2009 Photo by Lambert Wolterbeek Muller, flickr

Written by Sam Logan Tuesday, 09 April 2013 00:00

I suspect we immediately feel one of two things about this question:

1.  Of course not!  Just read John 8: 7.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (NIV)

2. That’s a trick question!  Just read Matthew 21: 12 – 13.

(12) Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. (13) “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (NIV)

We know that both of these passages are in the Bible and we believe (at least I believe) that both passages are authoritative and inerrant.  Just read II Timothy 3: 16.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

But how do we apply these (and similar) passages?

How especially do we apply them when the question before us is one like homosexuality, perhaps THE hottest topic in both Christian and secular communities in the United States and some other parts of the world?

Biblical Seminary seeks to be missional.  We understand that to mean, among other things, that we desire “to follow Jesus into the world,” to bring His grace to ALL of those who need it.  That “ALL” includes liars, gossips, gluttons, racists, prideful individuals, and those who engage in sexual intercourse outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage. We desire to bring that grace to sinners because it is only that grace which can transform sinners from enemies of God to worshippers of God.

But how do we do that while remaining faithful to the lessons of II Timothy 3, Matthew 21, and John 8?

Recently, I have read two superb pieces which seem to me to point the way ahead.

The first is a brief article by Biblical Professor Dr. Phil Monroe.  That article is entitled “Does Acts 15 Give Us Direction for Solving Doctrinal Differences?” and it is found here.

Phil examines the way in which the Jerusalem Council handled the question of whether Gentiles should be required to be circumcised and, in the midst of his examination, he says this: “The council did not base their decision on Scripture. Rather, in their letter to the Antioch church, the council says:  ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ not to set impossible standards or hurdles for either side in the dispute.“ What does that (inerrant) passage mean for being “missional” in the face of what Jesus SAID in John 8 and what He DID in Matthew 21? You will need to read Phil’s article to see.

But back to the specific question of stoning and moneychanger bashing.

The second article I recently read deals much more directly with how we ACT toward those whom we believe are sinning.  Most precisely, it deals with how we ACT toward practicing (perhaps married) homosexuals.

And this article is also superb.

As I read it, I wept, especially at the very conclusion of the article where “stoning” is specifically mentioned.  I found myself praying, “Lord, teach me to love as wisely and as well (and as missionally) as did Dr. Prior, Dr. Reeves, and Dr. Borland.”

Who are Dr. Prior, Dr. Reeves, and Dr. Borland and what exactly did they do?

Well, you will have to read THAT article to find out.  It is entitled, “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University” and it may be found here.

Read both articles and then let me know how YOU think we should ACT toward sinners, particularly BUT NOT JUST homosexual sinners.
 

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical. He also serves as the International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship (www.wrfnet.org). He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).. 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 Phil Monroe Wednesday, 03 April 2013 00:00

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others along…”

Does this passage require that abuse victims forego reporting abuse to the authorities and to make a private confrontation of the perpetrator? Sadly, I have heard stories where not only were victims chastised for reporting abuse, but then made to go to the perpetrator and confess their sin of not following Matthew 18.

I suspect that most people will reject this thinking and assert that victims and those around should follow the law of the land and report abuse. Passages in I Peter and Romans support the notion that we submit to our governing authorities, even if they are harsh.

But what exegetical reasons might you use to reject the reading of Matthew 18 as ALWAYS requiring private confrontation before public report?

I encourage you to check out http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/abuse-boz-tchividjian where Boz Tchividjian discusses the Matthew 18 passage and provides some interpretive comments (scroll all the way down to the bottom of this very long post).

After reading it, give me your response. Does it pass muster? How else might you tackle this problem?


Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.

