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November 3, 2014

Rodolphe Kasser of Gospel of Judas fame

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 4:24 pm
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Note: I publish this blog post only after the passing of Prof. Rodolphe Kasser, editor of the Coptic Gospel of Judas, which caused quite a controversy a few years ago.

Rodolphe Kasser in an interview of with swissinfo.ch “damns” the church response to the Gospel of Judas.

swissinfo: When you received the manuscript it was in a dreadful state. How difficult was the task you faced?

Rodolphe Kasser: First of all we had to restore it. This was something that no one had done before. With other papyruses I had worked on you could delicately move around fragments using tweezers but as soon as you touched this one it just broke into more pieces.

No one had restored a MS before or no one had restored this MS?  If he was saying that the no one had ever restored this MS, it is like duh?  Or if he was saying no one had ever restored from pieces of papyri, that is just simply not true.  The Acts of Paul was arguably in worst shape than this.

swissinfo: Pope Benedict XVI also insisted last week that Judas was a traitor…

R.K.: It was a rather stupid response to say that this new text confirms the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus through love of power and money. That’s not the case at all.

Or is it more stupid to make a straw man argument?  The article never says that Pope Benedict claimed that the Gospel of Judas said that Judas betrayed Jesus for love of power and money.

swissinfo: Is the Church’s reaction motivated by fear?

R.K.: It is motivated by intellectual laziness. People don’t want to change what they have always believed. I noticed this reaction among people in the town of Yverdon where I live. Someone I know well told me they were against this new discovery because they didn’t like the idea of Jesus and Judas plotting together.

This strikes me as a extremely elitist.  Prof. Kasser would never remember but I once rode the train with him.  He said that that his wife is Italian and that pizza must be thin, and one should never put too much on it.  But it must be crunchy when you eat it.  We also discussed the Pastoral Epistles.  Despite not being a noted Pauline scholar or even a New Testament scholar, Rodolphe Kasser, the world renown Coptologist said that the Pastoral Epistles are categorically not by Paul; not “probably deutero-Pauline”, or “in my opinion, deuero-Pauline”, but there was no room to budge you are a stupid idiot if you believe otherwise, deutero-Pauline.  It was funny how he was equally dogmatic whether the subject was pizza or the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles.

September 23, 2011

The Function of Prophecy in the New Testament

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 5:25 pm
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At City of God, the question of whether preaching is prophecy is brought up.  Undoubtedly, this is the case, but there are many purposes of prophecy in the New Testament.  I wrote the following outline while part of Vineyard Church.  Scripture citations are from the Revised Standard Version.

Purposes of the Prophetic According to the New Testament

©2002 Peter W. Dunn

 

            Why do we need a strong prophetic ministry in the church?  It is very clear that the church cannot function as it was intended to unless God is in control, and He can only be in control if his people are listening to what He is saying.  The Spirit guides, builds up and purifies the church.  Pastors, if you want to know why your church is not healthy, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

I was recently told that prophecy may only edify and encourage–that NT protocols only allow for positive prophecy.  This is clearly not biblical.  There are many other purposes of the prophetic which go well beyond to edify and encourage.  This is strongly supported in the Post-Resurrection church, of which we are a part.

