Monday, December 26, 2005

Blogging break

I'll be taking the rest of this week off from blogging while I finish developing a church history course for NationsUniversity. Hope to be with you here again January 1, 2006.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Still threatening our thrones

Buzz Trexler, with a little help from Len Sweet and Jim Green, considers the different ways Jesus' coming has been viewed through the centuries. As he did for Herod, Jesus threatens every little throne we set up in competition to the King of kings and Lord of lords:

* The Baby Jesus is easy to get excited about, because there are few, if any, demands.
* The God-Man Jesus brings with Him all of the baggage that sacrifice demands.
* The greatest throne we set up is the throne of Self, and so we serve the God-Man at our leisure -- we worship at our leisure, we pray at our leisure, we serve others at our leisure and we give at our leisure.

Leisure, of course, is different from rest and refreshment. May this Christmas be a time of rest and refreshment for you.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Preaching and anointing

Phil McAlmond writes this week about teaching preaching. In preaching, Phil says, it's important to remember not only the need for good hermeneutical and homiletical technique, but anointing:
When preparing to preach or teach, the question that I ask isn’t, what do I need to preach or what can I preach or what do I want to preach, etc. no, I ask, “Lord Jesus, what is it that you are preaching or that you are teaching”? In order for me to declare prophetically that which He is speaking I need to hear clearly what it is that He is saying, now. I dare not presume upon this vital question with some sort of simplistic or presumptuous answer. No, I need to seek Him, wait upon Him, hear Him and then declare what I have seen and heard or even am now seeing and hearing, in His presence (1 Jn 1:3).
That's putting the emphasis where it belongs--not on the preacher, not even on those to whom we preach, but on the God whom we proclaim.

Peace, goodwill, merriment, and the death of Christmas

Bob of Gratitude and Hoopla makes a strong case that Dickens's A Christmas Carol may deserve much of the credit for de-Christianizing Christmas:
Why do I say that Dickens may have been the father of the de-Christianization of Christmas? Because this most famous of secular Christmas stories depicts a reformation of the heart and soul that is prompted not by a revelation of our desperate need for a Savior, and the corresponding realization of the "good news of great joy" that that Savior has indeed come. No, Scrooge is merely confronted with his own mortality. Scrooge is born again, yes, but apparently not from above. In fact, Dickens' story, though it is saturated with fine feeling and Christmas ideals, carefully skirts the real issue.
I think Bob's right.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A good reminder

David Wayne, with some help from Paul Johnson and G. K. Chesterton, considers how history, in Johnson's words, "is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance." Here's David:
I am thinking that it would do us all good to either laugh heartily or yawn sleepily whenever an exciting idea for church growth, or theology, or a paradigm shift in whatever is marketed to us as new. Now it may be new to us, it happens all the time that I learn something I didn't know before. But nothing is new. I am thinking it would do us a great deal of good to assume that, even if we don't know anything about this new thing, that somewhere in history something similar was propounded. Thus we ought to look to the past to evaluate the idea rather than listen to the future promises this idea proposes.


A look at "Christian" blogging

Mike Russell is back to blogging again. This week he tells what he's observed among blogs by Christians while reading more and writing less. His thoughts on doctrinal divisiveness in particular are worth considering both in and beyond the "cyber-Body of Christ."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And yet, God surprises

"The dominant idealogy of our culture is committed to continuity and success and to the avoidance of pain, hurt and loss. The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise. It is curious but true, that surprise is as unwelcome as loss. And our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both."

-- Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms

Why we preach

Albert Mohler has done a three-part series on why we preach. (HT: Stronger Church).
Here's a sample:
The preacher is a commissioned agent whose task is to speak because God has spoken, because the preacher has been entrusted with the telling of the gospel of the Son who saves, and because God has promised the power of the Spirit as the seal and efficacy of the preacher's calling.
It's a strong, readable series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Reading without theological distinctives

One of the most distressing elements of Bible study is that we all seem unable to simply read the Scriptures without forcing them through our pet theological distinctives. That's why I'm glad to see Brad Huston's recent post on letting the Bible speak for itself.

