever really took it that far; its hard to move forward without support. We found that “me” just isn’t big enough and are now looking to “us” to fill the void.

Hey meat head, how come all you non-conformists dress a like? – Archie Bunker

Culture as a Foundation for Understanding and Communication

If we continue to look back through history we see other cultures until we progress back to the Jewish – Greek – Roman culture Christianity started in and then back to the Jewish – Egyptian – Persian culture the Old Testament was written in it would seem that one culture gives way to another. You may have run into this while taking a bible class, Christian radio or even a teaching at your church and not realized it. One bible class talks about understanding the circumstances of the time, people, language and then to bridge the gap between their circumstances and ours. Another theologian makes the statement that the bible was written for us but was written to them; the ancient people in their culture. Another teacher goes so far as to say that the ancient world of Mesopotamia had an entirely different world view and unless we know their ancient literature we can’t understand the bible. One of my friends read a recent book from this author that totally undermined the understanding of the first five books of the Bible. He had taught from books written by this author about the Old Testament and upon looking back saw how the author had progressed in this view making culture foundational to understanding. Knowing about the ancient cultures in which the bible was inspired and written is a good thing. However post-modern thought goes too far down this path. Its confidence in the idea of the progressive development of man switches the foundation for communication and understanding from God as creator to humankind and their present state of progress; in other words their culture at the time.

Having placed such stock in this idea of humanities progress and cultural states these teachers then draw from history and their knowledge or speculations of how people lived and viewed life back when the bible was written. We are convinced then that they must have some greater insight on what the bible is saying. We then step back from the bible because how can we know all that stuff to really understand the bible. We must then accept whatever that teacher says. But are people in the bible really so different from us? Do they not desire to be married and love their children? Do they not get angry when they are taken advantage of? Do they not wish to provide for themselves and their families? Do they not remember together with those dear to them what they have gone through and tell stories? Further, all cultures have a word for sunrise and sunset, the moon and stars, pain, which academically is called phenomenal language. When the Bible addresses life, history and the universe we have to understand that much of what we deal with in life, what we encounter or experience; states, processes, forms, observable behaviors and properties are given terms which are understood to communicate what is encountered through the senses. We must believe that we can identify such language which describes what would have been experienced by the senses together with the feelings and temptations common to man and come to a picture, in a cultural setting, from which we can understand what God is trying to say beyond that setting. What does scripture tell us?

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9

Sure there are differences, but are they not merely the tools and agreed upon ways in which we will work together to meet these needs and desires? Was God’s Word for us written to them? Was the Bible written in their culture to their culture? Or was the Bible written from God’s Kingdom and His culture in their language to all of us? When I read Knowing God by J I Packer the following quote blew the door open on understanding God’s Word.

We feel that we are, so to speak, on the outside of the Bible world, looking in… The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place… epoch, culture, etc… The link between them and us is not found at that level. The link is God Himself. For the God with whom they had to do is the same God with whom we have to do. – J. I. Packer, Knowing God

This is not to say that culture has no impact on understanding scripture.   Yes, study the traditions, social structures, classes, national structures, trade, tools, etc. Knowing these will bring you further into the experience of the bible world so you can further feel and understand what the bible characters were going through. I believe knowledge of the cultures and original languages will add to your understanding but I do not believe it will ever turn the meaning around 180 degrees or even 90 degrees for that matter. It may skew it slightly but for all intents and purposes what God wants us to learn we can get from a good, honest translation of the bible.  In the original language and the translation a verb is still a verb and a noun is still a noun they do not become something other-worldly. There are some variations in word forms but nothing that still can’t express the ideas God wants to communicate. When God created Adam he was able to name all the animals God brought before him. Scripture shows us that God created language. The Tower of Babel shows us that God confused language and Pentecost shows us that language is not a barrier to God’s communication.

Some christian authorities and academics in the areas of anthropology and linguistics contend for a progressive understanding of language.  In their view language is merely semiotics or the conglomeration of symbols and sounds to which man in his culture has ascribed meaning.   However we know from scripture that language itself was not an invention of man but a creative act of Almighty God bestowed upon man. Further we know that God chose to speak to man and to reveal Himself and His purposes in the world through the bible.

