Saturday, February 13, 2010

I think Adam was with Eve when the serpent addressed her

I posed a question a few days ago: Was Adam with Eve when she was talking with the serpent? (See post and comments.)

As promised, I consulted my shelf of scholars.

They were not especially helpful. Most don't address the question but seem to assume that Adam was absent. The one who does address the question concludes that he was present.

I still lean in that direction as well, though I think the text is just vague enough to allow either interpretation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Picking Favorites

Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft did a series of chapels when I attended Summit Christian College. I remember that he recommended the practice of reading some books repeatedly. I only remember one of his personal favorites, Augustine's Confessions.

Recently I came across a piece of John Piper that recommended picking a favorite theologian and letting him primarily instruct you. (Not that you wouldn't read others, but there would be a primary emphasis on your favorite.) If you know Piper, you already know his favorite theologian: Jonathan Edwards.

A year or two I learned from Eugene Peterson (in Under the Unpredictable Plant) that when he realized he was called of God to pastoring and writing, he began to seek a vocational mentor, and he found one in Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the novelist. Over the next 7 months he read Dostoyevsky's entire corpus.

So here's where I'm at. Kreeft recommends re-reading favorite books. Piper recommends selecting a favorite theologian, and Peterson by example recommends selecting a vocational mentor.

Let me respond to each in reverse order. I have been on a bit of a quest over the last several years to clarify what pastoral ministry (my particular vocation) should look like. My quest began because I suspected that my own perceptions of it, culled from my observations of Christianity Today-style American pastorates, were not entirely biblical or complete.

Apart from Scripture, no one has helped me more in understanding pastoral ministry than ... Eugene Peterson. (It's ironic that the one who recommends a vocational mentor is the one who is my vocational mentor.) The Contemplative Pastor, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Working the Angles, The Unnecessary Pastor (w/Marva Dawn)--these have all played a part in rescuing my conception of pastoral ministry from, among other things, a professional, business-like approach. (Another great book that is Peterson-esque is David Hansen's The Art of Pastoring.)

I don't know that I have a favorite theologian, but I do have some favorite preachers who tend to be theological (which is a good thing). Ironically (again), the one who recommends a favorite theologian is one of mine own.

My three picks are Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, and John Piper. An odd list, considering Spurgeon would consider Tozer a heretic for his Arminianism, though Piper might not go that far. But there it is.

All three men do two critical things: 1) They are constantly pointing to the Triune God; and 2) they do so in a way that glorifies God in my mind and heart. All three men point me to the Triune God in such a way that I fall in love with Father, Son, and Spirit all over again each time I read them.

As to a few books read and re-read (Peter Kreeft's recommendation), I don't know that I have any. The closest to fit that category would be The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (a series of books I find soul-stirring, imagination-creating, and courage-building with its focus on the ultimate of all struggles, the struggle between good and evil).

What about you? Any favorite books read and re-read? Any favorite theologians? A vocational mentor?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Did Adam hear the serpent?

So was Adam present when the serpent deceived Eve?

I have heard teaching recently that says he was. The serpent decided to talk with Eve about the fruit rather than her husband, and her husband, standing nearby, did nothing to intervene. Abdicating his role as spiritual leader, he allowed his wife to be deceived into sin, and he went right along with it.

But some of the ladies in our church, via a Bible study by John MacArthur, have challenged that. "That doesn't make any sense," they argue. "Why wouldn't Adam say anything? Why wouldn't the serpent speak to Adam as well as Eve?"

The controversy seems to swirl around Gen 3:6. In the ESV,

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate,
and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,
and he ate."
(emphasis added)

Was Adam with her when the serpent spoke? Or did Eve decide to eat after the serpent had left? By the time she took the fruit, Adam had joined her, or she had joined Adam.

At this point, I tend to lean toward the Adam-was-with-her-when-she-talked-with-the-serpent theory. Why else specify that Adam was with her? We would assume Adam was with her when she handed him the fruit; that wouldn't need to be specified.

What do you think?

I plan to investigate my Genesis shelf, maybe tomorrow, and report back to you what my commentators say.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giving Thanks

Colossians is a book that reminds us 7 different times to be thankful (1:3,12; 2:7; 3:15,16,17; 4:2). Chapter 2 verse 7, for instance, says that we should be "overflowing with thankfulness."