  1. To guide the church in mission
    1. Acts 9:  Peter’s vision, angelic visitation to Corneilius.  Propelled the church to open up to the gentiles and thus began the evangelization of non-Jews.
    2. Acts 8.26:  An angel speaks to Philip to go to south road towards Gaza.  There he meets the Ethiopian Eunuch.
    3. Acts 13:  Set apart Barnabas and Saul:  This propelled the gentile mission from its Antioch base.
    4. Acts 16.6-9: 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8 so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
      1. This was a wise choice for the Holy Spirit, because the Macedonian churches became Paul’s most generous supporters, and they often financed his missions to other parts of the world.  Prob. Lydia became his most generous supporter.
      2. There may be other good reasons, but we can never know.  If we step out in the flesh, we may make what looks like a good choice but with disastrous consequences.
  2. To expose demonic activity
    1. Jesus did this regularly
      1. Matt 16.23 (Jesus discerned that Satan was behind Peter’s rebuke).
      2. Luke 13.16 (Jesus knew the woman was bound by Satan for 18 years)
      3. Luke 22.31 (Jesus knew that Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat)
    2. Jesus Disciples and followers also have this gift
      1. Luke 22.3 (How did the evangelist know that Satan had entered Judas; clearly someone had prophetic discernment);
      2. Acts 5.3  (Peter knew that Ananias had been inspired by Satan to withhold secretly part of the money).
      3. 2 Cor 12.7 (Paul knew that his thorn in the flesh came from Satan)
      4. 1 Thes 2.18 (Paul knew he had been hindered by Satan from coming to the Thessalonians)
      5. Revelation, a prophetic book, unveils the activity of the demonic in the persecution of the church (see esp. chs. 12-19).
  3. To encourage and edify
    1. “exhort” in English means, “To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd Ed 1992 by Houghton Mifflin.):  Hence the word (parakalo) parakalw in Greek may be translated as encourage or exhort, depending on context.  Hence, encouragement and edification can come in the form of strong admonitions or warnings.
    2. 1 Cor 14.31:  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; …”
    3. Eph 5.19 “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, …”
  4. To reveal sin and the thoughts of people (Nathan reveals David’s sin in 2 Sam 12)
    1. Jesus
      1. Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4
      2. Luke 5.22; 9.47 (“Jesus perceived the thoughts of their hearts.”)
    2. 1 Cor 14.24-25:  “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
  5. To help maintain the doctrinal purity of the church
    1. To help the church make correct decisions regarding doctrine and practice.
      1. Acts 15.28:  “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”:  Decision by the church elder not to require circumcision of Gentile believers.
    2. To warn against false doctrine and false teachers.”
      1. 1 Tim 4.1:  “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, …”
      2. Jesus speaking prophetically says:  Matt 24.4-5:  “Take heed that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”
  6. To reveal the future to God’s people:  To help God’s people be prepared for difficult times.
    1. Agabus in Acts 11.27f.; 21.10f.
    2. The Book of Revelation reveals future persecutions
    3. Matt 10.16f.  Jesus predicts persecution against the disipcles.

VII. To pronounce judgment

  1. Jesus pronounces a future judgment against the Jews in Matt. 21-28-22.14; and 23.37-24.51.
  2. Acts 13.10-11:  Paul pronounces judgment on Elymas (also an example of purpose II).
  3. Acts 7.51: 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Stephen’s discourse is prophetic; look tells us he is a man filled with the Holy Spirit and he is giving an apology, a defense for the faith:  see purpose VIII.
  4. On Christians:  Acts 5.9-10:  Peter pronounces a judgment of death upon Sapphira.
  5. Acts 8.20f.  Peter pronounces judgment on Simon Magus
  6. Gal 1.9:  Paul calls down a curse on the false teachers.

VIII. To help a martyr defend the faith, esp. at a time of persecution

  1. Matt 10.19-20: “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
  2. Acts 4.8:  Peter gives a defense before the elders, scribes and high priest.  Luke explicitly tells us that his speech is prophetic.

IX. To act as a sign and wonder to propel evangelism (1 Cor 14.24-25)

X. To ordain leaders (1 Tim 1.18; 4.14)

January 18, 2011

An event puts the Apostles in conflict with the religious authorities: Acts 3

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 9:58 pm
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On our first evening of the 9th of December, we noticed that there were many points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.   They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.   Then last week, we saw how God used the special event of the Day of Pentecost when Jewish pilgrims from all around the world came to Jerusalem to worship—perhaps the only time in their lives to make this special trip.  That was the day when the Holy Spirit animated the believers to each speak in the different languages of the Diaspora Jews.  That day 3000 Jewish people from all over the inhabited world came to accept Jesus as the messiah and the church had its first big growth spurt—from 120 to 3120.  As an investor that’s pretty good growth (26x).  But it is just about the right size for a group of 12 leaders–each apostle would be responsible for a congregation of 260.  We focused upon Luke’s description of the Spirit-filled community as characterized by signs and wonders, unity, fellowship, breaking of bread, generosity, prayer and adherence to apostles teaching.  The Holy Spirit caused these believers to study, conserve, and obey the apostles’ teaching, unlike the claim of the false bishop Gene Robinson, who said in an article in the Washington Post, that the Holy Spirit causes us to accept the homosexual lifestyle.  No, the Holy Spirit teaches us to remember Jesus’ teaching as it was preserved by the apostles.