   

Written by Phil Monroe Monday, 01 April 2013 00:00

In recent days, there has been a flurry of writings about abuse that either happens within the Christian community or where Christian leaders provided sub-standard care (e.g., pressuring abuse victims to be quiet, to stay in the abusive relationship, or to forgive or face discipline). Some of the most heart rending stories can be found at www.rachelheldevans.comin the posts and comments made during the week of March 18, 2013. In reading these kinds of stories of violation of trust, of using children for one’s own pleasure, of sacrificing victim’s on the altar of someone else’s reputation, faithful Christians feel a mixture of righteous indignation and sadness. Somewhere in the mix may well be a growing dissatisfaction with human leadership, their systems and even a nagging sense that God is not the powerful protector we expected.

What else is there to do but lament?

I write this post after returning from a choral reading of the book of Lamentations. This short book (and the many other laments in Scripture) reminds us that there is a faithful way to complain to God and anyone who will give us the time of day. We see that God’s people have fallen into sin and idolatry. Jeremiah bemoans the sins of his people. He even confesses these as if they were his own. He complains about the raping and pillaging by pagan armies. He dares in the pinnacle (middle) chapter of the book to accuse God for all of his suffering because he knows God is sovereign over all.

“You have mauled me like a bear…you have made me eat gravel…you have pierced me with many arrows.”

Yes, what comes next (3:21) after these accusations may be one of the most beautiful devotion songs to God:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail…The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.”

Wait. What? Jeremiah, didn’t you just get done talking about remembering your suffering, your “gall” and that you are in deep despair?

Lament Protects Lived Faith and Demands Silence

As you read Jeremiah’s lament you see that this is no, “happily ever after” story. It’s bad. It’s going to get worse. What else can we do but trust God? Since we have breath, we assume he may still rescue. But note that this particular lament ends on a question, “…unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure?” (5:22).

Real life has moments of “I once was lost but now am found.” But just we are not able to see/feel the end and all we can do is cry out for God to hear. The act of crying out may not bring a satisfying answer or any comfort, but it does continue the conversation. And that is what lived faith is all about. It is continuing to trust God and say, “Where else will we turn?”

Lament also demands silence. Job’s counselors understood that the ONLY response to his lament was 7 days of silence, 7 days of miming, “You’re right Job, this is awful!” Lament demands a silence because there are no human words that take grief away.

The practice of lament reminds us that the world is broken and will remain that way until its remaking.

Maybe we might avoid some of the re-victimization of abuse survivors if we incorporated more lament practices into congregational worship. Might we be less likely to force acts of forgiveness and premature reconciliation?


Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.

 

   

Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

— Hebrews 2:10

This is astonishing really. And perhaps the Orthodox are correct to admonish us to remain silent in wonder and awe at the mystery rather than puzzle over the explanation. Still, there is so much misunderstanding and opprobrium commonly heard over this point that some explanation is demanded.  

Here is one place where focus on the atonement as satisfaction (“propitiation”) of Divine wrath is completely misplaced — and provokes misunderstanding. The level of Christ’s suffering was not “necessary” insofar as that much being required to get the angry God over His temper tantrum. If the beating and spitting and ridicule — not to mention the sufferings endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers behind closed doors so unspeakable that even the gospel writers leave it purely to the imagination; if all these sufferings — are thought to be the manifestations of the wrath of God, that’s where the objections to penal substitution as “Divine child abuse” arise.

But no, that is not what Hebrews is saying — and it’s Hebrews that goes into the most explanation of why Christ suffered (not just died). He suffered such pain and abuse and mockery and was subjected to such gratuitous sadism not because that was what was required on God’s part to satisfy Him.  No, Hebrews says that was what was “fitting” to enable Christ to be a better, more suitable advocate for us humans.   

In what way did the “author of salvation” need to be “perfected”?  It certainly was not in the realm of informational knowledge; or correction of some deficiency of performance; or improvement in degree of pleasure taken in Him by the Father. No, the only thing that the Second Person of the Trinity would have “lacked” was the actual experience of being human.

And so, Hebrews tells us, not out of requirement but out of concern for “propriety” (do you hear the overtones of concern for “appearance” and “how it would be perceived”?!!!), God’s plan included the Son not only becoming human and enduring death, but enduring every awful aspect of being a human living in and under the corruption of sin. So He could advocate credibly for us — see Hebrews 4:14-16 — Christ endured unspeakable suffering, culminating in the most humiliating kind of public death every conceived from the heart of depraved humanity. Even the word “excruciating” has at its root, crux, crucis: the cross.   

