Monday, May 26, 2008
Language is the key to any culture. A person can read about Americans all they want to, they can write papers on us and even books ... these books may be helpful and enlightening to some extent. But until a person actually learns "American" they do not understand how Americans think ... and how they think shapes what they think.
Three-fourths of the Bible is written in a language called Hebrew. A few passages are written in Aramaic which is also a semitic language. The NT is written in Greek that is also shaped by the Hebraic background of the authors. The great Reformer Martin Luther once wrote,
"The Hebrew language is the best language of all, with the richest vocabulary ... If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it. For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of hebraisms and Hebrew expressions. It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from the downstream pool."
The culture, the worldview, that is showcased in Hebrew is decidedly different than that displayed in classical Hellenistic thought (and by extension much of Enlightenment thinking). Hebrew is dynamic, energetic and "earthy." The implications of this are immense if we are to let the Bible itself tell us what is "biblical" or what is "spiritual." So Hebrew is a language of the "senses" that is life. Abstract thought is conveyed through the concrete. Here are some examples of a rather literal translation in a few places ... In Hebrew we:
"lift up the eyes" rather than "look" (Gen 22.4)
"burn in one's nostrils" rather than "be angry" (Ex 4.14)
"unstop someone's ears" rather than "reveal something" (Ruth 4.4)
become "stiff-necked" rather than "stubborn" (2 Chron 30.8)
"gird up [our] loins" rather than "get ready/brace yourself" (Jer 1.17)
These are just a few examples of what Hebrew really is like. Further God in Hebrew is never an abstraction but described with vivid "earthy" language. The Hebrews know nothing of this dichotomy of spirit and body that moderns influenced by Plato subscribe too. The word "soul" used in the Hebrew Bible (nephesh) as in "my soul thirts for you O God ..." (Ps 42.2) does not refer to some inner part of the person but is rather a way of refering to oneself ... "why are you so downcast Bobby Valentine." The psalmist is longing for God, not just an immaterial unseen part of him.
If we want to get into the culture of the Bible we have to immerse ourselves in the thought and language of the Bible. We have to let the blood of the Hebrew language flow through our veins as we hear Paul, John, the Revelator and most of all Jesus! The Greek of the NT is not Plato's Greek. We have to embrace the contour of Hebraic thought ... no not everyone will learn Hebrew. But we can so immerse ourselves in the Story that we see that what is said in the "New Testament" really does flow out of the "Old Testament." There is no theme, not one, in the New Testament whose source is not in the Hebrew Bible. If the source is in the Hebrew Bible then the source also shapes what is meant and how it is to be understood.
And for those reasons I think Genesis does in fact belong at the head of the Christian canon and not Platos Timaeus.
Third Day is a great band ... Christian or not! Some folks have had a lot of things happen to them that seems to cause them to simply stop like a sail without any wind. But perhaps there is a breeze ... just detectable in the air. Not sure yet but I believe Third Day is right. Enjoy the song.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
There is one activity I can freely confess that I really do not like but has become sort of part of life when the fridg is like old Mother Hubbard's Cupboards ... EMPTY!!! That is the pilgrimage to the grocery store. Though I once worked a grocery store named Publix ages ago in Florida I do not have a clue where anything is. When I want to get exercise I go to the story because I probably walk up and down every aisle in the store a dozen times.
Because my cooking skills have simply blossomed in the last year I feel like I need to have some stuff in my kitchen. So what does a disciple struggling to make his way through the present fallen age get at Fry's? Stuff that takes a great deal of knowledge passed on through the ages to work with. So here is a list of some items ...
Coke Zero & Dr. Pepper
Packaged Salad ... Just not from Dole
Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse
One "1968" Time Magazine (year I was born)
Three Pepperoni Tombstone Pizzas
For health reasons I resisted the urge to purchase a Butterfinger in the checkout line! The lady cashier was very friendly ...
I got out to my little Pontiac Solstice and realized that I had forgotten an essential ingredient for my sophisticated kitchen ... I needed some fat free milk for my Coca Puffs!!! I had to go back in and go through that line again ... Such is life.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
You know I am amazed by the power of music. Movies powerfully synchronize music with pictures to move an audience. Athletes can burst into tears when they hear their national anthem. Governments often try to control the music people hear. Moms can love their babies to sleep with a soothing melody. Plato in his ideal Republic argued that music was to be strictly controlled.
