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Written by Todd Mangum Monday, 10 September 2012 00:00

When my 15-year-old son’s travel soccer team had a week-end tournament earlier this summer, we privately clucked our tongues when one of the games was scheduled on Sunday morning. A rare exception, we skipped church so he could play in the tournament. And then it happened: the season schedule for practices and games just came out . . . with practices and games scheduled on every Sunday morning September to February.

For some Christians, this might pose a trivial dilemma — go to a Saturday night service somewhere (our home church does not have such); or, with a sigh, just set aside church for this. For us, though, we’re not open to prioritizing soccer over church; so the dilemma is very real. We’re wrestling with whether our son should quit the team or step up our protest to the coaches and administrators of the league for their scheduling of soccer so inconsiderately over the time traditionally recognized as the time of Christian worship services.

Fortunately (in a way), we are not alone. About half the team’s families have raised a protest to this “anti-Christian” soccer schedule. Of course, I know that our claim to “conviction” on it must ring a bit hollow to secular ears, given that we all let our sons play in the tournament a couple of months back. With much of the “protest” being voiced by email (catch that oxymoron?), everyone can see the qualifying caveat, “The occasional tournament is OK, but every week is unacceptable”. . .  a plaintive compromise. . . .   a “compromise” I, for one, wish I’d never made in the first place.

Trying to be missional adds a further complication.  In this case, the parental instinct to protect and want what’s best for our son — parental demand for justice for our son even (“Why should my child be unfairly discriminated against because of his/our Christian religious values?!”) — threatens to conflict with our aspiration to be winsome toward the coaches and parents who have different or no such religious concerns at all. 

For us, eliminating church attendance to play soccer is not an option.  (So don’t bother making the case that doing so could be “missional.”  It’s not that I haven’t thought of that rationalization, but, sorry, our conscience just won’t buy that one.)  Barring that, here are our options:

Option A: graciously withdraw our son from the team

Option B: band together with other Christian parents to voice a gracious but firm protest to the schedule

Option C: torque up a campaign against this injustice, pointing out that the religious discrimination of this policy essentially penalizes Christian kids for their Christian religious convictions

Option D: bring in the lawyers if need be to make the point

We’ve heard each of these options discussed by the Christian families genuinely concerned for our sons.  Organized sports is a big thing in our culture anyway; too big I know. Throw in the possibility of college scholarships being secured or squandered depending on how this matter is handled and the issue becomes downright volatile. And . . . before you propose too quickly “option A,” above, just think a little about what effect the message of “you can’t play on the team because we’re Christians” could have on a teenage boy, too.

Anyway, there’s the situation.  I’m wide open to counsel on it.  Anybody want to weigh in?


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 Charles Zimmerman Friday, 07 September 2012 00:00

This post brings us to the end of the updates of Biblical’s founding faculty.  Thus far we have heard from “Doc” Newman, Gary Cohen, Bob Vannoy, George Clark, Bill Harding, John Grauley and Tom Taylor.  This post is in remembrance of Robert J. Dunzweiler. 

Mr. Dunzweiler taught at Biblical from its founding in September 1971 through the spring of 1996.  He died later that year, December 17, 1996. 

I remember Bob as being meticulous – about the Bible and theology, his desk, his books, the top of his lectern (which he built because the others were all too small), even his ice tea glass complete with paper towel securely fastened with a rubber band to keep it from leaving water spots on the furniture.  One of my jobs as a new faculty member was taking minutes for faculty meetings.  Bob would edit my notes with lots of red ink before I typed the final draft.  Thankfully, he was patient – with new faculty members as well as students and staff. 

I asked our two resident theologians, Dave Dunbar and Todd Mangum to share a few brief comments on how Bob shaped their study, teaching and life. 

Comments by Dave Dunbar

I was deeply impacted by Bob Dunzweiler’s teaching from several perspectives:

I loved his focus on the Bible.  Even though he was committed to a Calvinistic “system” of interpretation, he made it clear that theology was an attempt to articulate the truth of Scripture, not the truth of a particular system.

