Residency Log: Entry #1

As of May 15th 2017 I started the ministry residency component for my Master of Divinity degree. I am very thankful for the opportunity to complete this component through my home church here in Grand Rapids, MI—Take Hold Church, as their pastoral resident. During this season I will use my blog as a platform for updating everyone as it progresses. I will be mentored by my pastor and friend, Shane Cox, as he oversees the residency. So far, he and I have developed a contract including  a job description and long-term plans/goals, which I will post as they progress.

Some of you may be wondering what a ministry residency even is. The short explanation is an internship for Graduate school. This is a time where I will be immersed in a pastoral ministry context, integrating what I have acquired from both life experience and the classroom. What motivates this integration are the values listed below that express the heartbeat of the residency:

-Spiritual Transformation
-Theological Reflection
-Missional Identity
-Intentional Community
-Contextual Vision

These values are present throughout the component and central to the experience I gain from being immersed in the field, Shane’s mentoring, and several workshops. The workshops will incorporate the values with different aspects of pastoral ministry. For this semester my focus will be on the aspects of Pastoral Counseling, Mandatory Reporting in the State of Michigan, Personal Finance and Ministry Leadership. All of which I look forward to growing in.

I am excited for this journey and look forward to what lies ahead. Thank you to those who have supported me and my calling to pastoral work. Your persistent prayer is humbling; I am honored by your friendship and selflessness.

Advertisements

Book Review: Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Dr. Greg A. Boyd. Published by Fortress Press.

Renowned pastor-theologian and author Dr. Gregory A. Boyd has finally released his highly acclaimed Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross. When I say “finally”, you need to understand exactly how highly anticipated it has been. You know that verse in Romans when Paul talks about creation groaning for the sons of God to be revealed? Well, this book has been at work for so long (10 years) that I started to wonder if that verse was actually a prophecy regarding its release. What started a decade ago as a summer project is now a well-crafted two-volume set just shy of 1500 pages in length and published by Fortress Press. In the world of theological literature, Boyd has made a Kobe Tenderloin buffet from what was supposed to be a ham and cheese lunchable.

Why did his initial plans make such a serendipitous contrasting turn?

… because the subject matter is the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament.

Many are well aware of the tough pill to swallow that is OT violence, and the negative affect it can have on churches. Several authors have attempted to reconcile these issues in the past. These attempts to reconcile these difficult passages end up dismissing them in one form or another. Jesus was an advocate for, and student of, the OT scriptures, and according to Boyd, we cannot settle for this approach to passage that Jesus himself considered inspired. Though these passages seem antithetical to the character of God, there must be something deeper. Boyd shows us that the conundrum goes beyond the ethical explanations into an epistemological realm. He proposes a new framework for a systemic approach of scripture which he calls a Cruciform Hermeneutic—meaning that Christ on the Cross (cruciform) is the lens for interpretation (hermeneutic). His argument, then, is that the violent depictions of God in the OT cover God’s true revelation of Himself through Christ on the cross. Volume One presents the issue and builds a case for the Cruciform Hermeneutic. Volume Two clarifies the hermeneutic’s function and applying it to various OT texts.

This book is foundational and needed for the church today. The length is certainly going to be intimidating to most, but don’t let that deceive you! It is very readable! Boyd’s writing is passionately ambitious, thoroughly researched, and fearlessly unapologetic throughout. Future books dealing with OT violence will need to approach the battlefield of  Boyd’s arguments (pun intended) in both content and price (just under $40). If the praise and price won’t justify you purchasing a book this long, there is good news! An abridged version will be released this August called Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus makes sense of Old Testament Violence.  

The length of this review does not hold a candle to the book’s value. The depth of information it holds demands extensive comment and analysis. As a result I will post a seven part series, one for each of its components. They will be posted every other Wednesday starting May 31st). I am currently doing a four part series for Paul & the Gift (here’s the link to the first post of that series if you’re interested).

Disclaimer: Thank you to Fortress Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This provision did not affect my review  and the thoughts are my own.

 

Paul & the Gift: Book Review and Introduction

If asked to describe John M. G. Barclay’s new book Paul & the Gift, only one word comes to mind—groundbreaking. So groundbreaking in fact, that one may hear the rallying of anti-fracking activists upon reading. All joking aside, this is the next pillar to the foundation of Pauline Scholarship. John M. G. Barclay holds, arguably, the most prestigious chair (Lightfoot Professor of Divinity) of the University of Durham. This hardcover book weighs in at 656 pages in length and is published by WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2015), as well as a paperback version scheduled to be released this September (available for pre-order here if that’s your preference).

