The Good Old Days…

Because there are always some who hold God and his Word in contempt, who take account of neither injunction, exhortation nor remonstrance, thus requiring greater chastisement, we hold the discipline of excommunication to be a thing holy and salutary among the faithful, since truly it was instituted by our Lord with good reason. 

This is in order that the wicked should not by their damnable conduct corrupt the good and dishonour our Lord, and that though proud they may turn to penitence. Therefore we believe that it is expedient according to the ordinance of God that all manifest idolaters, blasphemers, murderers, thieves, lewd persons, false witnesses, sedition-mongers, quarrellers, those guilty of defamation or assault, drunkards, dissolute livers, when they have been duly admonished and if they do not make amendment, be separated from the communion of the faithful until their repentance is known.  – John Calvin

Moral Outrage is Best Expressed With Proper Spelling

Via James McGrath

moral outrage

‘By striping verses of all context…’ should probably (almost certainly) be ‘stripping’.   That said, the moral outrage of the quotation falls flat as a misspelled word when it’s thought about for more than half a minute.

First, what exactly is a ‘context-less bible verse’?  Who are the terrible people decontextualizing the Bible?  Are they, by chance, the people who decontextualize Romans 1 (or more likely ignore it, or dismiss it, or try their best exegetical gymnastics to explain it out of existence (as Doug Campbell tries mightily to do))?

Second, exactly how is proof-texting a sin?  Is it described as a sin somewhere in Scripture?  Or is it a sin in the eyes of Mr Hunt?  Who decided it was a sin?  And who decides what proof-texting is?  Does Mr Hunt really think that citing Leviticus’ prohibition of same sex sexual relations is proof texting?  Sensible souls throughout the history of Christianity and Judaism have simply seen it as a straightforward prohibition.  Mr Hunt may not like it, but just because you don’t like what a text plainly says doesn’t mean you can call a plain reading of it proof-texting.

I would have more respect for supporters of gay marriage if they abandoned the pretense of calling Scripture to their aid every time they wanted to debate the topic and simply say ‘I don’t find in the Bible any support for my support of same sex marriage (without proof texting ‘love’ verses) but I support it anyway.  Honesty would be so refreshing.

In that way traditionalists (or whatever you want to call them) can say ‘we believe the Bible plainly teaches’ and same sex marriage supporters can say ‘we don’t care what the Bible says about it, we want to get married’.  The ironic thing about Mr Hunt’s complaint is that his lament is proof-texting par excellance.

Could proof texting be the attempt to turn David and Jonathan into homosexual lovers?  Certainly it would seem so.  Indeed, more than that, it’s nothing but eisegesis and eisegesis is far more egregious than lifting a verse from here and combining it with a verse over there.  Eisegesis intentionally misrepresents a text.  Proof texting is the mistake of the uninformed.  Eisegesis is the act of the predator.  Eisegesis sees what it wants to see.

Allow me to quote Luther (with a little modification in bold), who, as always, has a helpful word for every occasion:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, or the politically correct, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

If Mr Hunt et al (the supporters of gay marriage) cannot support their viewpoint by means of Scripture and plain reason I cannot, I will not accept their reading (or rather misreading) of the Scriptures.  And, to be fair, why should I?  It’s not as though same sex marriage activists are breaking down the door to engage anyone who sees things differently than they.

Basing Faculty Decisions on Test Scores or Student Evaluations Is Absurd

At Denny’s, diners are asked to fill out comment cards. How was your meal? Were you satisfied with the quality of service? Were the restrooms clean?

In universities around the world, semesters end with students filling out similar surveys about their experience in the class and the quality of the teacher.

Student ratings are high-stakes. They come up when faculty are being considered for tenure or promotions. In fact, they’re often the only method a university uses to monitor the quality of teaching.

Recently, a number of faculty members have been publishing research showing that the comment-card approach may not be the best way to measure the central function of higher education.

The same is true of primary and secondary school educators.  Why?  Because students are willing to make a poor grade to sabotage a teacher who gives them an F or a D or in some cases even a C or a B.

