Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Father’s “house” or “business”? - Luke 2:49 (Monday with Mounce 149)

I always love Monday with Mounce, even if it does arrive in my inbox on Tuesdays! Australia, ahead of the world...

There's a similar issue to the one Mounce notes below, in 1 Corinthians 12:1, "Now concerning spirituals"(if you translated the Greek literally), where most translators supply the missing noun and write "Now concerning spiritual gifts". I really like the way the Holman Bible went on this, they quite correctly say

"Now concerning what comes from the Spirit:" (1 Cor 12:1, HCSB)

which makes it much easier for the preacher to explain the true focus of the passage, which is not gifts at all but how the Spirit builds the body of Christ.

Anyway, I'll leave you with Mounce:

Father’s “house” or “business”? - Luke 2:49 (Monday with Mounce 149):
Monday with MounceWhen Jesus’ parents finally realized they had left Jesus in Jerusalem, returned, and finally found him, Jesus’ response is surprising to all parents.
“Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I would have to be in my Father’s house?”
This is certainly the traditional understanding of the passage (cf. ESV, NRSV, NIV, NET, HCSB, NLT). But what is interesting is that the NASB puts “house” in italics (indicating that the word is not explicitly there), and the KJV reads, “I must be about my Father’s business.”
The Greek word for word reads, “in the (ἐν τοῖς) of my father (τοῦ πατρός μου) it is necessary for me to be (δεῖ εἶναί με).
The use of preposition + article + modifier + noun is a normal construction. What makes it a little challenging is when the final noun is omitted, being assumed in the context. So the traditional understanding is that the missing word is οἶκος, “house” (in which case τοῖς is masculine). This certainly makes sense contextually, since v 46 identifies Jesus as being “in the temple.”
But what is the problem with this? (The answer is simple, first year grammar stuff, so don’t think too hard.)

Right. τοῖς is plural, and you wouldn’t have the plural of οἶκος for “my father’s houses.”
Apparently, this is a different construction in which the article is functioning as a noun, and you still have to fill in a noun idea. See, for example, 1 Cor 7:33; “But a married man is concerned about the things of the world (τὰ τοῦ κόσμου), how to please his wife.” According to this argument, τοῖς is neuter and refers to the “things” (i.e., “business”) of his father. (But note: this requires a difficult use of ἐν to mean something like “in reference to.”)
Now, I don’t want to overstate the argument since Prof. Marshall says that the translation “house” is “perfectly possible linguistically and was accepted by the early church fathers.” But the plural τοῖς nags me, and suggests it is the ”things” of the father that was motivating Jesus to stay behind.
Either way, all translations have to be interpretive.
MouncewWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more about Bill at BillMounce.com, and visit his other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at BiblicalTraining.org.

Monday, 18 June 2012

John Chapman

Watch and enjoy his interview at AFES Senior Staff Conference 2012, here. Just wonderful. A great saint speaking about matters dear to his heart.


Confess to being a bigot with Charles Spurgeon!

Bigots!: Your weekly dose of Spurgeon


The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Let Us Go Forth," a sermon preached on Sunday morning, 26 June 1861 at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle.

he reproach of Christ, in these days, takes this shape. "Oh," say they, "the man is too precise. He is right; but still, truth is not always to be spoken. The thing is wrong, no doubt, which he denounces, but still the time has not come yet; we must be lenient towards these things. The man is right in what he says, but we must not be too precise nowadays. We must give and take a little—there must be charity."

God's Word, in this age, is a small affair; some do not even believe it to be inspired; and those who profess to revere it set up other books in a sort of rivalry with it. Why, there are great Church dignitaries nowadays who write against the Bible, and yet find bishops to defend them. "Do not, for a moment, think of condemning their books or them; they are our dear brethren, and must not be fettered in thought." How many days ago is it since a bishop talked in this way in convocation?

Some believe in Popery; but here, again, the plea will be, "They are our dear brethren." Some believe in nothing at all; but still they are all safely housed in one Church, like the beasts, clean and unclean, in Noah's ark.

Those who come out with Christ get this reproach: they are too precise; in fact, they are "bigots." That is how the world brings it out at last, "bigots" "a set of bigots!"

