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Updated: 2014-10-02T23:56:07.175-07:00

 



Are You the One Who Is to Come?:The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Questions by Michael Bird

2009-08-19T19:12:22.305-07:00

Did Jesus claim to be Israel’s Messiah? To most evangelicals the answer would be in the affirmative but most “liberal” scholars deny that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and that the biblical records declaring him so are early church reflections and are not from the historical Jesus. It’s for this reason that Michael Bird, New Testament tutor at Highland Theological College, has written Are You the One Who Is to Come?:The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Questions in order to affirm that Jesus did in fact claim to be Israel’s Messiah.


Bird is carefully to argue not that Jesus used the title “Messiah” but “that Jesus saw himself in messianic categories, enacting a messianic role or messianic vocation as part of his aim to renew and restore Israel though his various activities” (p.29). Birds seeks to establish his thesis by first reviewing the messianic understanding in the 2nd Temple Judaism (Ch. 2) and refuting major arguments for the denial of Jesus' claim to be a Messiah such as Wrede’s “Messianic Secret” and the early Christians’ “scripturizing of the Jesus tradition” (Ch.3).


Bird spends the next two chapters exploring the messianic question through the Jesus tradition. First, Bird examines certain patterns and themes like “the Son of Man”, “the Anointed One”, kingdom, and “I Have Come” sayings (Ch. 4) then he analyzes the stories leading to Christ’s death, his death, and it’s aftereffects on the early Church. After carefully examination of the relevant texts, Bird makes a masterfully case that Jesus saw himself in messianic categories. Finally, Bird concludes with a final chapter describing the significances of Christ being the Messiah (Ch. 6).


I really appreciate a lot of Bird’s book. I found his review of the relevant texts to be careful and his conclusions to be extremely balanced. I was also excited to see Bird emphasis “the story of Israel”which I believe is the interpretative key in understanding Jesus. He writes “The story of the Messiah can only be understood as part of the story of Israel...Jesus was not a timeless heavenly redeemer imparting esoteric truths to receptive human vessels. The vision of the New Testament authors and of proto-orthodox Christianity is that the day of salvation has been brought to the world through the Messiah of Israel” (pg. 163).


It’s important to note that this is an academic book and some might not be familiar with some of the issues, but those who do or are willing to patiently work through them I highly recommend this book.



Top Books of 2008

2009-01-04T13:14:56.344-08:00

1. D.A. Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited 2. James Dunn's The Theology of Paul the Apostle 3. Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics 4. Scot Mcknight’s A New Vision for Israel: the Teaching of Jesus in National Context 5. Christopher Wright’s Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story 6. Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitness 7. Tim Keller’s The Reason of God:Belief in an Age of Skepticism 8. N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God 9. Mark A. Noll ‘s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis 10. Kaiser’s, Bock’s, Enns’ Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) [...]



Craig Blomberg's New Blog

2008-08-29T10:51:39.150-07:00

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Craig Blomberg, one of my favorite NT scholars, has decided to create his own blog, called New Testament Musings . I am pumped!!!



Book Recommendation: The Moral Vision of the New Testament

2008-08-29T09:02:45.804-07:00

Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics is an outstanding and thought-provoking book on New Testament (NT) ethics. Hay’s book consists of four parts reflecting the four heuristic task of pursuing NT ethics:1) The Descriptive Task - the act of extricating the message of each individual writings of the Bible. Hays executes this task by briefly going over most of the individual books of the NT, noting each of the authors main points and concerns. 2) The Synthetic Task - the act of seeking to integrate the individual writings of the NT. In this section, Hays provides us 3 guidelines in how we should pursue our synthesis of each individual NT text: a) confront the full range of canonical witness b) let the tension stand and c) attend to the literary genre of the texts (pg . 189 – 191). Hays also provides us with three images, which he believes to be central to the biblical story, that will help guide our reflections on NT ethics: a) community b) cross and c) new creation. (pg 196 -200) 3) The Hermeneutical Task - the act of relating what we find in the synthetic task to our particular situation. For this part, Hays examines the concept of authority as it relates to scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (pg. 208-209). Then Hays investigates the hermeneutical strategies in pursuing ethics by five interpreters: Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza which allows us to see how different people use scripture, tradition, reason and experience in grounding their ethical imperatives.4) The Pragmatic Task – the act of living out what the Bible’s commands. In this final section, Hays uses his 4 task model of pursuing ethics by seeking to understand the ethical norm for violence in defense of justice (pg 317 – 343), divorce (pg 347- 374), homosexuality (pg 379 – 400), Anti-Judaism and ethic conflicts (pg 407 – 438) and abortion (pg. 444-457) I found Richard Hay’s book to be very helpful as it allows me to see the difficulties of using the Bible as normative source for ethics but yet it also provides a well reasoned model on how to get past them. I also enjoyed Hay's Christ-like tone throughout his book as it relates to his model and when he addresses hot topics like divorce, abortion, and homosexuality.(Doug Moo's has a good critically review of Dr. Hay's book)[...]



