Archive | May, 2013

Seven Reasons to Love Textual Criticism: #7 It’s the first step in all of Bible Study

There are only seven days left for you to join with Credo House in the production of its first Credo Course, New Testament Textual Criticism. This means that there are only seven days left for you to get this course at a price that will seldom be seen.

Let me try to twist your arm by giving you seven short reasons to love textual criticism.

Reason Number 7: It is the first step in all Bible Study

When I was in seminary, the most feared courses came in the Old and New Testament departments. The papers that our fear focused on were called “Exegeticals.” That was always the question: “Have you finished your exegetical?” Exegeticals constituted the core of our study of the Bible and the study of the Bible constituted the core source of truth for our faith and ministry. Therefore, if we could not do exegeticals well, did we really have any hope of encouraging people with the truths of God’s word? “Exegetical” comes from the word “exegesis” meaning “to lead” or “bring out.” We are to “bring out of the Scripture what was already there as opposed to lead or bring into the text what we wanted to be there.

Of the many components involved in exegeticals (including translating, diagramming, word studies, and validation) was textual criticism. In fact, textual criticism was the first step of bringing out of the text what was truly there. If we were to skip textual criticism, we might as well hang up any hope of ever knowing what the text really means. Why? Because without textual criticism there is no way to know what the text even says!

You see, textual criticism seeks to discover what the original manuscripts really said. This is not always easy. There are many ancient manuscripts that we look to when we are attempting to reconstruct the Bible. With the New Testament alone there are nearly 6,000 existing manuscripts that we use as evidence. In order to “decide” what the original said, we have to compare all of these manuscripts and make some very important decisions when they differ.

How do we do that? That is what this course is all about. It is the first step in all Bible study and we want you to be skilled in this essential field of biblical studies.

Please click here to kick start this extremely important course on Textual Criticism by one of the best professors in the field. Accessible to all without being watered down.

May Jesus receive more passionate worship through this course,
Credo House Team

Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism – Part 12 – Mariology (Part 2)

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their series on Roman Catholicism by continuing the topic of Mariology.

Theology Unplugged: Video Edition is available for the first time to Credo House Members. You can now listen AND WATCH as Michael, Tim, Sam and JJ dive into issues of theology. Grow in your faith, learn theology, and have a good time. Try Membership risk free! If you don’t love it as much as us you can cancel at any time

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Has Secularization Made Us Smarter?

JCarrey-DumberHere is a common myth:  Intelligence has evolved over the centuries of recorded history, so we’re smarter than people were a thousand years ago. Just look at the remarkable advances in the sciences and especially technology, and it’s clear that our current generation is more intelligent than those of the past, right?  I hear it all the time, sometimes explicitly and sometimes not, but hardly a day passes that I don’t detect it in the background of people’s presuppositions. Think of the frequency of comparisons with the past that run along these lines – “Well once upon a time people used to think that (insert any number of prevailing views from bygone eras), but now we know better.” And much of the time the thing “people used to think” isn’t even accurate. I continue to hear, for example, about how all of the Europeans thought the world was flat right up until Columbus’ voyage.

There’s no disputing that people across history held wrong beliefs about lots of specific things at various times. That’s as obvious as anything I could say about any time period, including our own. The myth is that we now are better than everyone in bygone generations because we have somehow ‘evolved’ past their ignorance and cognitive limitations. Their age was dark, ours is enlightened; their time was harsh and cruel, ours is nice and friendly; their intelligence was not quite up to the task, but now we’ve arrived and know what it’s all about. They had biases and blind spots they did not realize, but we have overcome that and replaced their shortcomings with openness, tolerance, unbiased neutrality and understanding.

This is an especially beloved part of the received wisdom among contemporary anti-religionists whose motivation for propagating the mantra is rather obvious. After all, if nearly everyone in Western history’s past generations was more spiritual and theological in orientation toward the world (including their ethics, politics, family life, etc.), and if those same people from the past were not as ‘evolved’ in their thinking as we are, then it must follow that having a more religious worldview equals being less evolved. Very simple and very tidy. To be truly intellectually advanced must mean to be distanced from the old traditional ways of thinking such that you are largely ignorant of the Scriptures, the arguments, the theological categories and even basic terminology that were so familiar and important for so long. Full secularization is the trademark of progress.

Just ask the ‘sheeple’ who sit in Bill Maher’s audiences and cheer when he describes as stupid and outdated the kinds of beliefs held by the majority of important thinkers whose ideas formed the foundation of our whole civilization. I suspect they haven’t paused to consider that so many of the great poets (like Milton, Wordsworth, etc.), philosophers (like Aquinas, Locke, etc.), scientists (like Copernicus, Newton, etc.), Renaissance humanists (like Erasmus, More, etc.), political leaders (like Washington, Adams, etc.) theologians (like Calvin, Edwards, etc.) and social reformers (like Wilberforce, MLK, Jr., etc.) were adherents and advocates of the very sorts of beliefs being scoffed at by a pretentious comedian whose clever cynicism apparently convinces his dimwitted viewers that he’s super-smart, when in fact he is hardly worthy, intellectually speaking, to clean the latrines of any of these men.

