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Showing posts from December, 2009

Books of the Year

Since the year is winding down, I thought I would post my top five books that I read for the first time this year and the top five books published in 2009 that I look forward to reading (hopefully in 2010).

5. Reason for God by Tim Keller


I absolutely love Tim Keller, and I absolutely love this book. I found it to be the most helpful work of practical apologetics that I have encountered. Reason for God is both fair and insightful.

4. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright is always engaging. Surprised by Hope is exceedingly so. This is my favorite of the handful Wright's books that I have read and should be must reading for all in the church. Christianity badly needs to regain the eschatological vision that Bishop Wright presents so that its mission has the necessary fuel and goal.

3. The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays


Now we're getting into books with a more limited audience. Ethics is a particular interest of mine. I personally found Hays method of utilizi…

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks IV

This will be our last post on Hermeneutical frameworks. I also will not be posting this upcoming week. I'll be going back home to Rochester, NY to spend time with our family and friends. In our last post we looked at the rule of faith as a framework within which to operate. The position we will look at today is similar in some senses, in that it allows much more flexibility than the traditional Evangelical position permits. Our fourth position goes further than the 'rule of faith' in that it seeks to place no boundaries upon the interpreter. Obviously, this seems to many to be a highly dangerous position for you could end up denying anything. However, at least those working within a reformed framework would stress that the Holy Spirit will keep them Orthodox.

Why would no boundaries be a good thing? Some have grown tired of seeing a lot of effort expended to answer objections to the doctrine of inerrancy that are raised over issues that sometimes are at best tangential to t…

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks III

In the last post we examined the traditional Evangelical hermeneutical method, where inerrancy functions as a key control in interpretation. As I mentioned, though, others don't take this approach. Another very common framework is to interpret using the 'rule of faith.'

Those who hold this view interpret within the 'box' of creedal orthodoxy. Scripture is still fully authoritative in the life of the church, but the way we interpret individual passages is left open as long as one does not deny the basic claims of the creeds of the early church (think Nicea or Chalcedon). Most questions related to historicity of events in the Bible are left open. Thus the boundary has been pushed out further than the traditional Evangelical boundary (inerrancy) and is also different in nature.

When working under the traditional definition of inerrancy, the text of Scripture forms your boundary. You identify its genre and then affirm everything that the text affirms. The rule of faith p…

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks II

In the first post in this series I laid out the four general groups into which most Christian interpreters fall on the doctrine of Scripture and how that framework affects their interpretation of texts (and vice versa). We also looked briefly at the first of these four options. Today we will look at the second option, which is the most popular among Evangelical scholars and I believe was the position of the majority of the church throughout its history (even though they generally never articulated it).

Most Evangelicals would affirm the following syllogism:

God is inerrant
The Bible is God's Word
----------------------
Therefore the Bible is inerrant

Inerrancy is typically defined along the lines of, 'the Bible never affirms anything contrary to the truth' and this assumption is extended to both God and the human author.

How does this grid work in action? First, one must determine the genre of the text. The determination of the genre of the text then limits the possible interpret…

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks

I have decided not to review the final two sections of 'The Art of Reading Scripture' as they are primarily examples of how to work out methods discussed in the earlier chapters. In lieu of that discussion, I would prefer to lay out a discussion of an important set of practical questions in hermeneutics. When we approach Scripture, what questions should we consider and what are the acceptable outcomes of our inquiry? What presuppositions should we bring to the text about the nature of Scripture? How much should we let our presuppositions drive our exegesis? Is the historical critical method a valid interpretive tool? What if our exegesis drives us in a direction incompatible with our presuppositions? Can what we observe about the nature of Scripture cause us to change our presuppositions?

I think that there are four basic ways or frameworks within which a Christian can operate (other frameworks that I am aware of are incompatible with Christianity in my opinion):
Whatever the Bi…

Book Review: Philippians and Philemon

This month there was nothing that grabbed my attention in the new books section of the library, so I decided to pick up a recent commentary that came out, that of Charles Cousar in the New Testament Library series. I've only extensively used one commentary in this series before, Jonah, so I wasn't completely sure what to expect, but I was, for the most part, pleased.