Though many have assumed that the Bible shares the worldview of the ancient orient, the creation accounts we have from that period are all distinct from the Bible. They are distinctly poetic and manifestly mythological. The biblical account, by contrast, is thoroughly narrative in form and decidedly non-mythological. (John Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound p89)

… we must be careful to let neither our own view of the structure of the universe nor what we think to have been the view of ancient people to control our understanding of the biblical author’s description (John Sailhamer, The Pentatuch as Narrative)

The bible differs significantly from the other contemporary writings, writings from the same time period and surrounding regions.  The Bible is written for all; it is more significant that it was written from God’s perspective than that it was textualized to ancient Israel.  While we “realize that the inspired author … was allowed to use the only terms available to him in his language to describe natural phenomena, but was not allowed to offer anything more than the vaguest, most minimal descriptions of those phenomena, thereby leaving everything unsaid about their exact nature. … perfectly designed to allow that interpretation which accorded with actual fact…” (Holding, 1999) Therefore the most faithful reading comes from God’s world not their ancient world nor from our modern world.  If we accept that meaning is granted by man then we may be carried about by the whims of culture, but if we believe that meaning was given by God then we can have faith that there exists something upon which we can stand.

In the next article I will address the post-modern and emergent role of community and how you may see it presented. I have kept from naming names and quoting anyone directly. The reason for this is I don’t want to focus on particular Christian leaders that are bringing post-modernism into the church but on the principles so that you might be able to identify the ideas that are a concern and not just look out for certain individuals.

Personal Evangelism – Colossians 4:2-6

the first of the Epistles to the Colossians

Image via Wikipedia

Colossians 4:2-6 2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  5  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Here in Colossians we find instructions and advise on how to approach friends, family, acquaintances and anyone else we may come across living in  the “World” yet not as the “World”.  Prior to this passage we find instructions on how we are to treat those under our authority and how we respond to those in authority.  Our response to and use of authority precedes our evangelism.  Ravi Zacharias has said, “intent precedes content”.  How we treat others, our intent, will speak louder than what we say, our content.

Bring it to The Almighty

OK, now we start talking to people… Well not quite.  It is appropriate that Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 verse 1 deal with how we approach authority.  Before we approach the world we need to approach The Throne.  We must take each day, each relationship, each interaction we expect and those we don’t expect during the day before God.  Continue resolute with conviction and confidence in prayer.  If we are confident in prayer then we will expect God to respond and we will be watchful looking for the fulfillment of prayer.  We will not just watch for it to be filled in the way we want God to work or hope He will work.  We need to look for God’s response and be thankful for what God provides because He always provides what we need.

Acts 16:14 – A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

While we are praying the words “also for” tells us that we need to pray for our own opportunities and for the opportunities of other Christians.  This is a team effort.  We are asking God to open the hearts of people we talk to so that there will be an entrance point for the word of God.  As we speak that “Word” we trust in God’s word to declare or make known the mysteries of God.  Mysteries which are of greater value then freedom from prison or persecution.  Then the passage calls us to pray for a clear presentation.  Yet the passage says we are declaring a mystery.  How can something be both mysterious and clear?  There is a sense within which the words of the gospel cannot be understood rationally but must be felt. The Bible says that to the World the gospel seems foolishness and even offensive. The temptation might be to use methods of the World to convince people.  Paul would have been well aware of the Sophists of his day who trained politicians and wealthy business men how to use words to manipulate and motivate people to get what they wanted.  One example that most of us are aware of today is the prosperity gospel which tells people they will get worldly possessions, recognition, and power if they come to Jesus.  While it is true that a life lived in accordance with God’s intended order will result in benefits those are the fringe benefits of Christ, the treasure itself is Christ.  God help me to avoid the temptation to manipulate by selling benefits instead of bringing them Jesus.

Heading Out with God’s Word and Wisdom

We are then to go into the world and walk wisely particularly in the manner in which we engage with people in the world.  But how do we walk wisely in the world?  The passage doesn’t just make this statement and assume that we know specifically what it entails.  Paul follows up this statement with specific statements about what it means to walk wisely.  We are to given four instructions on how to approach people in the world.

  1. Be prudent with time and place
  2. Converse with grace
  3. Sprinkle in some salt
  4. Know how to answer

The first concern of wisdom is prudence with our time; we must be aware of where we are and the seasons and times we are in considering the time, place and limits we must deal with.  Know what you will have time for and place for.  Be aware of the situation in which you find yourself.  The word “use” here means to buy, ransom or rescue from loss.  We live in a fallen world and in our age as theirs much time is spent on leisure or  busyness but little on what is significant.  We are called to buy that time back and spend that time on that which is of real eternal value.  It’s alright to shoot the breeze but if that’s all you ever do in the end you are left grasping the wind.