Book Recommendation: A New Vision for Israel

2008-08-28T16:55:51.377-07:00

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In Scot McKnight’s book, A New Vision for Israel: the Teaching of Jesus in National Context, he seeks to articulate an understanding of Jesus by integrating him the in context of the redemption of Israel. McKnight sees Jesus as an eschatological prophet, whose mission was to warn Israel of the impending judgment of God (70.A.D.) which would usher in God’s final judgment and consummate his kingdom (pg.12). From this idea, McKnight builds and refines his understanding of Jesus through three major themes: a) the God of Jesus (Ch. 2), b) the kingdom of God (present aspect – Ch. 3 and future aspect Ch.4) and c) the ethics of God (Ch. 5 and 6).


I really enjoyed this book. It’s written clearly and builds a great exegetical case for understanding Jesus and his mission to Israel which I believe is the key in realizing who Jesus was in the gospels.




McKnight on 70AD and God's Consummated Kingdom

2008-08-29T09:00:19.022-07:00

One of the most difficult passages in the Bible for me to understand is Mark 13 and it's parallels: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 21:5-36. Some interpreters see this passage as Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple (70 A.D.) and the final judgment which would usher in God's final kingdom in the near future that is within one generation (Mark 13:30), while other see Jesus as only predicting the temple's destruction as imminent and not God's final judgment/kingdom and yet others see Jesus only talking about fall of the temple, saying nothing about God's final judgment/kingdom.

Albert Schweitzer is probably the best known promoter of seeing Jesus predicting the nearness of both the temple's destruction and God's final judgment/kingdom, thus when God's final kingdom did not come about, he was wrong.

Scot Mcknight has a similar view to Schweitzer but challenges the notion that Jesus was in error based on his understanding of biblical prophets and how prophecy normally works. He writes:


"In his vision of human history, Jesus saw no further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in all its glory. That history took another course does not at all mean that Jesus was in error; rather, like the Hebrew prophets before him, he saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly. This perspective was typical of Jewish prophecy from of old; the next event was seen as the end event, but that next event resulted in a series of unfolding events. Prophecy carried with it an innate poetic ambiguity. It might be that Jesus made a distinction between the climatic events pertaining to the nation and to Jerusalem, on the one hand, and to the final events of history, on the other; that is, that Jesus distinguished the events of A.D. 70 from the final events (judgment, kingdom, etc.) This would be very difficult to prove and need not be proved, since Jesus' method was so typical of Jewish prophecy:the next event, an event that God had enabled a prophet to see, would take shape as the last event that would wrap up God's plan for history". - pg 12, A New Vision For Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context


Very interesting stuff. I need to think about this more.



Don Garlington is Asking, What's It All About?

2008-08-12T12:08:22.454-07:00

Don Garlington is asking, "What's it all about" when a group of people articulate similar views on 1) the relationship between faith to obedience (Rom. 1:5) and 2) the necessity of works during the final judgment (Rom. 2:13) but some get attacked because of these views but others don't.

Garlington states:

"I ask again, What's it all about? If the likes of Bucer, Schreiner, Candeay, Seifrid, Dunn, Wright, Bird, Mounce, Shepherd, and others of us, are in essential accord as to Rom 1:5; 2:13 (and other texts), then why does there continue to be internecine warfare among believers of the same stripe? Or, more pointedly, why is there a persistent double standard imposed on those who are more alike than different?"

Through my reading of things on Paul and justification,I have asked the same question. But it appears to me that the major reason why some people get attacked and other don't is because one group affirms the Westminster Confession view of Christ's imputation with it's underlying notion of the "covenant of works" (Scheriner, Seifrid, and Bird), while others don't (Wright, Garlington and Shepherd) [1]


[1] I am not sure about Candeay's, Bucer's, Mounce's, or Dunn's views on imputation.



