July 2008

FROM YALE PRESS BLOG- David Noel Freedman   During a career of 60 years, Freedman wrote, co-authored or edited 470 books and articles on the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and archaeology.  Some of these proved controversial, but Freedman’s attitude toward the work of others was, “Let a thousand flowers bloom!”  He was the most uncensorious of men, and his unpretentious demeanor earned him the love of hundreds of students, colleagues and readers.  Freedman was a tireless spokesman for the beauty, interest and relevancy of the Bible and biblical studies.  His work affected a variety of cultural communities, with fans including Jews and Christians of all stripes, plus numerous secularists. 

      It is too soon to identify Freedman’s personal contribution to biblical studies.  His interests were so wide-ranging, and so unique, that they seem to have stood apart from their time.  But Freedman’s other legacy is already crystal-clear.  There never was such an entrepreneur-facilitator-collaborator-disseminator of biblical scholarship.  (To continue reading). . . 

THE RETHINKING EMERGING AMONG SOME CHRISTIAN  PEACEMAKERS                                                

Mission Frontiers, is the Bulletin published by the                                                   U.S.CENTER for WORLD MISSION . In the recent July-August issue focused on this subject, there is exciting evidence of a fresh wind blowing for those that work for world peace.

First of all for Christ followers everywhere, there is much that we do not know about the Muslim Peoples; much mis-information and misunderstanding. This issue alone gives us all much to seriously think about for some time, especially if what is presented by many different authors has any validity at all. I invite my Muslim friends will read this issue carefully and let me know if it represents honestly the reality among their Muslim cultures.

From the Bulletin:

A Few Interesting Questions:

  1. Why did Muhammad reject the concept of the Trinity held by Christians he knew?
  2. Why did he come up with the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross?
  3. What person in the Qur’an has attributes of Divinity?
  4. Why do 30 million Christians in the world today pray to “Allah” and read that same word God in their Bibles?

Some Biblical Themes that appeal to Muslims

  1. God’s goodness, love, reliability, and care for his servants.
  2. God’s guidance of history towards good ends as he works through events to oppose evil, to train his servants in righteousness and truth, and to fulfill his good purposes for his people.
  3. The portrait of Jesus himself: his kindness, devotion, wisdom, power, self-sacrifice and ongoing reign as Savior-King.

If this is not enough to motivate you to take the time to read some of these articles, then consider what is actually taking place: Muslims who believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible who remain in their heritage as Muslims. Before you say catagorically that that isn’t possible, there are those “on the ground” in these cultures that assure us that it is happening among “open-minded Muslims” that are coming to know the Christ of the gospels. As you can imagine, this is not without controversy among the traditional Christian  Communities in some of the same places. This only confirms some of the issues I have raised on my blog and if nothing else, I hope your curiosity will lead you to want to read more.


So in a mode uncharacteristic of Yoder’s way of working, I think it best to end with some of John’s own words. This beautiful and exacting passage, beautiful because of its exactness, comes close to the end of The Politics of Jesus. I believe that what John said in it is not only the heart of his work, but also the heart of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ:

The key to the obedience of God’s people is not their effectiveness but their patience. The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and the other kinds of power in every human conflict; the triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, nor because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys. The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection.

Stanley Hauerwas was a colleague of John Yoder at University of Notre Dame in the      field of Christian Ethics. He was also a very dedicated friend and this tribute to his friend in First Things  following his death in 1997, is an excellent intro to this incredible advocate for christian pacificsm. TO READ MORE 

How Did The N.T.Church Theologize?

If you have never read anything of John Howard Yoder, for instance his PREFACE TO THEOLOGY: Christology and Theological Method ( Brazos Press,2002), you might enjoy this sample at Religion-on-line.

(From The Use of The Bible in Theology)

The fact that people are tempted to abuse Scripture by calling upon it to support whatever they believe is one of the reasons it is inappropriate most of the time to think that the primary theological debate is about whether the biblical text is authoritative or not. Too many people are affirming its authority by claiming its support for interpretations which a more adequate hermeneutic will reject. The theologian’s task is more often to defend the text against a wrong claim to its authority rather than to affirm in some timeless and case-free way that it has authority.






In understanding the contribution of Saint Paul to the New Testament and to the Christian Faith, one of the questions that gets raised is this very issue. Because it has been raised by so many and so often, it can not be ignored nor dismissed. The truth is, at first glance, what Christ began does seem to take a major change in emphasis with the introduction in the biblical narrative of the ministry of the Apostle to the Gentiles, that even good Bible scholars have been confused. Just one example will hopefully make the point and this among christians who are called “bible believing” conservatives.

