Bewildering hermeneutics, complexity and truth

I recently read a book whose opening chapters were bent on attacking a particular method of applying scripture to today’s world. The author proceeded to break down the process of that hermeneutical model into a series of bewildering charts filled with mind-numbing complexity.

Not only would any typical person want to run away from a process of such inane minutia, most Christians would probably despair of being capable of implementing it. His attack would seem to be successful. However, his assault unravels if we are willing to stop and think about it. Continue reading “Bewildering hermeneutics, complexity and truth”

Reasoning like Paul compared with teaching Paul’s message

It is an intriguing idea. First examine Paul’s reasoning. Second, imitate it in order to use that process to navigate what it means to live and worship as a contemporary Christian. To be sure, such an approach would generate information. Can we do what Paul did? Would the results be reliable? Is this all that we need for a path forward?

This possibility introduces some interesting questions.  Would reasoning like Paul in today’s culture lead to different conclusions? Could this provide a path around inconvenient cultural trappings of the first century? Might reasoning like Paul allow us to jettison what Paul actually taught?

Continue reading “Reasoning like Paul compared with teaching Paul’s message”

Judging: the forgotten 50%

How helpful is half of a car?  Would any of us be content to use half of a mathematical answer as though we possessed the whole solution? Yet, probably because of texts like Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37, we might assume that judging is equivalent to condemning. And we know that we are not supposed to judge!

However, such an understanding falls short of what it means to judge. Furthermore, we will remain oblivious to some very significant and practical applications of the command, “Do not judge.” The first four chapters of 1 Corinthians offer a healthy antidote. Continue reading “Judging: the forgotten 50%”

Inventing the reason why: Galatians 3:28

As they opened their front door, immediately their eyes fell upon the shattered vase on the floor. The babysitter was sleeping soundly upon the sofa. One of their two young boys greeted them with, “the dog broke it.” At that moment their other son was nowhere to be seen.

Like most parents, an innate detective gear kicked into action. The dog was still in his doghouse in the backyard. In spite of the rain, no muddy dog prints were on the kitchen tiles. The babysitter had slept through the crash and could offer no insight.

Explanatory stories are powerful. Explanations answering “why” empower attitudes and action. Accurate explanations point us in the right direction! Continue reading “Inventing the reason why: Galatians 3:28”

Bonhoeffer, Culture & 1 Corinthians 11

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is frequently praised within Christendom for standing up against the prevailing culture of Nazi Germany in support of biblical principles. I recently witnessed a celebration of Carl Spain, whose chapel speech in 1960 at an all white college condemned racism among Christian colleges.

The question invariably comes to mind, why were there not many others, who profess Christ, standing with Bonhoeffer or Spain? Seriously? Continue reading “Bonhoeffer, Culture & 1 Corinthians 11”

The hermeneutics of desire and fear

Have you ever heard something that you did not want to be true? We all have.

I remember a visiting professor from Oberlin College and Conservatory telling our class that when it comes to church history, practice has often preceded theology. Everything within me screamed this was wrong. Our understanding of God’s word should shape what we do and how we think. What we want or what we are doing should not determine how we read God’s word!

Walking with him across the parking lot after class, I discussed this with him further. He graciously pointed out that “what is” does not always align with “what should be.” My naivety was crushed. I had not considered that some might want to take a path other than the original message. Continue reading “The hermeneutics of desire and fear”

Neither male nor female once again

The request was unusual. “I am working on a college assignment regarding the role of women in the church. Would you have any resources?” After lending her some books, I began to reflect upon the phrase, “neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). Disputes, some heated, others congenial, have swirled around those words.

I believe a simple story can assist everyone to accurately understand, agree upon, and draw application for today. OK, I concede this is too optimistic since people value different goals. Nevertheless, if we place priority upon an authored-centered meaning, as opposed to a reader-centered one, “neither male nor female” would seem rather straightforward.

Continue reading “Neither male nor female once again”

The Bible means what it says. Or, does it?

It is written” (Luke 4:12).

“The Bible means exactly what it says!” I’ve heard this a number of times, and in one sense, I agree. In another sense, that statement could inadvertently be more dangerous than it seems.

The Bible is not just a literal composition. Yes, it is a rule of thumb to understand any passage literally unless there is good reason or evidence to understand it otherwise. However, it should also be understood by all students of the Bible that there is plenty of reason to not take some passages literally. We will illustrate this in a moment. Continue reading “The Bible means what it says. Or, does it?”

The rise of Sabbath controversies

The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5)

Palestine is a relatively small parcel of land on the eastern Mediterranean coast. The whole of the region is roughly the size of Rhode Island. The land of Palestine is also in a geo-political vice. Before the jet age, whoever ruled Palestine controlled the trade routes in and out the African continent. Therefore, every major empire of the world has had interest in Palestine – the very land to which God called Abraham, and planted his unique people.

In the 2nd century B.C. the region became particularly unstable and volatile for Hebrew residents, as Syrian rulers to the north and Egyptian rulers to the south (known as Seleucids and Ptolemies, respectively) struggled for control of the region [note: the map above reflects modern day, but the regions have basically remained unchanged]. Continue reading “The rise of Sabbath controversies”