Friday, September 1, 2023

I Don't Think That's How It Works

I recently saw this meme on Facebook:

This image communicates a sentiment popular among many dogmatic dispensational premillennialists. I've heard and read it communicated in phrases such as, "You can hang around for the tribulation if you want. I'm leaving on the first load." Or, "There are varying opinions as to the timing of the rapture of the church. You may see it differently, but I plan on being on the first flight out."

Misappropriating Scripture for Partisan Purposes

I recently saw the following image shared by two Facebook friends on the same day (both of whom I knew growing up in church).

I've written before (here and here) about the importance of making sure we look at the actual context of a verse of Scripture before trying to take it and apply it to our own situations.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

On Pelagianism, Montanism, Wokism, and "Theological Transgenderism"

It seems that we have lost the ability to actually discuss and debate ideas based on their substance. No one wants to take the time to actually comprehend the other side, to talk to people who hold a different perspective and make the effort to understand how they reached their conclusions. Everyone is looking for the hot take that will provoke the most reaction and gather more likes, followers, and retweets. Why bother with reading primary sources, reflecting thoughtfully, and making a cogent, reasoned argument about the topic at hand? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tim Keller on Faith and its Object

Today I was listening to an episode of Russell Moore's podcast, where Dr. Moore gave a tribute to noted New York pastor Dr. Timothy Keller, who passed away last Friday, May 19, 2023. After talking about his friendship with Keller, Moore played a couple of segments from interview he had done with Keller in the past.

In one of the recorded interview segments, Dr. Keller spoke about how the object of our faith is more important than the strength of our faith. One can have a massive amount of faith placed in the wrong person or thing, and be far worse off than someone with a weak faith that is, however, trusting in the right person or thing.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Book Review: Why the Gospel? by Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates' latest book, Why the Gospel?: Living the Good News of Jesus with Purpose continues to build on the foundation laid by his previous three books: Salvation by Allegiance Alone (2017), Gospel Allegiance (2019), and The Gospel Precisely (2021). In particular, "Why the Gospel?" picks up on some key themes introduced in the short small group book "The Gospel Precisely" and develops them with a more thorough theological study, while maintaining the accessibility of that short book and of "Gospel Allegiance."

Saturday, May 13, 2023

On Turtles, Giraffes, and Bad Motivational Quotes

A few days a go I saw a post on Facebook that said:

If you're a giraffe and you get criticism from turtles, just remember they are reporting the view from the level they are on. #Perspective

A lot of the comments said things like, "Amen," "Great word," and "Beautiful!" On the surface of it, the saying sounds like good advice, especially in the context of the giraffe being in a position to physically see things the turtle cannot.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Grace and Faith in the Apostle Paul's Context


Take 1 cup deSilva, 2 tablespoons Bates, a teaspoon of Gupta, a dash of Barclay and a pinch of Streett. Mix thoroughly in a ceramic bowl from the first century Greco-Roman world, and serve with a side of nerdish humor.

I mentioned in my talk that one proof of my nerdiness was that the handout I gave the class had one full page of bibliography.

Here are the resources I listed:


Honor,Patronage, Kinship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture by David A. deSilva.

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King by Matthew Bates.

Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses forSalvation in Christ by Matthew Bates.

Paul and the Gift by John M. G. Barclay

Paul and thePower of Grace by John M. G. Barclay (shorter, less technical version of Paul and the Gift)

Caesar and the Sacrament: Baptism: A Rite of Resistance by R. Alan Streett

15 NewTestament Words of Life: A New Testament Theology for Real Life by Nijay K. Gupta


“Patronage andReciprocity: The Context of Grace in the New Testament” by David A. deSilva



Dr. David deSilva, Cultural World of the New Testament, Lecture 3, Patronage andReciprocity

Dr. David deSilva, Cultural World, Lecture 4,Hebrews--Patronage and Reciprocity

Interview with John M. G. Barclay, author of Paul and the Gift

Anotherinterview with Barclay, which came out just 1 week before I’m teaching this class (doesn’t God have great timing in putting things in our path?)


The Perils of Sloppy Wording

In his best-selling book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, author Peter Scazzero writes:

When we leave reality for a mental creation of our own doing (hidden assumptions), we create a counterfeit world. When we do this, it can properly be said that we exclude God from our lives because God does not exist outside of reality and truth. (pp. 181-192 of the updated 2017 edition)

Now, I get what Scazzero is trying to say here. When we refuse to recognize the truth and reality of the way things are, but create our own preferred version of "reality" in our minds, we separate ourselves from God's truth and limit our own healing and wholeness until our thinking comes back into alignment with reality and the truth of God's word.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Things the North American Church Can Learn from the Global Church

I have tried to make it a practice over the past few years to read at least one book each year by a Christian writer from a non-American/European background. I have read So Great a Salvation: Soteriology in the Majority World,   a collection of essays on soteriology by Asian, African, and Latin American scholars. I also read Un Testimonio Visible: Cristología, Liberación, y Participación by Jules Martinez-Olivieri, a Puerto Rican theologian.

This week, I finished Faithful Disobedience: Writings on Church and State from a Chinese House Church Movement, a collection of essays and sermons by Wang Yi and other Chinese house church leaders. The steadfastness and resilience of these brothers and sisters, and their refusal to compromise even in the face of repeated, suffocating persecution, is inspiring and convicting at the same time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book Review - Songs of Resistance

R. Alan Streett's previous book, Caesar and the Sacrament: Baptism: A Rite of Resistance, demonstrated how Christian baptism functioned as an oath of a new allegiance toward King Jesus, forsaking former allegiances to other authority figures and structures such as Caesar and the Roman Empire.