I first heard about this book from my New Testament Exegesis professor during our Pauline literature course. He described it as the New New Perspective on Paul, it goes beyond the New Perspective. This description was surprising to say the least; it was the first time I had heard anyone endorse a Pauline perspective that wasn’t the New Perspective since learning about what it was two years ago. Now having read the book, I understand exactly what my professor meant by New New Perspective. For those who are unfamiliar with what I’m referring, below is a summary taken from the prologue describing where research regarding Paul and grace currently resides, as well as the starting point for readers to understand where there is harmony and discord with Barclay’s arguments. Though there are several aspects that cannot be seen from the following excerpt, it is assiduous nonetheless:

“In the Christian tradition, Paul’s theology of grace has often been interpreted as the antithesis of Judaism, as if by Paul’s day Judaism had corrupted its biblical theology of grace with a soteriology of “works-righteousness” and reward. Paul’s language, laden with nuances derived from internal Christian disputes, has been conscripted to differentiate Christianity from Judaism on these terms, and to diminish the latter. On this reading, Paul was the premier theologian of grace who resisted the “legalism” of “late” Judaism, a works-based religion that amounted to auto-salvation. In recent decades this negative image of Judaism has been challenged with a counter-image, presenting Judaism as a “religion of grace.” Students of Judaism have traced grace everywhere in Second Temple literature, as the foundation of Israel’s covenant relationship with God and the frame within which the Torah was observed. Thus, for many, Paul says nothing remarkable about grace, and if his theology departs in any respect from his Jewish tradition, this has little if anything to do with grace.” (p. 2)


Concluding the prologue Barclay gives a three point framework of grace from which the reader consistently encounters throughout the book (p. 6). The first being that “Grace” is a multi-faceted concept best approached through the category of gift. Though this is susceptible to “perfection” (conceptually extended) in a number of different ways, their validity is not contingent on being a unified package. The package Barclay is referring are the six most commonly understood perfections of grace, which he elaborates on in Part 1 of the book (p. 70-76).  Secondly, grace is everywhere in Second Temple Judaism, but not everywhere the same. Paul’s theology of grace does not stand in antithesis to Judaism, but neither is there a common Jewish view with which it wholly coincides. Basically, grace is everywhere in Second Temple Judaism, but not everywhere the same. Lastly, Paul’s theology of grace hinges on his emphasis on the incongruity of the Christ-gift—it is given freely with no regard to a person’s worth. It should be noted that incongruity is very different unconditionality.

Paul & the Gift is a benchmark contribution to ongoing debates in Pauline theology, refocusing the conversation in important ways and offering critical needed analysis that goes beyond perspective, old and new. Barclay has truly provided any student of Paul with a timeless reference that is, dare I say—a remarkable gift; so remarkable, in fact, that this book review simply won’t do. My solution? Over the next few weeks I will post four Paul & the Gift installments, one for each component of the book. This book is loaded with a wealth of research worth pondering that it seemed appropriate, nay, necessary to expound on it further. I will post Part 1 sometime next week.

If you are a fan of making good decisions, than I suggest you click here and purchase a copy of this book.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts and opinions regarding the book.

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World—Book Review

In Baylor University Press’s recent publication Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, author Larry W. Hurtado educates readers on the social, cultural, and historical contexts of early Christianity in the ancient Roman world. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity and authored several publications; more specifically, his reputation to the field of early Christianity. Destroyer of the gods is no exception to his preceding work. In this literary gem, Hurtado highlights distinctions of the early Christians showing the reader not only what distinguished the people group then, but also how these distinctions played a role in the widespread presuppositions placed on religion during the modern era.

Starting with the book’s preface and introduction, Hurtado addresses the characteristics of the Jesus-movement. It goes without saying that the growth of early Christianity has had a subsequent influence on the world’s history (especially Western cultures), but one can’t help but ask why? Hurtado prepares the reader for the historical journey he is about to take them on by identifying these distinctions that many are naïve to. The following five chapters of the book, he says, are designed to, “address our cultural amnesia” (p. 1).

Chapter one looks at what the outside observer’s perspective early Christianity. This is reflected in both Jewish and pagan responses to the early Christians insofar as they are referred to as different, odd, and even objectionable at points (p. 15). Hurtado shows this with a number of examples, starting first with the apostle Paul, both an ambassador for the Jesus movement and, prior to his conversion in Acts 9, a zealous Pharisee and opponent to this (p. 16). Additionally historical figures such as Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, as well as literary works like “The Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach” and “Ecclesiasticus” (200 BC). Hurtado follows with a brief overview of pagan criticisms including Tacitus (56-120 AD), Pliny “the younger” (61-112 AD), Galen (129-199 AD), Marcus (121-180 AD), and Celsus, known for his unapologetically anti-Christian literary work—The True Word (175-180 AD) was unapologetically anti-Christian. All of whom were critics of the movement, and responded with hostility.

