Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another solid Bible commentary site

I'm always on the lookout for web sites offering good-quality Bible commentary for use in preparing sermons or Bible studies. My best discovery this week is The Voice, web presence of the Christian Resource Institute (not to be confused with the Christian Research Institute). The site includes surprisingly in-depth studies, primarily by Dennis Bratcher (Ph.D. in biblical studies, Union Theological Seminary, Virginia) and Roger Hahn, Ph.D., professor of NT, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City.

Commentaries on specific texts can be accessed easily from the site's Index of Biblical Passages. As web-page indexes go, this one is exceptionally useful.

I've been trying to find studies and commentaries from a wide range of theological territories, and The Voice is by far one of the best I've found from an Arminian perspective.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Expository note: Rom. 3:23

". . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . ." (Rom. 3.23)

For years I've used Rom. 3:23 in preaching as a proof text that everyone (except Jesus, of course) has sinned. I mean, there it is: all--everyone, everywhere, everywhen--have sinned. But if you actually look at, you know, the whole sentence, there's a problem in the very next verse: ". . . being justified gratuitously by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

Do you see it? If you try to use Rom. 3:23 as proof that everyone has sinned, then there's no way around using v. 24 to say that everyone has now been saved. Universalism, anyone?

How do we get out of that little pit? Once again, it helps to look at the whole sentence, so let's take in v. 22: ". . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all the ones who believe, for there is no difference. . ." So, the all in v. 23 refers not to every human being, but only to every believer. If we start at v. 19 and read Paul's whole idea here, it becomes pretty clear that the all refers to both Jew and Gentile, but again, only to believers.

Does that mean not everyone has sinned? Of course not. Elsewhere the NT makes clear that, in fact, everyone sins (Rom. 1:18-2:11; Heb. 4:15). The only problem is that Rom. 3:23 is not quite so easy to use as a one-step proof of universal depravity. It's still helpful, though. By the how-much-more logic often found in Scripture, if all Christians have sinned and are worthy of death (Rom. 6:23), then how much more are unbelievers.

So in a sense, we're back almost to where we started. But for me, at least, actually seeing what the Bible says (rather than what I would like it to say) has been both humbling and invigorating. I can't wait to be humbled again if it means coming a little closer to the truth of God's Word.

© Copyright 2011, A. Milton Stanley

Worth reading: anti-itch meditation

One of the consequences of not chasing after The Latest Great Blog Post on this weblog is that I hope to spend more time recommending the blogs I've found most edifying so that you can read them yourself.

The first is anti-itch meditation, the writings of Jeff Weddle. Jeff has so much going for him as a blogger that it's hard to know where to begin. He has a gift for zeroing-in on important points of faith, doctrine, and discipleship that most of the rest of us seem to overlook. And, he has a delightfully succinct and ironic way of sharing those insights. Jeff also has the courage to look at the Bible and to see what it actually says, rather than what we wish it would say or what his particular interpretive tradition insists it says.

One indication that Jeff may really be on to something is that he can't get a break with the world. For example, he recently got a book contract shortly before his publisher (me) went out of business. But I'm certainly not recommending Jeff's blog out of guilt about publishing his book; I published his book because I really, really like what he writes on his blog. If you're ready for a straight-up shot of truth, I think you will, too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My tribe

In case you're interested, here's a picture of the church I work with. There may be as good a bunch of Christians other places, but none better (that I know of).

Totally off-topic

Has anybody else ever noticed that you never see Geert Wilders and Leonardo Dicaprio in the same room at the same time? Coincidence?

Wow . . .

. . . I'm actually writing on the blog again. Nobody may be reading, but it sure feels good to get out and walk around. Peace.

Review of Cruciform by Jimmy Davis

OK, I'm just going to say it. Jimmy Davis used to live down the road from me in Knoxville, he seems like a really nice guy, and he took the time to send me a hardcopy of his new book, Cruciform: Living the Cross Shaped Life. But his book landed on my computer table at just the right time--digestive troubles, end-of-semester stresses, weariness from blogging, and general exhaustion--that I was more or less determined not to like it. It's not that I have anything against Jimmy or his writing (please see sentence #2 above). It's just that Jimmy somehow found the time and energy to write a book, and I didn't even have time and energy to read one.

So, as I took to reading the first chapter of Cruciform, I grabbed a pen and filled the marginal white spaces with notes: "Tone reads much like Christian NA Zeitgeist," "Tired of seeing this guy's [Tullian Tchividjian's] name." So far so good--plenty of little things to pick at in the opening pages.

But, as I was actually reading Jimmy's writing, I began to be stirred by both the depth of his insight and his exceptional ability to craft a literary soundbite. By p. 13 the marginal notes had begun to morph: "good point," "yes," and finally, on p. 21, "Yes!" (to Jimmy's insight that "Elvis is still in the building." Read the book and you'll understand). Chapter Two begins in East Tennessee with an extended picture of Neyland Stadium, complete with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band belting out "Rocky Top" to 100k fans. That did it; I was hooked. Anyone who can use UT football to illustrate the Kingdom of God (and not fall into Vololatry) is a writer I want to read. From that point on the margins are all stars, triple-verticle lines and "Yes!"

Jimmy does so many things well in this book: provides an overview of the Bible story, explains the glory of God, and demonstrates how the cross is stitched into the very fabric of creation. Don't let Cruciform's very readable style obscure its theological depth. Whether you're a seeker, one new to the faith, or a mature Christian, Cruciform shines a lot of light on a lot of life.

And now for an anti-climactic postscript. The cost at Amazon for a paperback copy ($9.99) is very good, but the Kindle price is way too high. Jimmy, if you went down to the magic number of 99 cents for a Kindle edition, you would probably sell ten or twenty times as many copies as you would at $5.99. Think about it, bro.

Digging out


I checked my email today for the first time in about a month, and I actually logged into the blog here for the first time in about ten weeks. I'm beginning to dig out from under physical and other ailments that have been weighing on me the past few months, and I just wanted to drop back in and say thank you for stopping by. Thanks especially to Bob Spencer, Jimmy Davis, and others of you who have checked on me these past few weeks by email.

In the coming days I plan to be posting odds and ends that come to mind. I'd still like this weblog to be a resource for preachers, teachers, and other Christians wanting to be transformed by the Word of God, but I'm going to make a point of not simply being a clearinghouse for The Newest Big Thing in Blog World. As I'm able I'll continue to read the blogs that have provided so much insight, and I'll cover them from time to time. I suppose I'll also be sharing a few more personal thoughts than in the past, as it seems appropriate. But rather than being caught up in reading hundreds of blog posts each week and feverishly linking to the best, I'll be a little more casual about. If you find something helpful here, well, that'll just be gravy. Again, thanks for reading.