Book Recommendation: Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era

2008-08-11T09:50:39.202-07:00

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One of the main problems I have in understanding the New Testament is that I don't know the historical context for these writings very well. So, I was happy to read James S. Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Back of Early Christianity. Jeffers' book is an easy read that covers a variety of topics in the NT era such as: citizenship, slavery, views of life and death, and religion.

I found this book to be extremely helpful and I would recommend this to anyone, who is like me not too familiar, with the NT era.



Jesus and Restoration of Israel

2008-08-05T09:24:29.378-07:00

About a year ago, I started to focus my reading on the gospels (currently, I am reading Bock's Luke Commentary) and the historical Jesus instead of Pauline stuff, especially as it relates to justification and New Paul Perceptive. And so far, I found that the key in unlocking the gospels is the understanding of Jesus' mission and relationship with Israel[1].

Here's a good quote from Scot Mcknight describing Jesus connection with Israel:

"It follows, then that Jesus cannot be understood if the described exclusively, ore even primarily , in the category of a spiritual master, or as one who was primarily concerned with the inner religious life and its disciplines for the individual. First and foremost, Jesus was a Jew whose vision of the proper religious life centered on the restoration of the Jewish nation and on the fulfillment of the covenants that God had made with the nation. The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish national disaster. Jesus' hope was not so much the "Church" as the restoration of the twelve tribes (cf. Matt.8:11-12;10:23;and19:28), the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God's kingdom (focused on and through Israel) on earth. Thus, when Jesus sent out the Twelve (cf. Matt. 9:35-11:1), the "disciples were not evangelistic preachers sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival." [2]

[1] For a great lecture on understanding Jesus, check out Rikki Watt's talk dated "January 14, 2001)


[2] Mcknight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context, see pp. 10-11



Photo Update

2008-08-02T19:51:35.175-07:00

Things has been busy over the last few months, so I've been behind with pictures.....

Hmmm....where do I start?

February: Valentine's Day 2008 (ha..ha..okay, I'm way behind...)


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March: Dan's cousin comes to visit from Taiwan, Dan's birthday


(image) (image) April: Trip to Dominican Republic.....Click on photo link for more pictures!

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May, June, and July....more photos to come!!!!!.

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Book Recommendation: Salvation Belongs to Our God

2008-08-14T04:20:09.783-07:00

In the past couple of years, Christopher Wright has quickly become one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was real excited to read his new book, Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story. The book did not disappoint. In Wright’s new book, he seeks to give a biblical perspective on salvation, using the biblical passage Rev. 7:10 (Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb) as a template. Here are some things I loved about this book.The holistic view of salvation by surveying the OT and NT (ch. 1) and recognizing that the Bible makes priorities within salvation. For an example, Wright notes that “being saved from the wrath of God matters a lot more in the end than being saved from illness or injustice (pg. 17- 18).The emphasis that salvation belongs only to God and that he is the ultimate source of it (ch. 2)An understanding that blessings includes creational (material) relational (both with God and humans), covenantal, ethical (makes demands), multinational and Christological properties (Ch. 3)The story of salvation is found deeply embedded in the story of God's covenant with Israel and with the climax of the narrative being found in Christ’s new covenant (pg 88 -93)I found Wright to be extremely sensitive and wise on how he deals with tough issues like salvation in other religions (pg. 109 – 110), assurance of salvation (pg. 129 -135) and the consequences of those who never hear the gospel (pg. 157 – 171)Wright gives a great overview of understanding how Christ’s cross and resurrection accomplishes salvation (pg 182 -193).The book also includes questions after each chapter, so that it could be easily used in a small group.If John Murray’s book, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, is the classic book on salvation from an ordo salutis (order of salvation) perspective (I believe it is) than I think Christopher Wright’s book should be the standard for a chronological survey of the OT and NT perspective on salvation for years to come. GET THIS BOOK!!!![...]



"Reconciling James and Paul": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 3

2008-07-18T20:58:16.002-07:00

So how does James' thought on justification by faith and works (v.24) relate to Paul's thought on justification by faith (Rom. 4 and Gal. 2)? I think James' thought can be harmonizes with Paul's, but I also think it's important to note that James' main point is to stress that good works is important for salvation and not to give a dissertation on how faith, works, and justification (salvation) are related.

