Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Bipolar Life of Ministry


"To identify with Paul's experience we do not need to be shipwrecked or imprisoned or lowered in a basket from a city wall. Even without the physical dangers of Paul's career, anyone who throws himself into the work of Christian ministry of any kind with half the dedication of Paul will experience the weakness of which Paul speaks: the times when problems seem insoluble, the times of weariness from sheer overwork, the times of depression when there seem to be no results, the emotional exhaustion which pastoral concern can bring on - in short, all the times when the Christian minister or worker knows he has stretched to the limits of his capacities for a task which is very nearly, but by God's grace not quite, too much for him. Anyone who knows only his strength, not his weakness, has never given himself to a task which demands all he can give. There is no avoiding this weakness, and we should learn to suspect those models of human life which try to avoid it. We should not be taken in by the ideal of the charismatic superman for whom the Holy Spirit is a constant source of superhuman strength. Nor should we fall for the ideal of the modern secular superman: the man who organizes his whole life with the object of maintaining his own physical and mental well-being, who keeps up the impression of strength because he keeps his life well within the limits of what he can easily cope with. Such a man is never weak because he is never affected, concerned, involved or committed beyond a cautiously safe limit. That was neither Jesus' ideal of life nor Paul's. To be controlled by the love of Christ means inevitably to reach the limits of one's abilities and experience weakness."

- Richard Bauckham, Weakness - Paul's and Ours  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Scripture Ought to Make You a More Interesting Person


"Why do the gospel writers read Israel's history in ways that look funny to modern sensibilities?  Is the notion of the fulfillment of Old Testament texts intellectually implausible?  The gospel writers summon us to a conversion of the imagination.  They summon us to become more interesting readers... the gospel writers are trying to make us more interesting people.  They are trying to make us more interesting readers who are not locked into this modernist literalism about everything.  I want to suggest to you that we will learn to read Scripture well only if our minds and imaginations are opened up by learning to read the Scriptural texts by learning to read in the 'figural' ways that the four gospel writers actually read Israel's Scripture.  The gospels teach us how to read the Old Testament.  And at the same time the Old Testament teach us how to read the gospels.  There is a circle of interpretation."

Richard Hays, "Do the Gospel Writers Misread the Old Testament?"


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

An Unsatisfying Hermeneutic


Dr Abraham Juruvilla of DTS is a gifted and passionate Biblical scholar and teacher.  In preparing for an upcoming sermon, I reviewed his study of the story of Abraham's call to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22.  I can honestly say that I benefited greatly from many of Dr Juruvilla's insights, but found a deep dissatisfaction with his zealous refusal to read any Christological perspective from the New Testament back into Genesis.  Dr J eschewed such attempts as confusing and actually quoted a passage from Calvin to warn against hasty redemptive-historic allegorizing.

At the end of his study, Dr J repeated his insistence that we must read the Old Testament narratives as they were written by both their author and capital-A Author to find their purpose for writing, rather than imposing symbolic meanings from the New Testament.  He then went on to say that such strict interpretation actually leads to good preaching because the capital-A Author's purpose in O.T. narratives is "always to make us more Christlike."
As much as I appreciate his point that redemptive-historical preaching can fall short in application or imperative instruction [which it can!], I was left quite befuddled how the Author always intended for us to become more Christlike as a result of our reading, but never intended for us to find Christ in what we read.

DTS has a long history of hermeneutical struggle.  Founded as a conservative and dispensational seminary, they are working to oppose liberal interpretations on the one hand, while also resisting covenantal interpretations on the other.  This is a hard task, no doubt.  My own alma mater came out of a similar origin, but I sense a movement and growth toward in better directions.  I hope this is what Dr Juruvilla's work represents also and that time will make it all the more apparent.



Dr Juruvilla is author of Genesis: A Theological Commentary for Preachers.  He has also written systematically about interpretaion in his 2013 textbook: Privilege the Text! A Theological Hermeneutic for Preaching.  He teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Deep Gospel-infused Beauty


"Bach is inseparable from the words that he uses.  He's a religious composer and his outlook on life is told to us in the cantatas.  And even in the secular music, one has to embrace his worldview.  No matter how the voice leading it is so wonderful or the counterpoint is so wonderful, it goes beyond itself.  It tries to tell us a message and that message is usually complicated.  It's not quite simple.  So I think there's a lot more to Bach than the surface."

- Murray Perahia

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Banality of Evil



In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses his considerable genius to express the abhorrent beauty of absolute evil... It's true that lady Macbeth and Macbeth are never more alive than when they contemplate killing the king.  They thrill with vitality and excitement.   But as soon as they commit the act, they're oppressed with the banality of evil.  And I'm not just talking about guilt.  To be sure they are both tormented by guilt.   But even more afflicting that Macbeth's guilt is his ennui.  His awesome will to power, magnificently manifested in Duncan's murder, gives way to an all-consuming listlessness.

He'll murder many more times, but each time it becomes more mechanical, more tiresome, more wearisome.  What really wears on Macbeth is the tedium of evil.   In his wickedness he cannot find contentment or Joy or even desire.  There's nothing but this: tomorrow tomorrow and tomorrow creeping at its petty pace to the last syllable of recorded time.  And perhaps this is the ultimate truth of the tragedy.  When decency in goodwill give way to wickedness and evil, life loses its meaning.  It can be no more than a tiresome monotony.  A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.



Professor Kent Lehnhof

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Punishments of God are not Gifts?



This from a GQ interview.  Stephen Colbert describes the plane crash that suddenly killed his father and brother when he was 10 years old.
 “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”…
I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.”