Education has never been, till recently, a popularity contest.  But of course it has become precisely that simply because everything about education is now viewed only in utilitarian/ monetary terms.  The motto of school administrators today is ‘show me the money’ because the motto of students is ‘show me the money’.

But when money is the god you worship it is only natural that everything else falls to the side.  That is, by the way, why the love of money is the root of every sort of evil.

Go ahead, administrators, keep your eye on the purse instead of on your school’s true purpose.  You’ll reap what you’ve sown.  And you already are.

#WorldBookDay: Calvin Wrote More Books Than He Owned

calvin_operaI love this description of Calvin’s industriousness:

The labours of Calvin were as multiplied and arduous as his achievements were marvellous. The Genevan edition of his works amounts to twelve folio volumes. Besides these, there exist at Geneva two thousand of his sermons and lectures, taken down from his mouth, as he delivered them. He was but twenty-eight years in the ministry altogether.

calvin_bookHe was always poor, so as not to be able to have many books. The sufferings of his body from headache, weakness, and other complaints, were constant and intense, so that he was obliged to recline on his couch a part of every day.

It was only the remnants of his time, left from preaching and correspondence, he devoted to study and writing. And yet, every year of his life may be chronicled by his various works. In the midst of convulsions and interruptions of every kind, he calvinpursued his commentaries on the Bible, as if sitting in the most perfect calm, and undisturbed repose.

His labours were indeed incredible, and beyond all comparison. He allowed himself no recreation whatever. He preached and wrote with headaches that would, says Beza, have confined any other person to bed.*

*Calvin and his enemies: A memoir of the life, character, and principles of Calvin. (pp. 25–26).

#WorldBookDay: Luther on Reading

luther_melanchthon_akademie“A student who doesn’t want his work to go for nothing ought to read and reread some good author until the author becomes part, as it were, of his flesh and blood. Scattered reading confuses more than it teaches. Many books, even good ones, have the same effect on the student. So he is like the man who dwells everywhere and therefore dwells nowhere. Just as in human society we don’t enjoy the fellowship of every friend every day, but only of a few chosen ones, so we ought to do in our studies.”- Martin Luther

[It’s fair to say that when I first read these remarks some time back (many years ago) I took on the habit of reading one book at a time.  Just one.  At a time.  That habit has remarkably beneficial effects especially in relation to recalling ideas]

The Supreme Court and Same Sex Marriage

Here are some very interesting statistics concerning Americans attitudes towards same sex marriage:

The most supportive major religious groups are Buddhists (84 percent), Jews (77 percent), and Americans who select “Other religion” (75 percent); additionally, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated also support same-sex marriage.

More than six in ten (62 percent) white mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage. Among white mainline Protestant denominations, support ranges from 69 percent support among white mainline Presbyterians and 68 percent among both white Episcopalians and white Congregationalists/United Church of Christ members, to lower support among white mainline Baptists (53 percent) and white mainline Church of Christ/Disciples (50 percent).

And while the Catholic Church officially opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage, about six in ten white (61 percent), Hispanic (60 percent), and other non-white Catholics (60 percent) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. A majority of orthodox Christians (56 percent) also support same-sex marriage.

On the other side of the debate, majorities of Jehovah’s Witnesses (75 percent), Mormons (68 percent), white evangelical Protestants (66 percent), Hispanic Protestants (58 percent), and black Protestants (54 percent) oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Among white evangelical Protestant denominations, white evangelical Baptists are the most opposed (72 percent), while white evangelical Lutherans are nearly evenly divided (45 percent favor, 48 percent opposed).

For more public opinion of same-sex marriage, see “Every State’s Opinion of Same-sex Marriage” and “Map: Legal Status of and Support for Same-sex Marriage in Each State.”

All of this is noteworthy because

Next Tuesday, oral arguments will begin on a group of Supreme Court cases that will determine the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide.

If you were to compare the Christian denominations which are shrinking and those which support same sex marriage you would discover an interesting correlation.  Similarly, Christian denominations which oppose same sex marriage are remaining consistent numerically or growing.

