Daily Archives: 4 Nov 2019

If You’re an Instagram ‘Influencer’…

You’re probably a jerk.  This girl is.  Don’t be this girl.  She’s a jerk.

Pretty Much Right

Dead Sea Scroll Detectives

Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, these fragile parchment relics have intrigued scholars, religious leaders, and profiteers alike. The 2,000-year-old scrolls include the oldest-known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. While certain scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time—burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces—and remain an enigma. Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes. (Premiering November 6, 2019 at 9 pm on PBS)

Set your DVR.  It’s on PBS and not the ‘history’ channel so it should be pretty good.

Gospel Allegiance

Is faith in Jesus enough for salvation? Perhaps, says Matthew Bates, but we’re missing pieces of the gospel. The biblical gospel can never change. Yet our understanding of the gospel must change. The church needs an allegiance shift.

Popular pastoral resources on the gospel are causing widespread confusion. Bates shows that the biblical gospel is different, fuller, and more beautiful than we have been led to believe. He explains that saving faith doesn’t come through trust in Jesus’s death on the cross alone but through allegiance to Christ the king. There is only one true gospel and one required response: allegiance.

Bates ignited conversation with his successful and influential book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. Here he goes deeper while making his acclaimed teaching on salvation more accessible and experiential for believers who want to better understand and share the gospel. Gospel Allegiance includes a guide for further conversation, making it ideal for church groups, pastors, leaders, and students.

Baker have sent a review copy. By the way, my review of Bates’ earlier work is here.

In the present work chapters 1-6 exist merely to give the author a reason to write chapter 7.  Chapter 7 is the apex, aim, and purpose of the volume and there readers are summoned to take up the cross of ‘allegiance’ (which the author has defined in great detail in the previous pages).  Bates wants ‘gospel allegiance’ taught and he wants those adhering to his movement to go into all the world and make disciples for Allegiance.

So, accordingly, to begin at the beginning, Bates wants to specify or re-define what it means to be a Christian.  He wants the focus to be on what he calls ‘allegiance’ rather than ‘faith in Jesus’.  And, like all of his predecessors in the ‘my version of Christianity is better than history’s version’ movements, he wants to offer readers his version of the ‘full’ Gospel.

This leads him to a description of this ‘new’ understanding of the Gospel mobilized which naturally leads him to a plan for mobilizing ‘gospel allegiance’.

Following his manifesto in chapter 7, Bates provides an appendix in which his Gospel Allegiance approach is summarized.  He then offers another appendix in which readers are provided questions to guide their discussions.  Finally, notes and a Scripture and Ancient Writings index round out the work.

There is a certain ‘insider cult membership has its privileges’ to the whole enterprise that leaves me slightly discomfited.  To explain this statement a bit allow me to illustrate from Bates’ own words:

“The gospel proper announces possible saving benefits. But only those who respond to the gospel by giving allegiance actualize these special benefits.  These include forgiveness of sins, righteousness (justification)….”  etc., etc., etc.

And as if the whole ‘we have something you don’t have because we have Jesus + Allegiance and you just have your ‘faith in Jesus” vibe weren’t troubling enough and smelled more than a little like Gnosticism, we have Bates also arguing that

“The final judgment for eternal life will be based at least in part on the allegiance-based quality of the works we perform with our bodies.”

Bates doesn’t drop that little pagan gem out of pure air; he argues for it and he tries to use Scripture and Calvin and NT Wright to do it.  Without being convincing.  Indeed, his argument is special pleading from beginning to end.

To be quite frank, I don’t know what’s going on in some circles of the Christian church these days but it belies an ineptitude in exegesis and a terribly inadequate theological mindset.  It’s as though Wright’s terribly inaccurate reading of both Paul and the Reformation have infected everything and everyone, in the same way that gnosticism infected the early Church.  Students need to be told, right up front, that Wrightianity isn’t Christianity.  It is an aberration.  A bastardization.

Instead of trying so hard to sell ‘new’ ideas and make a name for oneself and one’s podcast and one’s ‘organization’, perhaps theologians should return to the roots of their task and simply explain to their hearers the Christian faith.

I didn’t like this book.  I don’t like it’s not so subtle ‘Jesus +’ theology.  For myself, Jesus + anything = heresy.  Futhermore, I’m troubled by the trends in theology that this book evidences.   I don’t like them either.

Would that God would give us theologians like Brunner and Barth and Luther and Zwingli and Bultmann and von Rad and replace our semi gnostic popularizing heretics.

Skip this book.  Buy a cup of coffee or two.  Or some cat food.  Or a new lamp.  Or anything besides it.  Just don’t waste your money on it.  You’ll be sad if you do.  And you’ll wish you had heeded my warning.

Zwingli- on the Magistrate

zwingli_study2I declare, quite differently from what our friends hold, that a magistrate cannot even be just and righteous unless he be a Christian. Take away from the magistrate, who is above the fear of man, the fear of God, and you make him a tyrant.

Infuse into the tyrant the fear of God, and of his own accord he will do more freely and faithfully what the law orders than any terror could have caused him to; and out of a tyrant you will make a father on the pattern of Him whom as a result of faith he begins to fear and to serve, namely, God.  — Huldrych Zwingli

Nerds Rejoice: The Etymological Calendar Is Coming Soon

What does the word lord have to do with bread? How is smile related to mirror? Why is Donald such an appropriate name for an American president?

These and 363 other questions are answered in the Etymology Calendar of 2020. This popular scientific calendar provides an insight into the fascinating world of historical linguistics for anyone with an interest in languages. It treats the surprising histories behind words you use on a daily basis, but also contains interesting developments from tens of other languages. An essential collection of etymological trivia for every language enthusiast!

The 10th Annual RefoRC Conference

See the details here.

The European reformations meant major changes in theology, religion, and everyday life. Some changes were immediate and visible in a number of countries: monasteries were dissolved, new liturgies were introduced, and married pastors were ordained, other more hidden. Theologically, as well as practically the position of the church in the society changed dramatically, but differently according to confession and political differences.

The influences of the theological, liturgical and organizational changes on everyday life have been studied from various perspectives, but often focusing on social disciplining, political levels and similarities across Europe more than differences between confessions. New theoretical positions within various fields as well as strong interdisciplinary approaches have made it timely to revisit the large questions of how the changes brought by the reformation within all confessional cultures throughout Europe influenced the everyday life of ordinary people within the church and within society.

The aim of this conference is to discuss how lived religion and everyday life and space were formed in the aftermath of the reformation, and how we can trace changes in material culture, in emotions, in social structures, in culture, which may be linked to the reformation and the development of confessional cultures.


The First Duty of Every Pastor

The pastor’s first duty is to learn the biblical languages. Period. Without exception.

If They Won’t Listen to the Scriptures, Move On…

“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day.  But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate.  He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores.  

One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torment  in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side.  ‘Father Abraham! ‘ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony  in this flame! ‘ ” ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony.  Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’  

” ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house–  because I have five brothers– to warn  them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’  “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.'”  (Lk. 16:19-31)