I thought he was particularly skillful in generating and leading class discussions built around specific texts of the Bible.  Many of us probably remember spending days working through the text of Romans 6-8. Bob didn’t just tell us what the text meant.  He asked questions and solicited our ideas about the meaning of what we read. And if you proposed a good idea (which he had probably thought about many times), he would look surprised and interested as if the light of understanding was just beginning to dawn and the student speaking was a new Luther, or perhaps Jonathan Edwards redivivus. Now that was fun!

Comments by Todd Mangum

For those of us who studied under the founding faculty, Robert J. Dunzweiler is etched in our memory as “the consummate theologian” the way Johnny Bench is remembered as the consummate baseball catcher, Walter Cronkite the consummate news anchor, or Andy Griffith the consummate small town southern sheriff.  For most people training for ministry, “theologian” was not a personality commonly encountered anyway, but if you imagined what one was like, you’d think of someone like Bob Dunzweiler.  Methodical, thoughtful — deep in thought about the deep things of God, careful, in awe of the subject matter, reverent, humble.  What most of us didn’t know in those days is how rare such a combination of qualities actually is in the field of theology; or at least how rare they’d become.  As Biblical’s original theology professor, Bob Dunzweiler embodied the humility and awe of God that Biblical Seminary became known for in general from its early days.  

I once heard an old preacher say at a funeral that when a person dies, people don’t remember what the person knew but how they made you feel. Bob Dunzweiler’s great contribution as a theologian was not in his published insights or cutting edge breakthroughs, but in how he led his students to think and feel about God. He was reverent toward the Person who constituted the “subject matter” of theology, submissive to the Word that gave us our knowledge of Him, and keenly interested in the kinds of insights that would accurately reflect God’s character, prompt greater worship, and inspire a higher level of obedience to and love for God.  It is hard to describe a better set of goals or aspirations for a Christian theologian. 

Mr. Dunzweiler also sacrificed for his Lord — and for Biblical.  He taught at Biblical in “the days of austerity” when even getting one’s paycheck was not a sure thing. He also taught at a time when coats and ties were the expected decorum. Many of us students noticed that he did wear a coat and tie to every class — but that he owned only one sport coat to teach in.  

To this day, the memory of what Mr. Dunzweiler embodied impacts what we are as a seminary, and what I am as a theologian. Every time I used the word “unpack” to look at a biblical text for theological implications, or pause uncomfortably long before answering a student’s serious theological question, or insist on running my own copies of class notes for distribution, the legacy of Robert Dunzweiler lives on.  He was even the one who first set the expectation to incorporate audiovisuals — complete with cartoon characters, charts and graphs! — into the teaching of theology.  Yes, yes; there is no question that his legacy lives on.

Ruth Dunzweiler continues to live in their home doing pretty much what she had always been doing – caring for the property, teaching Bible Clubs, playing piano at church and nursery homes.  Please pray for Ruth who has many physical challenges.  Bob and Ruth have three daughters: Debbie, Patty and Kathy.

If you are a former student of Biblical Seminary and studied with any of the founding faculty, scroll back through the blog entries, take a stroll down memory lane and thank God for the experiences and education you received.

If you have only heard mention of the founding faculty or if you know nothing of them, scroll back through the faculty updates and learn about the DNA of Biblical as you learn about the men that got it started.


Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.  See alsohttp://biblical.edu/index.php/charles-zimmerman

   

Written by Bryan Maier Monday, 03 September 2012 00:00

NOTE:  This blog addresses a subject similar to the one addressed in the blog written by Sam Logan and posted on August 22.  Comments about either or both blogs are welcome!


Here in America, we are beginning the silly season, or as we know it, the Presidential election.   Now I am not going to get into a political debate or give my position on any particular issue.  I am also not going to discuss whether Christians should vote (I think they should) nor whether they should be involved in politics (again, I think they should). What I want to think through is how does being missional impact how a Christian behaves during a political campaign? Or put another way, how does a Christian weather the silly season from a missional perspective?

I don’t have the time or space to address all that I am thinking so I will restrict myself to one practical example. In all my years of voting, I have never put a political bumper sticker on my car nor have I put a political endorsement sign up in my yard. This does not mean I have not wanted to and I want to again this year.  If I am planning to vote for one candidate and probably support several candidates financially, why can’t I merely identify which candidate I am voting for and supporting with a sign in my yard? Well, here are a few questions that come to mind when I think about this decision missionally.

