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Written by Dr. Bryan Maier Thursday, 22 December 2011 00:00

Growing up I was ambivalent about Christmas morning. My parents did not shower me with gifts but they did get me a few presents and I knew that a few of these would be things I had specifically asked for. I could barely wait to rip open the packages when the anticipation was finally over. When all my gifts were opened, I was able to survey my newfound bounty. And then the strange almost melancholy feeling hit “is this it?” “Is there no more for me to open?”  It was almost anticlimactic and frustrating. Every year I imagined that opening my presents would bring me satisfaction but it never did and it never does. My pastor made this point in a recent sermon when he challenged us to remember what we received for Christmas the previous year.  I, along with most, could not.  So as the years have gone by, I hear the innocent question, “what do you want for Christmas?” as somewhat of a cruel tease. What is wrong with me? Am I just lacking the Christmas spirit?

During a recent Monday worship at Biblical. I was reminded again of that famous quote by C.S. Lewis “If I find a desire within me that cannot be satisfied in this world, the most logical explanation is that I was made for a different world”.  I find great comfort in this quote.  I am not abnormal just because I continue to want more and am never satisfied.  We have a longing within us that will never quite be satisfied on this Earth. Of course the uncomfortable implication of this is that we will feel an insatiable hunger and thirst at some level for the remainder of our lives. Sometimes the ache will be acute; other times it will fade but it will never go away.  Oddly, there is a part of me that is growing to value that hunger and thirst. It means there is more.  What a nightmare if this world and this life is all there is.  This is what Christmas really means to me – the beginning of the end of sin, abuse, cancer and death and the beginning of true life as it was meant to be lived, in Christ.  

So what of the gifts I will give and receive in a few days? Well, as long as I don’t expect them to satisfy my deepest desires, I hope can enjoy them.  At the end of the semester, my students graced me with some Moose Tracks ice cream, my favorite. Along with the creamy treat came the warning, “This will not fill the hole in your soul, but we hope you enjoy it.”  Amen.

Bryan Maier, Psy. D.  is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates.

 

Written by Dan LaValla Wednesday, 21 December 2011 00:00

In our society, there is a great amount of emphasis placed on the need for victims to forgive their assailants or abusers. Much of the intention behind this emphasis is out of concern for victims of heinous acts by giving recognition to the fact that forgiveness requires only the action of the victim regardless of whether or not the assailant or abuser is repentant. Therefore, once a victim has been removed from the threat of his or her assailant, forgiveness enables a victim to be released from the resentments that accompany a trespass and empowers him or her to participate in the healing process on multiple levels (e.g., physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.).

On the other hand, reconciliation involves a transaction between the assailant and the victim, requiring both to participate in the restoration process. That is, reconciliation requires an assailant or abuser to recognize his or her trespass, express remorse towards his or her victim(s), voluntarily offer a means of restitution, and truly repent of such action(s). In exchange, the victim offers forgiveness or a full pardon without the requirement of restitution.

Therefore, we need to be careful not to unintentionally place too much of the responsibility for reconciliation on the shoulders of victims, nor minimize the importance of restitution in this process. Jesus teaches and requires trespassers to repent (Luke 13:1-9) and victims to forgive (Luke 17:2-4).  Even in criminal situations where a perpetrator has paid his or her debt to society, there is still a place for the assailant to voluntarily offer personal restitution to his or her victim for the destructive consequences imposed on the victim.


Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.

  

   

Written by Dr. David Lamb Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:00

The package arrived on the right day in the right size box.  But it was addressed to my wife, Shannon.  I hesitated to open it, knowing trouble could ensue from a prematurely opened package.  But she wasn’t going to get back until tomorrow night. It was painful, but I waited.  Eventually, Shannon returned, opened the box and confirmed my suspicions.  My Christmas iPad had arrived and it was only December 2. 

To open or not to open, that is the question.  The arguments for opening it now were strong.  It had arrived.  If God didn’t want it to arrive early, he could have delayed its delivery.  On-time arrival was clearly a sign of divine favor.  God probably wanted me to use it now. 