In our passage today we see Peter and John entering the temple, passing a beggar.  Thus, for the moment, the apostles remained in a quiet mode.  They continue to worship in the Temple; indeed, they are observing a standard hour of prayer, the ninth hour (3:00 pm) which was also the moment of the evening sacrifice; and thus it appears that they continued tacitly to obey the leadership which had just condemned Jesus to the Romans to be crucified.  Perhaps we too can live in tacit obedience to the authorities, for a time.

Now the man whom God healed was visible to all who entered the Temple.  But now they do something that will put them again into conflict with authorities by powerfully healing a lame man.  This healing put the disciples in a confrontation with the officials of the Judaism, the Sanhedrin.  My question for Emmanuel Church is this:  When should we make our move?  When do we confront the Diocese and what form should our protest take?  When is it clear that the leadership has gone too far and their corruption is intolerable to God?

I was inspired by a story that I read in the American Thinker about a Pastor Walter Hoy; this man has gone to jail violating a bubble zone around an abortion facilty.  Chuck Colson writes (Breakpoint, Jan 14, 2011):

When Dr. King wrote his letter, From a Birmingham Jail, he addressed those who thought his civil rights activities unwise and untimely. In his speeches, Hoy also addresses those who say that his cause is worthy and just but that he should just wait. “I can’t wait.” Hoy says. “You see, my people are dying.”

Since 1973, he notes, over 14.5 million black babies have been killed by abortion. Every, single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans! Nearly half of all black babies concieved [sic] die in abortion chambers today. Hoy says this means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother’s womb.

Hoy notes that between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. Today, abortion kills more black Americans in less than three days than the Klan killed in 86 years! Think of it.

American blacks make up twelve percent of the U.S. population, yet thirty-seven percent of all abortions are performed on black women. This is because eugenic-minded pro-abortion forces target American blacks by putting abortion clinics in black neighborhoods, according to Hoy.

The Rev. Hoy argues that there is a time to stand up to injustice; when is that?  When my people are dying.  But is it the time to stand up to the Diocese of Toronto?  Perhaps so.  When the church no longer upholds the teaching of the Apostles, then the result will be that people will no longer be able to hear the truth of the Gospel—the Gospel says simply this:  We are sinners estranged from the God who created us, and we need forgiveness from God.  God calls us to accept Jesus sacrifice for our sins and to turn back to him and away from our sins.  If people do not realize that they have sinned, then they are living in death.  And they will die; not a death of their body but the death of their spirit.  Our situation is every bit as grave as the genocide of black babies in the US.  Our passage says that God sent Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, to bless us.  But how?  By turning us from our wicked ways (Acts 3.26).  Not by accepting us as we are, and calling our sins not sin.  The Anglican church wants to bless homosexual couples.  Why not bless adulterous couples?  Why not bless murders and idolaters?  These are all things that the Bible forbids?  How can a Bishop begin to bless what the Bible calls a sin?   That is absurd.  God blesses us by turning us away from our wickedness, not by blessing what the Bible calls wicked.  Say I am thief or greedy.  Does God bless my thievery or my greed?  No!  He calls me out of my sin, so that I can be restored to God.  But do you think that the Anglican church even has a concept of sin anymore.  Or don’t you think rather that the Anglican church expects us to bless people in their sins?  My people are dying, lost without God and they don’t even know it because the church is unwilling to teach repentance.

So perhaps we need to follow the example of the Walter Hoy and say enough is enough.  Thus, maybe we should stand in disobedience to the wicked leadership of the Diocese.  Or perhaps we should take the quiet approach of the disciples and continue to worship in the Temple.  But I think that in either case, we need to prayer that God’s Spirit will act: to do signs and wonders and to draw attention to who is standing on the side of the right.

