Friday, July 26, 2013

The best author on pastoring

Under the Unpredictable Plant an Exploration in Vocational Holiness (The Pastoral series, #3)Under the Unpredictable Plant an Exploration in Vocational Holiness by Eugene H. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I seem to recall an anecdote about Charles Spurgeon, that when he felt down, he would ask his wife to "Get Baxter," whereupon she would retrieve a volume by Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor/theologian, and read to her husband.

When I am down in my ministry, or discouraged, disillusioned, or simply bored with it, my self-prescription reads, "Get Peterson." No one encourages me in pastoring like he does. In the space of ten pages he can reinvigorate my enthusiasm for ministry in my small local congregation. He did it for me just this past week. This was my second time through this particular work. Great stuff.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Arminian Myth #10

From Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology.

Myth #10 about Arminianism: "All Arminians believe in the governmental theory of the atonement."

The governmental theory: God had Christ suffer and die since he was going to offer forgiveness to humanity.  Christ didn't actually suffer the penalty of our sins, and God didn't have to have him suffer and die in order to pardon us.  But God did it to bring a sort of balance to the moral law of the universe.

By contrast, I hold to the penal substitution view of the atonement.  Christ died for my sins and the sins of the whole world.  He suffered my/our punishment in my/our place.

Roger Olson, in Arminian Theology, demonstrates that while some prominent Arminians held to a governmental view, by no means all did.

Jacob Arminius: penal substitution
Philip Limborch: governmental
John Wesley: penal substitution

19th century
Richard Watson: penal substitution
William Burton Pope: penal substitution, with a little governmental thrown in
Thomas Summers: penal substitution
John Miley: governmental

20th century
H. Orton Wiley: governmental
F. Leroy Forlines: penal substitution
Thomas Oden: penal substitution

Conclusion: It is incorrect to say that all Arminians hold to a governmental view of the atonement.  Many of its theologians do not, and many of its lay people do not.

Myth #6
Myth #5
Myth #4
Myth #3
Myth #2
Myth #1

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My first brush with Woiwode

Words for Readers and Writers: Spirit-Pooled DialoguesWords for Readers and Writers: Spirit-Pooled Dialogues by Larry Woiwode
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wide collection of Woiwode's writings, I gather. An emphasis on writing and writers. Some of the chapters give Woiwode's perspective on his own works and career as a writer.

I especially enjoyed his chapter on Alexander Men (fascinating cleric and martyr in Communist USSR). There are lessons there for me as a pastor.

His address as North Dakota's Poet Laureate, where I learned a little bit more about the significance of a Poet Laureate as well as Brodsky's Rx for overcoming evil, was doubly interesting.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Wrong ideas about revival

Bryan Chapell in a vimeo comments on why has revival become difficult: three errors
  1. Manufacturing revival
  2. Giving up on revival
  3. Thinking the Spirit has to come in the way that I think he should
See the whole 9-minute vimeo here:

Friday, July 12, 2013

This is nothing

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV)

The glory of the next age is exceedingly weighty and eternal.

This part of v. 17 is difficult to translate: “according to excess [hyperbole] unto excess [hyperbole] an eternal weight of glory."

AAT (An American Translation): "The light trouble of this moment is preparing for us an everlasting weight of glory, greater than anything we can imagine."

RSV: "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

One implication:

The weight of our future glory makes our present troubles negligible.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18 (NIV)

Our light and momentary troubles are light and momentary in comparison with the glory afterwards.  They may not seem light and momentary at the time.  They may seem heavy and burdensome; i.e., they are real.  But there will come a time when they will seem otherwise.

"If you knew the mind of the glorified in heaven, they think heaven come to their hand at an easy market, when they have got it for threescore or fourscore years’ wrestling with God.  When you are come thither you shall think, ‘All I did, in respect of my rich reward, now enjoyed of free grace, was too little.’"  (Samuel Rutherford, Letter #2, to Marion M’Naught, Letters of Samuel Rutherford: A Selection 16-17)

Let me paraphrase that: “Do you know what the saints in heaven are right now?  They’re shocked!  They’re amazed that they got heaven at such a little cost.  They can’t believe that they get an eternity of joy and abundant living for only 60-80 years worth of struggle during their earthly lives.  And when you get to heaven, you will think, 'I hardly suffered at all compared to all the blessings I’m getting now by God’s grace.'”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

First sign of spiritual regression

"One of the first symptoms of spiritual regression, or backsliding, is a dullness toward the Bible.  Sunday School class is dull, the preaching is dull, anything spiritual is dull.  The problem is usually not with the Sunday School teacher or the pastor, but with the believer himself."

