OH COME ON! STOP IT!

Everyone knows Jesus breastfed.  But naturally some special interest group wants to complain that there aren’t any scenes of him doing so, so up in arms they go… milking their cause for every drop they can squeeze from the teat…

At its heartwarming core, Christmas is the story of a birth: the tender relationship between a new mother and her newborn child.  Indeed, that maternal bond between the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus has resonated so deeply across the centuries that depicting the blessed intimacy of the first Noel has become an integral part of the Christmas industry.  Yet all the familiar scenes associated with the holy family today – creches and church pageants, postage stamps and holiday cards – are also missing an obvious element of the mother-child connection that modern Christians are apparently happy to do without: a breast-feeding infant.

The essayist then goes on to attempt an explanation but I have a simpler one: folk know it happens and they don’t need to see it.  Folk know people go to the bathroom but who wants to watch someone do it?  No one, that’s who.  Folk know their parents and grandparents must have carnal relations from time to time but who among us wants to think about it?  That’s right, no one.

Every aspect of life needn’t be on display.  Happily and merrily feed your little one but kindly don’t plop the feeding tube out whilst in public.  No one’s interested in your self-aggrandizing displays.  Especially, yes ESPECIALLY if you’re Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.

If You’re In Washington, DC, or Even Nearby…

Get your calendar out and put this on it:

THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2013 7:30 PM: “You’re Such a Martyr!”: The History and Controversy of Persecution in the Early Church.

297762_788468470704_678481337_nAccording to cherished church tradition, early Christians were uniquely and systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire. Vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions or routinely tortured or burned alive. In spite of these horrors, so the story goes, these heroes of the early church chose to die rather than renounce their trust in God. Such stories form part of the teaching of the church to the present day, inspiring some to acts of like courage in the face of modern hardships. Yet there is also the troubling use of this heritage to silence the voices of those who act outside the perceived orthodoxies of the day.

In this lecture, Professor Candida Moss will address the history of persecution in the early church, and show how this history includes exaggerations and forgeries that eventually became part of the imagination of the church. Moss will also address the question of the legacy of this history; a legacy that has animated the acts of some within the religious world to exclude those who would challenge their hegemony.

Candida is to America what Diarmaid MacCulloch is to Britain. If you have the chance to attend her lecture, you should.

The NFL’s Culture of Permissive Immorality

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in the league’s bounty investigation of the club.  Tagliabue, however, found that the players’ conduct was detrimental to the league. He says they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays – including hard tackles – that could justify fines.  But the former commissioner said Tuesday that “this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

In short, life in the NFL returns to normal in spite of the fact that players were urged to injure others.  In civil society, hiring a person to harm another is a punishable crime.  Even if no harm is done.  But in the NFL, in its culture of permissive immorality, overpaid, pampered and swooned over jocks are free to act as they please, knowing that at the end of the day, they’ll get a wink and  a nod even if before, for the sake of appearance, they get a mild scolding.

Heiser v. Decker: The Thrilla in Bellingham

Michael writes

Someone sent me this link today by Dr. Rod Decker of Clarks Summit: Can you skip 1st year Greek and start with 2d year?  Dr. Decker proceeds to bash the “Learn to Use Greek and Hebrew” product produced by Logos Bible Software, of which I had a part in producing (and we plan to produce a 2.0 version in 2013).  Once again, a critic has managed to misunderstand the marketing claims for the product.

It must be v. day today.  Sometimes days shape up to be thematic.  Today is brought to you by the letter V – versus.  It’s a good word to know, quite frankly, given the pale accommodationism of our day.

And then the real fun begins

Since Dr. Decker felt free to insult the product (and me, by extension, along with the company I work for), I’d like to enter a dialogue with him.

Question: What discipline in the world embraces a 90% failure rate and calls it a success and the right course to follow?

Year after year thousands of students take Greek and Hebrew to learn to be translators – to reproduce (crudely) what they could buy in any given bookstore, and get free from the Gideons). In schools that require only one year of Greek and Hebrew, the student never gets to exegesis. Many seminaries fall into that category. So what does the student take away?  However, a good number of schools do require a second year (albeit a smaller number than 20 years). So, of those students that get through the second year, how many graduate and use their Greek and Hebrew *regularly* (week to week) in sermons? If the number was high, I’d expect that we’d see congregations across the United States where people are being fed solid meat from the pulpit. Pardon my skepticism in that regard.

Sure, there are such places, but an abundance? What do we have to show for the thousands of students who take two years of Greek and Hebrew?  The reality is that of the students who survive two years of each language, most don’t use it. Why? reasons vary.

I’ll answer that one- laziness.  Pastors are – by and large – lazy.  Too lazy to work in the original languages and some even too lazy to do their own sermons, instead opting to buy books of sermon outlines.  Feeding, thereby, their congregations regurgitated filth.

The realities of ministry simply don’t allow most pastors to review their languages to maintain the memorization levels needed to be translators. Another is that a second year course is often inadequate (who does Dr. Decker trust more in handling the text — his two year students or his doctoral students?). Second year Greek often is just category memorization, not exegesis.  Second year usually constitutes a short review of forms and vocab, then on to memorizing syntactical categories for exams and perhaps producing an exegetical paper.

