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Showing posts from July, 2017

Understanding the Gospel through Roman Slavery: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Paul sustains a fairly thoroughgoing analogy between slavery and the Law, Gospel, Christ, and the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians.  He uses the analogy in several ways, beginning—I would argue—with representing His Gospel as a ‘sale’ of Christ to the Galatians.  The analogy with slavery allows Paul to make the case that his Gospel was given with full disclosure and was fully justified because Christ is effective.
Roman Slavery
When sold in the marketplace, a placard was sometimes hung about the neck of the slave, who stood on a box (cf. Lucian, Philosophies for Sale).  Roman law required that ‘any serious sickness from which the slave was suffering’ should be stated on the placard.[1]  Aulus Gellius reports that formal Roman magistrates established a law regarding the purchase of slaves:
"See to it that the sale ticket of each slave be so written that it can be known exactly what disease or defect each one has, which one is a runaway or a vagabond, or is still under condemnati…

Ethical Considerations on Israel’s Clearing of Canaan from its Inhabitants

Some people wonder what to do with Old Testament texts dealing with Israel's clearing of Canaan from its inhabitants.  Putting people to the sword hardly sounds moral.  It sounds like an evil military force like ISIS.  It also sounds like ethnic cleansing and genocide.  On the other hand, others think that this fits a narrative that the land belongs to the Jews.  One can see how people might reach such conclusions, but the Biblical evidence does not support them when considered in entirety.
In order to understand these texts from a Biblical and Christian perspective, one must first understand what the Old Testament understanding of the clearing of Canaan entailed.  Second, the Christian must further understand key differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Following are nine points to consider on this issue.
1. Cultural Context.
Ancient Near Eastern peoples practiced people displacement and annihilation.  For example: The last Sumerian kings built a wall from the Eu…


A pleasant life, our village liv’d, Yet faith untried. Our fishnets full, And each spring's harvest bountiful, So far from all the furies of Rome.
And yet, it was not half enough. Oh, not at first, Our gentle life, Quiet, happy, and free, ‘Until He challeng’d, ‘Now follow me!’
Each step we took, a step of faith Where e'er He led. Tested through trials, By fire the dross of doubt removed, Till faith shone from God's glorious grace.
Yet ever on he nudged our faith: ‘Step from the boat,’ ‘Remove this mount,’ ‘Carry your cross and follow me,’ ‘Confess my name before all the world.’
At last was set faith's final test: Gethsemane, Golgotha's cross, God's glory fastened to a tree. He drank the dregs from His Father's cup.
Though faltered then our trembling faith, For us He pray’d, Till faith returned; That we now firmly testify, 'Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!'
We followed to faith's lofty heights: God crucified, Sin Sacrifice, Ourselves forgiven by His blood, Reborn by fai…

The Parable of the Altered Man

The master announced to his disciples that they would take the train to London, where they would learn ‘lessons from the cathedral’.  The disciples prepared for the journey, a little curious what the master might have meant by ‘lessons from the cathedral’.  Why not, ‘in the cathedral’?  Was the lesson from the cathedral itself instead of from the words of a lecturer?  And which cathedral?  Yet they were excited at the prospect of spending some time in London.
Upon their arrival early the next day, the master had his disciples position themselves nearby one of the entrances to the cathedral.  After half an hour, a black limousine arrived.  Out stepped three men, wearing white gloves and colourful aprons, badges, and other items marking them as Freemasons.  They carried a wooden box that was marked on one side with the words, ‘Cathedral Contributions.’  Half an hour later, the three men returned, accompanied by a bishop.  The bishop shook their hands and offered a grateful smile.
The mast…

The Importance of Being Right: Comments on Eugene Peterson’s The Message

Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ focuses our attention on a particular virtue.  But being earnest does not hold a candle to being right!  Being sincere counts for nothing if one is sincerely wrong.  This, in a word, captures the problem with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Personal perspectives on Scripture simply cannot replace careful Bible translation and interpretation any more than they should guide pastoral care based on the truth.
Eugene Peterson has been in the news this past week about a flip-flop on his views on homosexuality, and then a simple wave of his hand at the issue—a major embarrassment for anyone in either pastoral ministry or theological education, let alone both.[1]  Yet his error goes deeper—even to altering the Scriptures themselves.  His opinion on homosexuality is actually not important to the Church, though his ramblings will, no doubt, injure some people’s faith.  An individual scholar’s opinions, though, are simply not releva…

The Archbishop of York and the Parable of the Moth

The disciples were talking excitedly with one another about a story they had heard that morning.  The General Synod was meeting that week, and various disturbing stories were filtering from the meetings.  They had just heard that the Synod had voted to ‘prioritise the common good of all people.’  One disciple thought that this was good news, especially in light of examples in recent days where people had put making a profit above the lives of others.  
Another disciple, however, pointed out that words were like free dancers and had a way of expressing themselves in any variety of ways unless given more direction.  ‘What do you mean?’ asked the first disciple.  ‘Well, if I say that we should all champion justice, for example, then we will have to say what we mean by ‘justice’, won’t we?  Otherwise, we will all agree to something but not have any agreement about what we mean!’  
Another disciple joined in.  ‘Yes, I know exactly what you mean.  One person makes the word ‘love’ mean, ‘If…