To put it more plainly- Christian denominations which support same sex marriage are declining rapidly.  Perhaps cultural accommodationism isn’t the best methodology for Church growth.

Posted in Modern Culture | Comments Off on The Supreme Court and Same Sex Marriage

News From Paul Middleton

Colleagues may be interested in the annual Thiselton Lecturer to be held on the 4th June 2015 at St John’s College, Nottingham.  The lecture will be given by Dr Angus Paddison (Winchester), and his title is “Theological Interpretation: Where Next?”  The event runs from 11.30am-3pm and the cost is £10 including lunch.  To book, call 0115 925 1114 or email…

#WorldBookDay: The Book of the Month

jonesIt’s an oldie but a goodie and you’ll learn more about Bultmann’s thought from it than you will from any other extant volume (although David Congdon’s will serve as quite a good companion volume to it).

Oh, and, by the way, Gerald P. McKenney, the jokes on you!  Bultmann not only has not been eclipsed but remains instead the center of ongoing examination and discussion.

#WorldBookDay: Something Else to Tempt the Godly Soul

9781451464726bFile this one under the category of ‘books I’d like to read before I die, which will probably be sooner than you would want’:

Decades after the Holocaust, many assume that the churches in Germany resisted the Nazi regime. In fact, resistance was exceptional. The Deutsche Christen, or “German Christians,” a movement within German Protestantism, integrated Nazi ideology, nationalism, and Christian faith. Marrying religious anti-Judaism to the Nazis’ racial antisemitism, they aimed to remove everything Jewish from Christianity.  For the first time in English, Mary M. Solberg presents a selection of “German Christian” documents. Her introduction sets the historical context. Includes responses critical of the German Christians by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Survival of the Fittest? Natural Selection? The Best Genes Overcome the Lesser?

This will make you rethink all of that:

reallyOne Florida man learned the hard way that water moccasins do not make the best kissing partners. According to Fox 13, 18-year-old Austin Hatfield of Wimauma was hospitalized last Saturday after being bitten by a cottonmouth while attempting to kiss it.

Friends said that Hatfield had captured the snake from his girlfriend’s yard several days before and was keeping it in a pillowcase. Hatfield occasionally took the snake out to kiss it on the mouth, but on Saturday, the snake decided to end the relationship.

“He took it out, put it on his chest and it was acting funny, and it jumped up and got him,” said Jason Belcher, who witnessed the attack. “He ripped it off his face, threw it on the ground and he started swelling up immediately. It was pretty frightening.”

The 18-year-old was transported to Tampa General Hospital’s emergency room in critical condition, but doctors have since said that he is expected to recover. Although cottonmouth bites can be effectively treated with antivenom, the snake is still considered very dangerous and have been known to cause fatalities. Common symptoms of a cottonmouth bite include severe swelling, intense pain, and signs of shock due to the body’s reaction to the venom.

I have to wonder… was his sister unavailable to kiss?  Were there no cousins to hand?  Surely there is a near relative he can marry and kiss.  Surely there must be.  Several.

Anywho… so much for Darwinism- proven false yet again…

The Origin of Evil Spirits in Early Judaism

A. Wright has an interesting piece in Bible and Interpretation.

The pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch, in particular the Book of Watchers, chapters 1–36, played a key role in the developing demonology in Early Judaism and eventually the NT. 1 Enoch is described as a Midrash of Genesis 6.1-4 in which the Sons of God have sexual relations with the daughters of humanity and giant offspring are born to them. As a result of the union, the author of 1 Enoch presents an origin of evil spirits which will be taken up with the ensuing literature of the 2TP[Second Temple period] and result in a full-blown demonology by the 1st c. C.E.


God’s Servants, the Prophets, by Bryan Bibb

atb_gods_servants_xxlSmyth & Helwys have published Bryan’s book:

God’s Servants, the Prophets covers the Israelite and Judean prophetic literature from the preexilic period. It includes Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Obadiah.