This Good Friday, as we contemplate the sufferings of Christ’s Passion Week and the bearing of shameful death on the cross, let us marvel and worship. But let us do so aright. The proper thought is not: “this is the suffering Christ bore that we deserve because God hates us sinners so much”; but rather, “this is the suffering Christ bore and that God regarded as ‘only fitting’ for a perfect priest-advocate for humanity He would provide because He loves us so much.” 


Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

   

Written by Todd Mangum Wednesday, 27 March 2013 00:00

This is Holy Week, Passion Week, the last week of Lent, the week of reflection on Christ’s suffering and death, the week before we begin the celebration – praise God! – of Christ’s resurrection, the conquering of Death, and the entry of His Kingdom. It’s only appropriate to reflect here then, theologically, on Christ’s suffering and death.

Christ’s death was necessary to provide atonement for sin, of course – the book of Romans (Romans 5, in particular) makes that clear. And the reasons are so familiar (partly because of Passion Week sermons!) that there’s no need to rehash them here. Yes, Christ’s death was necessary to provide a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice.   

But there’s nothing in the atonement that required the kind of death Jesus died. Any death, given Jesus’ total innocence, would have done it. Theoretically, he could have died in His sleep at a ripe old age and that would have done it insofar as an atoning sacrifice for sin; that still would have been enduring the “capital punishment” for sin when He was guilty of no sin.  

So why did He go through all that? And by “all that” I mean the tortures and humiliations so horrific that their very depiction and memory are feared to be to this day inflammatory of prejudicial backlash. Recall the controversies along this line with which Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ was greeted.

The closest thing to an explanation we get in the entire New Testament is Hebrews 2:10:

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

Notice that the writer of Hebrews does not say “necessary.” It was necessary for there to be a sacrifice of death (Heb. 8:3); it was necessary for the “Heavenly Temple” to be “cleansed” with a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:23) – so OK, “blood” sacrifice sounds inherently violent.  But the level of Christ’s suffering – the beating, the torture, the mockery . . . only “fitting.”

How so?

(I’m going to need another blog for that one. . . . Stay tuned Good Friday.) 

           

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

   

Written by Susan Disston Tuesday, 26 March 2013 00:00

A new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was elected this month. Within two days, The Economist featured a cautionary subtitle to a front page article: “Pope Francis inherits a mess but has great opportunities. He will need to act quickly.” (March 16, 2013, print edition)

Indeed, Pope Francis is the new leader of a problem-besieged church. But the world senses that he will find opportunities that his predecessors overlooked. Perhaps that’s because we’re finding out that this Pope has prepared himself for transformational leadership. Pope Francis brings to his office a commitment and sensitivity for justice and for the poor; one that makes him stand out in a prophetic way from his peers and imitates the ministry of his namesake, Francis of Assisi. For example, the Pope-elect, “when he was archbishop of sprawling Buenos Aires, moved out of the palace of previous prelates and went abroad to literally wash the feet of AIDS sufferers in hospice.” (Barone, www.phillie.com, March 15, 2013).

Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone (St. Francis of Assisi) and Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) entered into lifelong ministries of advocacy and giving to the poor. It is likely that that both studied the Gospels and let the words of Jesus propel them into ministry. The world observed the fruit of this study when Pope Francis asked for the prayers of the people from the balcony of the Sistine Chapel in the first hours after his election.

What can we expect when we study the Gospels?  Tom Wright—biblical scholar and pastor—suggested that the Gospels were written to transform, not just to inform the reader. He said people should seek out all four Gospels and “struggle with each book” and its unique portrait of Jesus. He explained,

  • John’s Gospel is designed to bring you to your knees in wonder, love, and praise.
  • Luke’s is meant to make you sit up and think hard about Jesus as Lord of the whole world.
  • Matthew’s is like a beautifully bound book which the Christian must study and ponder at leisure, steadily reordering one’s life in the process.
  • Mark’s is like a hastily printed revolutionary tract, stuffed into a back pocket, and frequently pulled out, read by torchlight, and whispered to one’s co-conspirators.” (from The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary.” Eerdmans, 144ff.)

