Monday, May 6, 2024

A Few More Issues with "Cultural Christians in the Early Church"

In my post "What is a Christian Book Editor's Job." I addressed a handful of issues I encountered in the early part of Nady Williams' book Cultural Christians in the Early Church. Most of the rest of the book was decent, but I ran into a few more major quibbles near the end.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Can believers speak things into existence?

Have you ever heard someone say, while praying, "We're going to call those things that are not as though they were"?

It sounds biblical, and even full of faith, but it's actually not.

The wording used here comes from Romans 4:17, which I am citing here in various translations:

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (KJV)

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. (NIV)

That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. (NLT)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Could Samuel Make It Today As A Prophet?

I recently saw a video of a service where the preacher said the following:

"This may sound strange to you, but in our school of ministry, our students are actually required to get it wrong. If they don't fail at least three times in the first year, we won't let them in the second year." 

I guess the prophet Samuel wouldn't have been allowed to advance to second eyar at that ministry school.

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. (1 Sam. 3:19)

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Does questioning an "anointed" person lead to spiritual ruin?

I recently heard a prominent preacher say the following:

Here’s the thing. You have to be careful that you do not criticize people who have the anointing of God on them. Better to say nothing. Because what happens is, once you begin to criticize somebody who has the anointing on them, you’re in the flesh. And once you’re in the flesh, then you’re moving toward unbelief. And once you move toward unbelief, then you live a barren life spiritually. And that’s the danger. See, you can go out of here...chattering, and what happens is, it poisons your spirit, and it leads you to a place of unbelief.

Pastors, televangelists, and modern-day "apostles," when someone raises legitimate concerns about their doctrine or actions, will frequently warn those asking questions to "touch not the Lord's anointed." Not touching the Lord's anointed is a phrase we see frequently in the life of David, especially in the book of 1 Sameul in the Old Testament. But to paraphrase the film The Princess Bride, "You keep using that phrase. I'm not sure it means what you think it means."

Monday, April 8, 2024

What is a Christian Book Editor's Job?

I just started reading Nadya Williams’ Cultural Christianity in the Early Church during the past week. The introduction lays out the structure of the book, looking at the interactions between Christian faith and surrounding culture in the New Testament era, in the era of persecution between the New Testament era and Constantine, and then in the period where Christians went from being persecuted to privileged. Sounds like a very interesting read, and the podcast author interviews I have heard have been good.

Chapter 1, “More for Me, Less for Thee,” talks about Greco-Roman attitudes toward wealth and how it should be used, and how that seems to have influenced some people in the early church (Ananias and Sapphira selling some property and giving part of the proceed to the church, while claiming to have donated all the proceeds, in what seems to be an attempt to gain status as generous benefactors, rather than out of true generosity).

Williams says that Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus, “appears to have previously been a cultural Jew. In particular, did you catch the contradiction in the idea of a Levite with property?” She goes on to mention how the tribe of Levi received no inheritance when the Promised Land was allocated to the tribes of Israel and “thus had to depend on the largesse of the other tribes in exchange for their work as teachers of the law and leaders of worship in the temple. A true Levite should have owned no property, so this anecdote shows just how far the Jewish community had drifted at this point from its roots” (p. 7).

Friday, March 29, 2024

Beware Illustrations that Only Work in One Language

Back in the early days of this blog, I published several articles in both English and Spanish. That's why the title of this site is Bilingual Bible Blog (even though I rarely post articles in both languages any more, due to limited time available to devote to writing the same article twice).

But something I've seen going around recently on social media recently prompted me to think in bilingual terms. Here is the meme that had been circulating:

The thought expressed here is a nice, sentimental devotional idea. But it doesn't work universally.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Screwtape Gets Us

My Dearest Wormwood,

The Enemy's followers are always coming up with new ways to try to spread their message and take people away from our side. With each new advance in human media technology, while some of them will balk at its use, claiming it comes from the depths of our domain, others will find a use for it in their efforts to enlist more people in their cause. 

To defeat the Christians in their attempt to use media and technology to recruit more people for the Enemy's side, a direct frontal assault is not as effective as it used to be. While some of our captives will still pay heed to our denials of any validity to the Enemy's message, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep humans thinking on a purely naturalistic level. Our propaganda campaign with the "New Atheism" of the past generation, rather than convincing more people that the only thing that mattered was physical life, backfired, ultimately having the opposite effect. While people may not have converted to the other side, many individuals did end up thinking more about eternal matters, and some of them defected from our ranks. It's better for us if humans stay completely in the dark about the eternal component of their existence.