--Warren W. Wiersbe, commenting on Hebrews 5:11 in The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:294

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book challenges the missionary task

Things Fall ApartThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A remarkable story of a African warrior, Okonkwo, moving up in leadership and prestige of his tribe, Umuofia. The portrayal of African culture--customs, religion, and social order and roles—is riveting. Okonkwo is an angry man, driven to rank, prestige, and success in the eyes of his tribe, completing rebelling against the weakness and laziness and reputation of his own father.

Then at a funeral for a wizened leader, Okonkwo accidentally shoots and kills the dead man’s son. In keeping with the custom, Okonkwo and his family leave Umuofia for seven years. While in exile, he learns of inroads that an English missionary is making. To his horror and great fury, his oldest son converts to Christianity. Upon his return from exile, Okonkwo finds that the Christians have also brought government (colonialism) with them. And the old ways are changing. Okonkwo himself is not welcomed back with quite the fanfare he expected.

Through a series of events, Umuofia burns the Christian church. Six leaders, including Okonkwo, are arrested by the new British government, they are shorn and starved and thus humiliated. Upon release several days later, Umuofia gathers to strategize. British messengers come to disperse the meeting, whereupon Okonkwo beheads the leader. The tumult of his clansmen when he does so tells him that the battle against the British is lost. He then hangs himself.

I really appreciated the African point-of-view in this novel. So many other novels are written from the point-of-view of the white man. For instance, Heart of Darkness, which is by no means a pro-colonialism book, nevertheless tells the story from the white point-of-view. The Africans are little more than animals, for we barely get a glimpse into their world and their lives. Things Fall Apart fleshes out the African perspective and its way-of-life. That helps to see how dark the dark side of colonialism is. We see a culture that has existed and carried on and policed itself for generations being dismantled and swept away by foreigners and their foreign ways insinuating themselves into the culture in both subtle and overt ways.

What’s particularly disturbing to me is the picture of colonialism’s entrance being made through Christianity. One of the messages one could take away from this book is that proselytizing is wrong. How does one respond to that message?

• Two missionaries are presented, Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith. Mr. Brown’s method was far more endearing. He made friends with the clan’s leaders and worked hard not to offend. Mr. Smith did not, however. Such forceful, thoughtless tactics as Mr. Smith used should be condemned. Further, the alignment of the English church with the English government was not ideal, to my thinking.

• This is one story, and stories are often told in such a way as to manipulate the emotional thinking of the readers. Here we are aroused to be saddened for Okonkwo and Umuofia and a little bit piqued at the Christians, as well as the government, though we can tolerate Mr. Brown. But other stories could be told as well of missionaries who have gone into African villages at great sacrifice to tell the African peoples of the God who loves them and the Savior who died for them; of missionaries who led them away from tribal warfare and violence and into love and peace.

• There were some things in Umuofia that needed reforming. Okonkwo freely beat his wives, almost killing one. Okonkwo had three wives; others had more. Twins were abandoned upon birth due to superstition about them. Prisoners like Ikemefuna were killed. African culture was not perfect; it was not pristine.

• What if the Christian story is true? What if the African religions are false and the African gods are false? Is it not then a good thing that the Christians would bring that to the attention of the Africans, that they might avoid an eternity in hell?

• Unfortunately, the Christians story in Things Fall Apart is poorly told and represented by Mr. Brown and especially Mr. Smith. But if my doctor has a surly bedside manner yet still gives me the medicine I need that saves my life, isn’t it better that I had to deal with the doctor than to have not dealt with him? In the end, if the Christian story is true, Nwoye, Okonkwo’s oldest son who converted, gained eternal life in heaven, but Okonkwo, when he killed himself, entered into eternal damnation.

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