There are few things that are as capable of teleporting me through time and space to a distant memory or scene in my life as music. To this day when I hear "Lady in Red" I think of Lori and my high school prom. I will never forget "Pressure" by Billy Joel because it was the song on the radio as Pamella and I pulled into the parking lot of my first ministry interview in Saucer Creek, MS. "We Shall Overcome" helped define a movement. I recall when I was "politely" asked to "leave" a congregation in MS ... I listened to Pink Floyd through the night on the Natchez Trace Parkway and singing "Wish You Were Here" (video is on your right) because my family was not there. I was all alone ... It remains one of my favorites and it still speaks powerfully. I cannot hear "Hey Jude" without thinking of a little Talya traveling with me to Memphis and she loved that song and would play it over and over in the CD player. When I hear "I want to get away" by Lenny Kravitz I think of Rachael who loved that song immensely. And so it goes ...
Music speaks to our hearts in a way that words, logic and so-called reason cannot. I find that I am can be moved to tears through a song quickly because of the emotion it evokes. I find that my vision of God can become exalted and I am uplifted through song in a way that I am never in a sermon or even prayer.
God loves music too. I have been trying to hear his own singing in my life. That old Hebrew prophet, Zephaniah, claims that Yahweh sings over us. He sings songs of victory over us. He sings of his love and comfort for us. Perhaps I have had my radio to loud ... I am trying to have an "ear to hear" the melodious voice of our Abba. When I am alone and afraid, I say "daddy sing to me once again." I want to hear that one healing song.
"Yahweh your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quite you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing"
Father ... help us to hear the song as we sleep tonight.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I am not the world's biggest Kid Rock fan but I have always liked this song. It is a classic. It evokes a feeling that I have known on a deeper level for quite a while. WHY is a good biblical question. Only GOD knows why some things happen. Just close your eyes and listen to the lyrics. Feel the song and ignore the video. Seeking Shalom ... Bobby Valentine
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Marcionism & Churches of Christ: What Value, REALLY, is the "Old Testament" #6: A "New Testament" Pattern
Recently I had a discussion with a preaching brother about the “Old Testament.” This brother wanted to do more exploring both personally and congregationally of the First Testament believing that God has a Word yet for his people there. But this brother was explicitly told not to preach form the “Old Testament” anymore. This is but the latest incarnation of Marcionism within the Churches of Christ. This attitude finds expression through the following sampling of common terminology:
“We are New Testament Christians” (question where in the “NT” does anyone ever make such a claim?)
“We are not under the “Old Testament””
“The ‘Old Testament’ was abolished”
“The ‘Old Testament’ was removed”
“The ‘Old Testament’ was nailed to the cross”
There is just enough truth in these statements to be dangerous but none reflect the wholeness of the “NT” teaching on the matter. For example the actual “pattern” of the first century church is to appeal to the “authority” of the “Old Testament” to settle nearly all issues. All the NT writers: Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, James, and the Hebrews Preacher consistently use the Hebrew Scriptures as their scriptures … not the “NT!” The NT scriptures are written upon the template of the “Old” … they use the language, the images, the “atmosphere” of the “scriptures” … the writings as they are called.
Paul affirms explicitly what all the “NT” writers demonstrate by their actual practice. He declares, quite clearly, that far from being “nailed to the cross” or “abolished” or “removed” as some carelessly claim, rather he states that the “Old Testament” makes us wise unto “salvation” (that must mean the Hebrew Bible says something of continuing validity about that notion), that it is to be used for “teaching” (i.e. doctrine!) and even for “rebuking” (cf. 2 Tim 3.14-17). Paul clearly does not tell Timothy not to preach from the Old Testament!
We need to think and reflect deeply on what exactly is the relationship between the Newer Covenant and the Older Covenant. Does the Newer one imply that the older is now worthless and of no value? Does this stage of the Story imply that the previous ones were somehow less than spiritual or holy? Or is it the case that the previous Acts of the Drama actually provide the meaning for the one we are in now? Do the characters of the current Act simply appear contextless? Out of thin air so to speak?
If it were not for previous stages of the Drama explain how we could even respond to such questions as:
“Who is the Christ/Messiah?”
“What is the Son of Man?”
“Who is the Son of David?”
“What is the kingdom/reign of God?”
“Who is this Father of Jesus he prays to?”
“What in the world does it mean to be ‘Children of Abraham?’”
“What in the world is the ‘New heavens and new earth?’”
There are so many more to list. But the NT simply assumes the readers/listeners have a knowledge of these things. But each of these themes come from the Hebrew Bible, not the New Testament.
Perhaps one reason we have avoided this material is because we have reduced the Christian faith to polemics about elders and the fine points of ecclesiological structure (which to honest the NT itself says remarkably little about) rather than embracing the heartbeat of the Story itself.