Worse yet, when I talk about the impressive legacy of those long since gone, so many people today still suppose, without any knowledge about it, of course, that all of those people – no matter their contributions in whatever fields – still must have been nevertheless hampered by the deficiency of living in a time before ours. If this seems like blind prejudice, that’s because it is. C. S. Lewis described in Surprised by Joy how his friend and Oxford colleague Owen Barfield helped to cure him of what he called “chronological snobbery,” which Lewis defined as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”  I’ve also heard it called “presentism” and “provincialism in time”, but I like the use of the word “snobbery.”

The thing people despise about snobs is that they look down their noses at other people for the shallowest of reasons. A snob, for example, will think himself better than other people on the basis of the clothes he wears. A snob will assume she should get preferential treatment in life on the basis of the zip code in which she resides. Lewis believed this to be at work in himself as a young, intellectually arrogant 20th Century man. He took it for granted that the prevailing attitudes of elite academics of his day were automatically to be favored above all who had gone before since, after all, those unfortunates did not live in contemporary (and thus superior) times.

How ironic, then, that Lewis went on to spend his entire Oxford and Cambridge career focused on past centuries, his favorite philosophers being long dead and his primary academic expertise centering on literature from the Middle Ages. He became convinced of the direct opposite view than the one he’d held in his younger days, for he came to value the treasures of wisdom and the depths of insight contained in the great volumes from the past. In his inaugural address to the Cambridge student body, he admitted to them that by that time in his life he belonged more to the old world than to theirs. He advised his readers regularly to live in the pages of history enough to gain perspective and not grow myopic and parochial. “It is not the remembered but the forgotten past that enslaves us,” he told the Cambridge students. In an introduction he wrote to an ancient work of Athanasius, Lewis advised, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. … Keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through your mind.”
Continue Reading →

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously

I remember, many years ago, talking with a friend of mine about another friend. There was something about this guy that we did not like, but we could not put a finger on it. We knew this: He made us uncomfortable. He made things stuffy. We really did not know what to say when he was around. Time with him was always awkward. We would have to walk on eggshells for fear of saying the wrong thing. The wrong thing would always cause the conversation to go in a totally unexpected way. Finally, we figured it out. He took himself too seriously.

Since last week, I have been in a conversation with a guy who thinks differently than I do on many theological issues. On paper, I would think we would not get along at all. But such is not the case. Though we differ – passionately – in many ways, we are having the best time in this long-distance fellowship! Why? Because this guy knows how to lighten things up in order for conversation to take place. He is very wise. He intentionally does not take himself too seriously on pivotal points. He lightens the conversation when it begins to become burdensome. He recognizes it is not about him or what I think of him. Continue Reading →

Fourteen Characteristics of Theological Legalism

Without question, one of the most disturbing trends in the world of theology is that, far too often, grace is eclipsed by theological legalism.

Twice today I encountered this in its most blatant forms by two very different types of people. Both were very passionate about theology and both, undoubtedly, believe that their attitude toward me or my teaching is justified and honoring to the Lord. However, I believe both of these men sacrificed the major issue – grace – in defense of minor issues in theology.

The first, whose name I will not share as he is undoubtedly well-known to most of you, caught me very much off guard (and it is not really easy to catch me off guard, as I receive dozens of “hate” emails every day from those who believe it is their job to put me back on the path of theological correctness). This man, a significant figure in the world of reformation theology, does not believe I take theology seriously enough. Of course, his reasons come (I imagine) from the fact that I don’t agree with him. And obviously, if I took theology seriously, I would agree with him! Ironically, this lack of grace often comes from those who believe most strongly in the reformed “doctrines of grace.” But this man sent me one of the most ungracious emails I have ever received. And, yes, it did hurt my feelings. But more than that, sensing that this man’s criticism of me comes from his general disdain for the “heresy” of Evangelical Calvinism – it discouraged me that someone who believes he is so right theologically could be so graceless personally.

The second came from a Fundamentalist who was quite disturbed that I would suggest that Catholics could be saved. To be fair, I remember in the mid-nineties when Billy Graham suggested the same on national television. I was so angry and confused. I could not believe that Billy Graham would be so theologically inept as to make such a suggestion. In order for me to retain the belief that Billy Graham was saved, I had to convince myself that he had just gone senile in his old age. But this came from someone who has been a believer for quite some time and is a leader in his local church. This one statement (“Catholics can be saved”) has served to disqualify me and all of my teachings. To him, I will forever be one of the many who has compromised my faith for the glory of acceptance among men. Continue Reading →

Hurting for Oklahoma: On Bearing the Pains of Those We Don’t Know

oklahoma-tornado

I have been watching the television all night. Though my heart is being torn out and the miserable “Why God?” thoughts run through my mind over and over again, I cannot quit watching. The number of children (twenty-four, at last count) who have lost their lives to something as fearful, tragic, and theologically uncompromising as a tornado is enough to make one lose their faith. As I get to the point of simply banging on Christ’s door, shouting, “Why? Why?!” I am strangely comforted by Christ’s words which suggest that he allows even the elect to come to a breaking point of faith through deception and suffering (Matt. 24:12, 22, 24).  I get there sometimes. If you are honest and thoughtful, so do you.