Converse with Grace

Active Listening

Next, speak with grace.  We are to approach people with pleasant, winsome, empathetic words. While we say “speak” grace is not grace if it is not considerate, we do not give grace to inanimate objects, we give grace to people and though we “speak” here in this context it is part of a conversation.  We must know and acknowledge the other person.  The first thing to realize is that every person has been created by God in His image, created with the Imago Dei.  Even though we are all fallen and sinful the image of God gives us redeemable qualities, values and conscience which we must look for in others and acknowledge.  We see this when Paul was in Athens and he acknowledged that the people were religious and desired not to miss any deity in their worship to the point of having an altar to an unknown god.  Paul further acknowledged that their poets rightly saw that God truly is larger than any temple that could be built and the source of existence.  These were gracious compliments even though they had not seen clearly they knew something was beyond them because of God’s created image within them.  Secondly, you need to listen; this is a conversation after all.  Ask questions and listen to what the person has to say.  An effective method is called Active Listening.  Active listening requires time to dive into what the person is saying.  The basic steps are to

  1. listen and seek to understand what the person is saying.
  2. Then remember what they said and respond.
  3. The response should acknowledge difficulties and feelings and either restate what was said using similar words or reflect on what they said by rephrasing it possibly with some speculation on how they might be feeling.

The result will be that the person you are talking to feels appreciated and you will have a better understanding of their concerns and how they approach the world.

Sprinkle Some Salt

Thirdly, what we say needs to have some salt in it.  As I thought about that statement and what it means to be salty I realized that the statement itself stands out.  Up to this point the bible verses have used words with meanings relative to the topic being addressed.  Here, Paul switches to a metaphor.  It stands out as must salty words.  They aren’t same old, same old words.  These aren’t bland, unremembered words with little emotion or conviction behind them.  But then neither are these compliments that feel good for the moment and then slowly fade away.  In our gracious speech of course we should have some compliments as said previously but this call to season with salt isn’t a restatement of saying words with grace.  As disciples of Christ we are to stand out, apart from the world in what we value and how we approach life.  So what does salt mean.  To borrow from John Piper’s message on this same passage our saltiness is our radicalness for Jesus as seen in Luke 14:33-34.  The stuff of this world that in leisure and busyness the world spends its time on is what we renounce and hold so loosely as if it weren’t ours because we belong to Jesus.  It is also our irrational hope in the promises of the gospel and confidence in its warnings.  To be salt, to season what is said with salt as John Piper’s son put it, “your own mouth has to water for the gospel”.

Luke 14:33-34  33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?

We are a people who believe in the resurrection of the dead.  We believe that once we have passed away and our body has been decomposed back into the dust of the earth that God will pull it all back together and in our flesh we will see God.  We believe that in Christ this is already beginning as our fallen nature is regenerated into the likeness of Christ.  We are an irrational people by the world’s estimation even so we are confident and bold in our hope.  Possessions no longer possess us but we hold them so loosely that if someone is in need we release what we have.  But not like the world which calls on people to release so that a better society might be built.  We release it because nothing of this earth has a hold on us but we are held by a longing to be with Jesus in eternity, regenerated and risen from the dust in fellowship with The King and desire to see others have the same opportunity.

Further salt as a spice is challenging because we bring God’s perspective to the situations of life.  But the world desires to make its own way and have its own view of things.  At times we may need to be upfront but if that is our only approach then we may be antagonistic and quench their thirst. Another way to approach the person you are talking to is to try and understand how they approach the world; how do they think the world works, who is in control, where does purpose come from and then see where their line of thinking may lead.  Francis Schaeffer called this finding the point of tension.  Schaeffer said that a perspective on actions or circumstances has underlying presuppositions that this or that is true, valuable or ethical.  To find the point of tension look for the potentially untenable perspectives that these presuppositions justify and bring them into the light.  Throw some salt on these presuppositions.  For example if someone doesn’t believe in God then seek to find their source of purpose and ethics.  Has a naturalist ever received a flower from another soul expressing anything of transcendent value  or is each flower merely an expression of the right chemical composition and each gift the right combination of hormones?  The Word of God and the Gospel are real and the only perspectives that align with reality.  Any other perspective has points of tension which are more convenient to ignore.

Finally, know how to answer each person.  As you express your hope in Christ and resurrection from the dead and loose hold on the stuff of the world expect that people will ask you; why?  If this truly is your hope then you will know why and be able to talk about the circumstances that overwhelmed you and lead to such a faith and break with the world.  Some other questions may be more difficult but have faith and prayer for the Spirit’s guidance.  You must look at the world and know that God is and see in the Bible that God is not silent and that he has spoken.  If they ask for other proofs for God’s existence or explanations of the Cross and how Jesus could be a substitution you can research and have a bunch of answers in your back pocket but it may be more effective to say “hey why don’t we look into it together”  that shows a concern and a willingness to spend time and further talk with them and may in the end bring them to Jesus.

