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Mine! Mine!

Alternatively titled, “What you won’t hear the Apostle Paul say.”

I’ve been chewing on this for a little while as I work my way through Paul’s epistles. During this project, I’ve discovered a funny side effect of getting to know the biblical authors better: I get annoyed when people say things about them that I don’t think are true. In this case, I found myself chafing at a rather pervasive idea commentators seem to have have about Paul. Many of them consider him to be quite possessive of the churches he planted.

At one level, I can see how they could arrive at this conclusion. With texts like these…

Ga 4:16-17; 5:12 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. …I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

2Co 10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us–a sphere which especially includes you.

2Co 11:5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles…

2Co 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles…

…it’s easy to walk away with the idea that Paul was a little jumpy about losing his ministry base. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians

 

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The Offensiveness of Truth and the Truth about Offense

Seeker-friendly. That title alone is enough to induce a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of Bible-believing Christians. While no one will argue against increasing accessibility for those who want to be saved, that goal has been pursued in a lot of unhelpful ways. Too often, churches have compromised or abandoned their message in order to avoid accidentally offending someone. Too many preachers have focused so hard on making their hearers feel comfortable that they neglect to actually say anything of substance.

In reality, there is an inherently offensive dimension to the Gospel. Self-righteous, independent humans don’t like being told they’re lost sinners who must cast themselves on the mercy of a God they’ve never seen, and thereafter obey Him. People overly concerned with being nice and inclusive chafe at the idea that there is only one Way to the Father. Naturalistic intellectuals will scoff at the idea that some God-Man will come in the sky and set up a thousand-year kingdom. God Himself, speaking of the first coming of His Son, said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense…” (Rom 9:33). He knew that many pride-blinded sinners would not be willing to receive Him.

Thus, it is more than fair to say that the Gospel — undiluted and straightforward — is offensive to the unredeemed human heart. It may even be fair to say that a presentation of the Gospel that does not strike that chord of, “Wait… what?!” very well may have missed the way Scripture speaks of it.

Truth is often offensive. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ ought not to shrink back from being truthful for fear of bothering someone.

However, and equally importantly, not all that offends is truth. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ (especially the younger ones) do well to take this seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in My Two Cents, Theology

 

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The Great Equalizer, Illustrated

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “equality” lately. You can’t do even a cursory study of the gender debate without running across this word a lot. There are so many arguments about it — what groups are actually equal with each other; what groups need to be; what groups claim to not have equality, but really do; and, “well, what is your group to tell me that my group doesn’t need it anymore?” etc. etc. There are tons of ideas of how to achieve equality, countless articles searching for the cause of its absence, and lots and lots of finger-pointing and/or self-pity regarding those who get the short end of the stick. It is such a dicey subject.

On one hand, I definitely agree with the overall concept of equality. We in the church are supposed to love, honor, and submit to one another in Christ, so we really should not be seeing vast swaths of people who are being systematically oppressed. We need to treat even unbelievers with kindness. Defending the oppressed is biblical, and it’s a great thing.

But on the other hand, it’s hard to justify by the Sermon on the Mount how it’s okay for any of us to stand up and demand our fair and equal rights. Although it’s right for us to be treated well, it’s not our job to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure that happens. The Bible actually seems to assume that we’ll be mistreated (Matt 24:9; John 16:33; 2Cor 4:8-11; 2Tim 3:12; 1Pet 4:12…just to list a few)! And then it tells us to do ridiculous things like turn the other cheek! But shouldn’t we stand up for what’s right?

Holy ideological minefield, Batman! What do we do now?

As I was mulling over this topic the other day, it struck me how I was coming at it from completely the wrong angle. The Bible actually gives us a really clear picture of what Christ-centered equality looks like. And it looks something like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in Theology, Women in Ministry

 

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Hermeneutics Pt. II – Interpretation

Last week, we looked at the first step in good hermeneutics, observation. Observation is very simply just taking one’s time to see what the passage in question actually says. We have to resist the tendency to begin assigning meaning to things yet, but simply write down what we actually see in the Scripture.

Our example passage was Genesis 2:18-22. We ended up with a simple bullet list like this:

  • God said it was not good that man should be alone.
  • God said He would make the man a helper comparable to him.
  • God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them.
  • Adam named every living creature.
  • There was no helper comparable to Adam found among the animals.
  • God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep.
  • God took a rib from Adam’s side and closed up the wound.
  • God took the rib He had taken, and made it into a woman.
  • God brought the woman to the man.

Ideally, this first step of observation should include a lot more of the biblical context, but for the sake of space on this blog, we’re taking on just a few verses at a time.

Now it’s time to start asking the question, what does this mean?

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Bible, Theology, Women in Ministry

 

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Hermeneutics pt. I – Observation

As I mentioned at the end of last post, I want to explain why I went to the lengthy detail I did regarding Genesis 1-3. It seems like a lot of work, especially considering that I (purposefully) didn’t say anything that the Bible doesn’t already say. But that’s actually the point. It’s the necessary starting ground for good hermeneutics.

Simply defined, a hermeneutic is the system that governs how one interprets and understands the Bible. Everyone who reads the Bible — serious scholar or no — operates under some kind of hermeneutic. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2010 in Bible, Theology

 

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Examining Genesis 1-3

When I began studying the topic of women in ministry (I have so got to find a better way to refer to this topic), I was quite unprepared for how much Genesis 1-3 figured into the discussion. I was expecting to see a lot of argument about Genesis 3:16, but wasn’t the rest of it pretty straightforward?

Evidently not, according to some. This is rather serious, seeing as these chapters are are considered a pivotal foundation for any discussion on gender roles. Raymond Ortlund Jr., a contributor to a leading complimentarian book, said it about as bluntly as one could hope: “As Genesis 1-3 go, so goes the whole Biblical debate.”

Whoa. I guess we’d better take a closer look at these three chapters. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Bible, Genesis, Women in Ministry

 

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Noah, Daniel, and Job

Pop quiz: What do these three biblical figures have in common?

Answer: According to the Word, they are the most likely candidates to save an unrepentant city from the wrath of God. According to the Word, they are also solidly incapable of doing it.

Before we wave this off as an intriguing (if morbid) bit of biblical trivia, we need to see what the prophet Ezekiel had to say about this trio.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Ezekiel

 

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