One very well defined “system” of interpreting the New Testament and dealing with this perceived difference is that which in essence says, “Jesus proclaimed to Israel the gospel of the Kingdom; when Israel rejected his gospel, it was withdrawn, and with the call of Saint Paul, another gospel, the gospel of grace, was then instituted for the gentiles”.

Did Paul preach another gospel, other than the one Jesus preached?

Well, what does the narrative of Scripture say? A very good example of Jesus’ gospel message which can be chosen as representative, is what John records in his gospel (chapter 6) as the discourse on the Bread of Life or the Bread from Heaven, which Jesus taught the Jews in the syagogue in Capernaum. There is much detail in this message of our Lord that is instructive for us, but in order to keep this brief (and wet your desire to study the text for yourself) I want to only focus on one clear statement.  Near the begining, Jesus exhorts his hearers to “labor not for the food which perishes, but for the food that endures to everlasting life…”. Then in answer to their question, “what shall we do, that we may work the works of God”, Jesus answers them and says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent”!

I don’t believe there is any danger of mistaking this emphasis of Jesus by saying that this is the single emphasis in what I would call Part I of the gospel in the New Testament. It was the major purpose behind the Apostles, Peter and John, following the resurrection and ascension of Christ. The purpose was to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah promised by God, the fulfillment of all that had gone before and that he had died on the cross as a necessary part of God’s redemptive purpose for Him, and to set his seal upon his perfect work on the cross, God had raised him as the first-fruits of the Resurrection and poured out His Spirit upon His followers, just as He said He would do. This is the basic message that still confronts every person in the world: it is about what God has done once-for-all in the history of humanity which becomes the decisive event until the end of time. The proclamation of what God has done is always for the purpose of eliciting the one thing God now demands of all, repentance towards God and belief in the Savior announced in the Gospel.

Did Paul preach this gospel? He most certainly did! Check out I CORINTHIANS 15 and the earlier post on his sermon in Athens on Mar’s Hill. As you can see hopefully, these are not isolated texts but are at the heart of Paul’s preaching as well as his pastoral letters. One more example is what he reminded the Roman believers about in chapter 10 of that letter: everything begins with the sinner calling out to God for salvation. It is always “near” or at hand but he does have to know some objective truth about Jesus as the Savior God has sent into the world for the purpose of redeeming lost sinners. Paul asks a very logical question: How are they going to call on Him in whom they have not believed? This calling is not some kind of “magical” formula that you mouth after someone has instructed you to “repeat after Me” as “the sinners prayer” that does the trick every time. The calling out to God is filled with the faith that is produced  by being convinced that Jesus is the only Savior, because of his being sent by the Father and by virtue of his agonizing and perfect atonement for sin worked out on a cross outside Jerusalem. Jesus, as he is proclaimed in the authorized and certified gospel is what must be heard before the sinner can call and Paul was acutely aware of that fact.

So what’s all the confusion about? Well, the truth is that there’s a lot more to the gospel of Jesus Christ than just this first part or emphasis that has the purpose of bringing sinners to Jesus as Savior and reconciliation with His Father. This is where the contribution of the Apostle Paul becomes so central. It is not as though the other Apostles did not know the additional part, there is much in Peter’s letters and those of the Apostle John to indicate otherwise. But Paul by far is the one who more thoroughly works out for believers what the consequences are of Christ saving work, the new creation God has initiated in Him and how His Life as the True Vine now flows into and through the branches joined to Him as His Spirit and His Word constitute this whole new way of living under the New Covenant. Believe me, it is radically different from anything in the old order which for the most part, the first Apostles and Jewish disciples continued to live under as the transition from one order to the other took place.

Paul was adamant in maintaining that this part of the gospel he had personally received directly from  the risen Christ himself, and not from the original Apostles (see the letter to the Galatians). I have called this part II of the gospel simply for reasons of showing that there was a definite difference of emphasis and if we are to fully appreciate the advance of the gospel in the New Testament as represented in the ministry of Paul, its helpful to keep this in mind. A whole list of problems in the churches come as a result of not handling these as they are presented in Scripture. One of the gravest of all is what I call “old testament believers in the new testament church”. Sooner or later I will post about what I mean.