1 Peter 3:5 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

Luke 12:11-12 11″When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Bible Study Advanced – Key Word Study

Interlinear Bible

As you read through the bible you will want to start looking more deeply at passages to get all the meaning out of them. This is called studying as opposed to just reading through the bible. There are several methods and we had previously discussed a cross-reference study. Another type of study is a Key Word study. The purpose is to get a broader sense of what the words meant to the culture and people in the bible and to check if the word chosen by the translator is the closest definition to what the verse is trying to say, to the context of the words in the verse. When we use a word we are aware of the connotations and possible meanings a word may have from our language but these may not be the same as the word in the Bible in its original language. A key word study is necessary to get the best picture of the thoughts that came to mind when the original author wrote the passage.

As you study a passage look for repeated words, lists or words that are critical to what the text is saying. Then look these words up in a lexicon such as the Strong’s concordance, or those available in bible software such as Logos or BibleWorks or free programs such as The Word (www.theword.net) or online at sights such as new.studylight.org. Another tool is the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer from www.scripture4all.org.   If you have an Interlinear or key word study bible it will list Strong’s numbers above each word that can be used to look up the original Hebrew or Greek word behind the word translated into English. The next step in a key word study is to note the definitions which are the possible denotations the word might have when used in a sentence. It should also be understood that the etymology and consideration of all denotations forms a picture of the sense of connotation which use of the word would also entail.  (An example of connotation would be when I say something is superior instead of saying it is best there is a sense of arrogance with the term superior.)  Record the generic sense that you get from the word whether it has a positive or negative sense or a superior sense. As you look at the references and note the uses of the word this will also build a sense of what connotations the word carried.

Further consideration of the uses of the word in the Bible should establish its most common use or common definition or denotation. Then examples of use should be explored by looking for categories in which the immediate context might be placed that describe types of qualifications that determine the most likely definition or the most correct denotation. From a site like new.studylight.org you can look up a key word and then list its uses either by translation or book of the bible. You may then drill down by translation and get a set of example verses. Looking at how the word is used in these verses. For nouns consider the verbs or actions they take and for verbs consider the subjects and objects.  The Interlinear Scripture Analyzer groups references down to word form and morphology and translation allowing for even greater consideration of the context and translation relative to the meaning of the word.  This may also be accomplished using bible study software and either the search interface or through concordance modules.  Determine if you can categorize these surrounding words into more generic descriptive concepts and record these generic concepts next to the lexicon definition in a table similar to the one inserted below. These generic concepts and categories form the qualifications that can help to determine the most appropriate denotation for a word within the verse you are looking at or considering.  Compare the context of the verses you are exploring and then determine which categories the context most closely aligns to; from this the appropriate translation might be verified.  The assumption is that most of the other translations of the word will likely be accurate.  If a translation may be off it will likely stick out like the proverbial sore thumb as its context (the types of other words around it) will differ from most other examples.

For example re’shiyth can mean first or beginning. In the cases where it generally means first it is part of the object and modifies what is produced so the category would be it qualifies something produced. Whereas when it generally means beginning it modifies an action or role. Then looking for these qualifications the chosen translation of the word in a sentence may be validated considering both its common use and categorization of the immediate context.   The goal shouldn’t necessarily be to the level of textual criticism necessary for translation but to clarify the intended meaning and gain understanding of the broader connotation of a few key words. There are many great online tools as well as bible software programs that may be used to look up key words. For this article the strong’s entries and passage lists can be found at Blue Letter Bible (www.blb.org[1]) and the lexicon at new.studylight.org.

Strong’s H8414

Transliteration

תֹּהוּ

tohuw

Pronunciation

Root Word

‘·

from an unused root meaning to lie waste

N,M

Definition

Uses

Contextual Category

1. formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness

a.formlessness (of primeval earth)

2

1.nothingness, empty space

3

State of being relative to the earth and/or sky

b.that which is empty or unreal (of idols)

3

State of being relative to idols

c.wasteland, wilderness (of solitary
places), desolation

6

As an object relative to a location or direction
of travel

d.place of chaos

2

e.vanity, futile, meaningless

6

As the state or end result of earthly authority

Connotation: either body or soul cannot survive here. A place that is or brings about non-existence.

Passages

Gen 1:2

The earth was formless8414and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Deu 32:10

“He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste8414of a wilderness; He encircled him,
He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.

1Sa 12:21

“You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile8414things8414which cannot
profit or deliver, because they are futile.8414

Job 6:18

“The paths of their course wind along, They goup into nothing8414and perish.

Then read through the passage again with the fuller understanding of the depth of meaning behind the key words you have studied. Another way to explain it is to compare the New American Standard translation to the Amplified Bible. In the Amplified translation Mrs Francis Siewert with the Lockman foundation took the American Standard translation along with several key word study references and did to an extent what we have described in this article. Determining the breath of meaning and connotation certain key words might have Mrs Siewert added information on connotations in parenthesis and expanded the translations of other words. Examine the example passage bellow and note the two underlined words in the NASB and how they were expanded in the AMP.
1 Corinthians 2: 14-15 NASB 14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

1 Corinthias 2:14-15 AMP 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. 15 But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him].

