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Showing posts from June, 2017

Being ‘Traditioned’ in the Faith: Congregational Singing, the Psalms, and Biblical Literacy

Biblical illiteracy is partly due to changes to the worship service over the years.  Take the average church forty or fifty years ago.  There would have been a morning and evening service on Sunday and a Wednesday night service.  There would have been Sunday School, youth group meetings, and Bible studies.  To one extent or another, most churches are doing less than they used to during the week, and many people only experience ‘church’ in terms of one Sunday morning service a week.  Also, worship services and sermons are, typically, shorter than they used to be, and the latter may well be less Biblically focussed.  (Mainline denominations have moved increasingly away from orthodoxy since the 1960s, and many Evangelical churches have opted for topical sermons that fail to explore the Biblical text with the congregation.)  Finally, the music in the worship service is less conducive to Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literacy.  This last point will be considered here.
Fifty ye…

Have you met this Jesus, a first century Jew from Nazareth in the Galilee?

Let’s see.  You want to change the world?  You’re tired of the tired old news on television every day—nations behaving badly, governments that are incompetent, Hollywood stars who celebrate unfaithfulness, the local murder statistics.  Maybe you just won the Miss Universe contest and stated on live television that you wish for world peace.  Or perhaps you are 22 and looking for your first job after having your head filled with fine ideas in university, struggling with the reality of working in a bank instead of being an agent of justice in the world.  If you could make a mark on the world, how would you go about doing it?  No doubt, you have been wondering how to get the right training, live in the right place, land the right job, get access to money and power, and really change the world—right?
Money and power seem essential to change the world, even if they are often the source of all evil!  Can a presidential candidate without millions of dollars really have any hope of winning th…

What is the Local Church?

There must be a myriad of definitions of the local church on offer.  Rather than be intimidated by this, I might as well offer yet another definition and, in doing so, attempt to create good discussion on the subject.  Ecclesiology (our understanding of the ‘Church’ universal and the local church) is a crucial subject for our day, not least because churches in the west are turning away from denominational structures, have made ‘church growth’ the goal and mega-churches the model of successful ministry in the city (thanks to motor cars and technology), witnessed traditional ‘mainline’ denominations in free-fall since the 1960s, and have become minority groups in a post-Christendom era.
In the light of such shifting conditions, let alone a Biblical understanding of the church, just what is and what should be the local church?  My definition of the local church is as follows.  The local church is: a communitythat is defined by the Christian virtues of faith, love, and hope,that is connecte…

"Doesn’t the Bible Have Very Little to Say about Homosexuality?"--Answers to David Lamb

Phrased in this way—‘Doesn’t the Bible have very little to say about homosexuality?'—the question is meant to downplay the importance of Biblical texts addressing homosexuality.  David Lamb, for example, says:
However, despite some Christians’ preoccupation with the topic, homosexuality is not a major biblical issue.  The Ten Commandments are focused on the big sins (idolatry, murder, adultery, and coveting), and homosexuality isn’t one of them.  Leviticus doesn’t even mention lesbian behavior or sexual orientation.  Only a few verses in the Old Testament and New Testament mention homosexual behavior….  The Old Testament is much more concerned about adultery, rape, incest, and even more concerned about goat-boiling [Exod. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21], than homosexuality.[1]
The following offers a critical response to Lamb and others who attempt to downplay Biblical teaching on homosexuality in such ways.  First, I will outline what would need to be argued successfully if o…

Requiem for the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Hope of Mission and Orthodoxy for the Future

Yesterday’s (8 June, 2017) news that the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted to become the first Anglican Church in the United Kingdom to affirm same-sex marriage may appear shocking.  This vote, however, has been expected for a year.  Moreover, the state of the Church has been such that a further descent into error has been predictable enough.  Of course, the vote will have certain ripple effects--both negative and positive--in the UK as well as throughout the Anglican Communion.  Indeed, all this sad heresy comes with a silver lining: it finally requires fence-sitters to jump to one side or the other and exposes the erroneous narrative of ecclesiastical unity on this issue as an heretical doctrine.
This moment in the life of the Anglican Communion overall is rather like hearing that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood and are holding a calamitous and destructive party within its walls.  Shocking news, to be sure, but not very significant.[1]  The …

Book Review Notice for "Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church," ed. P. Sprinkle

Book: Sprinkle, Preston, ed.  Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.
Reviewed by S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams in Reformed Faith & Practice 2.1 (May, 2017)