Perhaps it will help to remind you that I am an heir to the “radical” wing of the Reformation. I personally look forward to the special emphasis on St.Paul by the Roman Catholics because of a working “thesis” I have been considering for some time: that the Roman Church has largely been built on the foundation of the first part of the gospel-the Jewish Church, if you please, with Saint Peter as their “main man”. One of the main characteristics of the Reformation churches was the rediscovery of the “other” part of the gospel emphasized by Saint Paul. At least the Roman Church has never suggested (as far as I know) that Paul preached another gospel. Let me know what you think.

2010UPDATE: Related post on Jesus & Paul


Are these the true heirs of the Apostle Paul?

Most of you are not familiar with the term “faith missions”, but they make up a sizeable part of the total missionary force of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world today. They follow in the steps of Saint Paul.

Just this week I received the 2007 Yearbook of one of the organizations working in the United States, called the American Missionary Fellowship. Loraine and I have very good friends who left a good position with Ashland Oil in Lexington to answer a CALL to become full time missionaries. Their story of leaving a comfortable life and stepping out on faith, trusting the One who called them to supply their every need has been repeated countless times throughout the history of the Church. These are the original “faith based” organizations and they are more like The Salvation Army (which started as one of them) than the more widely known main-line denominations. Both serve the same Master and are part of the same global purpose.

The American Missionary Fellowship is actually a recent name for a much older mission, THE AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION which has had an amazing influence in the country through primarily establishing sunday schools and publishing christian literature. Officially founded in Philadelphia in 1817, looking over their 2007 Yearbook, I would say they are still in very good form continuing to do faithfully what the Lord of the Harvest brought them into exisitence to do: support and complement the work of the organized churches. I am firmly convinced that both are valid manifestations of Christ at work in the world through his followers. My hearty congratulations to John and Julie and the Union with thanksgiving to the Father of all good gifts for another year of progress.

ANOTHER STORY of GREAT FAITH– James Anderson Burns, Founder of Oneida Institute



My friend, John Armstrong is Director of a ministry to the churches he calls Advancing the Christian Tradition in the Third millennium. Recently I listened to his Director’s Report 2008 and was amazed at what I heard. Included is one of the clearest statements of the necessity of keeping unity inseparably connected with mission. The wisdom and fruit of this concept has been demonstrated in recent history, begining with the “solidarity movements” in Poland that spread to other Communist nations, to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. 

I love the passion of this man and his advocatating of MISSIONAL-ECUMENISM, which he believes is the “new” ecumenism that it is taking hold in many places around the globe. If you want to listen to John’s comments on JOHN 17 and the Lord’s prayer, REPORT:PART 2



Paul referred to himself a number of different ways including as “prisoner of the Lord”. The label I have come to love is that of a “man in Christ”. He has been called a lot of names as well such as, “Apostle of Liberty”, but he preferred “apostle to the gentiles”.I have collected some initial essays from various sources and diversity of historical contexts to make available for anyone wanting to join me in studying this man and his ministry. 

Original Letter from Pope Benedict decreeing ‘The Year of Saint Paul’.                                    

Remember, my own interest is primarily in studying his original epistles and trying to keep them in their context. That means we will have to pay close attention to the biblical text and try to put ourselves in the shoes/sandals of those who first read these letters. Only then will we be able to know whether or not essays such as these actually capture the spirit of Paul’s thought and intent.

May the LORD himself grant us “eyes to see, and ears to hear” what Christ is saying through his servant.

THE OPEN SECRET- Lesslie Newbigin

One of the most common metaphors used in the New Testament to describe  the relation of the church to the gospel is that of stewardship. The church, and especially those called to any kind of leadership in the church, are servants entrusted with that which is not their property but is the property of their LORD. (see Paul’s own recognition of such in  I CORINTHIANS 3:1-4:14)

That  which is entrusted is something of infinite worth as compared with the low estate of the servants in whose hands it is placed. They are but mud pots; but that which is entrusted to them is the supreme treasure (see 2 Cor.4:7). The treasure is nothing less than “the mysteries of God”, “the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19), “the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and…made known to all nations…to bring about the obedience of faith”(Rom.16:25-26). It is “the mystery of His will…to unite all things in Him”  (Eph.1:9-10).

It is the open secret of God’s purpose, through Christ, to bring all things to their true end in the glory of the triune God. It is open in that it is announced in the gospel that is preached to all nations; it is secret in that it is manifest only to the eyes of faith. It is entrusted to those whom God has given the gift of faith by which the weakness and foolishness of the cross is known as the power and wisdom of God. It is entrusted to them not for themselves but for all nations. It is Christ in them, the hope of glory.