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2

Last week, I brought out several points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.  They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.  Now we see that after 40 days of waiting the Holy Spirit descend upon them, they speak in tongues—languages known to the many hundreds of visitors who had come from Diaspora of the Jews for the feast of Pentecost and 3000 people became Christians

What are the results of the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2?  Should we expect the same today?

1. Speaking in tongues: an extraordinary prophetic gift wherein the disciples spoke in the language of others.  This event took place in the temple, probably in the court of the Gentiles: a large area where many people even Gentiles would be permitted to gather.

A. Emmanuel church belongs to the Charismatic Movement in which the gift of tongues played an important role:  I could recommend some books on speaking in tongues:  Bill and Elisabeth Sherrill, They speak with other tongues; Dennis and Rita Bennet, The Holy Spirit and You.  The experience of speaking in tongues was exciting and helped people to become more focused on God and to deepen their faith.

B.  The gift of tongues in Acts 2 serves the specific purpose of getting the attention of Diaspora Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast.  The Bible required that they come every year, but many of these people lived so far away that perhaps this was their first and only pilgrimage for a life time.  So the Holy Spirit chose the gift of tongues to do an amazing gift.

C. As a personal devotional language Tongues are far less dramatic.  Paul downplays it in favor of intelligible speech while in church (see 1 Cor 12-14).  But in private devotion, he says not to forbid tongues.

2. Mission and evangelism—The Spirit’s descent on the community immediately resulted in the addition of 3000 new members, mostly from the Diaspora.  The Temples was the likely arena for Peter’s preaching.

3. The Holy Spirit descent created a newly expanded of the Christian community was characterized by: unity, sharing, adherence to the Apostles’ teaching, generosity, breaking of bread and prayer, even signs and wonders.  Many of these meetings took place in homes where meals could be served and not in the temple, though large groups could be taught at Solomon’s portico (Acts 3.11).

Some Anglicans leaders believe that the apostles were wrong and that their teaching needs to be revised.  Recently, Gene Robinson, the homosexual bishop in the US Episcopal church, says that the Holy Spirit is teaching us to accept homosexuality as ok with God.  Here is a quote from his article in the Washington Post:

I do NOT believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon (officially sanctioned as “holy” and official) of Scripture. Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century … They would posit a God who, when the scriptures were “finished” bid the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of God’s creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal?!!), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that.

In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth.”

So Robinson believes that the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into “new truth”, truth that the disciples themselves couldn’t handle at the time.  But we see from Acts 2, that when the Holy Spirit causes people to adhere to the apostles teaching.  And what did the apostles teach:  they taught what Jesus taught and commanded (Acts 1.8; Matt 28.19), and they taught from Scriptures (several are quoted by Peter).  Here is a statement from the apostles about homosexuality (1 Cor 6.9-11):

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Most attempts to say that Christians must accept homosexuals have to dismiss in some manner what the apostles taught and what Jesus taught.  But Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to remind the disciples about what he had taught:  “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14.26).  It is not a new truth, as Gene Robinson suggests.  But the same old truth, that Jesus and the apostles taught.

So in conclusion, I think what we can say is that the Spirit-filled community experiences unity—with fellowship and breaking of bread, adherence to apostolic teaching, evangelism and mission with numerical growth.  If we are not experiencing these things, we should pray that God would once again fill our community with his Holy Spirit and renew our faith.

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How we are like the Christians in Acts 1

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 9:37 pm
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Preface:  the following series of meditations on Acts are set within the backdrop of my own church, Emmanuel Anglican.  We have had the recent privilege of seeing our own priest promoted to the position of professor at a local seminary.  But now, bereft of our minister who has guided us through the murky waters of the controversy within the Anglican church we face a new crisis of leadership.  The Bishop Colin Johnson has ordained a lesbian living with her partner to the priesthood.  Now, we must without our priest’s wisdom navigate this storm.  So in response, my wife Cathy and I have chosen to lead a Bible study in Acts on Sunday nights, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, along with worship of God and prayer for our church community–how we might best respond this crisis of leadership.  On December 12, 2010, we met for the first time, and this is the meditation that I offered.

