As I mentioned a few days ago, I had to put flotsam and jetsam on hiatus for a while so I could focus on some other projects. But, after several appreciative comments and emails, I’ve decided to try a few evening editions. I still won’t be putting these out on a daily basis, but hopefully this is better than pausing the posts altogether.
- Leland Ryken has a very interesting piece on Justification and the Literary Imagination, looking at portrayals of justification from the Bible, the Merchant of Venice, Paradise Lost, and the Scarlet Letter.
Ordinarily when we speak of “the Bible as literature” we mean the literary nature of the Bible itself. My venture in this essay provides another angle on the concept of “the Bible as literature.” I have explored what the biblical teaching on justification looks like when it is transmuted into works of imaginative literature–the Bible as literature, that is, as imaginative literature composed by extrabiblical authors.
- Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article on Baylor University’s decision to open up more of its board to non-Baptists. (See also Al Mohler’s comments on the secularization of religious schools).
While a number of Baptist colleges and universities in recent years have loosened or ended ties to state Baptist conventions, the move by Baylor is notable because it is widely considered the flagship university of Southern Baptists. The move came despite opposition from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which last year voted down a similar proposal by Houston Baptist University to permit the election of a minority of non-Baptist trustees there, with church leaders arguing at the time that allowing non-Baptist trustees would dilute the university’s religious identity.
- The Guardian reports on the reinvigorated protest movement in Iran (In similar news, a reported 1 million women take to streets to protest against Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister).
Thousands of defiant protesters in Iran‘s capital have clashed with security officials as they marched in a banned rally. One person was reported killed, with dozens injured and many more arrested.
- Here’s a must-read article on the sexualization of young girls.
Push-up bras, pedicures, hip-hop dance classes: These are now the social currency of the under-10 set. What happened? And how can we help our girls stay girls for longer?
- Justin Taylor links to an article on how the church interpreted the 6 days of creation before Darwin.
- Brian LePort comments on how Michael Horton defines the Gospel.
- Daniel Kirk comments on the importance of understanding Greek accents, at least if you intend to write accurate papers.
- And, apparently, J.R.R. Tolkien was the first to coin the pluralization “dwarves.” Who knew?
- Lifehacker discusses how the “hive mind” can cause you to do almost anything.
We generally like to think of ourselves as individuals and appreciate our unique qualities, but when thrown into a group we can become very different people. Ideas and actions can spread like viruses until your individuality is completely wiped away. This is called deindividuation and here’s how it works.
- Ed Stetzer summarizes his series on the 7 Top Issues Church Planters Face.
If you are a planter, let me encourage you to think long-term. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the 7 for a few months and then dropping them. Most of these issues have no quick fix-solution and will have impact on your influence as long as you are planting.
- iMonk reflects on the art of doing nothing.
Lazy? Who has time to be lazy? Of course, there are the verses that speak to laziness. By my count, there are fourteen such verses in Proverbs alone, starting with “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” So, can it actually be right to think that laziness is a way to the Lord?
- Michael Hyatt comments on The Number One Way Leaders Get Derailed.
Recently, I wrote about how leaders must learn to handle criticism and overlook offenses. I think this is the number one way that leaders can get derailed and rendered ineffective.
- The Spectator argues for the value of studying Latin in school. (HT) (Here’s a similar post from First Things on the value of studying biblical languages.)
Hard as it may be to believe, one of the things that gives privately-educated children the edge is their knowledge of Latin….I mean there is actually a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking such as computation, concepts and problem solving.
- Christianity Today discusses 2010 movies that echo the theme of hope.
- Justin Taylor offers a crash course on “union with Christ.”
- Stuart notes an interesting post answering the question, How Much Information Is There in the World?
- LifeWay is dropping its controversial “Read with Discernment” program, in which it placed warning labels on books it considered theologically questionable (e.g. The Shack).
- Two burglars fleeing police in in Columbia were caught when they accidentally broke into a jail.
- David Fitch commented a few days back on why “leadership” is unbiblical. Yesterday, Bob Hyatt offered his “rebuttal.”
I’ve noticed in the last few years a real bandwagon of anti-leadership sentiment in some circles. I think it started as a push-back to the “CEO” model/mentality in some, and as such, I’m sympathetic. But from there, it has progressed to where we now have many arguing that any concept of leadership in the church should be avoided.