In chapter two, Hurtado discusses the specifics of what generated this hostile attitude towards early Christianity, as well as their distinguished them from other religious movements. First addressing the terminological issue with the word religion; the modern (especially western) understanding of this word creates problems when trying to grasp the Roman era setting. Religion today is very monotheistic in that their framework for a deity is very singular, even for those who do not believe (they deny the existence of A God!). In the Greco-Roman world, however, there was a widespread piety for all the gods (religions) because it was the cultural norm. To the outsiders of the early Christian movement, this was blatant disrespect. Hurtado shows that religious responsibility was a public service that included reverence and respect to the various gods of the empire, the town, and the family. This went to the extent of the Roman people’s sense of piety, virtue, shared meals, prayer, etc; all of which were in direct contrast with the early Christians which, to them, only increased the divide that deemed them outsiders. Some of these characteristics include, but are not limited to:

-Political Acceptance; some gods were involved in the Roman Imperial order (p. 54)

-Imagery and Shrines for all gods; Christianity’s lack thereof made their God seem transcendent above the rest (p. 62)

-“Love” for gods was philia; they expressed gratitude to the kindness shown by each god’s sublimely beautiful qualities associated with them (p. 64-65)

In chapter three—“A Different Identity”—the Greco-Roman understanding of identity is explored.  Hurtado begins the chapter with the analogy of a census taken in Britain. This helped the government better know the nature of the population. Every census always included two questions: What is your race/national background? What is your religious affiliation? (p. 77). The point of this analogy is to demonstrate that religious belief and nationality are incongruous today. This was not the case for the Greco- Roman world. In the Roman world, one’s religious preference was conferred at birth and everyone was presumed to honor the gods as appropriate to their Roman culture and heritage. The Romans enthusiastically embraced the religious cults of other cultures, including Persia and Egypt because they were similar to their own religious beliefs. The problem the Romans had with the early Christians is their rejection of other gods and religious services; to them it was abhorrent and atheistic. Hurtado ended the chapter with a befitting quote from Tertullian, which may have been the first defense towards religious identity in the ancient world (p. 103):

“It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature that everyone should worship according to one’s own convictions… It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion… A Christian is enemy to none, least of all to the Emperor of Rome, who he knows to be appointed by God, moreover the Christian must desire, with that of the empire over which he reigns.” –Tertullian’s address to Scapula (Proconsul of Africa, 211-213 AD)

Chapter four investigates what Hurtado calls the “bookish” distinction of early Christianity, referring to their practice of documenting their sacred texts. In his words, “reading, writing, copying, and dissemination of texts has a major place—indeed, a prominence—in early Christianity that, except for ancient Jewish circles, was unusual for religious groups of the Roman era” (p. 105-106). Reading this was kind of shocking to me at first. From my experience, the historical reliability of scripture has been the most frequently criticized characteristic of Christianity’s credibility; the typical arguments consist of eyewitness accounts, textual variants, oral tradition, etc… Ironically, this distinction arguably plays the largest role in ensuring Christianity’s preservation and persistence into the present day. In the first century, the gathering of both early Christianity and traditional Judaism were prolific in their writing and sharing of their sacred texts, which, at that time, consisted mainly of Old Testament. What distinguished the two was early Christian’s initial step of expanding the literary portfolio from which they read for worship gatherings. Hurtado uses the circulatory epistles and gospels accounts as examples. Going deeper with the topic, he highlights the ingrained aspects of the “bookish” distinction such as writing, copying, the physical features of their books, and the amount of work all these aspects require. To me, these observations show the level of dedication one must have in that time (p. 118-132); that aspect alone made this chapter my personal favorite; both testimonial and encouraging to my own ministry, as well as well written and insightful.

The final chapter of the book focuses on the early Christian’s emphasis on the everyday living and its significance to the Christian commitment within a Greco Roman context. Hurtado explains how a modern worldview of religion is stripped down to a list of “do’s and don’ts”, assuming that is equivalent to the religion’s mission entirely; this was not the case for this time or culture (p. 143-145). Hurtado looks at practices like violent contests (gladiators), infant exposures (baby dumps), and sexual escapades to show two things: these were socially accepted practices and a cultural norm, and (2) greatly contrasted with early Christianity’s moral practices. This chapter was by far my favorite of them all. If you don’t have the time to read the entire book, then I would at least recommend reading at least this chapter. It is both concise in length and thorough with cultural analysis.

Destroyer of the gods is a readable and inspiring discussion about early Christianity and what made it distinguishable in a polytheistic Roman culture. The book is organized and written well, making it easy to follow despite prior knowledge of the subject matter. I have found socio-cultural to be my preferred area of research in the field of Biblical studies; I have several books on the subject, but still recommend this book. Hurtado beautifully reveals how these differences have subtly transitioned to be the norm for today’s Christian culture and how those roots were formed and flourished during the first-third centuries. As a whole, the text makes a considerable contribution to the understanding of this ancient Roman era and is worth the price by far. This book is without question my new “go-to” recommendation for this area of Biblical studies. You can pick up a copy of it here. I hope you do because I know you will be blessed by it.

Disclaimer: Baylor Press was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed were not affected by this and are my own.