Following one man

Out of Ur looks at the role of pastor in thecontext of the whole church's mission:
I am . . . convinced that Christ is not revealed to the world through any one man, but through his people—the church. We live in a culture that promotes autonomy and individualism. As a result we foolishly take the mission given to the church, and we make it the mission of the pastor. We elevate individuals on a pedestal, and become disillusioned when they fail to meet our expectations. No single man embodies the fullness of Christ, and we should not expect one to.
Amen. The error of expecting the minister to do the work of the whole church, by the way, can be found even in congregations that don't call him "pastor." How, then, should the church reclaim a right perspective? By keeping our eyes on Jesus:
. . . I am convinced that the church will only fulfill its calling when we embrace the reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory. For too long our hope has been in programs, strategies, politics, or leaders. We have confused the wisdom of the world for the wisdom of God. Our hope is not in these things, but in the mystery that Christ dwells in us; ever ready to reveal his glorious wisdom that is foolishness to the world.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Feelings do not equal truth

Although he misuses the word "myth," Attention Span is right on target in reminding us that feelings do not equal truth.

Not searching for something new in the Bible

Scot McKnight calls into question the idea of always searching the Scriptures for something new:
But, discovery of something new is not the sole, or even the main, purpose for reading the Bible. So let me suggest that there is another way to read the Bible — with our ears. The longer you look at that idea that we read the Bible to find something new the sillier it becomes. If the purpose of reading the Bible is to find something new, the older we get the less we would need the Bible for the more we know the less we would consult the Bible.
Good point. Maybe we don't continue searching the Scriptures for new information, but I should think we never stop going to them for transformation.

Update: John Schroeder offers additional thoughts at Blogotional.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

God's bad manners

Although my reference here is a little late for lectionary preaching, Conrad Gempf's meditation on the Mary's troubles with the Annunciation is always timely:
At least John the Baptist's mother wanted to get pregnant. Poor Mary. From the very beginning, the salvation of the world meant nothing but trouble and heartaches for her personally. Couldn't God have waited a year until they were married; or couldn't he have caused Joseph to pop the question a few months earlier? So much for the idea that God is going to work in culturally appropriate ways, eh? An unmarried woman -- pregnant -- in that culture? Forget about it.

Yet she's gonna start singing about it, praising God, within the space of a chapter. Why?

The trick is not letting culture determine what is good about your relationship with God. The trick is letting your relationship with God determine what is good.
Amen. That's something we can always benefit from remembering, isn't it?

Two types of illustrations to avoid

Bryan Chapell writes convincingly on two types of illustrations not to use: the extraordinary and "the inappropriate self-reference." Right-on.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More blog awards

Thanks to those of you who voted for TS as Best Religious Blog in the Weblog Awards. All the best to winner Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost.

A lot of blog awards are going on this time of year, including the 2006 Evangelical Blog Awards at the Evangelical Underground. I've nominated several blogs, based on quality of writing, consistency in posting (which left out some of my favorites--you know who you are!), and purely subjective taste. Also, some of my favorites I didn't nominate because there were simply too many worthy choices for each available category. With that caveat, then, here are my nominees: Allthings2all, anti-itch meditation, Believer Blog, Blogotional, Broken Messenger, Cerulean Sanctum, The Christian Mind, Contratimes, Eternal Perspectives, Gad(d)about, Gratitude and Hoopla, Jesus Creed, Jim Street, Kingdom Adventure, Not Quite Art-Not Quite Living, Odyssey, Purgatorio, Scotwise, Stronger Church, Sudan Watch, Sycamore, Swap Blog, Under the Acacias, The Upward Call, The View from the Nest, Windows to my Soul, Wind Scraps, and Winter's End. I know I've left out many worthy blogs, so I encourage you to go to the EBA page and post your own nominations.

