A Fairy Tale Parable

CastleI enjoy and encourage creativity in my classes and it delights my heart to witness students expressing themselves through the various gifts God has given them. One of my Advanced Preaching students (Paige Koch) shared a homespun parable told as a fairy tale for the introduction to her sermon today and I thought it was simply too good not to pass along. So I asked her if I might share it. Enjoy!

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a kingdom that she could not call home. See her prince had come and saved her when she was nothing but a mere peasant. She wasn’t born of royalty like snow white or sleeping beauty but she was born into filth and darkness. As she grew up she would look out her window and see the princes’ castle and dreamed that one day he might notice her. But she banished those thoughts off quickly for she knew that a girl like her would never catch the princes’ eye. For she knew the law and knew that she was dirty and so unworthy to even be allowed in his presence.

But one day the prince came down and visited the small town and as he walked the streets he noticed the girl in filthy rags and the hurt in her eyes. And as he saw her He was drawn to her and he wanted a relationship with her. He knew that she wasn’t royalty and by his laws he couldn’t even allow her to stand in his presence. But he decided that he wanted a relationship with her no matter the cost. So He paid the price the law demanded in order to have that relationship with her.

He wanted to save this girl from the world she had been born into. For he knew that there was a better world for her that he could provide. After he paid the ultimate price he began to have a relationship with this girl. He would talk with her and listen to her. He had compassion on what she had gone through and eventually he asked her to marry him. She of course said yes and was rescued from the filth and darkness that she had known her whole life.

But that’s not where the story ends though she was rescued from the darkness and filth and now lives inside the kingdom gates life wouldn’t be as easy as she thought.  For the prince had to leave for a short time. See he had to prepare a place for her in his castle.  So he bid her a far well and promised her that her new home would be like nothing she could imagine and that he would return for her quickly. He told her to be patient for his return but to be a guard for he will come swiftly to take her home.

The years passed by as she waited for her prince to come back and she lived among the kings people and learned there ways. She learned to dress like them and talk like them but as the years passed by the kingdom grew dark. Fights broke out worse then she had ever seen, the kingdom was falling apart around her, taxes were being raised, people put to death unjustly, liars were rising up and perverting the prince’s name. And the kingdom was in panic but she knew not to worry for her prince had promised her that he would be back to take her away to her new home.

She knew that this wasn’t her permanent home. She knew that her prince would be coming back to finish the job he had started so long ago. She knew he would keep his promise even if it seemed to be taking him so long. For she had faith that if he could save her from her filth and darkness she once knew  that he would finish saving her from this new trouble that had arisen. So the princess waited for the prince to rescue her again.

Changing Media Living Message

changesI often hear complaints (and have offered my own) about movies not being like the book and just how much better the book was by comparison. This may be true enough, but perhaps what we are latently getting at suggests we simply do not understand how changing media automatically changes the message.  I wrote the following comment on a friends blog review of the film “Noah”(you should really read his review):

“…changed media ALWAYS alters the message and its fullest (or limited) contents in some fashion. This is true of preaching (though we don’t want to admit it). This is true of lectures, Sunday School lessons, etc. It is true of translations. It is most definitely true of films. Altered media, altered message (at some level). Some are truer to intent, some less. Some downright intentionally change, some ignorantly, some faithfully offer a harmonizing understanding, but all changes alter the message in some fashion.”

Perhaps some examples of what I am talking about might be helpful with regard to the changing media of Scripture:

  • Commentaries – While I did not mention this one in my comment to my friend, it is still worth mentioning. Commentaries on Scripture alter the message by offering (it is hoped) a reading of the text for clarification. Some are more intentionally rooted within the theological traditions of the Church (the Brazos series), others offering contemporary significance (NIVAC series) as part of the explanation. But by explaining the text, the text is altered. It is not offered without comment. To comment is to change. Whether this is for the better (as in clarifying what the intent really was) or worse (changing the intent altogether) remains to be seen.
  • Sermons – Like commentaries, sermons offer an explanation of the text. To preach a text of Scripture is to alter it. Some portions of the text are given greater emphasis. Some less (or none at all). A preacher also selectively chooses only a portion of the text thus already stripping context even while the faithful preacher includes descriptions of context to attempt to locate the passage within its original context. But still…a sermon alters the message…sometimes accidentally, sometimes purposefully…but always alters. (Lectures also fit this category).
  • Translations – The oft-quoted Italian proverb/pun is fitting: “Traduttore tradittore” (“the translator is a traitor”). To translate is to alter. Some are more faithful, some less. Some offer greater conceptual faithfulness, others word-for-word faithfulness. But all sacrifice something in offering translations. (HERE is a brief explanation of three general philosophies of Bible translation)
  • Canon – To read the Scriptures as a part of the canon is to alter the reading of Scripture. The various texts and books of Scripture were not a part of a finished work, but were created independently (sometimes interdependently), but it is not as if the human writers colluded on writing one book of many different sections (though the Spirit is confessed to have superintended and inspired the whole as parts and whole). For example, to read or hear the Old Testament as a Christian is to hear the Old Testament through the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s plan for the ages. This alters the message. To join the sixty six books of the Protestant canon together is to alter the message (and likewise for the various canons of the other streams of the Church).

To be clear, what I am NOT stating is that somehow in altering the message we have automatically been unfaithful to the One who has given us this testimony of grace. The Spirit enlivens the text to bring about preaching, teaching (commentaries/lectures), translations, and canon. The retelling of the story of Jesus in preaching might be yet more faithful to the intent of our Lord in the moment of preaching than in simply reading the original language in the study.

Let me go one step further: the message of Scripture is altered when it is applied by the illumination of the Spirit to us. The words are driven home in different ways than when read. Some facets are illuminated while others remain shrouded.

And still further: the obedience of the message alters the message by not simply rote mimicry, but by faith-filled Spirit enabled listening and following. And this is the will of God for us. It is true to His intent for us in this moment, even while altering the original media form. Indeed, His word is living and active! To those with ears to hear…

History in the Making – SPS 2014

History has been made. What impact will be felt is yet to be seen, but this year’s Society for Pentecostal Studies saw the launch of a new endeavor that has been in the works for a couple of years now: the SPS Student Caucus.

I have been working with several other guys to see this come to fruition: Justin Gottuso (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Daniel Levy (Princeton Seminary). We were delighted to add Dan Morrison (McMaster Divinity College) to the mix over the last year. This inaugural Student Caucus was (by all means) a success.

AGTS kindly hosted a meet and greet get-together on Friday night after the last plenary session of the day with many student members (and others) in attendance. Yun Lois Dan Justin

Then Saturday morning we held a breakfast session with Drs. Russell Spittler (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Cecil (Mel) Robeck (Fuller Theological Seminary). They shared the formation and history of the Society and offered great wisdom to the student members.breakfast eating Spittler and Robeck

Here is the story of where it began in Justin’s words:

The 2012 SPS gathering at Regent University was my first academic conference, first SPS event, and my first time presenting an academic paper. I had an incredible experience that was beyond any of my pre-conceived ideas, but I also discovered three important issues that needed to be addressed for Pentecostal and charismatic students and next generation leaders.

My first discovery was how important it is to have a mentor who has been around SPS and academia for a while if you are a student or a first time presenter. Dr. Karkkainen from Fuller Seminary read over my initial paper outlines, gave me pointers on presenting, and introduced me to academic conference etiquette-all of which proved invaluable. His wisdom helped me navigate the anxieties and logistics of my first SPS conference.

My second discovery was the power in collaborative research projects and thinking out loud with other SPS members. After my paper presentation, I had the opportunity to discuss my paper topic with fellow scholars and students at SPS. Their ideas helped me see my topic in new ways and open new opportunities for future research. I realized there is power in thinking together and encouraging one another in our scholarship.

My third discovery was how Pentecostal and charismatic scholarly communities like the Society for Pentecostal Studies can help address current issues impacting the local church and the pastors of tomorrow. One of the plenary sessions discussed the need to find new and creative ways to talk about Jesus and experience the power of the Holy Spirit among the Millennial generation. As a “Millennial,” this struck a cord with me as a seminary student wrestling with what it means to communicate the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to my own friends, co-workers and strangers.