1).  What I am saying vs. what is being heard.   I know what I would mean by posting a sign in my yard. I would be saying that I am voting for that particular candidate and hope that those seeing my sign would consider that also. However, I cannot ignore that someone may make many more assumptions about me just based on that sign. If they believe certain things about ALL who support that candidate (or party) then I would be subjected to that stereotype without even a chance to defend myself. This is not fair but I have to face that it happens all the time (I am also guilty). None of this would really matter except that their reaction to my sign might bias them towards ever hearing from me a far more important message (the gospel).  Of course if we agreed politically, it might favorably dispose them to hear the more important message.

2). How about down ticket? What if my friend is running for dogcatcher in my town? Can I put his sign in my yard? What about my son’s Sunday School teacher who is running for town treasurer? Can I put her sign in my yard? In both cases very few people would even know who these people are, so it should not cause such an emotional reaction for them to know who I am supporting.  In fact it may leave a favorable impression that I know enough about local politics to advocate for people I actually know. On the other hand, they may not like my friend’s ideas for managing the canine population and are they therefore more or less willing to hear the more important message?  (disclaimer: I have no idea who is running for dog catcher in my town, this is merely hypothetical)

3). Do I stand out?  What if everyone in my neighborhood has a sign in their yard and they are all for the same candidate and I support the same candidate? Now if I add my signs to theirs, my specific sign probably makes no difference. What if I don’t add my sign and I am the only one on the block without a sign? That says something too (whether it is accurate or not) and we are back to point #1. Of course, if my sign is different than everyone else’s I am sending a strong message too. If I am willing to be counter- cultural politically, am I willing to be counter cultural for the sake of God’s mission?

Any other issues you can think of whether putting a sign in your yard is consistent with being missional ? By the time I figure this out the election will probably be over.

Related exit question: Is it consistent with being missional to drive through Philadelphia with a Dallas Cowboys's bumper sticker on my car?


Bryan Maier, Psy.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling at Biblical Seminary.

   

Written by Dave Lamb Wednesday, 29 August 2012 00:00

Writing a blog is painful.  Part of what makes it painful for me is deciding what to write about each time the deadline rolls around.  To simplify the process I decided to write a series of blogs.  Since I’m Biblical’s Old Testament professor it made sense to focus on an OT book.  But then another problem arises.  I only post for Biblical’s blog about once a month so it could be hard to give my book series any sense of continuity.  What OT book has chapters that basically stand alone so readers won’t have to go back to the post I wrote four weeks earlier to understand what I’m saying?  The book of Psalms

Not only was it the logical choice, but I also love the Psalms.

While I’ve already written posts for my own blog on the first psalm, it would be wrong to begin a series of blogs on the Psalms starting anywhere else.  The Psalms help us worship (e.g., 8, 117), they help us lament (e.g., 13, 22), they help us repent (e.g., 38, 51), but Psalm 1 doesn’t focus on any of those important themes. 

The first psalm focuses on motivation: the rewards (blessing, fruitfulness and prospering) and the consequences (withering, falling and perishing) for those who delight in the law of the LORD (they get the rewards) and those who don’t (they get the consequences).

Psalm 1 is set up as a contrast between the person focused on the Torah of YHWH (“the law of the LORD”) and everyone else.  Notice in the first verse the Torah seeking person is alone but the non-Torah seekers are plural: wicked, sinners and scoffers (these synonyms are repeated 7 times in this 6-verse psalm).  Sometimes the person focusing on God’s word can feel alone or isolated and there is a temptation to join in (to walk, stand or sit) with the crowd that seems to have better things to do.  To defeat that temptation, we need to remember that there are painful consequences from not seeking God’s law. 

The second verse is the crux of the psalm.  The blessed one will delight in the Torah of YHWH, and meditate on it 24/7. 

What things do you delight in?  A chocolate truffle?  The Eagles crushing the Cowboys?  A beautiful sunset?  Many of us would say “yes” to at least one of these things.  What about the laws of Leviticus?  Probably not.  The psalmist, however, was obsessed with God’s word, even God’s laws, even Leviticus.  They are better than truffles, an Eagles victory or the best sunset.  Jesus loved Leviticus—he knew it included one of the greatest commands, to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31). 