You may ask “If the AMP does this expansion then why would I want to do a key word study”? Well the AMP doesn’t expand upon every word and well, you should want to verify for yourself if the expansions of meaning done by the AMP makes sense. But reading the AMP can give you a sense of how much more you can see in a verse if you look more deeply at what a word meant and what other meanings it carried.

More advanced lexicons used by students of Greek and Hebrew aren’t based upon Strong’s numbers but function more like a dictionary.  This requires knowledge of the Greek or Hebrew alphabet and looking up words like one would in a common English dictionary.  However there are some tools for Greek that can allow us to take advantage of these resources.  The Study Light (new.studylight.org) or Blue Letter Bible (www.blb.org) provide interlinear bibles from which the Greek word may be copied into your clip board.  The word may then be pasted into the Perseus Digital Libraries (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search) search engine using the Word Study Tool on the right side of the page.  This resource provides access to lexicons such as the LSJ, Liddell and others.  These resources provide more in-depth definitions and other examples of uses of the word through out history and in other literary works.  Additionally more advanced keyword studies would include consideration of word forms with in the verse you are reading. Word forms include noun plurality and gender and verb tense/aspect, voice and mood. Such considerations place further limits on the meaning and scope or depth of what is being talked about. But this is a topic for further discussion in another article.


[1] Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for tohuw (Strong’s 8414)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 27 Jul 2011.

Bible Study – Cross Reference (FACTS of Study)

As you progress in your study of scripture you will want to take passages and drill down further into what else the bible has to say on the subject and relative to the statements made within each verse.  As indicated in the previous article if you are reading through the bible and memorizing scripture as you start to meditate on a particular set of verses, a passage, other statements from the Bible will come to mind setting limits and expanding the concept.  But since most of us don’t have the entire bible memorized we can use some help.  Some helpful tools are a good cross reference and a topical reference which may be used in a cross reference study.

The purpose of a cross reference study is to in a sense put a “face” to what has been written.  To better understand what an author is saying we need to establish the foundation from which the author writes; who they are and how they view the world.  Then as we look at what an author says we want to verify our understanding by looking for other statements made by the author that affirm the understanding we get from a particular statement they make.  Next we look for clarification or further details that might fill in gaps in our understanding of what the author is trying to communicate.  Finally we gather these ideas together, resolve differences in our understanding or expand that understanding to form a better more complete understanding.  Let’s call this the FACTS of Bible Study.

  • Foundation – Gather other biblical references regarding the nature of the author, gather other references and external resource information about the context or setting of the text and the characters or subject being written about. Use Cross Reference tools, Commentaries and Topical Tools such as found on the Bible Hub or Open Bible and insights from your own bible reading.
  • Affirmation – Take the gathered references and resources and categorize restatements in support of statements made in the text being studied as affirmations.
  • Clarification – No scripture contradicts another passage but offers clarification. Clarifications can either be qualifications limiting the scope of meaning or application or an expansion of the meaning or scope.  Take the gathered references and resources and categorize Statements on the same topic or point that add more detail or clarity to a particular situation as either a qualification or expansion.  If the cross references deny anything it will be our flawed understanding of a passage, in which case such a denial is a type of qualification.
  • Thesis – Formulate a basic statement of your understanding of the passage being studied.  Gather the facts; context, cross references, restatements and clarifications.
  • Synthesis – combine these points into a more complete understanding resolving issues and expanding the picture the bible is painting.  Formulate a thesis; dissertation or summary on the text being studied.

A cross reference study endeavors to be fair to the author by avoiding the traps of taking statements out of context or jumping to conclusions about what the author is saying.  One statement does not address all aspects of an issue and it is not fair to an author, in our case God, to assume that it does.  One passage of scripture is generally not enough to form a consistent theology.

Any good study bible will have cross references either in the margin or the center column.  Cross references are also available in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, TSK, available in desk reference form or on such sites as www.blb.org and www.studylight.org.  Another option is the open bible website which has a topical and a cross reference database which brings together several different sources providing 340,000 cross references.  The cross references are color coded by the degree to which they are similar to the original reference.

http://www.openbible.info/labs/cross-references/

Foundation References

The first thing to show is the nature of the characters the first of which is God and the bible.  The table inserted below gives some key passages establishing the nature of God and the Bible.