So, in that spirit, I list some things I've been thankful for in recent days.

I'm thankful for clean drinking water, right here in my house!

I'm thankful for a home and heat when it's so cold outside.

I'm thankful for someone very dear to me who seems to be "hard pressed on every side," but like Paul, is "not crushed" (2 Cor 4:8). From an earthly perspective he is in a desert, and yet spiritually he thrives! There's no way he could do that apart from Christ working in his life daily. How this person has grown spiritually in the last couple years! It is simply amazing!

I am thankful for this past year of American weakness and stumbling. While I wish we had a different president, yet the Lord has used the continual stream of bad news coming out of Washington to pry my hopes and trust off of government and American power in order to place it more fully upon him. As an American, the future looks depressing. As a Christian, I know that there is no situation where my Heavenly Father cannot take care of me and mine.

I think the Lord is parenting me through my parenting my kids. I am learning that the Lord is doing some interesting things in me by allowing me to blow it as a parent. I'm not sure I can explain this. But the things I get on the kids for the Lord is holding up as a mirror to me. I do the same things, darn it.

Then also, I blow my stack with one of the kids (usually the oldest) over legitimate reasons to discipline, but because I blew my stack--that really doesn't help. But despite these faults, the Lord continues to build in me humility, and my humility before my kids actually builds them, and it builds my relationship with them. I think. It's very interesting. The Father is a divine artist working in such creative ways to build me and my children.

I should stop. Your eyes are tired.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reading Struggles

At what speed shoud I read?

As a kid I read fast. I could read a Hardy Boys book (20 chapters standard) in an hour. My friends would time how long (or how short) it would take me to read 2 pages, and they were amazed. I think my comprehension level was pretty good; otherwise, I would have slowed down a bit.

But then in college I was introduced (via author James Sire) to the value of reading slowly, identifying worldviews, sifting arguments, and so forth. I bought it. And I've been reading slowly ever since (with the exception being light fiction).

But now Trevin Wax comes along and encourages me to read faster--scan lines, not words. I think there's something to that. I would like to read more books, but not at the cost of sacrificing the savor of words and carefully crafted sentences. The information is important, but so is the delivery system of the information--the grammar and vocabulary (at least in many cases). So I will continue to read word-for-word.

Should I take notes?

The value of taking notes is to help me remember what I've read, or at least be able to refresh my memory of my reading in a quick fashion.

The cost of taking notes is speed. Not only reading word-for-word slows me down, but notetaking reduces my speed further. I was taking notes on Foote's Civil War Vol 1, but it so slowed me down that I quit, and I'm enjoying the book much more, though the details will be foggy to me in a few months/a few weeks.

With Dickens' Great Expectations, I jotted down a 1 or 2-sentence chapter summary at the head of each chapter to remind myself of the plot later, but that took time. My notes on Calvin's Institutes are going to fill at least one notebook, but I think they will be a handy reference in the future. Of course, will I ever need to refer to them in the future? I want to re-begin George Eliot's Middlemarch, and I think I will need to take notes on that one, at least to keep all the characters straight.

On the whole, however, I don't believe I will take notes.

The problem

The problem is my poor memory. I wish I could remember things better; I wish I could remember books better.

Fortunately, my knowledge and memory of the Bible continue to increase, most certainly because I stay in it, reading it, memorizing it, studying it. If there's one book I don't want to forget, it's the Bible, and that's the one book I seem to remember best, thank the Lord.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Answers to "Bible Categories"

Here are the answers to the quiz I posted a few days ago:

Identify (1) the category and (2) which one doesn’t belong.

1. Deborah
Jezebel
Esther
Bathsheba

Category is "queens." Deborah doesn't belong. She was a prophetess.

2. Silas
Bartimaeus
Demas
Luke

Category is "associates of Paul." Bartimaeus doesn't belong.

3. Gehazi
Miriam
Mary Magdalene
Naaman

Category is "lepers." Mary Magdalene doesn't belong.

4. Sihon
Nebuchadnezzar
Darius
Belteshazzar

Category is "kings in the book of Daniel." Sihon, though a king, is not in Daniel.