Every time I read this psalm I’m convicted.  I’ve given my life to study and teach God’s word, but meditating day and night on Scripture?  That doesn’t happen very often. 

That’s why I need to be reminded that blessings and rewards come from delighting in God’s word.  I suspect I’m not alone in this regard. 

Ultimately, the biggest reward from meditating on Scripture is that one becomes more deeply connected with God. 

God, help us connect to you from your word, even your laws.

What rewards do you experience as you meditate on God’s word? 


David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.

   

Written by Derek Cooper Monday, 27 August 2012 00:00

If you are anything like me, you struggle with Jesus’ command to his disciples to “put God’s kingdom first.” I struggle with this because I tend to put my own needs first: to satisfy my own desires and interests before thinking about those of others, let alone God’s. I tend to put others’ needs before mine only occasionally, and not always like I really should.

But this is not the way of the kingdom.

Christians do not go their own way. Instead, they are defined by who they serve and, as such, seek to align their desires and interests according to their master’s desires and interests. God wants people who are totally committed to him. God wants people who worship him “in spirit and truth.” God wants people who serve him day and night, seven days a week, four seasons a year. In fact, we have a term for this deep level of commitment and loyalty: it’s called discipleship, and it’s quite challenging.

Over the past few years, pastors and Christian leaders have begun to rethink the importance of discipleship in the lives of North American churches. Although many churches will continue to obsess about attendance numbers and making their budgets, it’s encouraging to see that some are becoming less focused on things like church membership and more focused on making disciples.

Given the importance of this discussion in North American churches, fellow Biblical alumnus Ed Cyzewski and I have written a book on discipleship entitled Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.

We wrote this book for two main reasons. First, although it is often repeated, it bears being repeated again: Jesus has entrusted the church with one primary task – to make disciples, not just believers or mere church members. Jesus’ last words, according to the Gospel of Matthew, were not breathed with the intention of his followers sounding good, paying bills, or looking professional; they were breathed to give life to a perpetual generation of Spirit-led, God-loving Jesus-followers (Matthew 28:19).

The second reason why Ed and I wrote this book is because we have discerned that, despite the growing number of sermons, radio broadcasts, and books that discuss the topic of discipleship, too few spell out the specific costs of discipleship from the perspective of it being a very challenging and demanding enterprise each and every day. In running the risk of oversimplification, it’s far too easy to look upon discipleship like a Disneyworld roller coaster: Sure, there are some downs along the way, but the journey is mostly for personal fulfillment and the costs of going on a ride are fairly minimal.

I agree that there are enjoyable moments on the road to following Jesus, but I think we do a serious disservice to Christians when we paint a picture of discipleship as a joy ride that takes us to our dream job, a bigger house, and a hassle-free existence. 

Without denying the jobs and homes many Christians have (and love) and the stress-free lives we enjoy in relation to history and the rest of the world, following Jesus is hard, difficult, and challenging for the very simple reason that the eclipse of God’s kingdom on earth has yet to take place. And to state the obvious in our technology- and comfort-driven society, God is not a vending machine.

All of this is to say: Discipleship is a hazardous enterprise, and it is a topic that we need to think about with more seriousness and with more biblical and practical depth. If you would like to explore this kind of discipleship for yourself and for your church, I encourage you to read Hazardousand to think anew about what it means to follow Jesus in a culture that constantly competes with relevancy, independence, comfort, busyness, and wealth.


Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD M.Div. program and co-directs the D.Min. program. His most recent book is entitled Hazardous: Committing to the Costs of Following Jesus.

   

Written by Sam Logan Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:00

NOTE: This blog addresses a subject which will also be addressed by Dr. Bryan Maier on September 3.  Comments about either or both blogs are welcome.
 

A recent editorial in the New York Times (August 5, 2012) was entitled “Truculence Before Truth” and was sharply critical of the ways in which both Democrats (in this specific instance, Harry Reid) and Republicans (in this specific instance, John Boehner) play fast and loose with the truth.  Here is one conclusion in that editorial:

Spew first and sweat the details later, or never.  Speak loosely and carry a stick-thin collection of back-up materials, or none at all.  That’s the M. O. of the moment, familiar from the past but in particularly galling and profuse flower of late.

Oh, but that’s the secular press!  Christians never do that kind of thing!