Note: I choose to take the Evangelical Blog Awards at face value--that they recognize those who hold to the euaggelion, or good news of Jesus Christ. Although the EU includes plenty of political commentary, I'm trusting the awards remain non-partisan.

Messing with tradition

Rusty Peterman has written a beautiful post about how Jesus messed with tradition.

Standing up and telling the truth

I think I've finally deciphered John Telfer Brown's color code at Scotwise. Red is scripture, green is quotes from others, and blue is John's own words. Now, armed with the color-key, see if you aren't encouraged by John's post, "Be your self, tell it as it is."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Are we laughing at sin?

Rob Wilkerson has written about the problem of Christians submerging ourselves in worldy media:
In short, the relationship is this: Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God against all the sinfulness we have dumbed ourselves into enjoying.
Rob has some good insights, particularly about how popular media lure us into laughing at sin. His post gave me something to think about after spending a good part of the past weekend laughing at This is Spinal Tap.

Update: The Bluefish Project reacts to Rob's post with this trenchant comment: "I do not exist to be amused."

Scripture, doctrine, uncertainty, and humility

I don't know where Michael Spencer finds time to write his long, sharp-minded posts, but he's recently put into words an idea that's been working its way, poorly phrased, through my mind for quite some time. In short, Michael explains how Christians of good faith and sound mind can come to different doctrinal conclusions on some issues:
Sometimes, the Bible doesn’t give you enough evidence, one way or the other, to settle a question beyond the possibility of a continuing discussion and debate. If this is true, and if the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit does not remove this ambiguity, then there are points beyond which dicsussion and debate ought to proceed only with considerable and generous amounts of respectful humility.
Michael goes on to discuss how, years ago, he and his fellow seminarians never entertained the notion that some issues might better be approached with humility than certainty:
It never occured to us . . . that maybe, just maybe, the Bible wasn’t unambiguous on this topic. [It] never occured to us that we could put all the pieces on the table, arrange them in different ways, and come to different conclusions ALL DAY/YEAR LONG. It never occured to us to conclude that this wasn’t a question like “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” It was a question like, “What will heaven be like?”

Why did this never occur to us? Because, in our respective communities, we were constantly assured that the Bible was unambiguous on EVERYTHING. It was absolutely clear on all issues, which is why we all knew we were right all the time.
While the Bible's teaching is clear on the gospel, many issues are not nearly so clear. Thus the value of humility--and love (HT: Adrian Warnock).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"The possiblity of grace"

Jim Street looks at how God worked in the lives of Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary, and reflects on "the possibility of grace":
I cannot help but wonder about the relationship of grace to the resolution of our own dilemmas. In other words, how do we open ourselves up to the possibility of grace when we are torn between options or confused by events that occur in our lives?

I write "the possibility of grace" because I see that grace cannot be ordered up like eggs and bacon. One can no more command grace than one can command a river to run uphill. (I have often thought that addictive or compulsive actions may be vain attempts at "grace on demand.") Grace is a gift and gifts, by definition, are given out of the giver's freedom to give or not give.

To demand a gift is to paralyze the giver. . . .

Sometimes we wonder whether God is waiting for us to act! We mutter to ourselves, "Well, God, gave me a good brain. God gave me choice. God expects me to do the best I can with what I have and what I know. God expects me to assume responsibility for my actions." And while I understand that (and have acted on that basis more often than not), it leaves me wondering whether acting on the basis of my "best lights" short circuits the possibility of grace. (And I wonder how many of those who regularly proclaim that philosophy are people of prayer and hope.)
I wonder, too. And I also wonder if I'm one of the people Jim writes about.