(1) We are about to lose our leader.

The disciples had watched the Roman authorities take Jesus and crucify him–one of the most ignoble ways ever invented to kill someone.  But they rejoiced when he appeared to them alive and physically intact.  Now Jesus had appeared to them and taught them during 40 days was about to leave again.  So they asked, aren’t you going to bring the Kingdom now?  They expected Jesus, the Risen King, to establish his Kingdom.  Instead, he said “Wait for the the Holy Spirit”.  So even though he was not at this point going to establish his physical Kingdom, he was sending them out with the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in the world.

At Emmanuel we stand at the brink of losing our leader, Peter, who is going on to another task.  But God isn’t leaving us alone.  We still have the Holy Spirit, and as we look to find a successor to Peter, we must remember that the church doesn’t belong to the priest but to God.  Our task remains the same as for the early Christians, to go out and be witnesses for Jesus to the end of the world.

(2) We are dealing with a religious hierarchy which many of us believe is no longer obeying God.

The early Christians were Jews subject to both religious and political hierarchies.  The Romans were in political power, but they ruled through the intermediary of the high priests and the Sanhedrin.  It is with these very authorities that Jesus and the early Christian came into severe conflict.  In Acts chapter 5, we will see that the Sanhedrin even orders them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name.  The choosing of the apostle to take Judas is significant:  For the number twelve is significant. They believed they were choosing twelve person to take leadership over the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of changing 2000 years of Christian teaching by ordaining homosexuals and insisting upon the blessing of same sex relationships.  If we stand up to this because of conscience (as Luther, “Here I stand I can do no other—God help me, Amen!”), we would be following in the footsteps of the disciples when they said:  “We must obey God rather than men”(Acts 5.29).  We know that we must remain faithful to God and obey him rather than to obey man.  Therefore, we expect that God will appoint new leadership where the old leadership is failing.

(3) We are facing a time of serious chaos and upheaval

Since the time of the beginning of Roman rule, the Jewish people benefited from Pax Romana.  But high taxation threatened the livelihood of the people and poverty was rampant.  Thus, Pax Romana thus came with a price.   The four decades following the Ascension of Jesus would be a time of serious upheaval to the Jewish nation

We have enjoyed peace on American and Canadian soil for a long time–our wars have been fought largely on the extremities of the our world, just as in the Roman world until the Jewish Revolt.  But can this peace last?  Are we Christian ready for what the future might bring?  We are on the brink of of economic disaster.

(4) Jesus calls on us to wait for and depend on the Holy Spirit.

Jesus instructed the early Christians to wait for the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would guide them and empower them in the mission.  God knows the future.  So what better guide could we have than the Spirit?  He can even inform us when disaster is about to strike, as God informed the prophets in Acts of the impending famine (cf. Acts 11.28).

If we wait on the Holy Spirit as a community we can expect his guidance for the future:  (1) what minister we should choose; (2) how we may prepare ourselves for impending financial calamities that may come; (3) how we should respond to the religious authorities (4) and political events coming in the future.

(5) We will be empowered for mission.

The main purpose of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was not merely the survival and edification of the community but mission.  A rag tag group of fishermen, a zealot, a tax collector, a doubter (Thomas)—but all uneducated by worldly standards, not one of these men had a “PHD”.  Jesus called them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  And by the last chapter of Acts, we see that Rome had a vibrant community of Christians even before Paul’s arrival there.  Within a century or two the Roman world had been transformed, and the seeds of church had been planted everywhere.

What is our mission as a church community?  How will we transform our world?  Often our focus as a community has been survival—rather than mission.  We look upon the dying embers of the Anglican church as it’s fire wanes.  How shall we respond?  Is it time to quit because God is abandoning the church?  Is it time to fight the fight within the church itself?  How shall we respond?