Differences in Paul and James


I think the best way to harmonies Paul and James is to note the following differences:


1. Paul and James appears to have different definitions of faith.

Robert Stein notes that "the faith of James's opponent involves merely intellectual assent to propositions such as "God is one." It is a belief that certain propositions are true. Paul's use of the words "faith" and "believe" involves faith in God and his Son. It is not merely propositional, although that element is present. It is also relational! Faith for Paul involves a relationship of grace and love toward God that results in a transformed life" [1]


2. In Romans and Gal, Paul's tension is between faith and "works of the law" (Mosaic law) and not "good works" in general.


Richard Bauckham writes " When Paul refers to "works of the law" (a phrase not used by James) it is with special, though not exclusive, reference to boundary markers, such circumcision and food laws, which symbolized Jewish exclusivity. James, on the other hand, is entirely oblivious to the question of Gentile believers in Christ, and the works he has in mind are acts of neighborly love." [2]


3. Paul seems to have a more realized understanding of justification while James has a more futuristic (eschatological) one. [3]


Conclusion


With these points in mind, I believe James is stressing the importance of the final judgment in accordance with works (Romans 2:), while Paul is stressing the importance of initial or realized justification by faith alone over and against those who are obedient to the Mosaic law [4]


[1] pg 6 of "Saved by Faith [Alone]" in Paul "Not Saved faith Alone" in James by Robert Stein.


[2] pg 1488 of Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible.


[3] See Gathercole on pg 234 in "Justification in Perspective" (McCormack), M. Seifrid on pg 182 in "Christ, our Righteousness", and pg 13 and 14 of R. Stein's article mentioned above.


[4] Even though James states a person is "justified by works" and not "will be justified by works". I think James is using proleptic language (bringing in the future verdict into present) to stress the importance of having good works in the present because the final verdict is in accordance with it.



James' Main Point: Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 2

2008-07-17T09:55:58.596-07:00

1. Faith without good works can't save someone because it's "dead" (v14-17).


2. Faith without good works is useless and absurd because the demons have faith that mentally asserts in God's monotheistic existence which produces nothing but fear (v. 18-20)


3. Abraham is cited as an example of being justified by works (v.21) in his offering of Isaac (Gen.22) and his faith was somehow completed by this work (v.22) thus confirming God's declaration of Abraham as righteous by faith in Gen. 15:6 (v.23).


4. James summarizes that a person is declared right by God because of works and faith (v.24)


5. Rahab is cited as an example as a person justified by works (v.25)


6. James concludes with a metaphor that compares a body apart from the spirit and faith without works, starting that both of these things are dead (v.26).

Conclusion- I believe that the main point of James 2:14-26 is to stress the importance of good works to Christians over and against the idea that a mental assertion of God's monotheistic existence is enough to get one saved.



Debate on the Topic of Divorce: Instone-Brewer vs Piper

2008-07-16T09:48:11.886-07:00

Last October (I know this is "old" news, but my small group was discussing divorce yesterday), David Instone-Brewer and John Piper had a very informative debate on divorce. Instone-Brewer defends a position which would allow divorce for 1) adultery 2) persistent emotional and physical neglect and 3) abandonment and abuse. [1] Piper responds with a position that only allows for divorce in the case of "fornication during betrothal" [2].


Later, Andreas Köstenberger weighs-in and offers a position that would allow divorce for 1) adultery and 2) non-believer's abandonment of a believer. [3] In another blog post, Köstenberger answers questions in regards to his position, which is definitely worth reading [4]


Divorce is a tough topic and I sympathize with all the position mentioned above, but I think Köstenberger probably has the best interpretation as it relates to the plain biblical texts on divorce, but I am very intrigued by Instone-Brewer use of extra-biblical sources to hash out the meaning of Jesus and Paul.


[1] See Instone-Brewer's CT article, "What God Has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce?" and his short response to Piper's critique.


[2] See Piper's article, critiquing Instone-Brewer, entitled "Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce: A Response to Instone-Brewer's Article In Christianity Today".


[3] See Köstenberger's blog entry, "Clarfying the NT on Divorce"


[4] See Köstenberger;s blog entry, "Q&A on Divorce and Remarriage". *A MUST READ!!!!)



Eternal or Physical Salvation": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 1

2008-07-16T16:46:57.096-07:00

"14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?"


Eternal or Physical Salvation?