Book Review: The Spirituality of Paul

Known for his previous release The Spirituality of Jesus, Leslie T. Hardin has provided another character survey titled The Spirituality of Paul. Published by Kregel, this book is an aid for students of the New Testament seeking better understanding of Paul’s spirituality. I have read several introduction books on the apostle Paul, and have grown familiar with how these character surveys are typically laid out; Some have focused on the Biblical Context of Paul’s letters, others have focused on Paul’s offices of ministry (Pastor, Missionary, Apostle, Church Planter, etc…), but most have been introductions to Paul’s theological corpus covering all contexts of study—Historical, Literary, Rhetorical, Cultural, Sociological, Political, Pastoral, etc…

This book, however, is very different in that it focuses exclusively on Spirituality. Obviously there is tons of literature out there about the spirituality of Paul, but this one still stands out in how it is not exclusive to the academy, yet theologically deep. This is fitting to one of the book’s focuses being Paul as a disciple-maker. Observing this in the book will surely help in one’s understanding of disciple-making from the perspective of both the mentor and pupil.

Another thing to highlight about this book is its faithfulness answer questions that are exclusive to spirituality/spiritual formation, and bring them to the contemporary surface for teaching and understanding any and all willing to receive. What were the Apostle’s spiritual practices and disciplines? How did these spiritual disciplines help him? How did Paul view Christ in light of these practices? How does suffering affect Paul’s spirituality? How do we apply these to our lives today?

Each chapter, titled to fit well-known verses, engages these questions in a thorough and concise manner. The chapters are—

  1. “Imitate Me”: Paul and the Practice of the Spirit
  2. “It Is Written”: Paul’s Devotion to Scripture
  3. “For This Reason I Kneel”: Paul at Prayer
  4. “Entrust These Things to Reliable Men”: Disciple-Making
  5. “We Proclaim Christ”: Proclamation of the Gospel
  6. “When You Come Together”: Corporate Worship
  7. “Holy and Blameless in His Sight”: Holiness
  8. “We Were All Given the One Spirit”: Spiritual Gifts
  9. “As a Father Deals with His Children”: Building One Another Up in the Faith
  10. “The Marks of Jesus”: Paul and Suffering
  11. The Shape of Pauline Spirituality

Hardin is not shy with his inclusion of personal anecdotes, nor does he neglect of surveying the backgrounds of the text as is appropriate. On top of that, this is filled with helpful footnotes and thorough bibliography. I found this book to be very enjoyable. For $16.99, it is affordable to the seminarian on a budget and readable to the new believer seeking a deeper understanding of Paul’s spirituality. This would make a great small group or Sunday school lesson book as well. All in all, I give this book a thumbs up and am thankful I took the time to read it! You can purchase this on Kregel’s website here. Special thanks to Kregel and their blogger program for providing me with this review copy of the book!

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for an honest review. This did not have any influence on my reviews. All of the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 

If being lukewarm is bad, what of hot and cold? Re-evaluating the misunderstood contrast taken from Revelation 3:15-16

           Lukewarm picture

 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth!

Revelation 3:15-16

Most of us have heard this passage preached to professing Christians and living a different lifestyle. It is an urgent warning to their fellow believer to go all-in with their faith, and avoid being a Lukewarm Christian. If you haven’t heard the term lukewarm before, you’ve probably heard one of these verses preached with the same underlying warning…

Matthew 6:24- Man cannot serve both God and money, just as man cannot serve two masters

John 15:9- If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Romans 12:2- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind

1 Peter 1:16- Be Holy as I am Holy

1 Peter 2:9- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

All of these point to the same “fence-riding” lifestyle many have assumed of Revelation 3:15-16; God would rather you be a non-believer bound for hell than a lukewarm, fence-riding Christian. This is a message that encourages moral integrity, and more importantly, an authentic faith/relationship with the creator God.  

Though virtue, integrity, morality, and authentic faith are thematic throughout all of Scripture, I am more than skeptical that this traditional understanding of the passage is the author’s intent. That is, does God really prefer people be unbelievers entirely rather than what so many have called lukewarm Christians? What really needs to be considered are the metaphors hot and cold: which of them is entirely good and which of them is entirely bad? How are we supposed to tell the difference? If there even is one…

For example, I prefer cold water over hot water to drink in the summer time, however, I’d prefer hot tea over iced tea in the winter. What about when hot and cold are used to describe a person’s character? We call bitter people cold and superstars hot. Which is supposed to be negative, and which is supposed to be positive? 

I think its fair to say it depends on the season and circumstance which we prefer. In order to understand the how lukewarm is an antagonist to them, the relationship between hot and cold needs to be distinguished, at which we will investigate in two areas: Literary Context (use of language) and Historical Context (social/cultural conditions of the author and recipients). 

Literary Context

The Greek word for “hot” is ζεστος (zes-tahs); the use of this word never has the connotation of being an “all in” Christian who is full of fiery passion. It is always used to describe temperature. Similarly, the Greek word for cold” is ψυχρος (psoo-krahs), is never associated with those lacking faith or fiery passion; its use in the NT always refers to temperature without nuances of character like  “bitter” or “angry”. 

What if the metaphors for temperatures are both good? We are so used to reading these verses to mean that hot and cold automatically mean good and bad because they are opposites, but what if that’s not the author’s intended message? What if the understood contrast between hot and cold really isn’t as black and white (pun intended) as we’d perceive? What if the passage were read “you are neither apples nor oranges, you are radishes” instead, would we still interpret it with the same connotations? Understanding the context of the passage will help verify what an appropriate application for this passage is. 