5. silver coin
prodigal son
Kish’s donkeys
Joseph’s coat

Category is "things that were lost." Joseph's coat wasn't lost.

6. Nehemiah (Hint: “Men” isn’t the category)
Esther
Isaiah
Zerubbabel

Category is "people who lived after the Exile." Isaiah doesn't belong.

7. James, John’s brother
Haman
Pharaoh’s baker
Joseph son of Jacob

Category is "people who were executed." Joseph son of Jacob doesn't belong.

Science is good, but we give it too much credit

A. W. Tozer believes that science is good but that we have allowed it to put us at a remove from God, at least in our thinking.

We are today suffering from a secularized mentality. Where the sacred writers saw God, we see the laws of nature. Their world was fully populated; ours is all but empty. Their world was alive and personal; ours is impersonal and dead. God ruled their world; ours is ruled by the laws of nature and we are always once removed from the presence of God. (The Knowledge of the Holy, ch. 12)

He then explains that the word "law" applied to nature is "erroneous."

And what are these laws of nature that have displaced God in the minds of millions? Law has two meanings. One is all external rule enforced by authority, such as the common rule against robbery and assault. The word is also used to denote the uniform way things act in the universe, but this second use of the word is erroneous. What we see in nature is simply the paths God’s power and wisdom take through creation. Properly these are phenomena, not laws, but we call them laws by analogy with the arbitrary laws of society.

Then he celebrates science, and explains that science is only possible because of the particular attributes God possesses.

Science observes how the power of God operates, discovers a regular pattern somewhere and fixes it as a ”law.” The uniformity of God’s activities in His creation enables the scientist to predict the course of natural phenomena. The trustworthiness of God’s behavior in His world is the foundation of all scientific truth. Upon it the scientist rests his faith and from there he goes on to achieve great and useful things in such fields as those of navigation, chemistry, agriculture, and the medical arts.

But science must not separate us from God himself.

Religion on the other hand, goes back of the nature of God. It is concerned not with the footprints of God along the paths of creation, but with the One who treads those paths.

Thus he touches on something that can easily be true of Western Christians. We attribute incidents in our lives to the nature of things instead of directly to God.
  • I got over my cold because I took medicine and ate chicken noodle soup.
  • My battery died in my car this morning to because it was old and the temp was near zero.
But isn't it more true to attribute these things to God?
  • God healed me of my cold.
  • God allowed my battery to die this morning to teach me patience, prayer, and dependence upon him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hating on Home Improvement Projects

I hate home improvement stuff. I hate it. Can't stand it. Would rather clean toilets and vacuum floors than do home improvement.

Why? Because I'm no good at it.
Why? Because they always take way longer than I anticipate.
Why? Because there's always some unusual twist that doesn't make them as straightforward as people tell me they're going to be.

I remember when I had to change an elbow pipe under the kitchen sink in our previous house. It was an emergency. Took quite a bit of my day because I didn't know what I was doing. Was supposed to be at work.

Other painful memories include: replacing basement windows as they are broken out (3 or 4 now); changing the wax ring underneath the toilet (I even had an expert friend's help, and it still took several hours--we encountered an anomaly he hadn't seen before); changing out the garbage disposal (I was Sara's assistant there).

Today was another such experience. We've needed to replace our bathroom ceiling fan. It's not been doing the job. So we thought we had enough time this afternoon. Sara took the lead, and I assisted. (She's much handier at home-repair.)

We sat down to the supper table at 9:45pm. I'd tell you all the problems we encountered, but I think the wound is still fresh.

Oh yeah. We need to replace our garbage disposal again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And the Shock Was Felt in Ireland

9 Things I Like about My Mother-in-Law

This is probably the last thing my mother-in-law would ever expect to see on my blog. Some wag might say, "He was probably looking for a challenge." But that is not true. Another wag might say, "The first thing on his list will probably be, 'She's in Ireland,' but that is not true, either.

1. She usually gets me a really nice shirt every year for Christmas. (Yeah, I guess my father-in-law's in on it, too. But I have a feeling she picks it out.)

2. She's a good cook.

3. She taught Sara to be a good cook.

4. It's obvious she loves my kids.

5. She is generous.

6. Perhaps the most important one in this list: much of who my wife is today is because of her mom, and I really like who my wife is.

