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Archive for April, 2009

Special thanks to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

I mentioned at the end of last year that I had received a copy of Greg Beale’s book We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry and that I was genuinely excited to get a chance to read it.  In fact, I’m so excited that this will end up being a multi-part review, probably 4, if I had to guess.  This first review covers the first 2 chapters.

The first chapter helpfully sets out Beale’s thesis and approach.  His thesis: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (p16).  Not surprisingly, Beale starts with the assumption that Scripture coheres, and that biblical writers intentionally pick up passages and themes from previous contexts (sometimes in quotations, sometimes in allusions), and still respect the original context (intertextuality).  He considers himself a “maximalist” in regards to intertextuality, a refreshingly honest admission in a day when spaghetti-spined scholars want to paint themselves as “middle of the road” and “best of all worlds” kinds of guys.

He also openly admits to doing “hyperegesis,” which is “going beyond the Old Testament authors’ conscious original intention, not violating it but trascending it by creatively developing it in the ongoing light of progressive revelation and consistently within the parameters of the willed type of the original utterance” (p32).  Undoubtedly, some will not be convinced by this approach and wonder about its validity.

Two aspects of Beale’s approach are somewhat (though not entirely unique).  First, he tries to see where later OT writers used earlier OT writers.  Since most of the focus has been on the NT writers’ use of the OT, it’s interesting to see someone pick a slightly different path (though Beale isn’t the only one doing this, Douglas Stuart does this is in prophet commentaries).  Second, instead of arbitrarily picking a theme to study in Scripture, Beale opts for a text (in this case, Isaiah 6) and shows how it is developed.

Occasionally, you’ll find annoying caveats like, “I suspect there will be moments in the remainder of this chapter that some readers will have to exercise patience in following my discussion” (p22).  This, to me, is akin to a preacher starting his sermon, “Just a heads-up, this will be long and boring, but if you pay attention, you’ll get something good out of it.”

In one sense, it is odd that Beale opts for Isaiah 6 as his base text.  After all, Psalm 115 (and 135, with almost the exact wording) states his thesis clearly.  But, his point isn’t simply to prove the truth of his statement, but to show its importance for the biblical understanding of idolatry.

More than that, as noted above, Beale isn’t simply trying to trace a theme, but to trace a text (Isaiah 6) and its use in the rest of the Bible.  And Beale’s reading of Isaiah 6 is that it is a judgment of Israelite idolatry, and the punishment is becoming blind, deaf and unable to understand.  Take a second and read this chapter, especially vv9-13, in your English translation and you’ll probably wonder how he gets this reading from these verses.  Well, that’s what chapter 2 is for.

Beale notes that the “sensory-organ malfunction” language in Isaiah is applied to idols and those who worship them (42:17-20; 43:8,10; 44:17-18), as in Psalm 115.  Thus, the similar language in Isaiah 6 shows that the problem is idolatry, and the punishment is becoming like the idols being worshipped in place of God.  Beale also argues that the language in v13 (“subject to burning,” “terebinth,” “stump”) are words linked to idolatry elsewhere (see “terebinth” in Isaiah 1:29-31).  Thus, what we have here in Isaiah 6 is a denouncement and necessary punishment of Israel’s idolatry, becoming like the idols they revere.  I’m leaving out a lot of the discussion, largely because it’s rather dense.  Instead, I’m simply laying out Beale’s thesis and understanding of this passage.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first of this take on Isaiah 6.  But after reading this passage, I really feel that Beale may be on to something.  I would like to see an evaluation of a more established OT scholar, though endorsements on the back cover from Douglas Stuart, Bruce Waltke and T Desmond Alexander do count for something (though we all know endorsements don’t mean wholesale agreement, either).  There are enough connections with other passages on idolatry, both conceptual and lexical, that make his reading plausible, if not probable.

The next portion of the review will cover the next 2 chapters on other portions of the OT.

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Can I Get an Amen?

I came across this quote by Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible:

The Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Amen anyone? (I might only add “…and what He will do,” lest we forget that there is more to come!)

Said book was purchased by my parents for my (Catholic) niece’s first communion.  Although the title prepared me for some eye-rolling, all I’ve read about the book suggests that it is excellent.   I’ll suspend further evaluation until I can read it myself.  If the quote above typifies the thrust of the book, I’m guessing Lloyd-Jones has written a children’s primer in Biblical Theology.  Stay tuned for a review.

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I can hardly call this post an RoTM, since, as Danny has noted, I have been decidely delinquent in posting lately.  I have several excuses for this, but rather than take ownership and responsibility for the management of my life, I will follow current social trends and blame somebody else, viz., Danny.  It may not appear obvious, but somehow, I know it’s his fault :)

I wanted to tie off a thought of two on the local church:  When is a church properly called “a church?”  Danny and I have admitted up front that “what church is supposed to look like” is a difficult question to answer, because there are no orders of service in Scripture, nor are there detailed descriptions.  Instead, we have to deduce from Scripture how New Testament churches functioned and what types of things they did.