When SPS 2012 was about to end, I approached Dr. Paul Alexander, the President of SPS and shared my idea of forming a Student Caucus within SPS. I explained what I saw as a need for three things: 1) To facilitate mentoring relationships between seasoned scholars and student SPS members; 2) to promote collaboration research and writing projects; 3) to help form next generation Pentecostal and charismatic scholars and leaders. He was thrilled by the idea and encouraged me to draft a proposal. I drafted a proposal and sent it to two friends I made at SPS, Rick and Daniel. I submitted this proposal to Dr. Lois Olena, SPS Executive Director who made final edits and presented it before the SPS Executive Committee in April, 2013. I was overjoyed and a bit shocked when I received the notice that the proposal was “approved” by the Executive Committee!

And here are the core contributions which drive the Student Caucus:

1) Next Generation Formation: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic (P/c) scholarship by networking and building community among next generation student scholars. The SPS is a network of people who are ecumenical. Thus, it is entirely crucial that work being produced by P/c scholars becomes known, first by people who engage in P/c circles, and those within the broader Christian theological community. This could be promoted by a) establishing networks of relationships across North America and around the world of student/independent scholars through social media, especially through the medium of blogging (perhaps an official consortium of Pentecostal and charismatic blogs can be formed; b) promoting student scholarly societies on college and seminary campuses; c) facilitating community building among students and scholars at SPS by hosting special student and Next Gen social gatherings at yearly meetings; and d) managing a student contact list database and sending out quarterly newsletters/updates from around the country.

2) Research and Collaborative Projects: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by writing quality papers for SPS, generating student specific publishable literature, and working on collaborative projects with established scholars. These student leaders could work toward collecting and disseminating research and writing resources that are particularly gauged towards Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship; and also be encouraged to contribute quality papers at annual SPS gatherings. If a paper is considered worthy of publication, perhaps there could be a place for student contributions in Pneuma.

3) Mentoring Relationships: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by helping facilitate mentoring relationships and collaborative inter-generational projects with established scholars. This could be accomplished through a) connecting students with particular research interests with established scholars who are experts in that field and are interested in being a mentor; b) asking established scholars about current issues in Pentecostal/charismatic research and what still needs to be written and researched; c) establishing boundaries and expectations for mentoring relationships; and d) promoting collaborative projects inter-generationally between older and younger scholars as referred to in point #2.

We look forward to the future of the Student Caucus as a valuable part of the development of Pentecostal scholars.

Breakfast group

Brief Introduction to the Book of Esther

Rick Wadholm Jr.:

Seeing as it is Purim today (and in some places tomorrow), I offer this throwback post that inaugurated my brief series on the book of Esther.

Originally posted on W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms:

This is a story of feasts or banquets (Esther 1:3, 5, 9; 2:18; 5:2-5; 5:8; 8:17; 9:17-19) and thus “the major purpose of the book of Esther is to provide the historical grounds for the celebration of the feast of Purim” (599). This festival was to be “binding” (the Piel of the Heb. qûm Esther 9:21, 27, 29, 31-32) for every following generation. In relation to this festival re-enactment, the book is filled with “intrigue, brutality, nationalism, and secularity” (Childs 604). Purim may perhaps be regarded as “a carnival performance of misrepresentation” which finds its characterizations in the account of Esther (Brueggemann 347). “All Israel shares in the joy of rest and relief….It is a time to remember by hearing again the story of Purim. The effect of the reshaping of the festival is not to make a secular festival into a religious one, but to interpret the meaning of…

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Baptism in the Holy Spirit from a Neo-Pentecostal Lutheran

I have been lecturing in one of my classes for a few weeks on the Neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic outpourings of the Spirit in the wider Church. Today I showed that class a 9 minute video of Harald Bredesen (a Neo-Pentecostal Lutheran minister) sharing about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is short, practical, simple and to the point. I followed this by closing the class session with a call to the students to both ask and receive the promise of the Father. It is my prayer to see the furtherance of the move of the Spirit throughout the Church regardless of affiliation. Come, Holy Spirit!