If someone is lucky, the professor actually situates all that memorization into an exegetical method. But that is rare. Personally, I took Greek syntax three times at three different schools (I got an A each time; it was just a quirk of my educational path that required me to keep taking it). I never learned an exegetical method. I also never had to produce an exegetical paper. I had to wait until I got to graduate school in Hebrew studies to get anything that looked like that.

That’s kind of sad.  At the college I attended Religion majors were required to do exegetical papers based on the original languages.   I’m sure that’s changed now, but back in the 80’s we at least had to do it.

A little Greek (or Hebrew) is a dangerous thing, my Prof used to say constantly.  How right he was.  No Greek (or Hebrew) is even more dangerous because its foundation is laziness couched in the mantle of ‘pastoral busy-ness’.

Michael has more- all good stuff.

I Don’t Care What James McGrath Thinks, About Me or What it Means to be a Baptist

Much less what his views are concerning homosexuality, the Baptist faith, soul competence (which he CLEARLY doesn’t understand at all).  He’s entitled to his opinion, as are one and all.  What’s striking is that he shows such utter lack of understanding of the very point on which he wishes to crucify me.  His supposition that ‘soul freedom’ (a phrase never used in Baptist documents- instead one finds ‘soul competency’ except among the Anabaptists, and even there they don’t mean what McGrath means) means that Baptists can do bloody well what they please in spite of Scripture or tradition is not only wrong, it’s blind.  He writes that ‘soul freedom’ is…

… the right and duty of individual believers, and communities of believers, to follow the dictates of their consciences, without compulsion from authoritarian structures.

Soul competency has NOTHING to do with Baptists deciding to pick and choose what they wish to pick and choose and to abandon what they personally find distasteful, or to following the ‘dictates of their consciences’!  Nein!  Not even remotely.  Soul competency, instead, concerns soteriology; soul competency is the accountability of each person before God in terms of the salvation of their soul.  I cannot be saved for you, you cannot be saved for me.  Each of us is singularly responsible to turn to God for our salvation.  We are competent to do that, and only that.

In his most popular work, The Axioms of Religion (1908), Mullins addressed the issue of freedom and authority by reinterpreting Baptist history. Having vilified the Landmarkists, with their high ecclesiology, as ‘a Roman Catholic party among the Baptists’, he now adopted their language of ‘Baptist distinctives’, redefining these in terms of modern individualism. Ranging between four and seven in number, these axioms included divine sovereignty over individuals, equal rights of access to God for all souls, equal privileges in the church, responsible and free morality, a free church in a free state, and a mild form of the Social Gospel. All of the axioms were encapsulated in a new term, ‘soul competency’, by which Mullins meant a pre-regeneration capacity in humans to deal directly with God apart from any human mediation.*

James is awfully, awfully good at Gnostic scriptures and early Christianity.  Awfully good at it.  But he’s awful at historical theology.  Not just awful, but dreadful at it.

Finally, as I have said previously, and in the post which James dislikes, if people wish to violate Scripture they’re free to do so all they wish- but they cannot at the same time declare themselves something they are not.  Baptists don’t believe, and don’t believe McGrath when he tries to suggest that they do, that anyone anywhere can call themselves whatever they like just because they imagine themselves free to do so.  The truth, the facts, aren’t subject to your wish to bend them to your own inclinations.

Marry all the gay folk you want to.  Just don’t call yourself a Baptist when you do it.

_______________________
* T. Larsen, Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 459). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Scientific Fraud

It may have something to do with all those Brontosaurus burgers everyone’s favorite modern stone-age family ate, but when you think of a giant dinosaur with a tiny head and long, swooping tail, the Brontosaurus is probably what you’re seeing in your mind.  Well hold on: Scientifically speaking, there’s no such thing as a Brontosaurus.  Even if you knew that, you may not know how the fictional dinosaur came to star in the prehistoric landscape of popular imagination for so long.

And more from our friends at NPR.  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what else they’ve invented out of their wild imaginations.

Why Has James Crossley Been So Quiet?

First, not for the reason you would think.  Man United beat Man City so he hasn’t been hiding in shame.  Nor is he, like his wicked fellow-countryman Chris Tilling in hot water with the law.

No, James has been training to replace Santa!   That’s right, James is the next Mr Claus.  As part of his training, he’s been rounding up reindeer and giving them flying lessons.  Here, at the University, in a corral, is one of his students:

via- https://twitter.com/Penguin_Love189/status/278517517822078976/photo/1

via

I think it safe to say that when James takes over, NT Wright won’t be getting any Christmas gifts and neither will Prof. Malina. That’s just a guess, mind you, but I’d say a safe one.

[Joel Watts won’t be getting any gifts either- but that’s just because James finds him so Methodistic].

I, on the other hand… well all I can say is, thanks for the Mercedes, Santa!

David Lincicum’s Book is Coming Out in A New Edition by Baker

linc2Two years ago plus some when David’s book came out from Mohr-Siebeck I reviewed it.

Now, Baker is publishing a revised edition.  Click the latter link for a review (at the bottom of the page) by Joel Watts of the Mohr edition.

I loved the book back then.  I’m confident the revised edition will contain several improvements.  Get yourself a copy.