The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible

Writing in JETS 44:1 (March 2001), John Sailhamer says:

The Hebrew Bible is both text and commentary. If we ask what possible intertextual relationship lies between the compositional shape of the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings, I would suggest it is akin
to that of text and commentary. The Prophets and the Writings are not intent on giving us a new vision for the future. Their aim is to help us understand the messianic vision that has already been laid down in the Pentateuch and repeated in their own writings. God told the prophet Habakkuk, for example, to “write the vision” and also “to explain it” (Hab 2:3).

Like Habakkuk, the prophets wrote their vision along with its explanation. As Heschel put it, the interpretation of prophecy is already “an exegesis of an exegesis.”  Our task is not to explain the prophetic vision, but to explain the prophets’ own explanation of their vision. The aim of the authors of the Prophets and the Writings was to provide a full and detailed textual commentary on the messianic vision that begins in the Pentateuch and is carried along through the rest of the Bible. Continue reading “The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible”

The Housing Crisis – not Over by a Longshot

There is a hope out there that the housing crisis is passing and that prices have bottomed out. I doubt it. According to Zillow our house is worth $73,000 less than when we purchased it three years ago. I brought this up at work last week and another guy said that his house is worth $200K less.

This means that there will be years more of people walking away from their homes, defaulting, or stuck in places they need to leave. And if values were to somehow rebound to where they were, it would mean that the bubble had been re-inflated and we would be back in inflationary la-la land.

It’s a mess and I don’t see a good solution. I think there will be more bankruptcy, more pain, and a general reset of the playing field. We need a year of Jubilee.

Two Methods of Church Planting

I have observed two methods of church planting, both of which have something to commend themselves to us. The first method is practice by Sovereign Grace. They have folks pray about being part of a church plant in another city, sometimes in another state. Those folks then join the pastor being sent out and get new jobs, relocate to the new city and put down roots. This way the new church starts with a core of tight-knit people that are on the same page.

The second method is that of the AMiA parishes in the D.C. area. The mother church has planted two churches in two years. Rather than becoming a mega-church, the mother church hives off when it hits about 250-300 people and starts a new church in the area where a big cluster of current attenders live. The mother church had 3-4 full time clergy and sent one guy to plant each of the daughter churches. The pastors can also rotate in and out and preach at the other parish. This model is also effective, logical and preserves a parish mentality.

The things I don’t like about the Sovereign Grace method are that Sov Grace seems to have no problem with mega-churches. Their churches get huge and lose intimacy and real relationships between all members. They seem to be too slow to ordain men, so they don’t have a huge base of guys to launch multiple local works. They also don’t seem to want to do multiple local works – at least not to date. They seem more inclined to launch in new cities or states rather than to hive off and establish tons of local works that reach the same region/city.

Perhaps combining these two methods would be good. Rather than sending 30 families to a new state, the parish could send 30 families one suburb away. That would make ties to the sending church more effective, but might decrease the sense of mission that the new work has in that the people are still in their comfort zone to some degree.

Immigrant Song

I’m trying to find out how to help relocated immigrants as a church. I am looking at resettled, legal immigrants that need help with everything – English, rides, jobs, clothes, you name it. The Federal and State governments administer help to these people, as do  some church agencies, with Catholic and Lutheran bodies seeming to be the main providers.

I’m thinking about this in terms of a practical way to obey the commands of the Scripture and also as a potential way to convert the lost and sink roots in an immigrant community. Since it is so hard to reach the suburbs due to atomized people, the marginalized and immigrants in our area may be a place to start.

So far I’m having no luck in getting my e-mails to various agencies answered, so I am at ground zero right now. I have no clue what I am doing but I hope that it will work out.

Hello…echo…echo….hello

It seems like everyone is leaving the blogosphere for Facebook and Twitter. Millions of blogs are now un-maintained and decaying like the online detrius of a flimsy revolution. I have been a reader of blogs since almost the beginning, so this is odd to watch. Facebook seems even more like just shouting at each other than blogs do, which is hard to believe!

The bright side: my blog may now become famous! By sheer persistence, I will be one of the few blogs left that actually gets a post every once in a blue moon. My stubbornness will result in blog world domination! Of course, no one will read it anymore, but I will have won!

Terrorist with Opus Dei background?

There is strange news out of Bolivia, where a man was just killed who is accused of wanting to assassinate the President, Evo Morales. This man, Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, apparently was ‘a fanatic for everything.’ (see this and this)

He fled Bolivia after Banzer’s military coup. He then fought in the Balkan civil wars (on the Croatian side, where he supposedly led an international brigade); he even made a film about his experience. He was vice president of a Muslim association in Hungary; but was previously an active member in Opus Dei.

(…)

So basically, as La Razón points out, he was a “fanatic for everything.” A leftist in his youth (his father had been active against the Barrientos military regime), he then became an ardent Catholic in Opus Dei, then fought for Croatia against the Serbs, then abandoned Marxism (though he still admires Che), then converted to Islam, then returned to Bolivia, and may have ties to the right-wing UJC, though he still edited a Hungarian Muslim online news site.

I don’t find this totally implausible. There is a mindset out there that wants to embrace certainty and crusade for the perfect cause. Add to this the ocean of information now available on the web that wasn’t there in ages past and you can quickly change from opinion to opinion. Hopefully this leads to the Way, the Truth and the Life, but not necessarily.

