Luke on the New Perspective on Paul | Acts 15:1,8-11


Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”…
Acts 28.23-31

This is a great summary of the argument for the New Perspective on Paul. The key is the line about Moses. It’s not about works righteousness, but ethnic identity.

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:8-11

Another quick NPP note. Notice here that Peter is not contrasting salvation by yoke versus salvation by grace, but that grace will also save them just as the Jews believed it saved them.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul is slow; Acts has gaps| Acts 28.1-11


After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it…. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days…. They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
Acts 28.1-2,7,10-11

Three months!? That’s a long time! Good lord, what were they doing?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul must’ve been pretty irritating | Acts 27.21-26


Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.”
Acts 27.21-26

Good lord,  Paul must have been so freaking annoying. I hope to live up to my namesake, haha.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Justice, Self-Control, & Judgment| Acts 24.24-25


Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”
Acts 24.24-25

These are very odd, very specific things. It’s funny that these things shook him so much to the core. I wonder what it was specifically that was enough for Luke to include this? Was the Justice Paul talked about more along the lines of the wrath of God, or more like equality in society and Social Justice (that would surely shake a wealthy local governor!). It was probably something like the fact that God would make all things right someday. Maybe the judgment piece made him scared? But either way, personally, I find it interesting that the one that scares me the most is the call to self control.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We are descendants of the Covenant| Acts 3.24-26


And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Acts 28.23-31

In this, we see that we, the New Covenant People of God, are still members of the covenant that’s been in effect the whole time: the Abrahamic Covenant. It is not done away with; only brought under a new administration: that of Christ.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul’s ministry thesis & maybe Theophilus’ identity? | Acts 28.23-31


After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’

Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Acts 28.23-31

What a thesis statement for all of Paul’s ministry and the books of Luke: the hard-heartedness of the Jews and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Perhaps this was a main reason why Luke wrote both of these books to the mysterious Theophilus. Maybe he wrote these to offer assurance to this Gentile man (as evidenced by his Roman name) of his inclusion in the mission and salvation of God.

On a side note, it’s odd that this statement of the Gentile inclusion in the family of God (throughout Paul’s preaching) rests primarily on the a story of the preaching ministry of Paul. It’s well-known that Luke draws literary parallels between Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and Paul in Acts. But since this was being written to Theophilus, and these writings about Paul seem to rest on an implied authority and trust that it seems Theophilus would have had in Paul (if he said it, then it must be true), then could this be a hint that Theophilus met Paul at some point or even that Paul was the one that converted him?

Just a thought. A pure, conjectural thought.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Preaching the Gospel to Christians | Romans 1:14-16


I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish—hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:14-16

Notice here that Paul wants to proclaim the gospel to those who are already believers! This Gospel is the whole of the Christian life, not simply our starting place. It not the ABC’s, after which we need theology, doctrine, good works, etc. It is the A-to-Z of the Christian life. When we think our churches, our preaching, and our lives essentially need something more than that, we begin to stray from the Gospel altogether.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Good News changes, the Good News gifts | Acts 20.32


“And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.”
Acts 20.32

Nice. The message of grace itself is enough to sanctify and grow them. Just the message. Further, this message–again, the message itself–gives us the inheritance of the Holy.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

I really miss blogging…


writing-notepad-pen-header

It’s not that I haven’t had enough time….

(I’m caught up on all my TV shows, I’m a season-and-a-half into The West Wing, and I’ve finished several books in the past few weeks.)

It’s not that I haven’t had inspiration…

(I have several posts half-written and so many lined up and outlined out.)

It’s not that I’ve been uninterested in blogging…

(I’ve missed it so much!)

It’s not even that I haven’t had the energy….

(I’ve been writing many other things for church, work, school, etc.)

There are just times when things just need to relax and rest. Rest takes striving. And I feel very rested right now. I like it. I also feel the need to commune with that which is above, below, and around me.

If you’ve been here before, you know what I mean.

I want my writing to emanate from within more than from without. Does that make sense?

So, will tomorrow have a post? I don’t know.

We’ll see if I feel like it.