Putting truth back in Christmas criticisms

Many objections to how Christmas is celebrated in North America are as tired and cliche as the excesses they oppose. Some bloggers, however, are offering incisive critiques. Blogcorner Preacher, for example, cuts through both the commercial frenzy and sappy "spirit of the season" sentimentality to show what's really at the bottom of seasonal abuses:
I've railed for years against the ugly commecialization of Christmas, which should be a Mass for Christ. Period. The decorations, the forced gaity, the giving and receiving of gifts, the scrum in the box stores after Thanksgiving for the "must have" presents, all stinks to high heaven of paganism. Of worship of self and of things made by the hand of man.
Too true. Along similar lines, Ben at Open Switch slams the hypocrisy in many who speak against the commercialization of Christmas yet join in the buying frenzy:
I’ve really gotta hand it to vegetarians. They don’t believe it’s right to eat other animals and honestly, that’s a perfectly viable option. What’s important to note, however, is that they’re not saying, “Don’t eat meat” as they chow down on their steak. They live out what they believe.

Similarly, before we criticize companies for their commercialization of Christmas, we must check our own behavior and make sure it lines up with what we say we believe.
True (Hat tip: Swap Blog).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On taking up our crosses

Jim Street blogs about Mt. 16:24-26 and what it means to die to self:
Jesus calls his disciples to a daily death to self. However, dying to self does not imply passivity. Dying to self entails being reborn to Christ. After all, Jesus links dying to self with following Him.

The power to keep on walking, to keep on following, comes to those who are dead and dying.

Whenever transformative change comes we must experience a kind of death. We must overcome our resistance to change (that is, to go on trying to preserve a way of life that has always worked in the past) and let go of our lives. We must die to the old self and open ourselves to being made new.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Practical steps for sermon preparation

Josh Harris has read John Stott's Between Two Worlds and developed a practical guide for preparing a sermon (HT: Adrian Warnock). The keeper? How about this one:

You are not called to preach yourself or your ideas, but charged to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

Or this: "Combine diligent study with fervent prayer."

Josh's post is full of excellent guidance, and I recommend you read it all.

A nation of kings and queens

In the process of looking at political diviseness, Bill Gnade makes a trenchant observation that affects every aspect of culture in the United States. The problem? Each one of us sees himself or herself as a king or queen:
We live in a culture where everyone could, in theory, run for president, or even be president. We live in a culture wherein we teach our children that there is no dream they should not dream; that they can be anything they want to be, even the CEO of America; or that they, as mere amateurs, can nonetheless critique with pride the performances of the best athletes, writers, philosophers, or religious leaders in the world.
This quote hardly does justice to the post, in which Bill quotes Plato, Oscar Wilde, and Raphael Demos. I recommend reading the whole essay, because it sheds important light on what Christians really face in bringing the gospel to men and women in the United States.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An excellent blog stop

Ekklesia, like this blog, consists to a great extent of excerpts and links to other writing. That makes it hard to link to (linking to links), but you may be blessed by going there and looking around. Lately Wayne has had noteworthy posts on answering seekers' questions and answering those who don't believe in their own sin and guilt.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Advent 3 at textweek blog

Dan Clendenin, Jimmy Carter, and Carl Jung are featured in Advent 3 posts this week at textweek blog.

Online resources on Revelation

Here's a keeper: Sean du Toit has posted a list of online resources on the Apocalypse of John (Hat tip: Cafe Apocalypsis). The list is short, but it contains good stuff, including a full-text link to R. H. Charles's Revelation volume in the International Critical Commentary.

Shopping and the McChurch

Gerry Michalski has written a hard-hitting post on consumerism in the North American church. Here's a sample:
I do not have a problem with people spending their money on ‘toys’ and stuff (I do it all the time) and enjoying life to the fullest…guilt free….PROVIDING that they are contributing in some fashion to the over all health of the world.