I have heard say that the word "bigot" took its rise from this: that a certain Protestant nobleman being commanded, in order to gain his lands, to kneel down, and in some way or other commit the act of idolatry towards the host, said, when he came at last to the point, "By God, I will not;" and they called him henceforth a "By-God." If this be the meaning of the word "bigot," we cheerfully adopt the title; and were it right to swear, we would aver: "By him that lives!—by heaven!—we cannot speak a lie, and we cannot bend our knee to the shrine of Baal, bigots or no bigots."

The truth is first, and our reputation next.

Then they say, "Ah! these people are behind their time; the world has made such advances; we are in the nineteenth century; you ought to know better; the discoveries of science put your narrow views out of court."

Very well, Christian, be content to be behind the times, for the times are getting nearer to judgment and the last plagues.

"Ah!" but they say, "these people seem to us to be so self-righteous; they think themselves right and nobody else."

Very well, Christian, if you are right, think yourself right; and if everybody else should call you self-righteous, that does not make you so. The Lord knows how we cling to the cross, and as poor sinners, look up to Christ and Jesus Christ alone. Our conscience is void of offense in this matter.

"Ah!" they say, "they are not worth noticing; they are all a pack of fools."

It is very remarkable that in the judgment of their own age, good men always have been fools. Fools have been the ones who have turned the world upside down. Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitfield were all fools; but somehow or other God managed by these fools to get to himself a glorious victory.

And then they turn round and say, "It is only the poor—only the lower orders. Have they any of the nobility and gentry with them?"

Well, this reproach we can pretty well bear, because it is the old standard of Christ that the poor have the gospel preached unto them; and it has ever been a sweet reflection that many who have been poor in this world have been made rich in faith.

Brethren, you must expect if you follow Christ to endure reproach of some sort or another. Let me just remind you what reproach your Master had to bear. The world's Church said of Christ, "He is a deceiver: he deceives the people." Incarnate truth, and yet a deceiver! Then they said, "He stirreth up the people: he promotes rebellion. He is no friend of good order: he foments anarchy; he is a mere demagogue." That was the world's cry against Christ, and, as that was not enough, they went further, and said, "He is a blasphemer;" they put him to death on the charge that he was a blasphemer. They whispered to one another, "Did you hear? he said so-and-so last Sabbath, in his sermon. What a shocking thing he did in such a place! He is a blasphemer."

Then came the climax; they all said he had a devil, and was mad. Surely they could go no further than this, but they supplement it by saying, when he cast out devils, that he did it through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.

A sorry life your Master had, you see. All the filth in earth's kennels was thrown at him by sacrilegious hands. No epithet was thought coarse enough; no terms hard enough; he was the song of the drunkard, and they that sat in the gate spake against himn.

This was the reproach of Christ; and we are not to marvel if we bear as much.

"Well," says one, "I will not be a Christian if I am to bear that."

Skulk back, then, thou coward, to thine own damnation; but oh! men that love God, and who seek after the eternal reward, I pray you do not shrink from this cross. You must bear it. I know you may live without it if you will fawn and cringe, and keep back part of the price; but do not this, it is unworthy of your manhood, much more is unworthy of your Christianity. For God and for Christ be so holy and so truthful that you compel the world to give its best acknowledgment of your goodness by railing at you—it can do no more, it will do no less.

Be content to take this shame, for there is no heaven for you if you will not—no crown without the cross, no jewels without the mire. You must stand in the pillory if you would sit in glory; you must be spit upon, and be treated with shame if you would receive eternal honor; and if you reject the one you reject the other.

C. H. Spurgeon

Friday, 15 June 2012

Healing – medicine or miracles?

Great words from Macca about healing from cancer.