- Kevin Barney asks, Can Biblical Languages Unlock the Secrets of the Universe? (Hint: the answer is no)
I’ve noticed that people who do not read the original languages of the Bible sometimes think of those languages as somehow magical, as the key that can open any mystery and answer any question about the Bible. While reading the original languages is tremendously important and helpful and useful, such a reading by itself does not always magically result in clear and simple answers to controversial religious questions. There are limitations inherent in an appeal to an original language for determining the meaning of a text.
- Andrew Walker addresses The Plight of the Education Bubble.
As the article indicates, countless PhD students spend years dedicated towards research that will perhaps never posit an actual job in their field. Supply is greater than demand as the article suggets. The future seems depressingly bleak then for doctoral students: They are treated as indentured servants by their superiors. They spend meaningful years that could have been put towards savings, retirement, and even more important—nurturing families.
- Roger Olson and Michael Horton have had an interesting exchange on the nature of Arminianism (read the comments). In the process, Olson made a very good comment about fairly representing other perspectives:
I urge you, and all non-Arminians who describe our theology, to describe it as we describe it and then go on to explain why you disagree….Fairness is the issue here.
- Brian LePort discusses The Gospel according to Paul.
- Italian police think that they accidentally found Caligula’s lost tomb while chasing tomb raiders.
- Chris Armstrong points out that you can get a free copy of the 100th issue of Christian History to celebrate its relaunch.
- And, a University of Colorado student decided to pay his $14,000 tuition bill with a suitcase full of $1 bills. (If you’re a student at Western Seminary, please don’t do this. If you’re at a different school, go for it!)
- iMonk has an excellent post on why we need to develop better traditions for grieving in community.
What churches often do less well is grieve. We lack a ritual for the long and tiring process that is sorrow and loss. A friend of mine whose husband recently died put it like this: “For about two weeks the church was really the church—really awesomely, wonderfully the church. Everyone came to the house, baked casseroles, carried Kleenex. But then the two weeks ended, and so did the consolation calls.” While you the mourner are still bawling your eyes out and slamming fists into the wall, everyone else, understandably, forgets and goes back to their normal lives and you find, after all those crowds of people, that you are left alone. You are without the church, and without a church vocab-ulary for what happens to the living after the dead are dead.
- Dave Block offers some good thoughts on how to master Greek. None of the advice is terribly new, but it is a good reminder that learning Greek (or any language) is a continuous process.
So you’re studying New Testament Greek and finding it a bit of a challenge. A lot of people don’t stick with it. “I tried learning Greek and it didn’t work for me.” The problem with these people may just be that they never learned persistence. Do you want to master the Greek language and be able to use it in your walk with God and in your service for Him? If you do, you will have to put forth some effort. How can we “stick with it” in a practical sense?
- Some of the seminars from the Desiring God conference are now available online.
- Michael Hyatt has an interesting post on how publishers are using trailers to promote new books.
- Ever wonder how much money your pets really cost you? Heres a post on how much our pets costs in a lifetime.
Cockatoo: If you’ve ever seen the cockatoos at a pet store and thought about keeping these large and magnificent birds- don’t. Yes, they are beautiful, and yes, they are relatively smart. But, they will cost you $1,035 a year after spending $1,535 the first year. And these guys are no guinea pigs. Expect your cockatoo to live for 50 years, costing you a total of $52,250.
- And, on a similar note, here are instructions for how to pet a kitty. I’m not sure why you would want to pet a kitty. But, if you’re going to do it, you should learn to do so safely. HT
Okay, I finally got one too many comments from people who either couldn’t figure out what “flotsam and jetsam” means (originally a nautically term referring to the debris left after a shipwreck, it’s also used to refer to “odds and ends” in general), or who wondered if I’m just a big Little Mermaid fan (which, by the way, says more about you than it does me). So, I’m going to drop that title for a while and go with something that will hopefully be a little clearer. But, just in case there’s still some uncertainty out there, let me explain:
- “Morning” = that period of the day between when I wake up and when my coffee has finally kicked in.
- “Links” = those underlined/colored/highlighted words on the screen that take you places when you click on them.
Now, that we’ve taken care of that business, here are some links for this morning.
- William Black offers some critical reflections on speaking in tongues, coming from one who speaks in tongues. On the same subject, Diglot wants to know what people think about non-Christians who also speak in tongues.
- Calvin College cancels a concert by the New Pornographers over concerns that they were being associated with pornography.
- Michael Jensen gives a great summary of Barth’s understanding of 1 Corinthians 15.
- Here are some video interviews with Scott Rae on medical and business ethics. HT
- Kevin DeYoung continues to offer advice for theological students and young pastors.
- Jason reviews Paul D. Wegner’s Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching.