7. She's pretty good with a flute.

8. I remember pizza nights with fondness. When Sara and I were dating, Saturday night was pizza night, and Mom Inniger made some of the best homemade pizzas I think I've tasted. (Yes, I know this is the 3rd item about food. What can I say? Good food gets my attention.)

9. I know she prays (along with my father-in-law) for my family.

Bible Categories

Identify (1) the category and (2) which one doesn’t belong.
(Answers will be posted later.)

1. Deborah
Jezebel
Esther
Bathsheba

2. Silas
Bartimaeus
Demas
Luke

3. Gehazi
Miriam
Mary Magdalene
Naaman

4. Sihon
Nebuchadnezzar
Darius
Belteshazzar

5. silver coin
prodigal son
Kish’s donkeys
Joseph’s coat

6. Nehemiah (Hint: “Men” isn’t the category)
Esther
Isaiah
Zerubbabel

7. James, John’s brother
Haman
Pharaoh’s baker
Joseph son of Jacob

Monday, February 1, 2010

For Your Entertainment: My Dreams

Remembering dreams is more difficult than nailing jelly to a wall. But sometimes, whether because you awoke right in the middle of one or because the details of some are more impacting, some of the details and emotion hang around after you’re wide awake.

There are a few dreams of years gone by of which I still remember the primary theme and emotional impact. There was one I had in our first year of marriage of my wife leaving me (something she has never threatened). There was the one at least a year ago of my dad dying (he's still alive in real life). In both cases there were tears on my face when I awoke.

Two categories of dreams that occur on occasion are 1) the natural-disaster-is-upon-me dream, and 2) the someone-is-trying-to-kill-me-and-my-legs-are-molasses-and-my-voice-has-stopped-working dream. Both categories have visited my dreams in the last couple nights.

In the second category, this woman with hideous Frankenstein-like scars on her face and Margaret Thatcher-on-a-windy-day-like hair kept coming after me with murderous intent along with her pet (pig?), who was also trying to kill me. I believe I was either trying to imprison her or kill her. I think it was the latter (though there’s often no logic to dreams, as you well know), because I think the predominant terrifying thought in my dreaming mind was, “She just won’t die!”

The natural disaster dreams are interesting afterwards, though adrenaline-stirring while I’m dreaming. (It’s amazing I can have such dreams and still actually be RESTING at the same time. Maybe I’m not actually resting at the time.) I’ve dreamed of tornadoes, and I remember one of waking up (in my dream, that is), walking outside, and seeing a solid wall of water, reaching for the sky, coming straight toward our home from the east (and this was long before I had seen Deep Impact).

In my latest natural disaster dream, a few van loads of friends were stopped at a rest area at the foot of a small mountain, where many of us were tossing around a few footballs. The earth then shook for a few seconds. We continued our recreation.

At the second rumbling, I ran to the foot of the mountain on which I observed a chain-link fence stretching from the foot on up, along with several power lines suspended along the mountain. As I was noting this, another tremor sent a bucket of white powder tipping over at the base of the mountain, and I held that to be ominous. So I quickly turned tail and started running to the vans (instinctively knowing that the rest of my party instinctively knew the danger that I was sensing and thus they were returning to the vans as well).

Explosions started ricocheting down the mountain, explosions that threatened our very lives. But when I got back to the van, we were missing my friends Dawn and Scott. I ran back to the mountain, I think, and observed a couple scurrying down the mountain. Yeah, it was Dawn and Scott.

The next thing I know, I was running back to the van, knowing that the van was going to leave without me if I didn’t get back soon--it had to, you know.

So there I was skirting rails on an upward ascent to the road where the vans were leaving. Finally, as the van pulled away, I ran up beside mine and swung in through the open passenger door over the top of Dawn, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to Scott, who was driving. The rest of my friends, including Wes and Mary Caroline and apparently Adam were all accounted for in my van. Scott apologized for starting to leave, but there was the danger. I waved it off with an “I understand.”

Next thing I knew I was getting frustrated because I found out from Adam that my son got up after he went to bed the previous night to play games with Adam and others for most of the night. (I guess my day was just going from bad to worse.)