So far the death toll is up to 51. The destruction is like nothing we have ever seen (even in ’99, when the same area was hit by an F-5). The word is, this may go down in history as the worst tornado recorded history has ever seen in terms of its power and destructiveness. I am humbled by the fact that I had to put on my brakes to miss it. But I cannot say the same for some people I know. Andrew Burkhart, a good friend and pastor of Love and Justice Church in Moore, lost his home . . . No brakes to stop this loss. It is completely gone. I don’t know about his church yet and, although I have yet to talk to him, I hear that he and his family are okay. But the tragic stories will continue to surface and it is not going to get any better. The questions of blame are interesting with tornadoes. The insurance companies, unfortunately, calls these “Acts of God.” I say this is unfortunate because the insurance companies make it sound as if God is hands-off in all other tragedies except those that fall from the sky or rise up from the ground. But that (blame) is not in my thoughts right now. . .

But what about you who are far away, not living in Oklahoma? If you are watching this, you probably feel a deep sense of helplessness. You don’t know what to do. The stress that overcomes your spirit, mind, and body is tremendous. I know. Here I am just a few miles from weeping and pain, and there is little I can do. But when your thoughts turn to “Why God?” my stress increases. We all want to lift the burdens from the shoulders of those in pain, but we know there is no way to do so outside of divine intervention. But here is the problem (and I have said this before): you (those of you who are far distant from this event) are not responsible for this tragedy. I know you know that, but let me put it another way: you have no obligation – much less ability – to carry the spiritual stress of this event. It is not yours to bear. It is ours. This is our community, not yours.

Now, this may be coming off odd, so let me explain what I mean. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism – Part 11 – Mariology (Part 1)

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their series on Roman Catholicism by introducing the topic of Mariology.

Theology Unplugged: Video Edition is available for the first time to Credo House Members. Grow in your faith, learn theology, and have a good time all the while. Try Membership risk free! If you don’t love it as much as us you can cancel at any time

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Tornado

By now many of you have heard about the tornado that came through Oklahoma City/Moore a few hours ago. First, let me say that my family and I, the Credo House, and all who work for us are safe.

Dan Wallace has been in town all weekend shooting the video for our new Credo Course. What an introduction to Oklahoma Dan has enjoyed! Yesterday, one tornado went right over his hotel, landing about 1/2 mile away. Dan took pictures of all the damage after I picked him up for dinner last night. My family and I were in our “tornado closet” waiting for it to get to us, but it passed about two miles away. That one did much damage, but there was no loss of life. However, that was not the story today.

While we were filming today, as interesting as Dan’s presentations were, students could not help but keep an eye on their phones, watching the path of the upcoming storm. One by one, students began leaving, fearing for the safety of their families. It was not long before we decided to call it a day, close the Credo House, and get Dan to the airport. Dan and I jumped in my Camaro. This is one of the few times that Dan and I decided it would be best to have the top up! I sped to try to beat the storm, but that was not to be, even with 330hp. We were about five miles away when we realized we were driving into darkness. I called my dad and asked him if there were any tornadoes. He said there were not, but he would keep me informed. It was not three minutes later when he called back and said there was a large one approaching I44. “Where on I44?” I panicked (and for an Oklahoman to panic about a tornado is something to take note of). The tornado was about two or three miles ahead, in the direction we were heading. But I kept on for a bit. Finally I realized that we were in the storm, and if I kept going we might be in the middle of it any second. I finally slowed down significantly and waited for it to pass over the highway. Dan was amazingly calm. He just had his video camera out filming everything. He arrived safely at the airport, but I may have to go pick him up in a bit.

The tornado we barely missed is the tornado that  ripped through south OKC/Moore area. The path it traveled is the same path that the infamous (even for here) 1999 tornado took. The last one took over thirty lives. It remains to be seen how many this one will take. There is utter destruction, unlike anything I have ever seen. It has been reported that this one is actually worse than the 1999 tornado. I would not be surprised. I have already seen cars on buildings, neighborhoods leveled to the ground, elementary schools gone, and a woman impaled with debris. It is almost impossible to watch. Our community here in Oklahoma is in shock. Not only did this happen again, but it happened in the same place.

I will save the religious commentary for another time. God is good. He never promised anything in this fallen and sin-stained world. It is times like these that makes so many of us yearn for the coming kingdom. “Kingdom now” stuff does not work. You know . . . all that theology about things getting better and better or the reality of Christ’s reign right now. With creation groaning the way it is here in Oklahoma, that stuff just does not work. Not here in Oklahoma. Not today.