What I’d like to do over the coming weeks, if its ok with you, is to study the book of Acts and reflect on how the teaching and experiences of the early Christians can inform us in overcoming and thriving in our present set of difficult circumstances.  How do they respond to religious and political authorities?  How did they maintain an honest and faithful witness to God?

Discussion

How we are like the Christians in Acts 1?

February 23, 2010

When that which is perfect comes: 1 Corinthians 13.8-13

8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (RSV)

Cessationists often believe that the meaning of “that which is perfect” is the NT. Thus, prophecies and speaking tongues are no longer valid because we have the New Testament (see e.g., this blog).  The perfect which Paul awaits however cannot be the NT since Paul had no idea that there would be collection of books used in the post-apostolic church called the NT. This is anachronistic exegesis.  Furthermore, it is not correct to say that it is a good theological understanding of the passage, since the NT itself does not have a theology of the NT–i.e., it has obviously a theology or theologies, which we call NT theology, but it does not discuss the NT as a theological category.  The biblical theology purported by cessationists is actually coherent only from a post-reformation point of view.

That which is perfect for Paul is properly understood to be the second coming of Christ who we will know directly and face to face.  The NT is not perfect in the sense of the Greek term, teleion (complete) ; it partially reveals to us the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.  When Jesus Christ is come, then we will see face to face the author and perfecter of our faith.  Until then, we are still in need of the gifts of the Spirit to guide us.

February 11, 2010

John Stott on Inerrancy

My post, “Why I am not an fundamentalist“, resulted in the consternation of one of the bloggers at Palabre; I happily took it down from there and have started writing here on my personal blog instead, where my views can’t taint Palabre.  Of course this will make it more difficult to have serious discussions there in the future, but I don’t want to set the agenda at Palabre, as it is supposed to be a place to discuss African issues.

I was told that most Evangelicals believe in inerrancy too.  But I’ve pointed out that it is an American over-reaction to liberalism, and it is not particularly strong amongst English Evangelicals.  E.g., Wycliffe College, Toronto, our evangelical college which we support, does not have a position on inerrancy, but rather this statement of principle, “The sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture as the rule of faith.”

Furthermore, I wondered if John Stott, who has been a leading Anglican evangelical, has taken a position.  I found the following answer by Michael Marlowe:

In a book published in 1999, Stott says that “the word inerrancy makes me uncomfortable” for several reasons. He says it “sends out the wrong signals and develops the wrong attitudes,” and it is “unwise and unfair to use inerrancy as a shibboleth by which to identify who is evangelical and who is not.” In Stott’s view, “it is impossible to prove that the Bible contains no errors,” and the important thing is “not whether we subscribe to an impeccable formula about the Bible but whether we live in practical submission to what the Bible teaches.” (Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity, and Faithfulness [InterVarsity Press, 1999], pp. 61-62.) Regarding this “practical submission” to the teachings of the Bible, Stott has elsewhere explained that “although biblical truth is eternal and normative in its substance, it is often expressed in changeable cultural terms.” He notes that the Lausanne Covenant described Scripture as “without error in all that it affirms,” and says it is our task “to determine what it does affirm” in substance. And after that, “we have the further task of reclothing this unchanging revelation in appropriate modern cultural dress.” What all this may mean for Christian faith and life is not clear, but an idea of the practical consequences of this line of thinking may be seen in Stott’s opinion that, despite the clear prohibitions in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, he and his like-minded colleagues have rightly “expressed the view that a woman could be ordained and so could teach men.” He suggests that an appropriate “contemporary expression” of the biblical teachings would be for an ordained female to teach men while being part of “a local pastoral team, of which a man would be the head.” (Roy McCloughry, “Basic Stott,” an interview with John Stott published in Christianity Today, 8 Jan 1996.) Here we have come a long way from traditional views of biblical truth and authority, and it is not surprising that Stott and other neoevangelicals who agree with him do not like to use the word inerrancy.