It's clear from James 2:14 that good works are necessary in faith for salvation? But how is James defining salvation here? Does he mean eternal or physical salvation?


2 Reasons for the Meaning of Eternal Salvation



I think he could mean both, but with more of an emphasis on eternal salvation. I think James 5:13-20 clearly focuses on physical salvation (healing from physical illness) but I also believe eternal salvation is also in view because of the following 2 reasons:


1) The "Crown of Life" reference found in James 1:12 is used in Revelation 2:9-11 as referring to eternal salvation (It's interesting that John uses this phrase in the context of a call for Christians to persevere in suffering and poverty, which is similar to James' context).


9"'I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.' -Rev. 2:9-11


2) There are a bunch of verses that suggest the need for good works (sanctification) in order to receive eternal life (Rom. 2:6-11, Gal 5:16-24, John 5:29, Mathew 25:31-46, 2 and Peter 3:11-13)



Conclusion


I believe that James is stating that good works are usually necessary for eternal and physical salvation [1].


[1] In regards to physical salvation, I do believe James realize that physical death can occur despite a Christian, who lives righteously (cf.James 5:6) so that one's holiness doesn't guarantee a person's good health.




I am a Basketball Genius:Celtics in 6

2008-06-18T10:18:29.877-07:00

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On June 6,2008, Pat Mcconn emailed me this:


"would you say celtics chances are better or worse than 20%?"


I responded with this:


"i think you will be surprised with boston's defense. even though their offense have been shaky, their defense will always be there and you can't really measure/feel that until you see them play a particular team. how many people thought the pistons were going to win?

Boston in 6...PERIOD"



Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

2008-06-09T19:30:40.467-07:00

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Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitness is a fascinating book, which argues that the best way to read the Gospels as history is to see them as eyewitness testimony.

In order to establish this point, Bauckham seeks to argue against the popular scholarly belief that the Gospels, as we now have them, was a product of a long process of anonymous transmission by the early church communities, which usually results in the notion of ditching the original testimonies of Jesus and replacing them with their own views of Jesus. Instead of this, Bauckham seeks to ground the writing of Gospels with the testimonies of eyewitnesses therefore bringing it more closely to the form in which the eyewitnesses told their stories about Jesus.

I thought this was a great book and I am sure I will be referring to it for years to come.



TULIP - The Calvinist Rabbit

2008-06-02T20:03:05.816-07:00

A month ago our friends let us "rabbit-sit" their bunny, TULIP.

Here's TULIP with his buddy, Bear-Bear, after discussing "Unconditional Election" (Bear-Bear is an Arminian).

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Here's TULIP running upstairs to read John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed

(image) Here's me giving TULIP a carrot after she explains "Limited Atonement" to me.


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Remembering "Common Grace"

2008-05-29T11:15:23.516-07:00

Sometimes, I think we evangelicals stress the biblical idea that "all people are sinners" (Romans 3:10) so much that we forget that unregenerate (non-Christians) can do good (in the sense below) and please God. I think we need to be reminded of the Reformed doctrine of "common grace".

Below are two quotes from Louis Berkhor, stressing the fact that 1) Unregenerates can do good and 2) God does show favor to them.

"Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, civil good, and outwardly religious good. They call attention to the fact, however, that, while such works of the unregenerate are good from a material point of view, as works which God commanded, they cannot be called good from a formal point of view, since they do not spring from the right motive and do not aim at the right purpose. The Bible repeatedly speaks of works of the unregenerate as good and right, II Kings 10:29, 30; 12:2 (comp. II Chron. 24:17-25); 14:3,14-16,20,27 (comp. II Chron. 25:2); Luke 6:33; ROM 2:14,15."


"Another objection to the doctrine of common grace is that it presupposes a certain favorable disposition in God even to reprobate sinners, while we have no right to assume such a disposition in God....Evidently the elect can not be regarded as always and exclusively the objects of God´s love. And if they who are the objects of God´s redeeming love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine favor? A father who is also a judge may loathe the son that is brought before him as a criminal, and feel constrained to visit his judicial wrath upon him, but may yet pity him and show him acts of kindness while he is under condemnation. Why should this be impossible in God? General Washington hated the traitor that was brought before him and condemned him to death, but at the same time showed him compassion by serving him with the dainties from his own table. Cannot God have compassion even on the condemned sinner, and bestow favors upon him? The answer need not be uncertain, since the Bible clearly teaches that He showers untold blessings upon all men and also clearly indicates that these are the expression of a favorable disposition in God, which falls short, however, of the positive volition to pardon their sin, to lift their sentence, and to grant them salvation. The following passages clearly point to such a favorable disposition: Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:18; Ezek. 18:23,32; 33:11; Matt. 5:43-45; 23:37; Mark 10:21; Luke 6:35: ROM 2:4; I Tim. 2:4. If such passages do not testify to a favorable disposition in God, it would seem that language has lost its meaning, and that God´s revelation is not dependable on this subject."



