Author Archives: Jim

Still One of the Best Texts…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

Sunday Book Notes: The Commentary

Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one for lay people on the whole Bible.

The set runs $75.  This very low cost has been decided upon because I’m very keen to make it accessible to a lay audience.  At $75 it’s less than any other commentary on the entire Bible, so a bargain indeed.   Listen to Prof Dr Ralph Keen- ‘$75 is a mere fraction of its true value!’

So if you or someone you know has wanted to get a copy of the collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.

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Saint Paul knew more than I can ever imagine about Christians living in tension with the Gospel and with each other, and his several letters to the Church in Corinth are pivotal to the entire New Testament. Which is why I am so pleased to mention here some recent commentaries by a friend of mine, Jim West, on I and II Corinthians.

Subtitled ‘for the Person in the Pew’, and published by Quartz Hill Publishing House of Quartz Hill School of Theology, California, these two commentaries are in fact part of a much larger project by West to write similar commentaries on every book of the Bible, and to make them available in print and electronically for everyone to read. That project is now nearly completed and the results are tremendous.

I think there are three main reasons why these commentaries are so successful. First, West is a first-class Biblical scholar, one who makes the intelligent critical study of the text central to his theological interpretation. That commitment is rarer than one might imagine and to have it realized across the entire Bible is an astonishing feat that gives us now a unique resource.

Second, and delightfully, Jim West is a great writer: his pages fizz with sharp words and phrases and he appears incapable of saying anything boring about these texts. This ability keeps us reading along with him and, more importantly, reading along with Saint Paul. I have rarely come across any Christian writing project, aimed at ‘the person in the pew’, that has succeeded so brilliantly in bringing alive its subject matter.

Third, West couldn’t dodge an issue if his life depended on it, which can be an uncomfortable position for a Christian theologian. Corinth, as with most churches in most places, had some strange people believing and practising some odd things. The knack, as West points out, is to engage them endlessly with love and grace rather than self-righteous anger, but to engage them: ‘Paul lived with a purpose. And he urges the Corinthians to do the same. As we all who name the name of Christ must’ (West on I Cor. 9:27, p.60).

Inspect them for yourselves if you have the time: you will find them a superb companion to your own reading of the Bible and, as importantly, a great reminder of just how much the early Church struggled with some of the same problems we face now. – Gareth Jones, Principal, Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong

Signs of the Times

Origen Was An Unhinged Lunatic

As Jerome remarks to a friend,

It is impossible that you should hold the opinion of Origen, Priscillian, and other heretics that it is for deeds done in a former life that souls are confined in earthly and mortal bodies.

You have to be a loon to think that deeds in a previous life (as though there were such a thing) is what ‘dooms’ people to human-ness.  Origen was a real unhinged madman who knew virtually nothing of authentic, orthodox, Christian faith.

How does he have admirers?

Luther’s Philosophy of Spanking Children

“One shouldn’t whip children too hard. My father once whipped me so severely that I ran away from him, and he was worried that he might not win me back again. I wouldn’t like to strike my little Hans very much, lest he should become shy and hate me. I know nothing that would give me greater sorrow. God acts like this [for he says], ‘I’ll chastise you, my children, but through another—through Satan or the world—but if you cry out and run to me, I’ll rescue you and raise you up again.’ For God doesn’t want us to hate him.” — Martin Luther

It’s Mecklenburg Declaration Day

The claim is that The “Mecklenburg Declaration,” was proclaimed by the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina, May 20, 1775.  Unfortunately, it’s bogus.

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is the name given to a document that was allegedly produced on 20 May 1775, when the residents of Mecklenburg County declared themselves “free and independent people.” The so-called declaration did not surface until 1819, 44 years after the event, when it was published in the Raleigh Register at the behest of U.S. senator Nathaniel Macon. The original document was supposedly destroyed in a fire in 1800, and the published text was reconstructed from memory by John McKnitt Alexander and given to Macon by his son, William Alexander. William Polk, the son of the organizer of the Charlotte meeting, gathered testimony from several elderly men who claimed to have been present. Mecklenburgers immediately started celebrating the date.

The authenticity of the document was not seriously questioned until the posthumous publication of the works of Thomas Jefferson in 1829. In a letter of 9 July 1819 to John Adams, Jefferson dismissed the Mecklenburg Declaration as a hoax. The North Carolina legislature in 1830-31 was so aroused by this development that it established a committee to investigate. As committee chairman Thomas G. Polk organized the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration, it is not surprising that his committee gathered evidence to support the contention that the declaration was authentic.

Despite North Carolina’s efforts, a number of scholars outside the state maintained that the Mecklenburg document was a fraud. The ultimate scholarly blow came in 1907 with the publication of William Henry Hoyt’s The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence: A Study of Evidence Showing That the Alleged Declaration of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20th, 1775, Is Spurious.

Journalists then, as (by and large) now, are terrible historians.