*Disclaimer: I am not arguing against morality or virtue that comes from the traditional understanding of this passage. I am pointing out that the application of the text is different from the traditional understanding of “be all in, or not at all”, because of the assumed antagonistic relationship between hot and cold. 

Historical Context

Laodicea was centrally located between several cities. Two of these surrounding cities were known specifically for their water sources–Heirapolis and Colossae. Heirapolis was had several natural hot springs it was known for. In fact, many traveled to Heirapolis because of these infamous hot springs; kind of like how people travel to the Mayo Clinic today. These natural hot springs provided healing qualities to those immersed in the water, similar to taking hot shower or hot tub for healing or relief. Twelve miles east of Laodicea was the city of Colossae. Like Heirapolis, Colossae was also famous for their water source. The difference, however, is Colossae’s water source was cold, refreshing and life-giving. It came from the snow caps of Mount Cadmus located behind the city and fed the Lycus river, from where they would obtain it. If you were standing in Laodicea and were to look towards Colossae, you would be able to see this mountain clearly. It is doubtful to think that John would not have known this when writing this letter. He certainly was well aware of Laodicea’s location being between two water-sourced cities, and it is doubtful that he would have used this metaphor with the church of Laodicea otherwise. He knew of the healing hot springs of Heirapolis, the live-giving cold water of Colossae, and Laodicea’s centrality to both.  

There is an underlying problem one may not immediately see; The city of Laodicea did not have a natural water supply. With the city being central to the landmarks of Hierapolis and Colossae, it was naturally a prime trading route, as well as a frequented stopping point for travelers. Their solution to this agricultural hurdle was to develop an aqueduct system to bring water into the city. The system was too far from Heirapolis or Colossae to be their water source. Instead, the aqueduct system was set up from what is now Denizli, a city closer in proximity to Laodicea. Denizli had hot springs as well, from which Laodicea funneled in their water. The hot water would be exported through this aqueduct system from there to Laodicea, and naturally the heat of the water would cool to a less desirable temperature. The Laodiceans put the water in the shade until it became desirably cool enough to drink. This custom was common. Below is an excerpt from the Greek historian Herodotus (484 B.C.-425 B.C.), which Stanley Porter included in his article I listed in my bibliography. He says:

            “And they have another source of water, a spring, which in the morning is lukewarm, but as market time comes becomes colder. And at noon it is its coldest. At this time they [the Ammonians] water their gardens. When the day draws to a dose the coldness declines, until when the sun sets and the water becomes lukewarm. It is at its hottest when the time draws near to midnight, and at this time it boils and bubbles. When midnight passes, it becomes colder until dawn. This spring is called the spring of the sun.” –Description of the Ammonians of Northern Africa (4.181.3-4)

From this it can be seen that both cold water and hot water were desired. Neither was bad, but both were only attainable at certain points of the day. For the Laodiceans, the water’s desired temperature needed to be controlled. It was not going to be as hot as it was in the natural spring, and it took time afterwards for the water to reach it’s coolest. As Herodotus indicated earlier, the coldest temperature was achieved at market time. Market time would be when more people are awake and active in the city, which in turn means there would be an increased demand for water that was cool and refreshing. 

This brings us to the understanding of lukewarm and how we apply it today. If Hot water is healing, and Cold water is rejuvenating/life-giving, then what are we to make of lukewarm?  We know lukewarm is bad, but how does this apply to the church as a whole? 


Conclusion

Personally, I think this passage should be considered in light of the collective church body more than the individual alone. The passage begins with, “I know your works” and is a letter written to the Laodicean church about their actions; works that are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. The church needs to be both hot and cold, spiritually healing, life-giving, and refreshing. Just as Colossae and Heirapolis were known for the healing and refreshing effects of their water, the church should be known as a place that is healing, refreshing, and life-giving. When we gather together as a community of faith, our desire should be to preserve our faith in a way that is desirable to others. Just like those who would get sick from drinking the lukewarm mineral water, there are many people who have been incredibly hurt by the church. They came to practice their faith with a community they expected to be life-giving, healing, and refreshing, and instead they experienced something vomit-worthy. The church has left a bad taste in the world’s mouth, which does not portray us as a loving community. The church has too often signed God’s name on bigotry, hateful, exclusive practices, and given it an undesirable reputation. To several, what we offer is nothing like the waters of Heirapolis or Colossae as it ought to be, all we’ve given the world is lukewarm water… bland, disgusting, bath water that nobody is drawn to…

Am I saying we need to be “seeker-driven” churches? No, not at all… I am saying that the world’s perception of the church didn’t come out of thin air. Many perceive it as a social-club exclusive to the well-behaved because that’s how many believers have carried themselves. What we need to do is be both Hot and Cold to all in need of a community that is spiritually refreshing and healing. The church should be known for these characteristics, and now is an excellent time in the world to take a step forward in practicing this so that we can be the community that.

What does it mean to be lukewarm and how do you avoid it? Cultivate spiritual healing and be the love of God to all you encounter. Foster a life-giving community, so that all who are thirsty and hurting may find healing, nourishment, and a family in the church just as God intended for it to be. 


