The Gospel and The Gospels

This week’s reading lays the framework for a deeper study of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in coming weeks. So far, that reading includes Who Chose the Gospels?, by C.E. Hill, Reading the Gospels Wisely, by Jonathan T. Pennington, and Four Portraits, One Jesus (2nd Edition) by Mark L. Strauss. The reading for this week surveys the gospels themselves (what they are), the gospel message (what the gospels are for), and how the gospels have been (and are) used and studied. Great stuff, really – healthy does of history and hermeneutics.

Two passages in the reading stand out to me, both from Pennington. And why not, since he is the prof, after all!

Bringing our discussion of the first two chapters to a close we may ask again, what are the Gospels? After our exploration of the origin and usage of the euangelion word group, I proposed that for the New Testament authors the “gospel” is the proclamation of Jesus’ fulfillment of the promised return of the reign or kingdom of God. We have seen that this oral apostolic proclamation naturally and understandably is eventually written down, and the result is our canonical Gospel, given to us in its fourfold narrative form, or as we say today, the Gospels.

Reading the Gospels Wisely, pp.34-35

That acts as a powerful conclusion that allows him to move into the next chapter on why we need the Gospels, and not just the Pauline (Petrine, Johannine, etc. – the “letters”) corpus. The “modern”, scientific mindset, with its predisposition for analysis in abstract, for atomizing, isolating principles, can easily miss the big picture with all its messy interactions, a “forest for the trees” view of the world and our relationship with its creator. Narrative provides a unique way of teaching that looks more holistically at life, and thus can approach the complexity of faith in interaction with a real, fallen world in need of God. And with that, the other quote (and a reference to Tolkien!):

We are story people. In the very fabric of our beings we are spring-loaded for story. Story is how we make sense of our world and our own lives. Story powerfully creates life and hope, the lack of which is depression. Hope is imagination, and imagination is central for human flourishing and life. When we hope, we are using God’s image-bearing gift to envision a reality that does not yet exist. Creating story (including the writing of history) is at the height of or abilities as those made in God’s image or, to use Tolkien’s language, as “subcreators” modeling after the Creator. Story is created by and creates imagination. Abstract reflection and doctrine are necessary and good, but they do not have the the same kind of effect and transformative power that a story does. (italics mine)

Reading the Gospels Wisely, p.46

In my last class, an author quipped that we are interpreters of life and our circumstances. We don’t view reality objectively, but always interpretively, connecting what we see and giving it meaning. It’s been percolating in my mind, and with all this talk of hermeneutics and meaning, of teaching and life, reminds me also of Douglas Hofstadter’s Surfaces and Essences, where he makes a powerful case for understanding consciousness and thought as essentially a thorough-going development of analogy.

I have to just sit back in awe, and consider how looking at the Gospels connects math (yep), consciousness, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy, language, revelation and the heart, just to name a few things. It reminds me that God does not always give us what we might want (a single, comprehensive, written Gospel, among other things), but he knows what we need. We see glimpses of the grandeur, but he created it, and invites us to partake of his nature (1 Peter 1:4). The Gospels take our costly faith and turn it to the goals of increasing virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally love. They give us both the living example and effective work of Jesus. They don’t just give us information to bolster theological arguments, they call on us to follow him and be changed by him.

Blessings to my fellow followers of Jesus, as we look toward our times of local worship tomorrow: May you together experience the blessings of the body of Christ and the power of the Spirit!

Learning Through Fiction

The final “textbook” for NT1 came in the mail today. It is interesting to be assigned a fictional work, Killing a Messiah by Adam Winn. I find the idea behind it reasonable though…sometimes we get caught up in our assumptions about the backdrop, the context, of historical (and in this case religious) events. Fiction can be a way of looking at things from a slightly different angle.

Probably be a bit before I get started n this one, but looking forward to it. Already neck deep in Who Chose The Gospels, by Hill. Chapter one got right down to business countering arguments that non-canonical gospels were on an equal footing in the early centuries of the church.

“The Long Awaited Return of God”

Books are arriving for my next class, “Intro to the New Testament 1”, with Dr. Pennington. This class surveys the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Intro to NT2, which I took earlier, covered Acts through Revelation. I’ve already been through this week’s lectures, and am really looking forward to the class!

Time to get reading!

A prudent, zealous, and laborious Minister

Not to read or study at all is to tempt God: to do nothing but study, is to forget the Ministry: to study, only to glory in one’s knowledge, is a shameful vanity: to study, in search of the means to flatter sinners, a deplorable prevarication: but to store one’s mind with knowledge proper to the saints by study and by prayer, and to diffuse that knowledge in solid instructions and practical exhortations, – this is to be a prudent, zealous, and laborious Minister.