Healing – medicine or miracles?:
Everyone has an opinion on cancer. Since my diagnosis I’ve been given books and blogs and articles to read. Some are conservative and mainstream. Others are out there and adventurous. I’ve learned about surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, phototherapy, herbal medicines, angiogenesis inhibitors, acupuncture, detox diets, and much more. It’s encouraging that research is advancing at a rapid rate and treatment options are available today that wouldn’t have been dreamed of a few years back. But it’s so confusing. There are so many voices. How do we know what’s best? How do we distinguish the quacks and the frauds from the progressive and informed? Do we just go with tried and tested or do we explore and experiment? I’m just grateful for my GP wife who is well equipped to ask the right questions and then translate the answers for me!
I’ve found something else disturbing, and it’s more theological than medical. A belief that treatment should be refused because it’s incompatible with faith in God. One man is refusing any treatment because his pastor has prayed for him and pronounced him to be healed. The problem is that he’s not healed. So what does he do? Conjure up faith that he really is healed, expecting his belief to eventually become reality? Or does he take the advice of family and friends and visit an oncologist?
The faith-healing movement has a lot to answer for. Promises of healing are sometimes presumptuous and dangerous. In some devastating cases people have died because they have refused simple, available, proven treatment options. I know of a number of people who’ve been left riddled with guilt because they (or their friends or relatives) have been promised healing if only they have enough faith. They’re rebuked for having hidden sin in their life. They’re criticised for having a weak faith or doubting God’s ability and willingness to heal. Sadly, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading people to doubt the goodness of God and the validity of their own faith.
The Bible describes God as the creator of heaven and earth. He sustains our every breath, knowing every detail of our bodies and minds. He is Ruler over all and not constrained in any way by our actions or beliefs, or our lack thereof. He is the Sovereign Lord who gives life and takes it away. He is the Healer who sometimes chooses to heal and other times does not. God works through our trials, struggle, sickness, and pain. He doesn’t promise to remove all suffering in this life, but he does promise to use it for our ultimate good. God has set a day when our healing will be full and complete, but this will be after our death and resurrection.
Ongoing illness needn’t be understood as a sign of personal sin or evidence of a lack of faith. It may simply be a part of God’s good purposes for our lives in this world of decay and death. Nor should we think that God’s ability or willingness to heal is in any way contingent on our faith. Jesus heals many people in the gospels without any mention of their faith. We mustn’t think that our faith is the trigger mechanism that activates God’s power to heal. God can do whatever he likes, with or without our help.
And what’s more, as creator and sustainer of all things, God can use whatever he chooses to bring healing to people. If someone is healed through chemotherapy, then we can thank God! He made the brilliant minds that have taken the products of his creation and applied them to fighting the cancer. If someone is healed through surgery, then we can thank God. He gave the skill to the surgeons, anaesthetists, and nurses. If someone is able to keep the cancer from growing or spreading by keeping to a strict diet, then we can thank God. How generous is God to provide ‘natural’ ways of combatting the cancer. If someone should be healed without any medical explanation and contrary to medical advice, then we should thank God. How merciful is our God, and how great beyond our understanding!
And if God chooses not to heal someone, but to take them home to himself, then we can thank God! We can thank him for our life! We can thank him for his kindness in giving us new life in Jesus Christ! We can thank him for his promise to rescue us from our decaying bodies and bringing us into a glorious future with him.
Healing – medicine or miracles? I really don’t mind. I’d love to be miraculously healed, and soon. I’d be thrilled to have chemo, or targeted drugs, or some other therapy succeed in eradicating all the cancer from my body. I’m very grateful that God has sustained me thus far and I look forward to many days, weeks, months and years ahead – God willing! But death awaits us all, one way or another, and I thank God most of all for the hope of the life to come.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Veggie Tales, Moralism, and Modern Preaching