Well, I for one don’t have a problem with the views of Stott as presented by Marlowe.  Now I am a “neoevangelical”?  Perhaps the neoevangelicals are the ones who hold to inerrancy.  As for Anglicans, there is no statement of inerrancy in the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) either, but this:

Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation

In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Stott is correct to say: (1) “it is impossible to prove that the Bible contains no errors”; actually, it is also impossible to have a Bible without errors because of the multiple transmission errors in the texts of both the Old and New Testaments; (2) “unwise and unfair to use inerrancy as a shibboleth by which to identify who is evangelical and who is not”; but this is exactly what many “neoevangelicals” and all fundamentalists do with their doctrinal statements.  (3) The essential thing is “not whether we subscribe to an impeccable formula about the Bible but whether we live in practical submission to what the Bible teaches”; I think this is an important point.  I recite a creed every Sunday–either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. Neither of these creeds affirm “inerrancy” nor belief in the Scriptures.  They affirm belief in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Belief in the Bible is conspicuously missing in our confessions.  Moreover, faith that saves is not based upon a particular view of the Bible or even believing in the Bible.  It is in obeying what the Bible commands us, to believe in the Word of God,  Jesus Christ (the λόγος of God, John 1.1).  The Bible bears witness to Jesus Christ, who is our object of belief and the author of our Faith.

If there is such a thing as a “neoevangelical”, it should refer to those who hold to the new doctrine of inerrancy, as it has been formulated against 19th and 20th century liberalism.  Those of us resistant to it, such as Stott and myself, are holding to an older more traditional form of evangelicalism Christianity.

February 7, 2010

Crowded Tenement Building Churches in Early Christianity

A young promising bright Master’s student at my alma mater, Regent College, dubbed “Poser or Prophet” writes in response to the Brooks’ post, “House Churches“:

Also, the early church probably didn’t meet in houses. They probably met in what space they could find in crowded tenement buildings — although if the wealthier first floor resident(s) converted, they could meet there (because, you know, with the risk of buildings falling over or burning down — which tended to happen frequently — it was much better to live on the ground floor than in the penthouse!).

Now I know that Poser and I have had our disagreements in the past, but this time I completely agree with him. In fact, I’ve gathered a number of texts as evidence for his position; the term πολυοχλοικοδομη (poluochloikodome=“crowded tenement building”), occurs frequently in early Christian literature. I can provide an abundant supply of further primary texts. I recommend the article in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, “Crowded tenement builiding” (s.v.); and Abraham Malhabre’s important essays in Social Aspects of Early Christianity, ch. 3-4, “Crowded tenement building churches and their problems”, “Hospitality and Inhospitality in crowded tenement building churches”; Gerd Thiessen’s, Social Setting of Pauline Christianity; and the article everyone refers back to F. V. Floyd, “The significance of the Early Christian crowded tenement building churches”  JBL 58 (1939): 105-112.

Here are some sample texts from the NT and the NT apocrypha (all translations taken from the NTCB):

Acts 1.13: and when they had entered crowded tenement buildings, they went up to the upper room where they were staying—for there was no room for them on the first floor where the rich people dwelt …

Acts 2.3: And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them, but also endangering the upper room of the crowded tenement buildings where they were met.

Acts 4.31: And when they had prayed, the crowded tenement buildings in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 8.3: But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering crowded tenement building after crowded tenement building, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 12.12: When he realized this, he went to the crowded tenement building of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

Romans 16.3: Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their crowded tenement building.

1 Cor 16.19: The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their crowded tenement building, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

1 Tim 5.13: Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from crowded tenement building to crowded tenement building, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

2 John 10: If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the crowded tenement building or give him any greeting;

Here are couple texts from the second century Apocrypha which shows that second century Christians also believed that the earliest Christians met in πολυοχλοικοδομη:

Acts of Paul III, 4, 7: And when Paul entered into the crowded tenement building of Onesiphorus, there was great joy, and bowing of knees and breaking of bread, and the word of God concerning abstinence (or continence) and the resurrection [snip] … And as Paul was saying these things in the midst of the assembly (church) in the crowded tenement building of Onesiphorus, a certain virgin, Thecla, whose mother was Theocleia, which was betrothed to an husband, Thamyris, sat at the window of the neighboring crowded tenement building, and hearkened night and day unto the word concerning chastity which was spoken by Paul…