But when someone (who had just bought [an] XBOX 360) said that they do not sponsor a child…because they do not feel the need right now…because I do not really have the money…I almost fell over.
In another scathing post, Mr. Michalski had this to say about "McChurch of Canada":
Consume, consume and consume and when you get ticked at the pastor or someone else you can move over to the other retailer, because they don’t know you or your history and THEY want your business. But since everything is cyclical they are bound to find out, within a year or two…because that is when you get hacked-off with someone and it is time to leave again. Patterns are so loud and clear and it is funny to see that most people are blind to them. . . .

We live in a world where people get angry over the things that don’t matter and don’t get angry about the things that do matter. Perhaps it is time for the church to be come angry about the things that GOD is angry about.
Perhaps he's right (HT: Caught in the Middle).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"The Word was with God and was God"

Peter Epps has posted an excerpt of his study on the rhetoric of John 1. The post contains helpful background and insights into John's use of "the Word."

The offense of grace & scandal of the cross

Bluefish Project has written an outstanding post about a writer at The Guardian who takes offense at the cross. Preachers (and all Christians), there's a powerful illustration here. Earlier Bluefish posted a related essay on the offense of grace

Powerful stuff.

That'll preach

It looks like product placements have now extended to sermons:
The official marketing for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe apparently includes a sermon contest, wherein the winner gets a free trip to London and $1,000 in spending money.
The details on whether or not Disney itself is behind this campaign is not clear [Update: It looks like they are]. But can we all agree that product placements in sermons are a bad idea?

Coming clean: I won't say the same for blogs. I added a link here to the ESV homepage in exchange for a free Bible.

Update: Keith Plummer has a brief post with more helpful details on this story at The Christian Mind.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Superiority of the Word

John Schroeder has been thinking about Narnia in book and movie format and wonders if verbal communication is not inherently superior to visual:
Is our societal trend to the moving picture, be that film or television, problematic? . . . .

Do words reach deeper into us than images possibly can. Most people would argue the opposite, but now I am wondering. I have been moved by images, but my life was changed by words, well actual The Word. What about you?
Well yes, it has. As others have pointed out, the shift in contemporary culture from word-oriented to image-oriented will have profound and as-yet unseen consequences. In biblical times, God's people practiced a Word-oriented faith in a sea of image-oriented paganism. In that context, what impact will the church experience from the rush to bring images--from blockbuster movies down to homemade PowerPoint presentations--into the assembly?

Demons or nothing?

New Testament Gateway blog looks at reconciling Paul's different comments on the nature of idols in 1 Cor. 8:4-6 and 1 Cor. 10:19-22.

Don't be a peace monger

Jim Martin, reflecting on what he learned from Edwin Friedman, warns church leaders not to be "peace mongers." And what, pray tell, is one of those?
This person functions as if he/she had been “filleted of their backbone.” Such a leader may be nice but spineless. Hearing the words, “I’ve never heard anyone in the church say anything negative about you,” only feeds his/her addiction to good feelings rather than God-centered progress.
Jim asks, what kind of courage do Christian leaders need? He lists ten kinds . They're short, insightful, and worth reading.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Not driven --- led!

Vicki Gaines doesn't buy the popular idea of expecting God's blessing for really following our hearts:
. . . bookstores are filled with purpose-driven messages on living the life of our dreams. Do what you love and God will bless it. I don't believe that. The word "driven" itself carries red-flag connotations. As a Christian writer, my spirit seeks to be led by Jesus Christ, never driven by anything, especially not my own ideas or dreams. In a world of sensual spirituality, it's easy to be led astray with smooth sounding words. We need firm grounding in biblical truth to spot subtle errors found in many teachings (and quotes) today. Perhaps I digress, but none of this "find your purpose" dribble enables me. Inspirational thoughts are just that, inspirational. There's no power in them.
Too true. What should we be seeking, then?
. . . in my 49 years, I've failed enough to learn that my ways are not His ways. I've been fooled by well-meaning writers who invite us to explore our destiny. There is no purpose or destiny outside the life of Jesus Christ. We can't have life unless we have HIM. . . . So I'd rather cling to Jesus than all the motivational quotes in the world. I'm starting to see how power and enablement come, not through grand human effort, but by His Spirit. I want to work in tandem with His purposes, fueled by His Holy Spirit, but I need to be willing to pull away when all the world beckons. It also means giving up my dreams, my goals, my ambitions. It's a paradox. And it's a hard word: surrender. But in surrendering my agenda, I find His.
Amen (HT: Gratitude & Hoopla).