Book Review: Strange Religion by Nijay Gupta

I recently read Dr. Nijay K. Gupta's latest book, Strange Religion: How the First Christians Were Weird, Dangerous, and Compelling. This book is a very readable account of what stood out about early Christians in the Roman Empire and set them apart from the cultural norms of the society that surrounded them. Gupta takes rigorously researched academic material and presents it in a way that is accessible to anyone interested in learning about early Christianity, with plenty of relatable analogies and illustrations that help the reader create a vivid mental picture of what was going on in the first century. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Do All Lost People Hate Jesus?

The day after Super Bowl LVIII (and the He Gets Us ad that ran during the game), someone posted the following on Facebook:

Lost people hate the real Jesus. I did when I was lost, and the Bible states that everyone else that’s lost does as well. If anyone preaches a socially accepted Jesus, they’re not preaching the true Christ, they’re actually preaching an anti-christ who appears as an angel of light, but is actually sinful, wicked, and affirming of sin, destruction, and exists to make people feel good about who they are and whatever they do.

Along with that text, they shared this screen capture from Shane Pruitt's X (Twitter) account:

Thursday, February 8, 2024

When the Gifts of the Spirit are Abused and Used for Show

Let me start out by making it clear that I believe all the charismata are still distributed by the Holy Spirit as He wills. I'm not only a Pentecostal by lineage (fourth generation Assemblies of God on both sides of the family), but by experience as well, having experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. I am an ordained A/G minister, and obtained my MA in Theological Studies from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

All that said, I realize that some in the Pentecostal/Charismatic sector of Christianity may not like this article, feeling that it plays into the hands of the cessationists, possibly giving them more ammunition to use against those of us with a continuationist pneumatology. But I feel that one of the reasons cessationists have been able to launch such large-scale attacks against Pentecostal/Charismatic beliefs is because we have failed to "police our own" and curb the excesses (many times possibly out of fear of lending aid to the cessationist position). 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Is there any substantive difference between these things?

What do the following scenarios have in common?

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention saying that dealing with the accusations of clergy sexual abuse among SBC ministers would be a "distraction" that would take time and financial resources away from the mission of world evangelization.

Former Mars Hill Church founding pastor Mark Driscoll, when facing allegations from the elders of Mars Hill concerning attitudes and behavior that would be disqualifying from the ministry (and being offered a plan of counseling and restoration), claiming that God showed him in a vision that an attack was coming from people that would try to take his ministry away from him (and then resigning rather than answer the charges).

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Do we just ignore the fringe and hope they'll go away?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a quote by noted Old Testament scholar and missiologist, Christopher J. H. Wright, that I wrote down while listenening to the podcast he host, On Mission, which I shared on Facebook:

When Christianity gets used for nationalistic ends, even ones that are based in justice and the struggle for liberation, it's so easy then to get distorted into a hegemonic sort of, "We've got to be the winners," and that then easily becomes violent.

Someone online commented, asking me where exactly these violent Christian Nationalist folkd were. I provided several examples, including what went on beneath banners with Christian slogans on January 6, 2021, as well as evidence of violent rhetoric by professing Christians presented by Tim Alberta in his book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.

That same commenter later replied, minimizing the importance of the extremists. Here I give my point-by-point response to what he said.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Important Books for Election Year 2024

As we enter what we all know is going to be a contentious election year in 2024, here are some books that can help us as we navigatew standing up for truth in a Christ-like manner.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Where Did it All Fall Apart?

In the summer of 2023, I read Daniel Hummel’s The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism. In chapter 11, which deals with scholastic dispensationalism, I came across the following about Lewis Sperry Chafer and his relationship to the broader fundamentalist movement.

“The Same year that [William Bell] Riley published ‘The Menace of Modernism,’ Chafer published ‘Salvation’ (1917), a work with not one reference to current events….Chafer fashioned his work to ignore its historical moment, while Riley’s writings were a direct response to it.” (p. 180)

“By 1922 Chafer had grown disillusioned with Riley’s leadership of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, with its constant agonizing over timely, rather than timeless, issues of concern….A more rigorous institution was needed if pastors were to be fundamentalist Bible expositors rather than rabble-rousers.” (p. 182)

Shortly after I read that, while driving home from work, I was listening to the recording from a chapel service at Dallas Theological Seminary where Jen Wilken spoke on teaching the Bible. She had a lot to say about small groups—especially women’s Bible studies in her experience—being generally given topical studies (often with an emotional focus) when the Christians attending those studies often lack a basic understanding of the overall scope and story of the biblical witness.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

2023 Reading Report

Here is a list of books I read in 2023. A total of 25 titles, though all were not read in their entirety (some of the Leviticus commentaries, I read a major portion of, but did not read the complete volume, as I was researching material on the atonement and the relationship of the Levitical sacrificial system to Christ's sacrificial death). 

Forsaken: The Trinity and the Cross, and Why It Matters by Thomas McCall

The Six Conversations by Heather Holleman

Jesus v Evangelicals: A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement by Constantine Campbell

Songs of Resistance: Challenging Caesar and Empire by R. Alan Streett