Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review -- Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ

In his latest book, Gospel Allegiance, Matthew W. Bates, associate professor of theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois, takes the foundation laid in his previous book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, and builds the superstructure of how these ideas can be worked out in the life of the church and Christian witness. Whereas Salvation was directed a little more toward academic students of theology (while still being accessible to informed laypersons), Gospel Allegiance brings the discussion to the local pastor and small group leader, who may or may not have advanced formal theological training. In this latest volume, Bates expands and expounds on the ideas first proffered in Salvation, adding two points to his detailed definition of the gospel message, as well as getting more into a boots-on-the-ground application of what understanding pistis (the Koine Greek word usually translated “faith”) as allegiance entails in the process of Christian discipleship.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Accuracy and Credibility as a Teacher


I’m currently reading the introduction to David A. deSilva’s volume on Galatians in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Eerdmans, 2018). In an excursus on rhetoric and letter-writing in antiquity, he writes, “Speakers must have our trust and confidence if they are to persuade us to do anything; conversely, doubts about credibility prove the quickest and most effective means to undermining a particular speaker’s message” (p. 68).

I have often noted in the past that if a teacher or preacher can’t get the raw facts (characters, locations, basic order of events) of a biblical story correct, then it becomes much more difficult for those hearing the message to accept the speaker’s interpretation and application of that text.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Looking at a broader context when studying Scripture


This post continues our focus on the importance of reading Scripture in its context.

I was recently reading a book by a popular Christian author (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty).The writer cites Deuteronomy 1:1-8, which reads:

1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)
3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. 4 This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.
5 East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying:
6  The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. 8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

The writer says that Moses pointed out to the Israelites that what should have been an eleven-day journey had taken them forty years (v. 2), and goes on to say that in verse 6  Moses tells them they have stayed at this mountain long enough. The author then directs a question to the reader: Have you stayed long enough at the same mountain? Has it taken you forty years to make an eleven-day journey?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Importance of Context in Biblical Interpretation / La Importancia del Contexto en la Interpretación de la Biblia


Proverbs 23:7 is a very famous verse. It is most commonly quoted by English speakers from the King James Version: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  

This verse is frequently used to support some version of the power of positive thinking. “If you think negative thoughts all the time, then bad things are going to happen to you, because that’s what you’re expecting. But if you think good, positive thoughts, then good things will come your way. There’s power in your thoughts and in your words.” 

While there is some truth to the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies (it you’re always putting yourself down, you’re likely to live down to those low expectations), this verse does not support that idea.