- James McGrath points out some videos of Wolfart Pannenberg and Gordon Kauffman speaking about God, Science, and Mystery.
- And, Bible and Interpretation has an interesting article on the excavation of Geshur, possibly one of the most important of the Canaanite cities. HT
Back from vacation and ready to go. Here are some links from the last couple of days you’ll want to check out if you haven’t already.
- Rod Decker posts an excerpt from his paper on “The Use of Biblical Languages in Systematic Theology.” He also posts a number of classic essays on the use of Greek in ministry.
- The Church Times has an interesting article on worries that academic theology departments in the UK are in for tough times.
- To follow up on an earlier story, Kenneth Howell, the Catholic instructor fired for comments he made about about the Catholic view of homosexuality while teaching a class on Catholic doctrine, has been reinstated.
- Here’s an interesting interview with Michael Lawrence, soon to be pastor of Hinson Baptist here in Portland, on his book Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry.
- Apparently they have now calculated that there are 129,864,880 different books in the world. That’s the kind of statistic that can seriously de-motivate a person from writing any more books.
- Here are a number of links for self-publishing anything online.
- And, Cracked offers 5 annoying reasons that today’s movies all look the same. HT
Yesterday’s post, “The biblical languages in life and ministry,” sparked quite a bit of discussion. So, I thought it might be worth following up on that with a few more thoughts on the subject. Why bother with learning Greek and Hebrew? By the time you are done, you will have spent countless hours and probably a fair amount of money learning these languages. Was it worth it?
Martin Luther wrote a wonderful little tract titled “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” In it, he addresses the issue of why he thinks it is important to spend time learning the biblical languages (see relevant excerpts here). I thought we could use his ideas as a starting point for our own discussion.
First, Luther is very clear that there is a pragmatic need for learning the languages; it makes us more effective students, teachers, and preachers.
A simple preacher (it is true) has so many clear passages and texts available through translations that he can know and teach Christ, lead a holy life, and preach to others. But when it comes to interpreting Scripture, and working with it on your own, and disputing with those who cite it incorrectly, he is unequal to the task; that cannot be done without languages.
And, he continues with a fabulous statement about the importance of the languages for powerful preaching:
Therefore, although faith and the gospel may indeed be proclaimed by simple preachers without a knowledge of languages, such preaching is flat and tame; people finally become weary and bored with it, and it falls to the ground. But where the preacher is versed in the languages, there is a freshness and vigor in his preaching, Scripture is treated in its entirety, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and illustrations.
For Luther, then, we need to know the original languages because they add power to our messages, confidence to our ministries, depth to our arguments. And, those are no small matters. We should be able to handle the Word with confidence and proclaim with power. The time we have spent on the languages is a gift to our ministries and students.
But, as several of our commenters pointed out yesterday, there must be more. If understanding the languages is a purely pragmatic issue, then my best bet would be to find Greek and Hebrew scholars that I really trust and simply rely on their conclusions. It’s unlikely that I will ever spend more time on Greek and Hebrew than Bill Mounce or Miles van Pelt (since they actually wrote books on learning Greek and Hebrew). And, if I can’t really do better than they can, wouldn’t it be more efficient to use my time doing something else? Why not trust a good commentary and spend my time working on powerful illustrations and applications? This is precisely what a pragmatic approach to the languages would suggest.
So, I find it interesting that Luther’s main argument is not a pragmatic one. His starting point is the Gospel.
we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments.
Luther’s fundamental concern is that if we do not pay particular and close attention to the text, we will lose the Gospel itself. Left to ourselves, we will inevitably fashion the Gospel in our own image, after our own preferences, according to our own desires. Although Luther regularly ascribes value to studying translations of the Bible, he argues that this is not ultimately sufficient. Unless we dig deeply into the text, we will eventually lose our moorings and drift into the stream of contemporary (ir)relevance.
Hence, it is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.
So, we have now two reasons for studying the original languages: effective ministry and protection of the Gospel. To these, I think we must add a third: spiritual formation. I would agree with a comment that Ben made yesterday: “this is part of a spiritual journey not necessarily an educational one.” We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not studying the original languages; we are studying the Word of God. The languages are simply a means to that end. As Luther said, they are the “sheath.” So, I think we would do better to think of learning the languages as a spiritual discipline. It is an intentional practice designed to draw one toward a more intimate knowledge of God so that he/she can be continually re-shaped in his image. Only by constantly reminding ourselves that this is what we are doing, can we resist the alluring pull of pragmatism and the inevitable conclusion that we should just let someone else do it for us.