Bibliography

Hemer, Colin J. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

Keener, Craig S. Revelation. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary of the NT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Porter, Stanley E. “Why the Laodiceans Received Lukewarm Water (Revelation 3:15-18).” Tyndale Bulletin—vol. 38, 1987: 143-149.*

*Click here if you’d like to read this article. It is an online PDF of Porter’s article alone, so there isn’t access to this volume of the Tyndale Bulletin.   

Book Review- Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions

UrbanLegends-headerMore times than not I see many people misapplying scripture to aid them in their present context.  I’ve encountered several instances where a westernized reading of scripture has fogged the context of the Biblical author’s intended understanding of the text which, unfortunately, consistently leads to misapplication. Optimistically speaking, (or as a pessimist would detest- unrealistically speaking) that the progress of technology continues to make tools and resources easily accessible and readily available to prevent future interpretive errors such as this. Be that as it may,  misapplying scripture, whether innocent or intentional, should be addressed with a plethora of grace in all circumstances. Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions is a book seeking to alleviate some of the misunderstanding developed from misinterpretation.

Written by David Croteau (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Professor of NT and Greek in the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University), this is book is both fun and easy to read! Each common misconception is given a chapter, and each chapter is laid out to consist of no more than 5-8 pages. Some of the misconceptions discussed are

  1. Was Jesus really a carpenter?
  2. Was Paul a Tentmaker? (should ministers/pastors be paid for ministry?)
  3. Did Jesus die at age 33?
  4. Did Jesus really sweat drops of blood?
  5. Is money evil?
  6. Was there really no room for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the inn?

There were a few things that stood out to me about Croteau’s work, the first being the unique emphasis on the subject of hermeneutics. I have never read, let alone seen another book out there like this in that the hermeneutical emphasis is ironically subliminal (if that’s possible). By this I mean that Croteau provides historical and cultural understanding to each misconception without marketing the book as a “How To…” book on hermeneutics. The list of misconceptions aren’t new ideas in the world of evangelical scholarship (you could probably find all of them in any commentary, introduction, or survey book); this, however, looks over misconceptions throughout the New Testament, so it isn’t exclusive to a topic, idea, character, or genre as one might find in a commentary or introduction. Additionally, the book’s format provides the reader with an easy way to navigate the arguments of each misconception. To obtain this from commentaries, even the cheapest and most basic of commentaries, the total cost would still be right around $100, whereas this book is only $14.99 from B&H Publishing’s online store, here is a link.

I also enjoyed the annotated bibliography at the end of each chapter. Dr. Croteau provides further resources pertaining to each passage, and comments on each of them so you know if they’re worth purchasing or not. The annotated bibliography is also what led me to further research for my Lukewarm Blogpost (click here if you’d like to read it). B&H does this in their Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament Series as well, which was even more helpful with those considering they deal with the Greek language exclusively. I hope this is something they start including for all of their academic works because the diversity of resources is incredibly beneficial for further Biblical/Theological study.

Conclusion:

I found Croteau to be very generous and compassionate towards those who have fallen privy to these misconceptions as well as an exemplar of scriptural integrity. This is the most affordable book I’ve reviewed, and would love to see many engage with its principals. Honestly, I would love to have this book be in the Recommendations section of my blog (if I ever install the menu button for it). Whether you are preparing a sermon, writing a devotional blogpost, or just looking for a passive aggressive gift for your pastor, this book is a very fun read I highly recommend. I am certain you will enjoy it!

***Disclaimer- I received a review copy of this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are my own, and were not influenced by their provisional review copy.

Book Review- Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

If you couldn’t tell from my update post, the topic of gender and Christianity is something that I am very intrigued by. The last book I reviewed from Baker Academic- Paul and Gender by Cynthia Westfall focused on the Apostle Paul’s theological corpus, and how his references to Gender have been inappropriately applied. A combination of a western worldview and ecclesiological tradition has neglected the context of these gender passages by cherry-picking “proof texts” only to develop an exegetically inaccurate doctrine, both demeaning and hierarchical. You can read my review of that book here if you’d like.

neither-egalitarean-nor-complementarian

This review of Michelle Lee-Barnewall’s new book Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate bravely elevates the conversation to a new level of thinking by offering what she calls “a kingdom corrective” as an alternative to the already established schools of thought. Not only is her corrective argument informative, but also unapologetic, respectful, and simultaneously free of pompous candor or dogmatic assertions. This book is refreshing glass of water for the theologically parched, and a breath of fresh air for the either/or way of thinking that has brought hostile disunity to the church.