In our next I will explore an analogy between new covenants and periods of engagements. Maybe it will help us embrace the biblical teaching that the Hebrew Bible is still God’s word and has inherent authority for our lives today.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Someone suggested to me today that this is what I have been living. I wonder ... has my life been one of illusion for 18 years??? God I hope not!! But this is a classic song by Joe Walsh and the Sesame Street pic is classic.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Two thousand and eight has been very educational for me. I feel like I have been learning as much or more than when I was a teen!!! Here are a few things I have learned ...
1) Parking lots are the most dangerous place in the world if you are on a Harley ...
2) Who Rachel Ray is and that EVOO means Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3) That some people are prejudiced against preachers, teachers or anyone with a "degree"
4) Divorce sucks
5) Don't ever go through the drive through at Wendy's on a Harley to order a Frosty ... It doesn't work!!!!
6) That I like Cheetos better than Cheese Puffs
7) Not everyone is telling you the truth
8) God's People, in spite of their imperfections, are incredible people
9) The most comfortable bed at the men's retreat is in my tent!!!
10) Walking by faith is not for the faint hearted ...
Some of the things I have learned that I never really knew before. May my experience benefit you.
Friday, May 09, 2008
A mere two days ago Yahoo Music blogger Rob O'Connor gave his opinion of the 25 greatest "Best Of" collections of various artists. You can find his original list here. How would you arrange your list? Who would be the best of the best of?
Now we know that O'Connor is not inspired or anything like that but it is interesting who is not on his list or who is not at the top. I looked in vain for John Denver but Elvis did make the cut. I was surprised to see Nirvana in such elite company. Johnny Cash is glaringly absent but Phil Spector made it!? Guns-N-Roses was dissed but he sort of made up for himself by including Bob Dylan. No Rush either! But he did get one thing absolutely correct ... he has the Beatles at number 1. I am going to post my top 5 best of the best of:
5) The Best of Both Worlds ... Van Halen
4) Vault ... Def Leppard's Greatest Hits 1980-1995
3) The Best of 1990-2000 ... U2
2) Forty Licks ... Rolling Stones
1) 1 ... The Beatles
Others deserving honorable mention include
Chronicles ... Rush
Greatest Hits ... Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
The Cream of Clapton ... Eric Clapton
Greatest Hits of Guns-N-Roses
The Best of Bachman-Turner-Overdrive
And though I will be ridiculed for this I have to throw it out there anyway ...
Greatest Hits volume 1-2 ... Madonna. I can hear it now, ;-)
Some of best bands do not have a "best of" yet or I am unaware of them.
What is on your list?
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
For those who rant about the arrogance of the scholars and/or preachers have often demonstrated no little self-sufficiency - pride in not knowing! I want to call it nothing short of blind prejudice. That is what it is prejudice pure and simple. But Scholars have as much a role in the kingdom of God as any other "fool" ... and that is what we all are but some of us don't know it.
The anti-teacher position is explicitly contradicted in the Scriptures themselves. Paul said that God has given some (not all) disciples to be teachers (1 Cor 12.28; Eph 4.11). The Greek term didaskalos is, in the Gospels, a translation of the term rabbi (cf. Jn 1.38; 20.16). Paul says God has equipped the church with these "teachers/rabbis." Teaching is not the only gift given to the church but it is one of them. Further the NT tells us that not every Christian should be a teacher (James 3.1). Likewise, the Hebrews' Preacher scolds disciples in Heb 5.12 along similar lines. All of this, and more, shows that in the NT, and the early church, there were people who had a unique role in the church as teachers/rabbis ... A teacher is simply one who has studied and knows more than some one else that knowledge is not an end in itself but is for the building up of the body of Christ. At least if I read James correctly that is the idea ...
"Not many of you should presume to teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3.1)
If language means anything at all then this texts that there are some Christians gifted as teachers and some are not. This does not (contrary to the anti-teacher, anti-preacher rhetoric) mean anyone is "lording" it over anyone. All gifts are given for the common good. Meditation upon the diversity of gifts and the unity of God's people anyway would help us (see 1 Cor 12.1-13).
Those who in their pride, prejudice or arrogance claim that they need nothing and no one other than themselves suffer from a spiritual malady. They suffer from a willful amnesia that robs their lives of depth and direction. To claim that I and my personal experience and my knowledge is the standard for understanding and interpretation is the height of arrogance! It is in fact a mockery of biblical authority. The real authority, in this anti-teacher, anti-scholarship position, is nothing less than "myself" and what "I" think/feel/believe. The canon is ultimately me! Nothing else is allowed to shed light. Beloved readers this is not respect for the Bible. It is nothing less than worshiping at the idol of modernism and the cult of self. There is no place in Scripture that supports this position ... none!