The introduction to the commentary on Philippians is fairly standard. He believes that Philippians was written from an Ephesian imprisonment and thus was one of Paul's earliest letters. Fee and Bockmuehl have both claimed that Philippians is a letter of friendship, but Cousar is a bit cool on that idea, while not outright rejecting it. He does believe that Philippians is a single letter and not a patchwork of three letters as some have claimed.

Overall I found the commentary proper to be solid. Technical issues were briefly discussed and Cousar would usually give a short explanation explaining his decisions. The…

Orienting Our Expressions of Gratitiude

Do you encourage others by thanking/praising them? Some will not wanting to avoid others from succumbing to pride. Others thank people so effusively and frequently that they seem insincere. How do you strike a balance? We are called to encourage one another. How do we do it rightly?

In A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Carson notes, while discussing on 1 Thessalonians 2:9, that Paul,
encourages Christians by telling them that he thanks God for his grace in their lives. Thus he has simultaneously drawn attention to the Thessalonians' spiritual growth, thereby encouraging them, and insisted that God is the one to be thanked for it, thereby humbling them. There is simply no way that these believers can thoughtfully listen to what Paul says and then smugly pat themselves on the back: God and God alone is to be praised for the signs of grace in their lives. Yet nonetheless they cannot help but feel encouraged to learn that the apostle himself has observed God's work in their lives and…

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapters 8 and 9

I'm actually going to skip chapter 7, 'Reading the Scriptures Faithfully in a Postmodern Age' by William Johnson because the issue is too difficult and outside of my area of 'expertise.' I would need to be much more informed about postmodern philosophy.

The eighth essay, 'Preaching Scripture Faithfully in a Post-Christendom Church,' by Christine McSpadden was a pleasant surprise. McSpadden is a priest in the Episcopal diocese of California, and if you know about what's been going on in the Episcopal church lately, you may understand why I did not come to the essay with the highest of expectations. McSpadden's advice is mainly geared towards those in mainline denominations, but I think we in the Evangelical church can gain from her insight as well. McSpadden's general hermeneutical methods are in line with the rest of of the authors of this book, so even though she does discuss hermeneutical issues throughout, I want to focus more on her homiletic…

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of the Art of Reading Scripture is titled, 'Christ was like St. Francis' and was written by James Howell. The main point of the essay is that if we truly understand the text, then we embody it through the way we live. While that main point is straightforward and uncontroversial, the way he makes it is very thought-provoking.

His title, 'Christ was like St. Francis,' is provocative. Normally we would put it the other way around. Howell's point in framing the title this way is interesting. In an extended section of the essay, Howell lays out many examples of ways that St. Francis imitated Christ in very literal fashion. He took Scriptures like Luke 9:3 'take nothing for the journey' (TNIV) very literally. Thus he gives us in concrete human form a later picture of what Jesus lived like. Often we rationalize our shortcomings when we compare our lives to Jesus by saying that, 'we're only human while Jesus was divine.' However seeing how the …

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapter 5

Today we will look at chapter 5 (I'll post on chapter 6 on Thursday) of 'The Art of Reading Scripture.' The fifth essay, by Brian Daley, is titled, 'Is Patristic Exegesis Still Usable? Some Reflections on Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms.' His main goal in this essay is to examine how we might learn from Patristic exegetical method. Daley begins by noting that for the past century and a half that we've largely ignored Patristic exegesis. The historical critical method has been dominant, and all other approaches to the text have been ignored until recently. We had thought that we could study history scientifically and come up with objective conclusions of what happened (or what the original meaning of the text was) and why. The problem is that an underlying principle of this method is that natural events are assumed to have natural causes and we, being outside the event/text, can objectively measure what happened, which is an athiestic and arrogant a…