Natures Reference
Nature of God 1 John 1:5 ESV – This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
James 1:17 ESV – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Psalm 90:2 ESV – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
John 4:24 ESV – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Colossians 1:17 ESV – And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Romans 1:19-20 ESV – 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Nature of Scripture John 17:17 ESV – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Hebrews 4:12 ESV – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Next gather information on the book of the bible and the passage being addressed.  Then determine who was the author being lead by the Spirit and use a topical reference to search for verses about the author and note them.  Identify the place and who is being written to and what is being written about and look these up in a topical reference and note them in a table similar to the one below.  Gather this information on the date, place of writing,  genre (Gospel, Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, or Epistle) and any other historical notes.  Gather information on the audience that would have been reading the book written.  Finally gather information on any of the characters mentioned in the passage; including their genealogy or any contemporaries related to them and also gather any other biblical references to the characters.

Cross Reference Context Table

Next break the passage down into sets of verses if possible or address each verse on its own.  Gather cross references from some of the resources listed such as the Open Bible, Bible Hub, Study Light or your own study bibles cross references located in the center column or margins.  Also look at the introductions to the book and commentaries on the passages and gather these other references.  Identify topics or major ideas presented in the text and use a Topical Bible to find additional passages which correspond to the passage you are studying.

Affirmation and Clarification References

Once you’ve gathered the references and verses which correspond to the passage your are studying now you need to categorize them. Remember that other passages of scripture hold greater authority than commentaries, introductions, historical context and other peripheral information.  Determine if the reference is either supporting the understanding of the verse or if it is adding more detail to what the verse is talking about and note these separately.  A four column table having the reference, topic or key words, Type(A/Q/E/D) and a cross reference column can be used to capture these verses.  An example is inserted below.  The types are (A)ffirm, (Q)ualify, (E)xpand, and (D)eny remembering that the denial is not of the passage itself but of our understanding of the passage summarized in the thesis (usually due to lack of understanding of the context).

Cross Reference Synthesis Table

Remember, No scripture contradicts another passage but offers clarification usually on specific situations.  If a contradiction seems apparent then the issue may be that the concept or topic being studied has been reduced to a single whole when it needs to be expanded into constituent parts.  This probably sounds difficult but our minds tend to group things that are related or similar into simpler singular concepts so we can remember them better.  As an example there are many that struggle with the law as presented in the old testament versus the new testament yet in the new testament it states that the law shall not pass away and Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the law.  But these two testaments seem so different to many of us.  In this case we are considering the law as a whole but if we consider that the law is made up of two parts it becomes easier to understand.  The law is made up of the imperative or pronouncement and secondly of the prescription or prescribed penalty in the event that the imperative is not followed.  When Jesus stood by the woman caught in adultery and said “he who is without sin cast the first stone” he wasn’t changing the law, he wasn’t saying that adultery really isn’t that big of a deal.  He told the woman go and sin no more so the imperative still stands its just the sentencing may vary based upon the circumstances.  Deuteronomy has been accused of being quite harsh and it does seem so in many verses however one has to understand that Deuteronomy 6 stated that the prescribed penalties were to be enforced on Israel as they entered the promised land as the chosen people through whom the Messiah would come.  They were to be held to a higher enforced standard.  Additionally the climate around them was comprised of nations that burned babies in furnaces as human sacrifices to Molech and who practiced temple prostitution, pedophilia, witch craft and other evil practices.  So Israel was called to be God’s hand of judgement on these preceding nations who had corrupted the land.  This is just one example where we have to look more closely when we think we see a contradiction.

Theses and Synthesis

Read each verse and its related references you have gathered and formulate specific statements about what the verse itself is saying.  Formulate other statements about what else the bible has to say on the same topic your verse or set of verses is addressing based on the cross references.  Look at extra-biblical references such as historical narratives of the times the verses were written in and commentaries and write down statements about the what was going on at the time the passage was written.  Also write statements referencing commentaries.

Finally, read through the cross references you have gathered and your summary statements (Theses). Then reread the passage and consider if what you believe a verse is saying is supported by the cross references gathered or if it is denied.  Also as you read passages the combination of specific meaning or denotations form the explicit meaning of the verse but words and phrases also have connotations which lead to possible implied or implicit meanings.  The implied meanings sometimes have significant implications and affects as connotations tend to hit us at a spiritual level but there is also the greatest danger for seeing a meaning which the Bible does not intend to convey.  It is the cross references which can help validate implicit thoughts from a bible passage and either establish them or exclude them from our mind as we read and try hard to understand God’s word.  Then synthesize the information gathered into a thesis summarizing what the verses you are studying say and what else the bible has to say on the topics addressed in the passage.  Write down what you have learned from the passage and what the implications for your life which come from your new understanding of the bible passage your are studying.