Please pray

The situation is getting worse in Darfur.

Update: Swap Blog has already been asking readers to pray for Darfur.

The final apologetic and hermeneutic

Rawson Street, with a little help from Francis Schaeffer and Lesslie Newbigin, reminds us that love is the final apologetic and hermeneutic of the gospel.

Monday, December 05, 2005

What do you mean no invitations?

Mike Cope has quit offering invitations at the end of his sermons:
Has it ever hit you that the early church very likely didn't end their house church gatherings with an altar call? As far as we know, no one came to the front, filled out a card, and said, "I haven't been the example I should be." The nature of their gatherings, however, offered ongoing chances to encourage each other, confess to each other, and pray for each other.

The whole post is worth reading (HT: Preacher Smith.)

A word on awards

Two sets of blog awards---one popular and one in peril---are underway this month. Voting has begun at Wizbang for the 2005 Weblog Awards. I'm both surprised and honored that this blog has been chosen as one of fifteen finalists for Best Religious Blog (you can vote here).

At the same time the 2006 Evangelical Blog Awards are on the verge of being canceled because not enough nominations have been received. I hope that doesn't happen for two reasons: (1) there are several blogs I plan to nominate, and (2) this year's graphic is cool, and I'd love to have one on this page.

And that thought points to the bigger picture of Christians and blog awards. Fundamentally, our work should be to the glory of God, not ourselves, and the joy of service in the name of Jesus Christ should be sufficient. On the other hand, it's good to be appreciated. In congregational ministry, it's common to hear much more about what we've done wrong than on how much we're appreciated. Whether I get a single vote at Wizbang or am nominated for another award, I'm grateful to those of you who encourage me not only through awards but simply by letting me know that something on this site has been helpful to you.

So I encourage you to nominate your favorite blogs for an EBA, and to encourage one another in every way.

Update: I've nominated about 20 blogs for EBAs. A big problem I have with these kinds of things is that there are a lot more blogs I'd like to nominate than I feel I can get away doing. Also, at Wizbang running vote counts are being shown at the Weblog Awards, and TS is near the bottom. I hope it's not merely sour grapes that in a way I consider that an honor. As I said to my wife last night, "I guess people who read my blog aren't really into awards." And that can be a good thing. To God alone be the glory.

Still the message

Decades ago Marshall McLuhan said that "the media is the message." Last week Keith Plummer reminded his blog readers that the same can be said of today's technologies:
With the staggering statistics about how many people are ensnared in Internet porn, it's understandable that most of the exhortations we hear concerning information technology involve the moral content of the medium. We have to continue to sound that warning while also encouraging more thoughtful reflection about what other forms faithfulness to Jesus should take in how we use technological tools. Using them in humanizing rather than dehumanizing ways can be a powerful part of our witness to the world.
Keith's essay is worth reading in its entirety. So are the comments.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The benefits of sermon teams

The November 29 edition of Preaching Now has a thought-provoking quote on team sermon development. Why work in teams to develop sermons? Here's a quote from Len Wilson and Jason Moore:
"There are multiple problems with working alone, including loneliness and busyness. One of the worst, though, is that a bad idea remains a bad idea. Most of the time, lone sermon planners don't know it's a bad idea until the words spring from their mouth as they are delivering the message. This is mostly avoided in a team environment where creativity is exponential and a bad idea is a path to a good one. Learning to trust in the power of a team takes lots of time and many small steps, but results in savings of time as well as better worship."

I've heard about these kinds of things but never knew any preachers personally who worked in teams to develop sermons. How about you?