Quesnel, quoted by Charles Bridges in “The Christian Ministry”
The Christian Ministry book cover

A Timely Reminder From Titus

A timely reminder from Titus (specifically, Titus 3:1-2), for me and my brothers and sisters in Christ:

  • Be submissive to rulers and authorities
  • Be obedient
  • Be ready for every good work
  • Speak evil of no one
  • Avoid quarreling
  • Be gentle
  • Show perfect courtesy toward all people

Why?

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:3-7

Grace and peace this Election Day!

Do you know who you’re talking to?

Reading in Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church, by John Onwuchekwa, I came across the following that reminds me of Matthew 11:25-26. I preached (we need to make praught a thing) from Matthew 11:25-30 last week. The connection between adoring God the Father for both his revealing and hiding has a lot in common with praising him for his love and his just-ness that comes out clearly in this excerpt:

Delving into God’s attributes means we must pay attention to the attributes of God we sometimes feel tempted to apologize for. It shows us we should adore them. Think of God’s anger and wrath. When we praise him for those things during corporate worship, we’re reminded that God is committed to justice. Wrath isn’t a liability. It’s proof of his protection. God’s anger, directed at sin, reminds us that he is a protector of the weak. His inability to ignore sin and the relentless way he punishes evil is scary because we fear we could easily find ourselves as the objects of his wrath. But for those who take shelter under the protection he has offered through his Son, we realize God’s holiness is for our protection, not our punishment.

Do you know who you’re talking to? I’m not convinced everyone who comes to corporate worship does. Even if we do know, we forget. Thankfully, prayers of adoration remind us.

Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church

In the Mail, Fall 2020 SBTS Edition

Time to get reading!

So, here is what I will be reading (above and beyond the stuff I am already reading) for my first semester (fall, the first two of six class blocks during a year of online instruction):

F1: Biblical Hermeneutics

Required. These, in no particular order, are the required books for my first session:

Optional. I ordered before the syllabus was quite online, and found out after that these were optional – meaning possible replacements if you had already read the book by Alexander. I knew they were optional, but not exactly what optional would mean (one or the other, zero or more, etc.) Nevertheless, I got both:

F2: Intro to New Testament 2

Looking forward to digging in!

G.

Origene: Commento

So, after spending a day (yesterday) in the historical center of Roma, the Forum Romano, then the Palatine Hill, and then finally the Colosseum, it was time to head to the Vatican Museum.

It was decent. I mean to say, there was plenty to enjoy. They really want you to see it all, in the order they have chosen. There really isn’t a way to skip galleries, focus on a particular area or style, etc. You just have to plod through. If such thoughts points me out as unrefined, so be it.

But following the museum, Kim was gracious and accepted that I might enjoy a visit to a libreria on the streetside – a libreria devoted to patristics and theology, with some psychology, student and children’s books as well. So, I picked through to find something interesting and purchased Origine: Commento al Vangelo di Giovanni:

Cover art for Origine: Commento al Vangelo di Giovanni

Looks interesting, at the intersection of a couple loves – theology, biblical studies and language. And not just Italian! Greek, too, on facing pages.

<insert squealing noises here />

Two days into Italy. Many more to go. Leaving the big city and headed for the countryside tomorrow afternoon. Ciao!

After You Believe

I had the pleasure of preaching today, a 30,000 ft. view of discipleship. I quoted from After You Believe, and said I would post a link. Well, I will do just a bit more and provide the quote itself:


Love is great-hearted; love is kind,
knows no jealousy, makes no fuss
not puffed up, no shameless ways,
doesn’t force its rightful claim;
doesn’t rage, or bear a grudge,
doesn’t cheer at others’ harm,
rejoices, rather, in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things;
love hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails…

Fair enough to hold before yourselves that astonishing portrait. But don’t imagine that you can just step into it on a cheerful sunny morning and stay there effortlessly forever. The last lines tell their own story: bearing, believing, hoping, enduring, never failing – all these speak of moments, hours, days, and perhaps years when there will be things to bear, things to believe against apparent evidence, things to hope for which are not seen at present, things to endure, things which threaten to make love fail. The phrase “tough love” now sounds hackneyed, a relic of social debates from the day before yesterday. But the love of which Paul speaks is tough. In fact, it’s the toughest thing there is.

After You Believe (pp. 181-182), NT Wright

That combined with much of the book of Ephesians, a portion of Luke 14 and Hebrews 13 is a great introduction (or more!) to the subject.

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