To further examine this position lets focus our thoughts on 2 Timothy that some seem to believe intends for us to have a book and nothing from anything/one else. But first a quotable quote:
"Scripture does not teach that the Bible alone thoroughly furnishes the man of God for every good work, but that the Bible in ADDITION to what had already been given does so ..." (James A. Harding from 1906)
God has granted certain people to the church. He has given us evangelists, he has given us shepherds, he has given us folks who are generous and a host of other graces. But God has also give the church TEACHERS. The same word is Rabbi ... just a different language. Teachers/Rabbis are folks with certain abilities and personalities that can be of service to others.
Teachers no more retard the spiritual growth of Christians than a math teacher retards the growth of a student in geometry or a dentist keeps people from brushing their teeth. Teachers and dentists serve useful functions. Teaching and "scholaring" are not the only gifts in the church, they are not the greatest gifts in the church ... nor are they the worst. This gift is given by God's grace like all for the building up of the body as a whole ... for service.
"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says 'When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men and women' ... It was he who GAVE some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for ..." (Eph 4.7-12)
Thank you God for the gifts, all the gifts, you have given to the church ... including those who have learned the language of Paul, Jesus and Moses.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I made the trek back from Pepperdine yesterday. Actually I left about 4:30ish pm and arrived back in Tucson at not quite 2 am this morning. I probably could have done better but I got stuck in L.A. and it took me nearly 2 hours to go 30 miles. I made my way through part of CA behind a Lamborghini for a time. What a sweet looking car!
Pepperdine, as usual, was great. I arrived in Malibu last Sunday evening and camped in the Malibu Motel on Pacific Coast Hwy a couple miles from the campus and not far from the beach. I reviewed, relaxed by taking walks along the beach, spent several hours reading microfilm in the Payson Library and recharged. On Tuesday I checked in and found out that Kelly Carter, from Calgary Canada, was my roommate. We had many delightful conversations. One of the great blessings, perhaps the best, of Pepperdine (and any lectureship) is meeting old friends and making new ones. I laughed with Lisa and Ashley of Leafwood/ACU Press. I visited with Larry Fitzgerald. I saw Albert Lemmons for the first time since my family lived in Grenada, MS. I met Tyler Ellis, a campus missionary. I chatted with Steven Lemley, Melvin Boyd and Charles Siburt about being students of K. C. Moser. I had pizza (and geotracking) with my good friend Daryl Miller from Milwaukee. I had dinner with fellow blogger "Clarke" on the beach. I connected with Tom Olbricht, David Fleer and Randy Harris. Robert Hooper, author of A Distinct People, Steve Wolfgang (scholar on Daniel Sommer) and Terry Gardner (sleuth of all things concerning the Stone-Campbell Movement) all graced me with their presence in my lectures. I saw my old teacher Jim Martin all to briefly. I got to meet Suzy Brown who insisted that she was not a theologian but I beg to differ. I sat at the feet of my friend Edward Robinson. I learned again from Doug Foster. It was good to see Yuki Obata from Japan. Shelly Jacobson of Western Christian College in Canada also blessed me with her presence. I took in Danny and Terri Dodd's class and was greatly blessed by them. I also took in some great classes by Greg Sterling. I sat, visited and prayed, with my good friends Curt and Sue Burton (Sue is the daughter of Carl Ketcherside ... but Sue is worth knowing apart from her famous father).
My classes would have been so much richer had John Mark been there. As it was, though, I was quite surprised by the large crowd that decided to attend our class. Given that our class was at 9 pm I was expecting a decent crowd like usual. But nothing like what came. Class AC 245 was literally packed. I do not believe there was a spare spot. People stood along the wall and even in the door. On Wednesday night there were folks sitting on the floor!! These are the folks who really wanted to know about the "Struggle for the Soul of the Churches of Christ!" Thursday night was a repeat of the first two. God was good in all of this. Jerry Rushford and Tom Olbricht honored me greatly by asking me to address the gathering hosted by Restoration Quarterly ... I shared with them some thoughts on "Jesus, David Lipscomb and the Spanish-American War."
All in all I can say that I was blessed to be at Pepperdine. I was glad that around 20 folks made the journey from Palo Verde to come over to Pepperdine to share the beauty and encouragement. Late Thursday night we all met in the cafeteria for some pie. We visited, laughed and shared thoughts on the week. It was the young people, Travis and Amy, that decided to go to bed ... it was past their bed time!!! There was only one draw back to the lecture and that was not even related to it. This was the first time that I have been to Pepperdine without my girls ... and I did miss them.
Jerry Rushford puts on the best production, hands down, in the Churches of Christ. This was Jerry's 30th year to head the lectureship. Congrats to him and the fine work he does for the Lord through it and the blessings he gives to thousands from literally around the world.
See you there next year,