Streett's new volume, Songs of Resistance: Challenging Caesar and Empire, takes the next step to demonstrate how the songs sung by characters in the four Gospels, and the portions of epistles often thought to be early hymns included by the apostolic authors, demonstrated resistance to and protest of the corrupt worldly power structures of the day.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Attitudes Toward Churches and Spiritual Leaders

This past Sunday, this line from my pastor's sermon stuck with me:

“Unresolved anger towards one spiritual authority leads to a bad attitude towards all spiritual authority." -- Rod Loy

Often, we see people who had a bad experience in a certain kind of church (progressive, Evangelical, Pentecostal/Charismatic, etc.) react to their bad experience with complete and total suspicion of anything and everything they were taught in their previous church. 

Someone who formerly went to a prosperity gospel church may end up seeing every discussion about tithes and offerings as an abusive attempt to promise financial blessings in exchange for giving to the church.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Is It of God?

For the past couple of weeks, we've all been seeing a lot of discussions on social media regarding what started on February 8 at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. Some have called it a revival, others have called it a spiritual renewal, and others have simply named it a surprising move of God. Debates over what to call it have often had to do with whether or not it fulfills certain definitional lists of characteristics, and usually the debaters' lists don't include all of the same elements.

But here, I want to go past the arguments over which term is most accurate, and get to a more fundamental question: Is what is happening from God?

One side takes a position that I would compare to what is known as the "Regulative Principle of Worship," which says that only things specifically commanded in Scripture are to be allowed in the worship services of Christian churches. Those who take this approach put together a (sometimes extensive) list of characteristics of "true revival" or something "being of God." Before they will accept that something is a move of God, they want to see each and every one of those items checked off the list.

The alternative view to the "Regulative Principle of Worship" says that unless something is explicitly prohibited in Scripture, it can be used in the worship of God. When it comes to revivals and outpourings, people who take this approach are willing to accept that what is happening is from God unless something takes place that would point to it being fake or otherwise not of God.

These two positions might also be comparable to a hermeneutic of suspicion and a hermeneutic of trust, respectively, when dealing with the text of the Bible.

In general, I try to take the latter of the two approaches. God is not obligated to meet my expectations when He chooses to move on people. When Jesus walked the hills of Judea in the first century, He did lots of things the religious leaders of His day weren't expecting, and did not do many of the things they had on their Messianic checklist (at least He didn't do them at His first coming). But Christ never violated God's word revealed through Moses and the other prophets of the First Testament (though He did go against others' interpretations of the Torah at times).

So is what has been going on at Asbury of God? I haven't seen anything yet that violates Scripture. Admittedly, I have not visited Wilmore to witness the events first-hand. But many people I trust have been at ground zero, and based on their eyewitness testimony (I have put links to several articles and videos below), I have no reason to doubt this is genuine.

As my friend Dr. Randy Jumper said, “One way to know God is moving is when people are throwing rocks in His name.” 

And to quote C. S. Lewis, "Aslan is on the move!"

From New Testament scholar Dr. Craig S. Keener:

Opinion: What is Revival—and is it Happening at Asbury?

The outpouring at Asbury University: Responding to a critic (1 of several articles on his blog, you can follow that link to find the others)

Asbury Outpouring: I never saw THIS before

Answering critics of the Asbury Revival

The Asbury revival

Reflections on the Outpouring - Dr. Craig Keener

From Asbury to the World 

People Met Jesus Deeply Here

From Dr. Thomas McCall:

Asbury Professor: We’re Witnessing a ‘Surprising Work of God’

Reflections of the Outpouring

From Dr. Ben Witherington III

The Asbury Revival Rolls On

From Dr. Fred Sanders and Dr. Joe Henderson

Hearts Strangely Warmed at Asbury

Dr. Thomas Lyons

The Asbury Outpouring w/ Dr. Thomas Lyons

Pastor Jordan Evans

Spirited #REVIVAL: Thoughts on the Asbury Revival w/ Pastor Jordan Evans

Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary

It is a miracle when God meets someone dramatically at an altar; it's also a miracle when someone dedicates themselves to commit the time to study church history and theology.

Interviewed by Walter Kim, opresident of the National Association of Evangelicals

Conversation between Alisa Childers, Dr. Timothy Tennent, and Dr. Gavin Ortlund on Unbelievable with Justin Brierly

"And they need to be discipled. That's why I said I call it an awakening. A revival is something that only happens over time. Wesley connected it to deep discipleship and the work of God. That's why our revivalist founder, a hundred years ago, started a seminary. Because it can't be simply altar experiences. Ultimately, it has to be life-changing transformation in our lives -- how we live, how we think -- conforming to the word of God in all that we are and all that we do." -- Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary

The Asbury Revival: A New Move of God?

ANALYSIS: Four things Asbury students want you to know

Premiere Christianity Magazine

A Roundtable Discussion with Asbury Students

Reformed blogger Tim Challies

It seems to me that news of an outbreak of revival is best met with a guarded optimism. We don’t need to be naive but also don’t need to be incredulous. And if that revival begins in a tradition very different from our own (though of course one that acknowledges the gospel) we should perhaps be especially glad and hopeful, for it is good to be reminded that God is at work in many different places and through many different people. Speaking personally, I would like my first instinct to be “Praise God” rather than “Fat chance!” 

Revival at Asbury: A Cold Take

Some reflections on Asbury from Dr. Yoon Shin, a Pentecostal professor of philosophy

"Revival is a corporate, intensely experiential event [my addition: effected by the work of God through the Holy Spirit in renewing the works of love for God and others, often in response to a crisis moment] that creates and renews religious feeling and expression in pronounced ways."

A Pentecostal’s Biblical Reflections on the Asbury Revival