Women & the Church: What’s Adam & Eve got to do with it? [1]


durer-bw-adam-eveAs I’ve been looking into these “Women in Ministry” discussions for this on-going series, they usually follow a similar pattern. Conservatives will point to some Bible verses, Egalitarians will point to the context (as I did in our last post), and then, at some point, the conservatives bring up this simple, yet logical and reasoned argument:

Yes, you can point to the cultural context all you want, but at the end of the day, Paul’s reason for what he says, is not the cultural context, but the very structure of pre-sin creation in which God created Adam first. This is something that’s true no matter the context.

Now, I’ve said repeatedly that my egalitarian beliefs come not from desire to move away from the Bible, but my attempts to be all the more obedient to it. And so, I want to take this argument as seriously as possible. I’ll attempt to do that in these posts.

As I started writing up the problems I had with this “creation-order” argument, it became so long, that I had to break it up into two posts. Today, we’ll focus on the particular Timothy passage in question and other related things that Paul writes. Tomorrow we’ll focus on the Genesis story itself to see what it might say to this.
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Epiphany: a great time to talk Magi & biblical errancy


advent-nativity-icon This Church season of Epiphany primarily celebrates the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus. Now think of the popular conceptions of the “wise men”. I imagine the picture that comes to mind is much like the one above: a quaint manger, farm animals, some shepherds, and the three wise men, presenting their gifts to the newborn Jesus.

I’m not sure how many of us know how wrong this is.

The wise men did not visit Jesus in the manger, their paths did not cross at all with the shepherds (that we know of), and, contrary to some of the most well-engrained church and musical traditions, their number is not given–“three” is just a guess. This guess is probably based on the fact that three gifts were offered (though the 6th-century Armenian Infancy Gospel, the source of the Western tradition of the wise men’s names and ethnicities, lists far more than just three gifts). The Eastern Church tradition even says it was twelve.

And yet, for over a thousand years, on into the present day, these traditions concerning the Wise Men have persisted. We know the sources of these traditions, we know when they became popularized, and we know how they’ve been used in Christian preaching and church life through the centuries. Every Advent season, even the most cursory drive in the suburbs will offer nativity scenes peppered with three wise men adoring the manger-laden Christ.

This reminded me of Jannes and Jambres.
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A Shout-Out to My Mennonite Pacifists Out There…


Being in Pennsylvania, I meet lots of people that either consider themselves Mennonite, or at least were raised that way. One of the most well-known aspects of Mennonite belief is their unwavering commitment to pacifism (or, as a commenter corrected me below, the Mennonite “doctrine of nonresistance”). Hanging out with one of my new raised-Mennonite friends the other evening, she showed me (with pride) the above picture that has hung in one of their family’s houses for a long time. It struck me as beautiful as well, especially the second quote. Here it is, nicely typed out for optimal readability and convenience:

“It is our fixed principle rather than take up Arms to defend our King, our Country, or our Selves, to suffer all that is dear to be rent from us, even Life itself, and this we think not out of Contempt to Authority, but that herein we act agreeable to what we think is the Mind and Will of our Lord Jesus.”

–Thirteen Mennonite Ministers of Pennsylvania, May 15, 1755

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for all you REAL blog readers out there…


… as a gift to you for actually reading my blog and not just accidentally running across it on Facebook or Twitter, I will let those precious few of you know that today is, in fact, my 26th birthday. Over the years I have become very accustomed to not making a big deal out of this day because no one is ever really in town on the 20th of December. Nevertheless, the few people that have known of this date this particular year are making a particularly big deal of it. I honestly have no idea how to handle it, how to enjoy it, or how to relate to being made a big deal of. Pray for me. Onward to 27!

“Gone Too Soon: An Email Exchange with Michael Spencer” – Patrol


death

[photo by David Schrott]

Well, this week’s Patrol article was interesting for me to write.  This past week, Michael Spencer, also known as “The Internet Monk“, died from cancer.  I had no idea how much it would affect me.  Really, for the past few months, I hadn’t even been keeping up with his site.  In fact, a good friend was the one that told me Spencer had died — I didn’t even read it on the site.

But it really has messed with me.  When you read my article, know that just writing it and getting it out there was part of my healing process.  I really am okay, especially now that I’ve put my struggles and frustrations into words.  As Spencer says in the email exchange I wrote about:

Some people live the Christian life in the mode of happy clappy. Others live it in lamentation. Disturbance. Some of those write it out to process it. That’s me.

That’s me as well.  And this article was how I processed his death.  Here’s the link:

“Gone Too Soon: An Email Exchange with Michael Spencer” — Patrol Magazine

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