Cross Reference Tools

Printable Cross Reference Template

Bible_Study_Cross_Reference_Worksheet-print

Word Document Cross Reference Template

Bible_Study_Cross_Reference_Worksheet

The Noise of Our Sin

Jesus Christ with children

Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 18:10

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

The face that no one can see and live because of His holiness. The burning ones who serve God before the throne cover themselves with extra wings because even they would be consumed by the holiness of God almighty. The face of the all consuming fire. Before that face each child has angels (more than one) who get an audience. And moment by moment these angels come frustrated, weeping before the Father scores upon scores of angels for scores upon scores of children killed in abortion, abandoned or murdered by selfish parents, and a church barely raising a fuss over all of this. The noise of our sin must be such a din.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”  Hebrews 10:31

Bible Study Basics – ACTS of Study

Consider with me Daniel who was taken into exile in Babylon, away from his country and his family. Daily he prays to God and then we see this, the angel Gabriel comes to him and says:

Daniel 9:23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

God shows His love for Daniel by sending an angel, Gabrel, to explain his visions. God is saying “I’m letting you in on my plans” some of which he is allowed to write down and others are just for him to hear, words given to him in confidence from God. I sat there and it floored me. God is sharing his deepest plans with Daniel, why… Because you are greatly loved I have come to tell you… Just as Daniel got to hear God’s heart, his desires and feelings, and his plans 40 authors over 2000 years inspired by God were sent to tell you, to let you in on God’s heart and plans, why? For you are greatly loved… Every statement in the bible is packed with power and meaning. I don’t need courage I’ve got something greater when I have His word in my hand. Studying the Bible is every Christian’s privilege and duty.

Even before we get down to reading and study we must establish the most basic foundation. To study God’s word we need ACTS; Affections, Context, Text and Study.

  • Aims & Affections – John 7:17 tells us that our problem with knowing or figuring out what the Bible is saying is not that what the bible tells us is hard to comprehend, our problem with knowing is that we lack the will to do God’s will. Understanding the Bible starts with having the will to do God’s will; our persistent intent and purpose must be to accept God’s will and to do it.  Then Proverbs calls us to treasure knowledge, the next step is to value knowing what God wants to reveal in His Word and will. You have to want it. You have to value it. Yielded; you have to be willing to accept what it says whether you like what it says or not. Pray to have the right spirit.  We must understand that scripture tells us we have a proclivity to rebellion; we have a sinful nature and therefore this does not come naturally.  Through reading, meditation, prayer, worship and (incremental faith based) submission we must trust that the Holy Spirit will bring about change in our aims and affections.

John 7:17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

  • Context – One of the most powerful statements I ever read which just opened up scripture to me was made by J I Packer in “Knowing God”. Packer Said “We feel that we are, so to speak, on the outside of the Bible world, looking in… The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place… epoch, culture, etc… The link between them and us is not found at that level. The link is God Himself. For the God with whom they had to do is the same God with whom we have to do.” I believe knowledge of the cultures and original languages will add to that understanding but I do not believe it will ever turn the meaning around 180 degrees or even 90 degrees for that matter. It may skew it slightly but for all intents and purposes what God wants us to learn we can get from a good, honest translation. The context of the words in scripture will lead to an essential understanding of scripture. The Bible is written for all; it is more significant that it was written from God’s perspective than that it was textualized to ancient Israel. To understand what we are reading; in order of significance we need to consider our own context and objectively identify our wilfullness and then consider literary genre, immediate context, surrounding context and historical-cultural context.
  • Text – The next thing needed is “a good honest translation”. I believe that where a translator cared about preserving God’s word God Himself protected His word and what we have in such translations captures the essential meaning God wishes to communicate. Where the translator sought to capture the fullest meaning versus convey understanding God participated to the preservation of His word. Translations that are dynamic or paraphrase to varying degrees are the take of the translator on what phrases meant to convey or communicate. These translations such as the NLT, NIrV, and even the NIV are a good place to start but a translation that endeavors to preserve connecting words, verb tense and fullest meaning is needed to get to the fullest understanding of what God is saying and ensure we are not just accepting a translator’s mistaken or incomplete understanding. A good critique of translations may be found at http://www.bible-researcher.com/versions.html. Also the chart below is a comparison of reading level and literal accuracy which should help in selecting a text. The scale going down the left side represents the grade level, 3 being third grade, to which the particular version of the bible was translated and the scale across the top represents how closely it is translated word for word, 14 being the closest. (The chart of bible translation reading levels to literal accuracy was the result of analysis of charts and tables from Zondervan, Bible Gateway [1] and Not Just Another Book [2] as well as personal research and experience with these versions.)