Calvin on Deification

This was noted elsewhere, but it is so cool that I have to pass it on. It is Calvin on 2 Peter 1:4

For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds. Therefore this consideration alone ought to be abundantly sufficient to make us to renounce the world and to carry us aloft to heaven. Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.

Spiritual Blindness in the Academy

James Jordan has written an excellent critique of why Christian scholars and secular scholars are in thrall to false ideas. The entire article is here, this is an excerpt:

The current scholarly consensus gives little comfort to the evangelical scholar, because at a great many important points the history of the ancient world as reconstructed by secularists contradicts what the Bible says. The evangelical scholar finds two possible ways to deal with this. The first, far and away the most common, is to go back to the Bible and “soften” what the Bible says until it fits with the current secular scholarly consensus. The second way of dealing with the problem is to attack the secular scholarly consensus. This is something few evangelical scholars are willing to do.

Why not? Well, we could be harsh and say that evangelical scholars like their tenured positions at secular and quasi-secular institutions of higher learning, and so don’t like to take risks. That would be unfair, however, because some tenured people do take risks, as do some untenured people. In more than a few cases, however, fear doubtless is a factor. Most people, scholars included, like to look good to their peers, and to call into question the work of one’s fellows is not the way to get along with them.

The more pervasive reason that evangelical scholars do not challenge the secular system at its root is that modern evangelicals do not believe that the depravity of man seriously infects scholarship. They believe that the secular scholars are simply and disinterestedly pursuing truth. They don’t think that secular scholars suppress evidence.

Unfortunately, this view of the secular mind is extremely naive. The Bible tells us in Romans 1:18ff. that the unconverted mind constantly suppresses the truth, and that includes the truths of history. The Bible tells us, again in Romans 1:18ff., that the unbeliever deceives himself continually. In other words, he is not really aware of his powerful propensity to suppress any truth that threatens his peace of mind.

Further — and I realize that by writing what follows I am opening myself up to ridicule, but it is true nevertheless — the Bible tells us that the unbelieving world, including the world of scholarship, is constantly being led astray by fallen angels who seek to prevent the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. These “principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions” are under Satan but over the ordinary demons. They operate by means of prejudice and ideology, binding the minds of men into straightjackets of error from which it is difficult to deliver them. It takes the miraculous power of the gospel to break through these ideologies. Warfare at this level is the calling of the Church (Ephesians 6).

Thus, over the course of time, men forget the truth because in their hearts they forsake it. The reason the Bible is so full of memorials to historical events and to the words of God, is that men tend to forget. This is an moral forgetting, not a mere psychological one: Men forget because they don’t want to remember. Thus, the history of the Bible and of the Church is a history of revivals, of times when what had been suppressed and forgotten is once again remembered. If this is a problem in the Church, how much more is it a problem outside of her?

Fame

faceless

To me one of the primary needs in life is for recognition. I think we all have some sense of the brevity and futility of life if we bother to think about it at all. Even those deemed famous in their day are quickly forgotten (Ozymandias).  None of us will be on the face of the earth 100 years from now and who will remember us? Who amongst us remembers those who were here 100 years ago?

I think this longing to be remembered, to leave a mark, leads some to pursue fame. You want to be the best in your field, to be an author, a movie star, a rock star, a politician, and so on. If you have any chance of leaving a mark on this fickle world, you have to burn brightly before you fade out and are extinguished. But this leaves hordes of us in obscurity, unknown in our own age and forgotten shortly after we die. Perhaps this sense of futility is what drives some to love reality TV – we each have a minuscule chance of fleeting ‘fame’ if we are on TV or some similar medium.

I think this desire to be remembered is a right and natural desire, but that the ends we pursue to fulfill it are skewed by our lack of an eternal perspective. There is One who remembers all of us, from the least to the greatest. The Triune God will recall your labors, your joys, pains and achievements whether you are a slave or a CEO, a fisherman or an accountant. Nothing we do in this life is forgotten and we will someday stand before God fully remembered. The toil and drudgery, the quest for meaning – all of this finds its fulfillment in the mind of the all-knowing God.

This should free us to cease striving. There is no need to expend vast amounts of energy trying to defy the river of time which sweeps all away into the sea of forgetfulness. It is better to spend our lives in God’s service in whatever vocation and state of life we find ourselves in or obtain to. Poverty and obscurity may be our destiny in this brief life, but when the new heavens and the new earth arrive we will find our true inheritance. We can seek to be remembered by God and seek fame in His kingdom by expending ourselves for His purposes, rather than to leave a mark in history books. To believe this is to take a risk, to fly in the face of received wisdom and truly believe that the next life matters more and that we will be there soon. It is a risk worth taking, and those of us who follow Jesus must take it.

Calvin the Humanist

Calvin at times shows his humanist colors when he comments on the text of Scripture, he did not simply accept an innerant view. For example:

And the scribes and Pharisees bring to him. It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage. (on John 8.3)

No longer drink water. There are some who conjecture that this sentence, which breaks off the train of thought, was not written by Paul. But we see that Paul was not so anxious about keeping up the close connection of a discourse, and that it was very customary with him to intermingle a variety of statements without any arrangement. Besides, it is possible that what had been formerly written in the margin of the Epistle afterwards found its way into this passage through the mistake of the transcribers. Yet there is no necessity for giving ourselves much trouble on that point, if we consider Paul’s custom, which I have mentioned, of sometimes mingling various subjects. (on I Tim 5.23)