In other words, we can expect to encounter Jesus in life transforming ways as each in our own way face the daily “mess” and the many opportunities that require us to “act quickly” and with wisdom. Our struggle to encounter Jesus can then lead us into prayer. Wright reminds us that the Gospels lead us to Jesus every time.

Susan Disston is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology

   

Written by Kyuboem Lee Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00

The 2013 Justice Conference took place in Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center February 22-23. Several thousand justice-seekers from all around the country (and the world) gathered to sit at the feet of the likes of John M. Perkins, a Nicholas Wolterstorff, Ken Wytsma (the founder of the conference), Eugene Cho (One Day's Wages), Gary Haugen (International Justice Mission), and many others.

It was a great time for me to connect with friends old and new, and get a pulse on what was happening in the Church with regard to Justice. I was witnessing a movement. Most of the attendees were in their twenties. Nicholas Wolterstorff observed that there was a time when getting 25 people together to talk about justice would have been a success; now, he had a crowd of a few thousand before him.

The conference has stimulated me to write down takeaways and thoughts, and share them as tweets. Here they are, collected together:

  1. #justice2013 takeaway: Pastors, something is happening with young Xians re justice. Are you being equipped theologically to guide them?
  2. #justice2013 takeaway: Justice is an optional part of gospel ministry only if justice is an optional part of God's character.
  3. #justice2013 takeaway: Pastors, if your gospel lives only in the individual moral sphere, you will lose the new generation. And the world.
  4. #justice2013 takeaway: There is a profound & urgent need for theological education (specifically pastoral training) for shalom.
  5. #justice2013 thought: How will the Church keep "justice" from becoming merely a commodity the privileged can indulge in?
  6. #justice2013 thought: What transformations will theo ed institutions need to undergo so they can raise up leaders for communities of shalom? (This one got some interesting discussion over on Facebook take a look.)
  7. #justice2013 thought: If there is 2 b theo ed 4 shalom->churches of shalom, what must happen 2 overcome injustices in higher ed? Ordination?
  8. #justice2013 thought: Activists need pastors & churches who connect their work 2 gospel, else they r n danger of getting co-opted by world.
  9. #justice2013 thought: The Church must persistently draw the connection between justice and gospel, else we will be left w a secular justice.
  10. #justice2013 thought: The Church must persistently draw the connection between justice & gospel, else we will be left w sth less than gospel
  11. #justice2013 thought: If justice is to reign Xians must upend postcolonial relationships in institutions, churches & yes justice ministries.
  12. #justice2013 thought: To commit to justice means a lifelong journey of repentance from apathy, paternalism, privilege-seeking & triumphalism
  13. #justice2013 thought: 2 commit 2 justice = pursuing just partnerships across racial, cultural, socioec boundaries; 2 b more than urself.
  14. #justice2013 thought: 4 justice 2b true, main action has 2b @ the grassroots, not in the stratosphere of privilege; bottom-up, not top-down.
  15. #justice2013 thought: Justice must be firmly grounded in the gospel. It will save us from messiah complex, burnout, reliance on techniques.
  16. #justice2013 thought: Preaching w/o justice doing isn't good news; justice doing w/o gospel sharing isn't in the end loving.
  17. #justice2013 thought: Justice doers, beware of exploiting hurting 4 celebrity & feeding god complex. You too need 2 answer 2 a just King.
  18. #justice2013 thought: Don't be in love with the idea of yourself doing justice; be in love with the just King.
  19. More #justice2013 thought: Biblical theology of justice may keep word & deed, individual & social, godliness & justice together in Jesus.

More thoughts and discussions will come, surely -- I invite your conversation. But talking should also mean walking; here's to seeing more God-glorifying justice-doing in our world.


Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as a lecturer of Urban Mission at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission (http://jofum.com).

   

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