UPDATE: I didn't write this. Still treating my blog as my facebook page. Sorry if you thought this was brilliant and then drew a wrong conclusion about whose brilliance it was. I am brilliant too, but in a derivative sort of way. Veggie Tales, Moralism, and Modern Preaching:
A number of years ago, my kids were into Veggie Tales.  And, truthfully, so was I.  It was actually quite enjoyable to watch these charming videos, cataloging the journeys of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, et al.  Indeed, I could probably recite the opening song word for word.
On this note, it was interesting to learn this week that in an interview with World Magazine the creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer, has expressed regret over the “moralism” of Veggie Tales:
I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.
Now, there is much to be commended in Vischer’s realization. Certainly Christianity is more than simply behaving in a certain way.  Christianity, at its core, is about God’s redemptive work in Christ to save sinners by grace.  Moreover, when it comes to proclaiming the Christian message, we always need to present the imperative (here’s what you should do) within the context of the indicative (here’s what Christ has done).  The latter is always the foundation for the former.
However, that said, I wonder if Veggie Tales can be so quickly swept aside as non-Christian.  Vischer declares, “You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so’…But that isn’t Christianity.”   Well, it depends what he means.  In many ways, such a statement is definitively Christian. It calls God’s covenant people (kids in this instance) to obey the authoritative word of their covenant Lord (regarding forgiving others).  Sure, it is a call to a certain moral behavior.  But it is a moral behavior that is in a biblical, covenantal context because it is based on God’s word.  If I said in a sermon, “be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” would that be considered non-Christian?  I hope not.  Surely Christians need to be more forgiving.  And surely the fact that God says so is a compelling motivation (though not the only motivation).
At this point I suppose one might object and say that we are free to give moral imperatives as long as they are always given alongside the gospel message.  But, again, it depends on what one means by “alongside.”  I would certainly agree that any moral imperative must always be rooted in the gospel message of grace and forgiveness in Christ.  But, does this mean that it must always be stated immediately in the very next sentence?   Does it always mean that it must be stated expressly every time you give a moral imperative?  I would argue that the gospel is the foundation for moral imperatives, the context for moral imperatives, and the backdrop for moral imperatives.  But, we must be careful about insisting that there is a magical formula for how that must be expressed in any given proclamation of Christian teaching.  Indeed, I think a number of biblical examples bear this out:
1. The book of James.  When one reads the book of James it is clear that it is a letter of morals.  We are called to not show partiality (2:1), to help the poor among us (2:15-16), to watch our tongues (3:1-12), to stop our coveting (4:1-2), to be patient and longsuffering (5:7-8), to pray faithfully (5:16), and much more.  Moreover, this letter does not explicitly mention the atonement, the cross, justification, salvation by grace alone, or any core aspects of the “gospel” message.  Is James therefore moralism?  Not at all.  You have to take James in context of the entire New Testament and the fact that the core aspects of the gospel message are explained elsewhere.  No doubt James wrote already assuming that his audience understood the basic truths of the gospel.
2. The Sermon on the Mount.  Although it is obvious to anyone who reads it, it is often overlooked that Jesus’ most famous sermon is composed of almost all moral imperatives.  Jesus covers an impressive list of moral topics: anger, lust, divorce, oaths, fasting, worry, and more.  Indeed, Jesus even warns his listeners that God’s judgment will fall on those who righteousness does not surpass that of the Pharisees (5:20), and for those who fail to keep his word (7:21-26).   And, once again, there is no express mention of atonement, the cross, justification, etc.  Does this make his sermon moralism?   No, once again, the sermon has to be taken in the larger context of Jesus’ teachings, and the teachings of the NT as a whole.
3. The book of Proverbs.  Once again, here is an entire book that is fulfilled with moral wisdom on how one should live their life.  It tells us how to act, think, feel, on a variety of critical issues.  And, there is no express discussion of atonement, justification, salvation by grace, etc.  Does this make Proverbs moralism?  Not at all.  These exhortations, once again, need to be understood within the larger context of the Bible’s teachings.
These are just three quick examples designed to make a very simple point: sometimes it is Ok to take large blocks of teaching and focus on Christian morals. One should not have to stop every five minutes to give a “gospel presentation” out of fear of being accused of moralism.   The key issue is whether there is a larger context around those moral teachings that adequately provide a gospel foundation for obedience.  If Veggie Tales were used as a supplemental teaching tool to parents who were adequately explaining the gospel to their children, I could see it as very useful (and very Christian!).  Veggie Tales were never intended (I hope!) to be a complete Christian curriculum for kids, even though some parents may unfortunately use them in that fashion.
Of course, this whole discussion is about more than just children’s videos. It also has tremendous relevance for modern day preaching.  The big push today in Reformed circles, and rightly so, is that we should always be concerned to “preach Christ” from every text.  And I agree 100%.   But, the key question is “What does it means to ‘preach Christ’?”  For some, this has turned into a requirement that every sermon must be about justification by faith alone.  In order to avoid the trap of moralism, we are told that we must find a way to turn every passage of Scripture into a discussion of how we cannot keep the law and how Christ has kept it for us.
Now certainly justification by grace alone is a foundational and wonderful topic. And it should be preached regularly with vigor. But, to suggest that every sermon needs to be narrowly about this topic is to misunderstand the biblical vision for preaching.  Our call to “preach Christ” includes all of his offices not just the priestly one.  Why should we limit our preaching to just this one office?  Can we not “preach Christ” by preaching about his kingly role? Or his prophetic role?  Can we not preach a sermon that primarily focuses on what our King requires of us and how we need to obey him? Ironically, by limiting our sermons to just the topic of justification we are actually working against the very thing we are trying to preserve, namely keeping Christ at the center of our preaching.  If we are really to keep Christ there, we must be willing to preach all his offices.  We must preach the whole Christ.
But, there are other problems with this approach.  If preaching Christ just mean preaching justification then whenever we come across a text that is focused on morals (James, Sermon on the Mount, Proverbs, etc.), then our tendency will always be to focus on the “second use” of the Law.  In other words, our tendency will be to just point out that our congregations cannot really keep this law and must flee to Christ to be justified and forgiven.  While that is true, that is not the only role of the law in the Christian life.  The law is also given to Christians as a positive guide to how we should live in obedience to Christ (known as the “third use” of the law).   We want to make sure that our preaching balances second and third use, and does not just automatically default to one.  If we default to third use, our temptation will be legalism.  If we default to the second use, our temptation will be antinomianism.
Also, and perhaps most problematically, this particular understanding of what it means to “preach Christ” can hamper fair exegesis.  If we feel obligated to preach only Christ’s priestly office, then we must find a way to turn every text to this issue even when it may not naturally go there.  Thus, we “find” Christ in the text in an unnatural way rather than a natural way.   This ends up creating sermons that sound almost the same every time, regardless of what the passage actually says.  This proves to be somewhat ironic in Reformed circles that have historically placed such an emphasis on careful exegesis and expository preaching.  In some ways we have failed to trust the text (and its sufficiency) and have replaced it with our own ideas of what it has to say.
All of this, of course, is not designed to downplay or deny the real threat of moralism in many churches today.  To be sure, many pulpits lack the gospel message entirely and simply preach a “do this” version of Christianity.  But, the solution is not to impose a “one size fits all” version of preaching where any extended moral exhortation is immediately labeled moralism.  Indeed, the Bible is filled with extended moral exhortations. Perhaps we should take a cue from the Scripture on this issue.  The indicative is the ground for the imperative, not its obstacle.