I could set it up and start getting the apps so that when Christmas arrived I could use it properly.  (This argument was supplied by a colleague at Biblical.)  That sounds good.  After all, it could take several days to figure out this gadget and get it configured the right way. 

Shannon said, “I think you should wait.”  Ouch.  Waiting was painful.  And because it was painful, I knew she was right. 

In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to sacrifice things that were important to them: grain, animals and wine.  Christians today don’t typically engage in OT-type sacrifices, no burned cakes, slaughtered sheep or poured out libations.  While sacrifices seem like a waste, God commands them because they put people in a place of dependence upon him.  And that’s a good thing.

Waiting to open my iPad until Christmas feels like a sacrifice.  (I realize I’m just waiting until I am supposed to open it, so not a big sacrifice, but it feels big.) 

Sacrifices, like waiting to open a highly valued Christmas present, also defame the idol behind the present by saying it’s OK to go without.  And let’s face it, technological gadgetry is a huge idol in 21stcentury American culture.  People love their toys a little too much. 

Here at Biblical Seminary, we emphasize missional engagement with culture, but one of the problems with cultural engagement is that it can border on idolizing culture.  To check this tendency, we need to not only engage popular culture, but also to defame popular idols. 

To make sure my new toy doesn’t become an idol, I’m making a sacrifice and waiting.  (But no guarantees I won’t be waking up early on December 25.) 

What recent examples have you seen of defaming cultural idolatries? 

  

   

Written by Dr. Derek Cooper Monday, 19 December 2011 00:00

 When I was in graduate school, I decided that I would not allow my study of theology to become a purely academic exercise. So when it came time for my specialization, I consciously chose the book of James. Although I would argue that all the books in the Bible are “practical” in nature, there is something especially punchy about James’s letter. Just in the first chapter alone, he confronts the reader with a continuous cascade of sayings: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue…his religion is worthless” (1:26). There is no way to read the book of James and walk away unaffected.

Which is exactly what many of us who teach theology professionally do. We become, as James cautions us, “hearers of the word and not doers” (1:23-24). In order to protect myself from this tendency, I am committed to having a long-life engagement with the book of James. In the midst of this engagement with the book, what I continue to come back to are two separate verses in the first chapter.

  • “Let steadfastness have its full effect [on you] so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:4).
  • “This is a double-minded person, unstable in all his ways” (1:8).

These two verses, like Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in the book of Proverbs, serve as contrary ways to navigate the world. James’s goal is that, as a follower of Jesus, I will be mature and complete, able to respond to any trial or temptation that comes my way. He contrasts a single-minded and stable person with a double-minded and unstable one. Unlike the latter, a mature and perfect person is able to keep a rein on his tongue, put his faith into action, and love God rather than the world.

Although it may be my inclination to divide theory from practice—where I “work” in the former but am forced to “live” in the latter—my obligation as a single-minded person of God requires that I live my life with the understanding that the two are always related and connected. Theory and practice go together. And that is the way it is supposed to be.


Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.

    

      

   

Written by Dr. Larry Anderson Thursday, 15 December 2011 00:00

Growing up in a Methodist Church, I witnessed infant baptism. Rededicating my life to Christ in a Pentecostal Church, I participated in Christenings for children. Serving on a Southern Baptist leadership team, I officiated at Dedication services. Now Pastoring a Missional Church, I simply pray for all the babies born over the preceding calendar year.

How did I get to this point, you ask? Well, when I first became the Pastor of Great Commission Church, we were located in Abington, PA, and a couple was clearly defined in our church context as a husband and wife. As my missional training from Biblical began to stretch my theology and praxis, God led the church and I into the inner city of Philadelphia. What we discovered rather quickly is that a couple could be described in a variety of ways, but most popular in our context were unwed men and women living together with children. Therefore we were left with a conundrum when asked to perform dedication services for their children.

