I recently wrote a blog for First Fruits of Zion about John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference:
While I was surprised to find that there would be so much support for an anti-charismatic conference outside the most conservative fringes of fundamentalist Christianity… I was not surprised to find John MacArthur at the helm.
My first encounter with John MacArthur’s work was many years ago, during my undergraduate education, when I was assigned a book called Fool’s Gold: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, a collection of articles he edited and which was published under his name.
Under the banner of “discernment,” MacArthur and his contributors criticized a hodgepodge of popular Christian books and practices. While the charismatic movement was not in MacArthur’s sights in this particular project, he did lambast Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven series of resources, John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and contemporary worship music, among other things. Perhaps the most interesting contribution to Fool’s Gold was a denunciation of N. T. Wright’s contributions to the New Perspective on Paul.
So MacArthur has been at this for a while.
You can read the whole article here:
It’s been a while since I did anything with this blog… So long, in fact, that I had to reset my login information to be able to get back in.
There were over twenty thousand spam comments waiting for approval. Not one of them made it through the “must be approved by administrator” firewall. You’d think that at some point the spammers would notice that their efforts have born no fruit.
Why haven’t I been blogging?
I guess it’s kind of a long story.
Growing up somewhere in between fundamentalist and Evangelical Chrisitanity, I was taught that depression was a sin. Depression was the end result of self-focus. Someone who claimed to hate himself was really in love with himself. Someone who wanted to die or commit suicide represented the pinnacle of selfishness.
I think this attitude must come from the elevation of “total depravity”–one of the five points of Calvinism–from a theological formula to a practical, everyday observation. I’m not convinced that this is a healthy idea or even that it represents the ideals of the early followers of Calvin.
One of the first things they teach you at the Baptist seminary I am attending is that every man must be a theologian. This wording is taken from John H. Gerstner, who really believed that every person must be a theologian. To Gerstner, everyone must be an amateur theologian who believes something about God, even if this knowledge doesn’t take the form of academic or precise terms.
I appreciate what Gerstner was trying to communicate, and I agree on this level: that everyone should think about God and have beliefs about God that are grounded in reality. However, I have come to see that the idea that everyone should be a theologian isn’t quite as great as it seems. For one, I think it dilutes the meaning of the term “theologian.”
For example, I could cut someone open and remove an organ. I wouldn’t be able to do it professionally or according to textbooks on surgery, but I could do it. So am I an amateur surgeon? Must every man be an amateur surgeon?
I like Rabbi Shammai.
I know, I know, he’s supposed to be a “bad guy.” Beit Shammai is supposed to epitomize the kind of xenophobic, ritualistic Pharisaism that Jesus condemned; this is part of Harvey Falk’s thesis in his book Jesus the Pharisee. And it’s true that Beit Shammai is recorded with some unkind words in Shabbat 17a; the day they assumed control of the Sanhedrin was “as grievous to Israel as the day on which the golden calf was made.”
I certainly don’t differ from the Rabbinic tradition regarding the misdeeds of Shammai’s disciples. Jesus certainly agreed with Hillel more often than Shammai. And at one point, Judaism left off Shammai’s halacha altogether; at one point in Jewish history it became unlawful to draw halacha from Rabbi Shammai’s school (though on a few points I believe he did win out).
There is even a traditional Sabbath song that includes the phrase, “I lift my eyes to the hills–like Hillel, not like Shammai.” Ouch.
I love liturgy.
It probably sounds strange to those who know me, as I’m the contemporary praise band leader at Union Church. In fact, aside from very classic hymns, I don’t play very many songs that are more than about 20 years old.
I realize that this opens me up to criticism, as modern worship music is largely perceived as shallow, or as a poor Christian substitute for a rock concert. I don’t agree; however, that’s another discussion.
It seems like every discussion on every Messianic blog, every “innovative” (I use the term somewhat pejoratively) theology in the Messianic movement, every controversy that I come into contact with currently boils down to the idea of Jewish and Gentile identity.
When I first entered the world of religious higher education, I had no idea where to find reliable sources for the papers I was writing. The study tools most commonly used by laymen–study Bibles, concordances, etc.–were not enough; my professors required “academic sources,” primary and secondary sources that addressed the same topic I was writing about.
I had to figure out how to find not only scholarly sources, but relevant ones, on my own, and without a seminary library (I’m doing distance education). I want to share the process I use to find these sources with my readers, as I have found that Christianity in general and the Messianic movement in particular is woefully unread. Lots of people are making dogmatic statements, but their opinions have been formed in isolation. They have never honestly interacted with the whole body of scholarly literature that pertains to their idea.
A lot of Christians have kind of a “so what” attitude toward the Hebrew Roots movement and Messianic Judaism. This movement is perceived at times as superficial, unnecessary, etc. Many times Messianic Jews are pressured into conforming to standard Christian faith confessions which postdate the original Messianic movement (in other terms, Petrine/Jacobine Christianity) by several hundred years, as many Christians don’t understand that New Testament theology can be accurately and authentically conveyed within a Hebrew/Jewish framework as least as well as within a Greek one.
Lev Gillet perhaps said it best (my quote will be substantive as most people probably don’t have access to his important book Communion in the Messiah): “A re-thinking of Christology in Jewish terms, i.e., not only in Hebrew words, but in Hebrew categories of thought, constitutes the first task of the Christian who wishes to interpret his own belief to the Jews. This does not mean the violent elimination of the Greek formulas. They have been extremely useful for conveying the Christian faith tot he Greek world and for keeping it unaltered; and, though many modern Christians claim that creeds have lost any intelligible meaning, many other Christians still find in the old words of Nicaea and Constantinople the most precise, most satisfactory and most adequate intellectual expression of their faith. Only these venerable words must not stand as an obstacle between Israel and the message of Jesus. There is no reason why a purely Jewish expression of the Christian faith could not be as adequate or become as venerable as the Greek one.”
With apologies to my readers, I offer some of what I have been working on that has been taking so much of my time from blogging. I recently submitted the following paper to my university for a 600-level class on Hebrews. I was able to pick my own topic and decided to write a response to an article I really enjoyed by Mark Nanos.
(Nanos is way out of my league, but we students are encouraged to write as if we are actually contributing something new to academic dialogue.)
The paper is entitled, “Response to Nanos: Renewed Covenantalism, Not Triumphalism or Supersessionism.” It is about Hebrews’ perceived misuse of Jeremiah 31 in replacing the traditional Jewish community with a believing community. It’s pretty concise and more academic than my blogging style, but you might find it enjoyable to check the endnotes and take a look at some of the sources.