Book Recommendation: The Rise of Christianity

2008-07-16T16:57:28.038-07:00

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Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity is a fascinating book that seeks to answer the rapid growth of Christianity through social science.

In general, Stark believes that the rapid growth in Christianity was due to the early Christians establishing and building a strong, loving, and beneficial community in a chaotic and deprived context.

Stark writes:

"...let me suggest here that Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent urban problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced epidemics, fires and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services (pg. 161)".


One of interesting things from this book was Stark's comparison of how the early Christians and pagans dealt with the devastating epidemics (plagues) by which the Christians were willing to loose their lives for their loves one but the pagans weren't. Stark quotes Dionysius, who describes these events (pg.82-83):


"Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transfered their death to themselves and died in their stead"



"The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape."



It's important to note that Starks also confirms these general differences from non-Christian sources (Julian and Thucydides) (pg. 83-85).



Book Recommendation: Meet the Rabbis

2008-05-06T09:55:34.763-07:00

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A while back, Amazon.com recommended that I read Brad Young’s book, Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teaching of Jesus, and because I didn’t know anything about the rabbis I decided to save it to my Wishlist. A month ago, I finally bought it and I just finished it on vacation to Punta Cana.(image)

The book is structured into 3 main parts:

  1. Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
  2. Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
  3. Introduction to the Rabbis

And here’s a quick list of things that I found interesting and helpful:

  1. That it’s important to understand the rabbis in order to better understand Jesus- (Young parallels rabbinic thought to Jesus' to illuminate some of his thoughts)
  2. A good reminder that not all Pharisees are legalistic hypocrites (pg. 7-8)
  3. The role of the Sanhedrin and the importance of Torah after 70 C.E. (Ch. 4)
  4. The many parallels between Rabbinic and New Testament (Ch.5)
  5. The relationship between the Mishnah ,the Talmud (Jerusalem and Babylonian), and Midrash (Tannaitic and Amoraic)
  6. An overview of the major rabbinic leaders (Ch.11)

I recommend this book to anyone, who wants to gain a better understand of the rabbis. Also, for a better review check-out Dr. Craig Blomberg’s review.







Book Recommendation: Keller's The Reason of God

2008-05-03T05:38:05.306-07:00

Tim Keller’s book The Reason of God:Belief in an Age of Skepticism is one of the finest apologetic Christian books I have ever read. The book is structured into two parts. In the first part (The Leap of Doubt), Keller goes through several topics that challenged the reasonableness for the Christian faith: 1) There Can’t Be Just One True Religion (Chapter 1) 2) How Could a Good God Allow Suffering (Chapter 2) 3) Christianity Is a Straitjacket (Chapter 3) 4) The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice (Chapter 4) 5) How Can A Loving God Send People to Hell (Chapter 5) 6) Science Has Disproved Christianity (Chapter 6) 7) You Can’t Take the Bible Literally (Chapter 7). Then in the 2nd part of the book (The Reasons for Faith), Keller gives positive reasons for Christianity such as the problem of sin (Ch. 10) and the reality of the resurrection (Ch.13). I really appreciate this book for its clarity and faithfulness in addressing tough questions and in presenting the gospel, while giving a sense of deep humility. This is definitely now my go to book for apologetics. [...]



Slide of Death

2008-04-19T13:51:05.410-07:00

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NBA PLAYOFFS - 1st Round Picks

2008-04-18T12:12:31.853-07:00

(image)
Lakers over Nuggets in 5
Boston over Hawks in 4
Rockets over Jazz in 7 (this pick is made with my heart)
Jazz over Rockets in 5 (with my head)
Cavs over Wiz in 6
Mavs over Hornets in 5
Magic over Raptors in 6
Suns over Spurs in 7
Pistons over 76er in 4