My review for this book will be a little different then my recent reviews. I will not expand in summary as I have prior, but not due to any form of laziness. The reason being that the kingdom perspective Lee-Barnewall argues for is what I consider to be an enormous contribution to the ongoing gender debate. Of every book I’ve reviewed, this is my highest recommendation for anyone willing to approach a new framework that goes beyond the egalitarian or complementarian sides of the coin. If you are even the slightest bit familiar with the conversation then this book will be beneficial, which is why I highly encourage all who are reading this to consider purchasing it. All that to say my review will be more reflective rather than informative, hoping that my ambiguity will intrigue you enough to consider reading it. Maybe we can even dialogue about it on here! Either way, I have a copy and would love to let anyone borrow it who is interested, but doesn’t have the funding. Comment on here and I’m sure we can work something out.   Continue reading

Book Review- Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ

Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ is an attempt to shed new light on the Pauline passages concerning gender roles. Authored by respected scholar Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall, this book urges all who have studied the apostle to do so through the theological lens of the Pauline corpus, distinguishing between the assumptions and presuppositions that they use to make sense of the texts (2). The layout for this book is not a systematic approach as one might expect. I’ve found that books dealing with specific Biblical issues tend to be laid out that way, devoting each chapter to a different problem passage. being devoted . With the exception of chapter 9 dealing exclusively with 1 Timothy 2:11-15, each passage is regarded as is fitting to the chapter’s topic, moving the reader toward a canon-based Pauline theology of gender. The chapter layout is as follows— paul-and-gender

  1. Culture
  2. Stereotypes
  3. Creation
  4. The Fall
  5. Eschatology
  6. The Body
  7. Calling
  8. Authority
  9. 1 Timothy 2:11-15

This holistic approach to Paul’s work enables Westfall to address the issues effectively. Her method helps make sense of the apostle’s writings in their context, refreshing the reader with new insights regarding Greco-Roman culture. In turn, viable alternatives are offered for Paul’s infamous passages and they encourage ongoing discussion. Westfall is re-framing the gender issues from what they were at one point, clearly seeking to stimulate critical thinking for a newfound understanding of Paul’s theology of gender.

I have read a few books, articles, and journals dealing with Paul’s view of gender. I have found the majority of them to be similarly thematic in their structure and their argument with Paul, gender, and how they handle the topic’s key texts (1 Cor. 7; 11; 14; 1 Tim. 2)—that Paul is addressing specific problems occurring with a specific people group. What makes Westfall’s book stand out is her method holds social, historical, and cultural context in very high regard, from which she builds her textual case. She does not choose one or the other, rather, demonstrates the equal importance of both. Most books looking to gain deeper understanding of the text would never ignore these aspects because they are an exegetical necessity; however, I am thrilled with her emphasis the text’s context as the hermeneutical foundation she proves it to be. Not everyone knows Greek or Hebrew, but when you study social, historical, and cultural contexts, you don’t need the language prerequisites. This aspect makes the book more enticing to those who are not versed in Biblical languages, and would benefit those just starting with Biblical Greek. I think reading someone else’s assessment has always helped me with exegesis, and I’m sure it would help other’s as well.

Coming back to my love for her focus on context, here are a few examples of things that stood out to me specifically…

In chapter 1 Westfall exposes the Greco-Roman culture and its influence on Paul’s writing. She argues Paul’s language exploits Hellenistic literature, philosophy, symbols, and language to take every thought captive for Christ (8). Specifically, the study analyzes the women head coverings in 1 Cor. 11:10. Most interpret this passage as Paul usurping a husband’s authority over his wife, but this assumption of the veil in 1 Cor. 11:10 is a prime example of presuppositions developed from the influence of western thought. Westfall argues that our culture has influenced traditional reading of the phrase ὀφείλει ή γυνή ἐξουσίαν ἒχειν, to be interpreted as “a woman should have a sign of authority over her head.” Her rendering of it is, “because o this a woman should have authority over her head. Her argument is built on the cultural study and explains the grammar of the phrase for further support as well (35).

Another good example of emphasis on context is her assessment of 1 Timothy 2, the most popular of the passages regarding Paul, gender, and leadership. Westfall sets the stage with her explanation of 1 Timothy being a personal letter authored by Paul and for Timothy. Several scholars believe 1 Timothy was either a general writing or pseudonymous, not to mention skepticism on whether or not Timothy was the intended recipient during his time in Ephesus (282-285). Prefacing the chapter with this inaugurates the overarching focus on context, giveing the reader cultural insight prior to her position on the text’s interpretation. It is here that Westfall reveals this is not the “church-government-gender-standard” passage many have made it out to be; the social setting is not that of a public worship service, nor is it addressing ministries in general. On top of this, the ethical weight given justifying gender discrimination of the female population from ministry leadership is dogmatic, chauvinistic, and an exegetical fallacy. Specifically, she says, “There is nothing in 1 Timothy 2:1-8 that would narrow the context to a ‘public worship service,’ without even considering that worship services took place in the domestic sphere of the home, not in a public location” (287). She follows with a section arguing the letter’s purpose, helping the reader to understand the purpose/placement of 1 Timothy 2:1-15 entirely; Paul seeks to provide Timothy with antidotes correlated to the present false teaching. She presents his antidotes threefold: an antidote for false teaching amongst men (vv. 2:1-8; p. 304), an antidote for economically appropriate attire (vv. 2:9-10; p. 305), and an antidote for false teaching among the women (vv. 2:11-15; p. 305). Summarizing her final thoughts, here is an excerpt from the concluding paragraph of this chapter:

“The controversial passage that addresses women in 2:9-15 does not fit the setting of the church service. It is better understood as a type of household code, whereby the heresies involving women that had invaded the household were to be corrected in each household by the husband, who was in the best position to take responsibility for the spiritual formation of his wife. Rather than prohibiting women from participating as leaders in the church, Paul addresses the lacuna in discipleship that is holding the Ephesian women believers back from maturity and sound teaching” (310-311).

