Wednesday, April 28, 2010

gem for the day

No diamond yet, but I did find a real gem this morning while reading the concluding pages of Kevin Vanhoozer's book Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge.  He raises the issue of the ethics of interpretation.  That is, do I have a moral obligation as a reader?  Is there something expected of me that I would be wrong not to do?

He concludes, “The vocation of the biblical interpreter is not simply to point at biblical meaning, but to embody it – to walk the way the Word goes” (440).  I am free to read the Bible and walk away unchanged, but if that is my response then I cannot say that I have truly understood it. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

missing diamonds ... and the gift of heresy

A diamond is missing from my wedding ring (not the big one, thankfully, but one of the little accent diamonds).  It could be anywhere ... the laundry, the shower, the bedsheets, the library, the kitchen sink, my sunday school classroom, outside.  If our carpet was made of black velvet it would be much easier to find!

And that got me thinking about how heresy is a gift to the church.  A gift??!!  This past week I gave a library tour to two batches of exegesis students who are getting ready to research and write their final paper for the semester.  I took them to the shelves of commentaries on the Bible.  I said, "Do you see these two sets of commentaries?  These are the ones I can't stand.  When I read them I get so angry I want to throw them across the room.  Be sure to consult them for your papers." 

Someone who missed my introductory comments was understandably confused.  "Did you just say you don't like them but we should use them?"

"Yes," I explained, "because a paper that only cites commentaries that agree with you is a boring paper.  In order to see how the truth matters, you've got to show what happens when it gets set aside or diluted.  The commentaries I don't like are liberal commentaries that take scripture and slice and dice it, throwing out all the parts that they say that Jesus couldn't have done or said, either because it's too supernatural, or the theology is too highly developed, or whatever.  Those commentaries may have something valuable to say to you, but you'll have to sift through the chaff to find the wheat.  And the ways they mis-read scripture will be like black velvet, so that that diamond in the text can shine all the brighter."

That, incidentally, is why meeting with Jehovah's Witnesses has been so valuable for me.  I don't know what they are getting out of it, but I for one am no longer taking the precious truths of God's Word for granted.  The deity of Christ, my assurance of salvation, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the promise of eternal life with God himself, and the gift of communion have become all the more vibrant to me against the black backdrop of their misreadings of Scripture.  It truly makes me wonder whether God allows heresy to grow up around his people precisely in order to enliven our grasp of the truth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

N. T. Wright and Friends

Wheaton's Theology Conference was outstanding! N. T. Wright's work was in the spotlight, and scholars from all over were invited to come and respond to him -- highlighting where they think Wright is right, and where he is wrong. Almost all the lectures are available for download, including his chapel message to Wheaton College students on Friday morning, so you can listen to the stimulating conversation for yourself.

Friday's theme was "Jesus and the People of God." The highlights of the day were hearing Richard Hays (from Duke) and N. T. Wright's evening lecture. Listen to Wright first for an entry-level explanation of his reading of the gospels. Hays has much in common with Wright but wants to see more attention to the literary shape of the gospels (as opposed to the history behind them). For what it's worth, Wright's book Jesus and the Victory of God was not written on a blank slate, but rather in response to the Jesus Seminar's discrediting of the Gospels. He puts himself squarely on their playing field, using only the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and emphasizing their historical reliability. He wishes that he had been able to give more attention to the ways in which each of the four Gospels present Jesus in a unique way, but constraints of time and space did not permit that.

Saturday was devoted to "Paul and the People of God." If you've heard about the current scholarly debate over 'justification' then you will want to listen to Wright's evening lecture, followed by Kevin Vanhoozer's hilarious yet substantive critique of Wright's position. It may be helpful to know in advance that Wright has been drawn (by John Piper) into the debate reluctantly. He does not feel that justification is the main point of Paul's writings. Community concerns are primary (the uniting of Jew and Gentile as the one people of God). Wright says that the Reformers did a great job answering late medieval questions, but that those questions have been allowed to set the agenda ever since. He wants to re-situate our reading of Paul in its 1st-century Jewish historical context. Vanhoozer (who teaches at Wheaton Graduate School) argued for a mediating position (between Piper and Wright).

Jeremy Begbie (from Duke) gave a fascinating lecture on the relationship between the emerging church and N. T. Wright. Hopefully the audio version includes his original piano composition in honor of Wright. The panel discussions were a lot of fun and very interesting, but they will probably only make sense if you first listen to all the presenters from that day. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

hands full of ... commentaries?

I returned home Sunday afternoon from a wonderful 3 days at Wheaton College in Illinois.  I was there for their theology conference featuring N. T. Wright (more on that later).  What a joy to see the kids again!  A few days away reminded me just how precious they each are. 

Emma (age 4 1/2) asked, "Mom, could you carry me to bed?"
I replied, "I think I could probably manage that."
Eliana piped in, "You should  be able to.  You're strong from carrying all those commentaries all the time!"

Who knew that seminary would be so practically useful for the duties of motherhood?

Friday, April 2, 2010

my goat's gone

Our pastor's message this past Sunday offered a new angle from which we can view the cross.

He started in Leviticus 16 with the instructions for the priests.  In case you don't have that part of the Bible memorized, here's what it says:

"Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.  He is to cast lots for the two goats - one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.  Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering.  But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. ... He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites - all their sins - and put them on the goat's head.  He shall send the goat away  ... and release it in the desert." (Lev 16:7-10, 21-22)

We learned that when the goat was sent away, all the people would shout "Take him away! Take him away!"

Isaiah 53 predicts the ministry that Christ would have as the Servant of the LORD who suffers in our place.  It says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows ... We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ... By oppression and judgment he was taken away ... my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities."

And when Jesus stood before Pilate the crowds shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" (John 19:15-17)

On that day he bore our sins.  He carried them away, outside the city.  Once and for all. 

Hebrews 10:14 - "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

Our goat is gone.  Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

full-er hands

Well, I guess today's a good day to let you all in on our little secret.  I've just finished my first trimester, and everything is looking great with the newest little member of our family!  Some of you will be shocked that we felt like we were ready to add even more to our busy lifestyle.  And to tell you the truth, we were surprised, too! But once you have 3 kids, the more the merrier, right?  I'm due at the end of September, which will mean that my last year in seminary will have a lot of added adventure.  I'll be taking two classes, possibly homeschooling Emma and Easton, preparing to write my thesis, giving birth at home, keeping house, and nursing a new baby.  The big question is whether they will have rooms for nursing moms at ETS next fall (I didn't see any last year).  Just kidding.  We are happily the parents of a completed family, and I am happily not pregnant.  Did I fool ya?