Harald Bredesen on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Advice from Miles Van Pelt

There was a helpful little video and blog post recently on Koinoniablog.net where Miles Van Pelt (author of Basics of Biblical Aramaic and co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew) offers several bits of advice to language learning. He reminds students they must be intentionally regular in working on the languages. He says, “The way I have found most effective in my own life is to get up early and do it before everyone else starts to want your time, your schedule, and your attention” (and the other bit can be read and watched HERE).

Great advice to students, professors and anyone else working on learning languages. I would add that, while he may be disciplined sufficiently to rise early every day to work on it many of us are not that disciplined. However, this can be compensated for by simply finding natural ways of integrating language learning into the ebbs and flow of your day-to-day schedule.

For instance, when looking up a passage why not also look up the original as well as the English. Try sight translation and see how you do. This is a very simple practice that can result in significant language gains.

Another idea is to bring along your Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek Bible to church, Sunday school or a Bible study. You can also have an English Bible open for reading along, but just try following along as much as possible with the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek.

Just a couple of simple tips to increase time spent reading the original languages that does not require much effort or extra work (not least, waking up early to do it…yuck!). So what advice might you give?

Preaching Jesus’ Parables

Rick Wadholm Jr.:

Sound advice on preaching/teaching the parables of Jesus. :-)

Originally posted on Concrete Theology:

Jesus Parables

Below are 10 rules on preaching Jesus’ parables that I found written over Faith and Theology, a blog by Benjamin Myers, whom I do not know (but just came across he blog). So I take zero credit for them but find them to be enlightening, funny and quite helpful. Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Rule #1: Don’t assume that God is necessarily one of the characters in the parable.

Rule #2: Don’t assume that the parable is trying to tell you how to improve your life.

Rule #3: Don’t assume that you’re the goodie in the story (and that other people are the baddies).

Rule #4: If you can explain the whole parable without mentioning the words “kingdom of God,” you’re probably doing it wrong.

Rule #5: If it ends up having anything to do with going to heaven when we die, you’re probably doing it wrong

Rule…

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Silver Dross or Like a Glaze

silver covered earthenwareI was a little surprised to find that the TNIV and NIV 2011 have reverted to the Masoretic text (partially) of Proverbs 26:23 against the 1984 NIV which followed the critical rephrasing of this verse in light of Ugaritic and Hittite evidence (though it includes “silver dross” in the footnote). The updated NIV texts created a mixed text that attempts to blend the emended text of the Hebrew as well as maintaining the traditional (misunderstanding) of the Masoretes (adding “like” and maintaining “silver dross”).

Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.” (NIV2011 – emphasis added)

Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.” (NET – emphasis added)

The issue pertains to the Hebrew כֶּ֣סֶף סִ֭יגִים  which is properly translated “silver dross”. Based upon the cognate Ugaritic word spsg “glaze” (and another cognate in Hittite zapzaga[y]a) a significant and clarifying emendation was made by numerous translations. The emendation involves several elements: the admission that vowel pointing and spaces between words were lacking in the original text of the Old Testament. Removing the vowel-pointing (as well as the matres lectionis yods) and spacing of the Masoretes was inaccurate and should be altered to read כסףסגם “like glaze”. The kaph has then been understood to be the comparative preposition “like”, the yods have been dropped as matres lectionis along with the vowel pointing and the mem regarded as an enclitic (ESV, NAB, NIV1984, NRSV, NLT and, of course, the NET have followed this emended reading).

While the LXX retains the Masoretic reading of “silver”, but it offers an expansion (apparently because the translator was equally confused by the sense of the Hebrew): ἀργύριον διδόμενον μετὰ δόλου ὥσπερ ὄστρακον ἡγητέον χείλη λεῖα καρδίαν καλύπτει λυπηράν, “Silver given deceitfully is considered as earthenware, a smooth tongue hides a troubled heart” (my translation).