It has the sort of cover which will match well the other books on your shelves so that, even if you never read it, it will be a lovely addition to your collection.   😉

But it’s not the outside that impresses nearly as much as the contents between the covers.  Written in a friendly style, neither condescending nor overly complicated, Bibb ‘delivers the goods’ in a way that engages the reader in a conversation of sorts.  As a masterful teacher, Bibb covers the very questions which those interested in the prophetic literature are sure to be asking themselves.

He begins in the introduction with a question of his own:  Who Were the Prophets?  He then answers his own question with the required definitions and historical contextualizations, including a bird’s eye view of Israel and Judah’s history (along with the history of Yehud).  Literary and theological issues are also summarized.

Bibb then treats, in chronological order, the following prophetic texts, offering readers what he terms the ‘scholarly consensus’.  Insofar as such a thing exists, Bibb is right, in my view, to represent the conclusions which Old Testament scholarship has reached to this point on the books he examines.  There’s no point, is there, in introducing beginning students to all of the issues of scholarship.  There will be plenty of time for them to become confused later.

So Bibb looks at Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah (and for some reason, Lamentations – but one suspects that was an editorial decision on the part of the publisher rather than a decision Bibb would make, given the fact that Bibb is aware of two things:  1) Lamentations isn’t from the hand of Jeremiah and 2) Lamentations isn’t ‘prophetic’ literature.  In the Hebrew canon it isn’t even included in the Nevi’im but rather, in the Kethuvim), and Obadiah.  Absent, then, are Ezekiel, Joel, Jonah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi.  Readers will have to wait for another day when the post-exilic prophets receive their due.

When it comes to the analyses of the biblical texts, Bibb very carefully and with incredible insight outlines the prophetic books and summarizes their content in a quite useful way.  Worthy of the price of the volume alone is Bibb’s sensible and sensitive explanation on pp. 85-86 of the famous ‘Emanuel’ passage of Isaiah 7.  Even the most conservative of Christian readers will find his explanation un-threatening and reasonable.

But there can be questions raised about the volume as a whole.  What is included as belonging to the pre-exilic prophetic corpus has seriously fuzzy lines.  For example, since 2nd Isaiah and 3rd Isaiah certainly cannot be considered pre-exilic why do they receive treatment in the present volume?  One, again, suspects editorial decision rather than authorial.

The volume concludes with a conclusion(!) wherein Bibb does a very, very fine job of drawing together the issues of theology and history, the Prophets as a part of the entire Old Testament, and the relationship of the Prophets to the New Testament.

Bibb’s work is very good.  The book is nicely produced (though future editions may need a bit more technical oversight.  On page 143 something of a printer’s blunder has been allowed to pass through.  We read “… Jeremiah’s anger and astonishment at -206the wickedness of the people…”).  It is ideal for a class introducing the prophetic literature.  And it is also ideal for anyone amongst the general population intrigued by a large segment of the Old Testament.  Consider it highly recommended.

Posted in Books | Comments Off on God’s Servants, the Prophets, by Bryan Bibb

Preaching from Sermon Books… It’s Prime Proof of the Degraded State of Clerical Training

Pastors using sermon books may seem to be a modern phenomenon brought about by pastoral busy-ness in this present evil age, but lazy unlearned ignorant Preachers have been using them for a very long time.

Indeed, before Zwingli arrived in Zurich, Bullinger informs us,

“At one time during these years when all the deacons of the Confederation were assembled together there were found not over three who were well read in the Bible. The others acknowledged that none of them had read even the New Testament, whereby we may understand how it was with the other clergy, with whom the case was still worse.

For, among the clergy there was almost no studying, but their exercise was in gaming, in feeding, and in the practice of all luxuries. The more earnest were accused of hypocrisy. Those who studied somewhat devoted themselves to scholastic theology and canon law. The greater part preached out of sermon books, learning by heart sermons written by monks and printed, repeating them to the people without judgment.…*

Times may change but laziness amongst the clergy is as old as the Church

*Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (p. 28).