Questions began to surface in our minds like: Do we simply ignore the request of these unwed couples and allow them to see what we do when people who are saved, walking with the Lord, and have children after marriage receive as a privilege in front of the church? Do we bring these couples in front of the church, although they are not officially members because of their living arrangements, and pray for their children and charge them as parents to raise them in a Christ-like manner, although they are not currently doing so by example? Well, after much prayer, I and my pastoral staff, (all trained by Biblical, by the way) decided we would pray for the babies, but we would also challenge the parents and the congregation from this point forward to make every effort to love this child and train them in the things of the Lord. We also informed the parents that by their request for this prayer, they also gave us permission to speak truth into the lives of them and their children. We had nine couples participate in this prayer ceremony, and only one of the couples were married.

The joy of these couples and their appreciation of the church demonstrating this grace to them has caused some to join, and others to set a marriage date. I have to praise God for my training at Biblical to think outside of the box in order to serve my context in spirit and truth.

Larry L. Anderson Jr. is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and the Director of the Urban Programs at Biblical. He is also the pastor of Great Commission Church, previously located in the suburb of Roslyn, PA, but now situated in the West Oak Lane community of Philadelphia to provide a holistic ministry to an urban setting.  

   

Written by Dr. Sam Logan Wednesday, 14 December 2011 00:00

Yesterday, I wrote about Biblical’s new statement on “Men and Women in Theological Education” and about the relationship between that statement and a very similar statement from “The Cape Town Commitment “ produced by the Lausanne Movement.

Today, I want to write briefly about the very next section of “The Cape Town Commitment,” entitled “Theological Education and Mission.”

Here is the way in which that next section begins:

The New Testament shows the close partnership between the work of evangelism and church planting (eg the Apostle Paul) and the work of nurturing churches (eg Timothy and Apollos).  Both tasks are integrated in the Great Commission, where Jesus describes disciple-making in terms of evangelism (before “baptizing them”) and “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Theological Education is part of mission beyond evangelism.
 
This makes clear the importance of theological education to the mission of the church.

 But not just ANY theological education. 

 Here is the very next statement from “The Cape Town Commitment”:

 The mission of the church on earth is to serve the mission of God, and the mission of theological education is to strengthen and accompany the mission of the Church.  Theological education serves first to train those who lead the Church as pastor-teachers, equipping them to teach the truth of God’s word with faithfulness, relevance, and clarity; and second, to equip all God’s people for the missional task of understanding and relevantly communicating God’s truth in every cultural context.  Theological education engages in spiritual warfare, as “we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

 And one final comment from “The Cape Town Commitment”:

 Those of us who lead churches and mission agencies need to acknowledge that theological education is intrinsically missional.  Those of us who provide theological education need to ensure that it is intentionally missional, since its place within the academy is not an end in itself, but to serve the mission of the church in the world.

I was not working at Biblical when the decision was made in 2005 that Biblical would become a missional seminary.  But this decision surely seems to me to have been extraordinarily wise (and possibly even "prophetic").


Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

Written by Dr. Samuel Logan Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:00

Biblical’s faculty and Board of Trustees recently adopted an official statement on “Men and Women in Theological Education.”  That statement may be found here.

Much of this statement is taken directly (with written permission) from “The Cape Town Commitment” of the Lausanne Movement .  Both the Lausanne statement and the Biblical statement express a clearly “missional” perspective on this issue.

 How so?

 Consider the following  from the Cape Town statement –

Men and Women in Partnership

We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. . .  We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:

 Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another [Romans 14:1-13]

The “missional perspective” tends toward a broader rather than a narrower application of the teaching of Romans 14.  It tends toward what might be (and has been) called “generous orthodoxy” or “generous evangelicalism.”

Of course, it is always a challenge to distinguish between issues which are “adiaphora” and issues which are not.  It is, therefore, critically important for missional organizations and institutions to make it crystal clear where they stand theologically.  That is why both the Lausanne Movement and Biblical Seminary “lead with” their doctrinal non-negotiables  (see the first 21 pages of the Cape Town Commitment and Biblical Seminary’s statement of convictions.

On the issue of precisely how men and women exercise partnership in Gospel activity, Biblical Seminary and the Lausanne Movement agree that there can be legitimate difference of evangelical opinion.  

In future blog posts, I will examine additional areas in which both Biblical and Lausanne seek to work out their understandings of what it means to be “missional.”

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

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