An Indonesian Book Burning

I've decided to post links that I'm sending to facebook onto this blog as well. Perhaps it'll inspire me to write more than a post a month!
UPDATE: Sorry, I was treating this a bit like facebook but I was reminded that I needed to include the detail of who actually wrote the blog!! This is from Doug Wilson.

An Indonesian Book Burning:
There is currently a ruckus over in Indonesia over a book I wrote, 5 Cities That Ruled the World. The publisher there (Gramedia) has formally apologized for their role in it, and has burned their copies of the book.
The first thing about this that I should note is that people on the other side of the world are in significant trouble because of something I wrote, and I don't want to in any way make their situation any more difficult than it has to be. But this is how hostage taking works, isn't it? Unreasonable and belligerent people are always willing to commandeer a situation, and then blame others for the devastation that follows.
Whenever this kind of thing happens, whenever Muslims threaten violence because their prophet was "defamed," they are only proving that it wasn't a defamation at all. The sons of Muhammad do the works of Muhammad.
The offending passage in my book appears to have been this one:
"He [Muhammad] became a marauder and pirate, ordering attacks on Meccan caravans. Two years later, Muhammad ordered assassinations in order to gain control of Medina, and in AD 630 he conquered Mecca" (p. 26 of the English edition).
I think one of the news stories said that I had called Muhammad a "pirate and a murderer," which I repeated in one of my tweets on this situation, but having now gone back and looked at the original passage, I actually had said marauder and pirate. These are sentiments that ought to be unremarkable in a free country, but apparently Indonesia is not quite there yet.

Letting a caravan have it is noted in the Koran itself:
"You were encamped on this side of the valley and the unbelievers on the farther side, with the caravan below. Had they offered battle, you would have surely declined; but God sought to accomplish what he had ordained, so that, by a clear sign, he that was destined to perish might die . . ." (8:42)
For those who want to pursue this subject further, the downstream history of Islam's approach to violence is ably discussed by Bernard Lewis in What Went Wrong? A good brief biography of Muhammad can be found in the first chapter of The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic. Another interesting discussion is offered by Mark Gabriel (a former Muslim) in Jesus and Muhammad, in which he chronicles "profound differences and surprising similarities" between Jesus and Muhammad. The place to check would be his Chapter 7, "Spreading the Message." In Secrets of the Koran, Don Richardson (author of Peace Child) has a good chapter on the violent passages of the Koran, and their original context.
In the meantime, I would ask everyone to please pray for the safety and security of anyone involved in this mess which, if there weren't such serious possible consequences for some, would be laughable.