Part of the reason for opting to prefer the emended text in light of the cognate terms of Ugaritic and Hittite is based upon the notion that “silver dross” would simply not be used for such a thing. Glaze would be applied to vessels (though obviously it should not be applied to earthenware unless it is being used to conceal). In both cases the point is simply that one is covering over something that will not endure (earthenware) with something that makes it look better than it truly is. The reality is concealed. It is a ridiculous covering of earthenware. It is, in fact, a waste and deceitful. Its apparent value is only that…appearance. It is a cheap object made to look like it is worth something far more.

____________

K. L. Barker, “The Value of Ugaritic for Old Testament Studies,” BSac 133 (1976): 128-29.

 

כֶּ֣סֶף סִ֭יגִים

Bookshelf Challenge: Week 4-5

wpid-IMG_20140129_174755.jpg

I failed to post the update last week, but I read two books for weeks 4-5 of the Bookshelf Challenge. One is on the shelf, the other is only a digital copy so it could not be added to the shelf for the picture. :-)

  • Sam Storms, Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Kansas City, MO: Enjoying God Ministries, 2005). paperback (see my post about receiving it HERE)
  • Tremper Longman, III, Old Testament Commentary Survey (5th Ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013). Logos digital edition. (see my review of this volume HERE)

Storms offers a fine testimony of his journey as a Calvinist theologian to understanding, appreciating and participating the continuation of the charismata of the Spirit. In the second half (after his story is told), he offers a number of theological issues worth consideration by both those self-describing as Calvinists and those self-describing as Charismatics (with the understanding that most often each group may in fact look with disdain upon the other). Overall this is a decent volume worth reading to begin the conversation toward a greater appreciation of the catholicity of the Church. Thanks again to my sister, Holly, for sending this volume to me for my birthday last year. I have been slowly reading it in a somewhat devotional manner (as opposed to many of the books I read).

Longman’s latest update to his review of Old Testament commentaries is always welcome. He offers his own rankings of various commentary series, specific volumes and authors. It is an incredibly helpful tool for pastors, Bible college, and seminary students as they work to build up a reference library of commentaries on various books of the OT. It was with great appreciation that Logos sent me a complimentary copy to review.

 

Bible Scholar or Theologian? Yes

theologianI was asked some time ago now if I considered myself a “theologian” or a “Bible scholar”. This was in a context (seminary) where there seemed to be a fair divide among students of each focus and I know it is that way in other institutions than just the one I found myself in. At any rate, my response at the time was “theologian” which shocked the individual inquiring because they knew my experience with the Biblical languages and texts, my grasp of ANE history and culture, etc. Apparently this individual had already considered me a “Bible scholar”.

After the initial shocked look (one I expected when I replied the way I did knowing the questioner), I was asked why that was my answer. I said, because I believed “theologian” belonged to the Church specifically while “Bible scholar” did not necessarily. Perhaps that is an unfair distinction. Both could belong either to the Church or not, but from my perspective at the time I felt it more imperative to confess with the Church concerning Scripture. I was not willing to think of studying the Scripture apart from the confession of faith as a member of Christ’s body.

And then last year I was asked in my interview where I now teach “What do you intend to be as a result of finishing your doctoral work?” For some reason at that moment I no longer felt so clearly a “theologian” much less a “Bible scholar” (or anything else for that matter…other than “finished with the dissertation” :-) ). However, that conversation lingered with me for my five hour drive home. And I still return to it. I had affirmed in myself that my aim was to be a “Biblical theologian” thinking that the best combination of both worlds: word and confession.

Then I encountered the following statement by Graeme Goldsworthy:

“The Biblical theologian that does not strive to be also a dogmatician will be less effective as a biblical theologian, and vice versa.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000], p.57)

Categorization is always problematic because while it highlights some elements it likely de-emphasizes others which may be equally essential. This points, once again, to the necessary interplay of the meditation and proclamation of Scripture as a canonical whole (a far more Christian practice than simply a study of individual texts) and the confession of the Church (which reminds one of the place within Christ’s body and redemptive history). So perhaps now I might consider myself “Biblical-theologian-dogmatician”.  So what are you and why?

biblical-theology

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