Acts of John 46: John therefore continued with them, receiving them in the crowded tenement building of Andromeus. And one of them that were gathered laid down the dead body of the priest of Artemis before the door [of the temple]**, for he was his kinsman, and came in quickly with the rest, saying nothing of it. John, therefore, after the discourse to the brethren, and the prayer and the thanksgiving (eucharist) and the laying of hands upon every one of the congregation, …

**Junod-Kaestli, as well as earlier interpreters, suggest the elimination of “of the temple” (Greek, του ιερου) —Acta Iohannes (CChrSA) p. 227.

August 1, 2009

A note on the sin of David

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 6:58 pm
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This Sunday we will be reading 2 Samuel 11.26-12.13a, which is  the passage where Nathan the prophet goes to David to rebuke him for the sin of Bathsheba.  While studying this passage in preparation for Sunday’s message, I discoverd an interesting detail (known to commentators, but doubted by some) I think is pertinent.  Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”  Undoubtedly, we are dealing with the Eliam, who like Uriah the Hittite was a member of David’s thirty-seven bodyguards (2 Sam 23.23-39).  This force was made up of David’s most renown warriors who had established their reputations for bravery and efficiency in battle.  The name Eliam only appears twice in the Bible and it only makes sense that we are dealing with one person who as a fellow warrior in the same bodyguard as Uriah; he would have became good friends with the Hittite and gave him one of his many daughters (Bathsheba probably means, “daughter number seven”).  Uriah, being a foreigner, who have thus could benefit from the special relationship with Eliam in order to find himself a wife during his sojourn in Israel.

David must have destroyed the trust that this group of mighty warriors had in him.  Not only had he taken one of their wives but he had the man killed too.  Undoubtedly Uriah’s friend Eliam harbored great resentment.  But we hear no more about him, but only of his father, Ahithophel (see 2 Sam 23.34), whom when Absalom ursurped David’s throne, he summoned Ahithophel who was David’s adviser (2 Sam 15.12). Evidently, he was remarkable counselor, for 2 Sam 16.23 says that he counseled as though an oracle of God. Ahithophel is the one who advised Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines so that all Israel would know (2 Sam 16.21)–a fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy; so Ahithophel was able to humiliate David in this act of revenge for destroying the marriage Uriah.  Later, Absalom fails to heed Ahithophel’s advice, in favor of the advice of David’s mole Hushai the Archite; Ahithophel hangs himself, undoubtedly because he could foresee Absalom’s soon demise.

May 13, 2009

Anchorage Bears, Sourdough and Paradise Lost

For the family of Jim, the Sourdough

The AP reports that 315 bears (250 blacks; 65 grizzlies) now live within my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.  During the 22 years that I resided in Alaska, I never saw a bear in the city limits.  On the very edges of the Service High School area, in the Chugach mountains, there were rare black bear sightings.  Now, experiences that were common to remote settlements like Cooper Landing have become a regular occurrence in the suburb of Eagle River and the outlying areas of the city proper of Anchorage.

Bears are dangerous animals.  I learned about the perils of bears from Jim, a Sourdough.  The term “Sourdough” was used of old-timers who lived in Alaska well before statehood, while it was still the Last Frontier.  They got the name because they would keep a sourdough crock to which they would add flour and water on a nightly basis. Every morning they would make sourdough hot cakes from the dough, leaving a small amount in the crock to leaven the next batch. It is a hearty breakfast that would make the sedentary urban dweller obese within weeks. Jim, his wife and kids were my family’s best friends as I was growing up.  We often went moose hunting with them or visit them in Cooper Landing, where Jim had a 100-year old log cabin set on glacier-fed Kenai Lake below mountains where wild sheep could be seen grazing.  We would all bunk in the cabin’s loft–a big open room with several beds.  I remember having trouble sleeping because of all the adults snoring so loudly.  On one such visit, when I was about twelve years old, Jim taught me how to make sourdough pancakes from the pot that he had kept leavened for many years.

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