In my encounters with American Christians, most seem to agree with various aspects of what the local church should look like.  Words like “community,” “Bible teaching,” “service,” “prayer,” and “worship,” dot the conversation, as they should.  We’ve heard (ad nauseum, in my opinion) that the church isn’t a building, that the institution isn’t a necessary component to being Christian (side note:  I wonder if that has anything to do with the strong anti-institutional bias in America?).  Yea and amen.  Indeed, a group of believers who come together regularly to study the Word, pray, worship, serve and love each other can be called a local church, irrespective of their registration with the state as such, what day and time they meet, how often, how long, the existence of paid staff, a building, offices, bylaws, polity, or even a proper name.  Or can it?

I feel that the Sacraments are often left out of this discussion, and I number myself among those guilty of neglecting them when describing the fundamentals of what a local church should be.  The Lord’s Supper and baptism are clearly a part of the early church (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:14-16; 11:17ff), and their practice today ought to be a part of ours.

The reasons are manifold, but most importantly, if we take the early church as the prototype for all churches to come, and the New Testament as the authority on defining what a church is and does, our participation in these Sacraments shows an explicit attempt to continue in those traditions and practices; affirmation and assent to what Christ founded and the apostles continued.

So then, if a group of believers gathers regularly for worship, prayer, community, and Bible teaching, but neglects any attempt practice the Sacraments (n.b., I make no mention here of what Baptism an the Lord’s Supper mean or look like; these are disputed matters for another post), I do not believe that the New Testament would understand said group as a local church.  Is it good?  Can it be blessed?  Is God pleased with it?  Yes, yes and yes.  Is it a church?  I don’t believe it is.

I am aware that many local gatherings may not have much opportunity for baptism, especially if all members have already been baptized.  However, it should be an available practice, and hopefully the group is seeking to reach unbelievers (another clear mark of a church), and will have the opportunity at some point to baptize.

Is this post a major in the minors?  Am I guilty of sweating some nuance of proper nomenclature?  I do not believe I am.   If we love, serve and pray in our church because the pattern is clear in the New Testament, then we should also practice the Sacraments, since they are equally clear.  Not only so, but they are far from burdensome, but a powerful expression of devotion and love to the God we serve.  I never fail to be blessed when I’ve participated (or witnessed) a Sacrament at my local church.  Let us endeavor to keep them in the ongoing conversation of “what church looks like,” lest we rob the local church of these great traditions.

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I’ll admit, I’m one tired blogger. I realize most bloggers out there churn out multiple posts a week, but I can barely muster a blog post a week, let alone many blog posts a week that would necessitate a blog (5 points to the person who knows what movie I’m paraphrasing there).  This inability to write decent material is hampered, of course, by the sudden and unannounced disappearance (from the blogosphere, not real life) of my co-blogger, Brian.  Did he give it up for lent?  Not that I’m aware of.  Is he preparing another set of killer two-part posts?  Quite possibly.  Is he hibernating?  Perhaps.  Maybe he’s preparing for a new baby?  Oh wait, that’s me.  Well, either way, what you’re getting right now are some links for our reader(s), because there’s some good stuff out there.

Here’s a quick video of Gordon Fee discussing two authors who have made a significant impact on him.

For my money, the best blogger on the blogosphere is Trevin Wax, who gives a modern twist to C S Lewis’ Screwtape.  Trevin takes on his own denomination, but you can should apply to your own.

Sojourn Music is in the middle of a series of videos (posted every Wednesday) showing a rectangle table discussion between Harold Best, Chip Stam and Mike Cosper.  This week they posted the 5th video (of 8, I believe), you can find the links to the previous 4.  For anyone interested in the intersection of worship, theology and culture (and I can think of a few of you), you’ll find these videos informative.

I’m still debating whether or not to post a follow-up to last week’s post about the TNIV and Bible sales.  In the meantime, I’ve really enjoyed the discussion over at Better Bibles Blog (Making Good Translations Even Gooder) in this post of the relationship between the TNIV Translating Committee and Zondervan, the publisher.  It gives me a lot of confidence in the integrity of the translation team.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Danny, it’s been a while since you told us about free hymns available on the internet.  What gives?”  Well, to take care of your jones for some hymns, check out Buck Buchanan leading worship at Boyce College.  A couple of these are really good.  (HT: Denny Burk)

Andy Naselli offers some insights from Peter Adam’s book on biblical spirituality, entitled “Six Personalities that Deflect God’s Word.”

Finally, don’t forget to root for the UConn men’s and women’s basketball programs as they attempt to become the only school to win the national championship for each sport in the same year- again (the first being in 2004).

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Christian Carnival CCLXX

Just letting everyone know that you can check out Christian Carnival CCLXX.

Included in the carnival is Cousin Jeremy’s post entitled “It’s Not About You.”  I read it this morning and thought it was excellent.  So go check it out.

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