Adolf Schlatter: Virtually Unread in the English Speaking World

220px-Schlatter_im_LehnstuhlTragically, as this fascinating post leads us to understand. In part

Here are few of the brilliantly insightful things he [Schlatter] wrote:

-It is absolutely clear: there can be no talk of man’s but only of God’s righteousness. Man is unrighteous, for the relation which he establishes towards God and man is enmity and a lie. Only what is peculiar to God and God’s activity is the righteousness which establishes fellowship. The genitive δικαιοσυνη θεου permits no relaxing.

-Wir erlangen das Heil durch die Erfüllung unseres Dienstes.

-Gott hat die Scham dem Menschen ins Herz gepflanzt als einen Wächter, der ihn gegen das Böse empfindlich machen soll.

-In der Hand der Sünder ist auch die Gabe sündig. Nur in der Hand des Priesters ist das Opfer rein und wohlgefällig.

In case the reader wonders why the first quote is in English and the rest in German, I simply wish to make a point that only a small fragment of Schlatter’s work has ever been translated. But everything he wrote is worthy of translation. Schlatter’s works are an expansive woodland, scarcely traversed (especially in the English speaking world). Treasure waits in these woods for those brave enough to venture in.

Imprecatory Prayer is Prayer

Calvin Writes About his Future Wife…

Such a romantic soul…  He wrote, on May 19, 1539,

“Remember what I expect from one who is to be a companion through life. I do not belong to the class of loving fools, who, blinded by passion, are ready to expend their affection on vice itself. Do you wish to know what kind of beauty alone can win my soul? It is that in which grace and virtue, contentedness and suavity are united with simplicity; and I can hope that a woman with these qualities would not be negligent of my general well-being.”

I’m sure he made the womenfolk swoon with talk like this…

I Don’t Attend the SBC Annual Meeting: Here’s Why

These two tweets are exactly what SBC meetings are about: conquest and control-

The #sbcam18 isn’t an opportunity to gather to encourage and support one another- it’s a war and it has to be fought so that others are defeated. And that, dear friends, is why I don’t bother attending the SBC meetings. They’re nothing more than powerplays.  And I have better things to do than play those foolish evil games.

Signs of the Times

Quote of the Day

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:18-23)

When You Don’t Know What a Sermon is, You Call it a Speech…

Remembering Adolf Schlatter on the Day He Died

Adolf Schlatter died on the 19th of May in the Year of Our Lord, 1938.  I love Schlatter.  His work is impeccable (yes, literally without sin) and his influence abiding.

I am unashamed to say that I think him one of the smartest exegetes of the 19th or 20th centuries.  He knew the text and it shows on every page of every commentary he wrote.  And he wrote one on every book of the New Testament.  Indeed, several New Testament books were treated more than once!  Sadly, very few of his works have been translated into English, which means he is essentially unknown in the non-German speaking world.

But he also wrote an introduction to the Bible (as a whole), dogmatic, and philosophical works.  He was well read and very learned, as even a cursory glance at his biography will show.

He has been accused of antisemitism by his detractors, and he may well have suffered a bit of it in his last years.  His little piece titled Wird der Jude über uns siegen?  Ein Wort für die Weinachtszeit, which he published in 1935, is more an encouragement to Christian fidelity to the standards of the faith and the uniqueness of Christianity than an attack on Judaism.   Yet, it is more than a little discomfiting.  Especially when Schlatter writes Der Jude haßt- Jesus nimmt dagegen jedem, den sein Wort erfaßt, den Haß aus der Seele.  I sure wish he hadn’t.  But I also wish Luther hadn’t written what he did about the Jews.

Yet the memory of neither Luther nor Schlatter should be controlled by one ill conceived idea when the vast majority of their work was positive and beneficial.  People shouldn’t be remembered only for their mistakes (though of course this is often what happens- in some cases deservedly admittedly).

So, today, read this very well written dissertation on Schlatter.

America Won’t Be Around Much Longer

A country that stands by while its children are systematically and regularly killed does not deserve to continue. And yes, I’m talking about gun violence. And yes I’m talking about abortion.

Those Who Are in Need of Excommunication

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.  – Calvin (The Genevan Confession)

Amen.

Remember…

Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people. (Prov. 14:33-34)

Let the reader understand.

Quote of the Day

Even brothels display their prostitutes more discreetly and modestly dressed than their churches display those images [of the saints], which they expect to be viewed as virgins! — John Calvin

NB- You should follow Randy B. on the twitter.  He’s a delightful source of all manner of great tweets.

Wisdom: An Observation

Wisdom is nothing but the ability to anticipate events beforehand given certain facts.

Some Really Wonderful People Are Members of the NRA

No joke. Unfortunately all in leadership and all their mouthpieces in Congress are not among them. Their only god is cash.

If you need proof just pay attention to the words of people most vocal in their defense of the @NRA and you’ll find a pot of gold at the end of the protective rainbow.

If, however, your policies have to be approved by the NRA I assure you, Satan is near at hand.