Reading the Bible as a Coherent Story, but Not Too Much

The Story of OVOGrowing up as a new Christian, I learned a lot in a short period of time. Most of which I learned from reading the Bible. Seriously. Just reading it.

But, Bible reading alone is not enough to make a Christian. On the contrary, the proverb is true: most heresies arise from someone “reading the Bible alone in his closet.” Reflecting on that period, I realize that I too developed some theological wrinkles that would later need to be worked out in the context of the leadership of Christ’s church. In short, I had a lot to learn.

Like me, far too many Christians, generally, and American Christians, in particular, assume that wisdom begins with them, here, now, in the 21st century; and that we alone have inherited the key to knowledge when it comes to the sacred truths of Scripture. Continue reading

Sermons from the Last 18 Months

acts-gnt-photo
Acts chapter one from the Greek NT

Preaching is a big part of what I do; of the titles that I go by as “pastor,” one of my favorites is “minister of the Word and Sacrament.” Minister means “servant.” I’m literally, by that title, a “servant of the Word.”

To prepare for this task, I generally I aim to spend between 12-20 hours per week in sermon preparation and study. Not all of that is in book work or writing. Some of it, and more besides, is spent in meditation, prayer, and personal reflection as I try to apply and feel the weight of the word I intend to preach to others in my own soul. The following two proverbs are helpful in this regard:

Physician, heal thyself.

and

Watch your life and doctrine closely for in so doing you’ll save both yourself and your hearers.

With this as background, I am posting below a ten-point review of what I’ve preached over the past eighteen months or so, and some explanation as to why I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen. Continue reading

7 Reasons Protestants are Pro Ecclesia

Pro Ecclesia means “for the church” and Protestants are people who “protest.” That’s a strange combination: how can Protestants (negative) be for the Church (positive)?

It all began innocently enough. A German Bible doctor  and priest penned something like a medieval letter to the editor when he posted a list of ninety-five arguments on the public bulletin board (the door of the chapel in the center of town). This priest-scholar believed these were worthy of debate by church leaders and published them out of a love for the Church and an established tradition of seeking its reformation.

However, that priest, named Dr. Martin Luther, was eventually excommunicated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for refusing to recant his views which he first articulated when he posted those concerns, called theses, on October 31, 1517.

It is remarkable that such a small action (which was essentially nothing more than a blog post or an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer) set in motion what would eventually become the Protestant Reformation. Since then, that historic event (or events, as many historians acknowledge a number of reformations) has come to define a movement of Christian belief known as Protestantism.

Yet, as a Catholic reform movement defined in part by objecting to certain things–especially religious traditions and practices which have little or nothing to do with the Bible–we must not be understood merely as an opposition movement, or as people who only stand against.

I think there is a need to reemphasize that while the label or term “Protestant” has historically negative connotations, it does not summarize the whole scope of Protestant belief. We need to freshly articulate he positive grounds or foundations for protestant faith and practice.

Besides this, because of the many traditions within Protestantism, it is important to lay out the major convictions held by those who find themselves still “protesting” certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church as a way of understanding what binds us is greater than what divides. Here then are seven “pros” or positive beliefs that all Protestants share. Continue reading

Pentecost and Acts

pentecost by purple whirlpool

Part of the problem with denominations and Christian traditions is that words are taken like brand names (think © or ™), making it harder to use them with genuine biblical meaning…

  • Catholic means “universal”–no Christian in his right mind would deny the universal character to the Christian message (true for all time, in all societies and cultures, around the world)
  • Presbyterian means “governed by elders” (among other things) and in this regard, many churches have presbyters as key leaders in the local assembly, not just “Presbyterian” churches.
  • Pentecostal or “related to Pentecost” ought to describe all true Chrsitians: people who take “Pentecost” seriously as a watershed moment for the church of Jesus Christ.

That last brand name, “Pentecostal,” is on my mind lately as I’ve begun to preach through the Book of Acts. We will hit Acts 2:1-11 in two Sundays; so, I’m asking myself, “what does Luke mean by Pentecost?” and “How, or in what way, are we called to be Pentecostal today?”

We need to begin with this observation: Pentecost (or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit) is not the key action of God in Acts: the key ‘act’ of God in Acts is the Ascension of Jesus. Continue reading

the Inerrant Scripture as a “Human Production”

Much could be said, and much has been said, about how Christians, and every person, for that matter, ought to read the Bible. At the outset, I want to urge caution: there is a danger in talking about what we believe ABOUT the Bible that we forget that we must in fact READ the Bible.

May that not be true of us.

Having said this, I learned early on in my training for the ministry that it is important that in every new generation of Christians we undertake to fresh defenses of God’s Word. CS Lewis’ warning notwithstanding (he is supposed to have said that he would rather defend a roaring lion than to defend God’s Word, or God Himself, I don’t remember which), the engaging in careful defenses (L., apologia) of the Scriptures is important in our witness as Christians.

Rarely do such defenses convince an unbeliever of the rightness of The Faith; but they can play a role, through dialogue and debate, in helping to lower, or reduce, people’s resistance to faith in Jesus Christ.

The current apologia for the Scriptures centers on how Christians are to read the Old Testament. Let me explain. Continue reading