What is the church really saying?

Dan Edelen has been posting a series of essays at Cerulean Sanctum on the hidden messages of the church in the United States. So far he's written on classism, kneeling at the altar of excellence, and putting correctness before love. What is Dan talking about in that last one? Things like this:
I know a couple who were driven out of their church by folks who were more concerned about being correct than being loving. That couple's crime? They thought it was okay to read the Harry Potter books. When this opinion was expressed in a group of believers who did not share that belief, things turned ugly. To make matters worse, the couple was fairly young in the Lord and were new to that church. Now those final two elements aren't generally in themselves a reason to let things slide, but love should still have come first, then the acknowledgement that perhaps it is best to remark and let the Lord work it out in the lives of this couple. The result, however, was a bludgeoning, tears, anger, despair, and two fine people leaving the church.
For years Dan has blogged with an unflinchingly incisive eye on the church, and his current series shows why some folks call Dan the "John the Baptist of the blogosphere."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Emphasizing the communal in Communion

John Mark Hicks reflects this week on the Lord's Supper and his book, Come to the Table. John Mark offers a five-point "wish list" for moving beyond the Eucharist as a "solemn, silent, individualistic" event and bringing back the communal, table aspect of Communion. If you read the list and can't see how he arrived at those conclusions, I urge you to read the book.

2 Samuel 21:19 -- Oh, brother

Claude Mariottini, professor of OT at Northern Baptist Seminary, looks at how the TNIV and other English versions translate the well-known "problem" passage of 2 Samuel 21:19 (this link is to parallel translations; please note how significantly the first two differ). Dr. Mariottini's post points up how easily translation can move into excessive interpretation, and it offers a possibile solution to the problem of who killed Goliath:
In light of the recent discovery of the name “Goliath” in the remains of the site of the biblical city of Gath, the translation of the TNIV may be suspicious . . . . According to the archaeologist who found the broken piece of pottery with the name “Goliath,” the name was used one hundred years after the time of David. So, it is possible that the name “Goliath” was used to designate a special type of soldier, like “marines” or “navy seals.” If it is proved to be true that Goliath was the name of a champion warrior in the army of the Philistines, then David killed one Goliath and Elhanan killed another Goliath
For more thoughts on the passage, be sure to read the comments section of Dr. Mariottini's post.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thank you

I discovered today that this blog has been nominated for a Weblog Award for Best Religious Blog. As egotistical as I may be, it never crossed my mind that in the vast world of megablogs this one would get any notice. There are several blogs more deserving than mine that I wish I'd nominated this year--but I plan to be ready next time. Thanks to Ranten N. Raven and Team Swap for the nominations. Robin and Frank, by the way, are two class acts whose blogs I regularly enjoy.

"Christian" is a noun

Back when I was doing a lot of fiction writing I struggled with the idea of what really constitutes "Christian" art. Paul Rose Jr. offers an answer, with the reminder that when it comes to art, the word "Christian" is a noun, not an adjective. I found the link to Mr. Rose's post at Wallo World, where Bill Wallo continues the discussion in his characteristically thoughtful, cogent style.

And what does "Christian" art have to do with preaching or the Christian life? Simply this. Using "Christian" to describe any human creation has consequences beyond the sphere of art. What, for example, are we really saying when we call workout videos, landscape paintings, auto decals, breath mints, and stores themselves "Christian"? In subtle ways we may be following the world, which encourages us to look for consumer items to give us what can only be found in each other, or in God himself.

For more on Christians and the arts, I recommend Franky Schaeffer's Addicted to Mediocrity. For more on "Christian" consumerism, check out these photos from Marc Heinrich.

Method for devotional Bible study

Looking for a more meaningful, disciplined way of studying the Bible devotionally? Bob at Gratitude and Hoopla shares his personal method of studying Ephesians. Not only has Bob come up with a good study method, he's using it with one of my favorite epistles (and his, too).