    Translation Readability and Equivalence

  • Study – You have to study the bible.   Studying the bible is comprised of three levels of depth:
    • Reading – Use reading plans such as Chronological, Sequential, Life Application, and others as well as devotionals and memorization to develop a picture of what scripture is saying at a high level and to acquire and retain Gods word. Between reading and studying you can fill out a book survey making a cursory note of some key words repeated through out the book and write a theme for each chapter.
    • Studying – From reading one should proceed to meditation in deeper study of what the Word is saying. This high level understanding coupled with the Words of God hidden in the heart is then brought to bear when you seek to understand scripture’s fullest meaning. As we look deeply at a particular passage other passages from Scripture should come to mind placing limits on what the passage may mean while removing other limits allowing the Spirit of God to bring to light further meaning.  Studying then involves stepping through a book passage by passage, re-reading, and using methods of observation that take note of the immediate context and key words to form a deeper understanding of what the Word says.  Methods of study include Inductive Bible Study and Cross Referencing (the bible is its own best interpreter) and topical study tools.
    • Examining – Having achieved deeper levels of understanding and uncovered other possible implications in scripture  methods of exegesis such as key word study,  and proposition analysis (arcing) can be employed for the deepest levels of study.  The purpose of examination is to ensure that what you understand about a passage of scripture is the correct interpretation and the fullest possible interpretation.

Acts 17:11 – Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.


[1]Cook, David L. BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/bibles/translations/index.php.

[2]MacDonald, Brent. “NJAB – Comparison Chart of Bible Translations Showing Style or Type of Translation and Readability or Grade Level.” Not Just Another Book: How We Got and Why We Trust the Bible!  http://www.notjustanotherbook.com/biblecomparison.htm.

In Danger of Being Non-Contenders

Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz with his students

Image via Wikipedia

Have We Really Progressed So Much

We proudly look at our home libraries, computers, ebooks and internet and assume that we have progressed so much. But could there be another possibility? The ancient cultures of the bible had a strong oral tradition. What has amazed anthropologists when they analyze recorded oral records is the accuracy with which the accounts have been passed down over centuries. In many cases it is close to the level of transcription errors by scribes of written works.

By age 12 a Jewish boy would have at least the first five books of the bible memorized and in the next five years many would memorize the entire Old Testament. The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know and unless we can associate things with terms to search for we really can’t search these electronic tools necessarily for concepts or examples of such concepts. When Jude calls us to contend for the faith once handed down to us we are actually in greater danger now. We do not have such an oral tradition where the words of the Bible might come to mind when confronted with new ideas or perspectives. What comes to our mind is a limited set of scriptures that we have personally identified with and that match our view of the world. Most of us do not have the pallet of Biblical verses that a 12 year old Jewish boy would have.

When God created man and called His creation good, was Adam then less developed then we are? Did a primitive prehistoric cave man make a willful, sinful choice that condemned us all? Or did God create man with great capacity to understand? We know that necessity is the mother of invention. Could it be that we have digressed instead of progressed? Could it be that maybe we need more crutches like laptops and the internet because our capacities have diminished?

How Can We Progress

Through out John Jesus says I tell you the truth, over and over. The Bible calls us to seek knowledge and when the bible says I tell you the truth then it implies that we can know it and when the Bible says this is hidden until the end then it implies that we can’t know it. John 7:17 tells us that our problem with knowing is not that what the bible tells us is hard to comprehend, our problem with knowing is that we lack the will to do God’s will. Understanding the Bible starts with having the will to do God’s will. Then Proverbs calls us to treasure knowledge, the next step is to value knowing what God wants to reveal in His will.  Thirdly we have to read and memorize God’s word.

John 7:17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

We cannot know all of God almighty but we can know what He chooses to reveal to us and what the Spirit will make real to us if we are in His will in our current circumstance as we face the world being a Child of God under the Lordship of Christ.

Is All Sin the Same?

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Image via Wikipedia

Does the Bible say that all sin is the same?  I can’t think of a specific verse which makes this statement so where does this idea come from?  I believe this idea is drawn from several passages.  The first being the Sermon on the mount where Jesus addresses the ideas of justifying one sin because of a similar yet more heinous sin.  The religious leaders had given them instructions but Jesus was contradicting their teaching.  Jesus would say “You have heard that it was said”.  Jesus was essentially saying that its not about finding a way which is convenient for you, the measure is holiness for God said “Be holy because I am holy”.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus compares murder to hating your brother and even being angry with your brother.  Jesus seeks to squash justifying sin but does not mean to infer that sins are equally bad or unacceptable. To do so ends up with the same problem; it minimizes sin and opens doors that shouldn’t be open. For example; If I am attracted then why not flirt and since it’s all the same and we are consenting adults then what’s wrong with the next step of adultery.  The second place is in 1 John.  In this epistle John calls the church to purity and holiness.  The focus here is on the doctrine of regeneration.  It is expected  that if a person is truly born again they will not make a practice of sin but abiding in Christ will be transformed into His likeness.

Matt 5:21-22 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ESV
1John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ESV
James 2:10-11 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.   ESV

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 158 other followers