These are just two examples that barely scratch the surface of the book’s informational density, and is far from elementary. If you have read anything regarding Paul and Gender, I urge you to not write this off. I can assure you it is not the regurgitation of problem texts you may be expecting. It is unique, affordable, edifying and life-giving. The gender debate has gone on for centuries and has been influenced by several different traditions. If you have been looking for a thorough overview on the discussion of the apostle’s theology of gender, then Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ will be an excellent tool to dismantle traditional western thought whilst maintaining sound exegetical integrity.

This book is phenomenal, and I recommend it to anyone even remotely curious on the subject. The examples listed above hardly do her arguments the justice each deserves. Westfall’s study incorporates the apostle’s theological corpus in the social, historical, and cultural contexts of each problem passage, deeming it beneficial to all wanting a better understanding of Paul’s theology of gender. This book both erudite and enjoyable, this is a book I will love to recommend, but hesitate to let others borrow.

You can buy this from Baker Academic’s website here. Baker Book House has a few copies currently available in their bargain section if you are in the Grand Rapids area as well. Thank you to Baker Academic for providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not affect the review in any way.

Update: Reading List, Women Leadership, Take Hold Church

chi-rhoGreetings! As the title indicates, this is an “update” post. My initial intent was to post this at the beginning of the year, but needed to postpone because several book reviews I needed to catch up on, and several more to follow for this semester. In no particular order here are the books I will review over the next few weeks: I have developed my reading list for two reasons. The first is because of a class I’m taking on Greco-Roman culture and New Testament backgrounds, and the second is to further research gender and leadership roles in a first century context.

  1. Neither Egalitarian Nor Complimentarian (Baker) by Michelle Lee-Barnewell
  2. Paul and Gender (Baker) by Cynthia Long Westfall
  3. Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans) by John M.G. Barclay
  4. World Upside Down (Fortress) by C. Kavin Rowe
  5. The First Urban Christians (Yale) by Wayne A. Meeks
  6. The Ancient Church as Family (Fortress) by Joseph H. Hellerman
  7. Destroyer of the Gods (Baylor) by Larry W. Hurtado

I have developed my reading list for two reasons. The first, because I’m taking a class on Greco-Roman culture and New Testament backgrounds, and the second is to further research gender and leadership roles in a first century context. I grew fond of this subject because of a lecture I listened to by Ben Witherington III that completely captivated me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered this was the focus of his he doctoral dissertation. Following this, I was drawn to a book I found online called Man and Woman, One in Christ (Zondervan) by Philip Payne that was absolutely brilliant. Since then I have been drawn to this field of study, finding more interest in the misinterpretation of the “go-to” proof texts against women in leadership roles. All things considered I will be posting a 2-3 part series of my personal stance on the subject based on what I’ve found to be misunderstood scripturally. I will post this 2-3 part series in addition to my book reviews.

I also want to share the IVP Bookclub with all of the readers out there. The IVP Bookclub is a monthly subscription to get books for 30%-60% off from IVP, but with no obligation. Simply respond by mail, email, or phone by the deadline and they wont send you the book offered at the discounted Bookclub rate. The best part about this bookclub is that you get 3 books for $1 (+$7-$8 for S & H) that they send to your front door within 4-8 weeks once you sign up. There are 50 or so books to choose from, and the selection is definitely worth it. Plus, there is no obligation to stay signed up with the club if you choose not to. You can cancel your membership whenever you like, no penalty whatsoever. I am a member right now, and there are no gimmicks or fees in this at all. It is as good as it sounds. In fact, I signed up shortly after Christmas and got my lot of books early last week! Here’s the link if you’re interested, and let me know if you do sign up!

In addition to all of this, I will be starting my 2 residency for my degree this May. During this time, one of my tasks will be to get together a plan of action for Take Hold Church’s Ministry School, projected to (re)launch in the Fall of 2018. Take Hold Church’s Ministry School started 5-6 years ago, and was created for those seeking deeper Biblical, theological, and ministerial understanding in a small group format. Now the idea has been bouncing around again, and many of us at Take Hold believe that it may be time to get the school up and running again. Nothing is set in stone, but I will follow up with details as they formulate. You can also check the church’s website for updates regarding this, as well as other things going on at the church such as shows, outreach opportunities, ways to get involved, small groups/ministries, Take Hold Fest, and even a blog once there is a tab set up (I will be posting on there occasionally in addition to my personal page).

That’s the end of this random update. I will have a review of Neither Egalitarian Nor Complimentarian up within the week.