Really?!?

My perception is that Christians, evangelical and otherwise, are at least as guilty of such truculence as others.

But whether my perception of Christians is correct or not, surely we who bear name of the One who identified Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” have a special responsibility in public discourse and that responsibility remains the same no matter what others say about us.

What is that responsibility? Here are four suggestions:

1) Tell the truth.

Speak out vigorously in support of what we perceive to be right and in opposition to what we perceive to be wrong.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement is no less true for being famous: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil;  God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In a forthcoming book entitled “How [and Why] To Be Missional and Reformed,” Basyle Tchividjian and Diane Langberg (both of them Adjunct Faculty members at Biblical) describe how critically important it is for Christians not to be silent in the face of sin and, while the specific sin they are addressing is sexual abuse, the points they make have broad application. Diane even draws a powerful link between silence and genocide, a point she made at Biblical’s conference on sexual trafficking in March of 2011.

As the Westminster Larger Catechism says in its interpretation of Exodus 20:16,  the duties required in the Ninth Commandment include “. . . appearing and standing for the truth.”

2) Tell nothing but the truth.

One of the most common temptations in contemporary discourse, both secular and Christian, is the temptation to exaggerate by making blanket statements about groups of people.  A recent comment on the Internet suggested that not many “Christians” care for the homeless.  The following statement appeared in a prominent international newspaper, “Opposition to gay marriage from evangelical Christians is so rooted in homophobia as to be invalid.”  Christians, especially evangelical Christians, are understandably and justifiably upset by such comments.

So what do we do?  Well, often, we “give as well as we get!”  And that simply is not right.

Here was the comment of a “Christian” in response to confrontations which occurred at the 2012 Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan:  “I abhor violence, but the Muslims seem to thrive on it; they may be laid to waste if they do not allow free speech, in my opinion. This is not a good situation at all. Those Christians have rights too.”    And another example:  “[A well-known evangelical Christian leader]. . . once again spoke out against American Muslims, singling out the construction of mosques and the purported threat of creeping Sharia law. [He] likened critics of Muslims to opponents of Nazis and rejected claims that his opposition to rights for Muslims is bigotry, asking, ‘I wonder what were people who opposed the Nazis, were they bigots?’”  Muslims are understandably and justifiably upset by such comments.

The principle here is really quite simple – in our standing for the truth, we must always avoid making blanket statements about groups of people. Such statements nearly always contain exaggerations which distort the truth we are trying to tell. Address the specific actions of specific people, but be sure to treat groups of “others” exactly as we who are members of the group called “Christians” want to be treated. Of course, such a procedure may require more subtlety than the 140 characters of a tweet allow but “telling nothing but the truth” demands that subtlety.  And this means that it probably would be the most Biblical course of action NEVER to "re-tweet" or to "share" anything which is critical of someone or some group.  Find another way of "speaking the truth," a way which allows for telling nothing but the truth and which allows for telling the whole truth.

3) Tell the whole truth.

In some ways, this may be the hardest of all because it requires us to spend time actually making sure that the anti-Obama or anti-Romney e-mail that we received and were asked to forward to others provides the full story, whether that is the full story of Governor Romney’s taxes or the full story of President Obama’s job history (the two examples mentioned in the editorial with which I began this blog).

It is SOOO easy just to forward that e-mail or to share that Facebook posting. But if the Westminster Divines were right about what the Ninth Commandment requires of us (and I think they were), then the easy way is definitely the wrong way. Read again that extraordinary list of some of the actions which the Westminster Larger Catechism says are prohibited by the Ninth Commandment:

Speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; . . . misconstructing intentions, words, and actions aggravating smaller faults; . . . unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; . . . neglecting such things as are of good report . . .

All of this takes effort and time. But if the result of that effort is honor and praise to the Lord, then it is effort and time well-spent.

Which leads to my fourth and final point.

4) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and not in your own understanding.

But if I don’t tell all those suspected bad things about candidate x, he might get elected (or re-elected) and that would be terrible! Our country might go right down the tubes.

Well, yes, that might happen.

But that is not the worst thing that could happen. Even worse than the total disappearance of my country would be any diminution of the honor given to the Lord when His word is fully obeyed.

My understanding might suggest to me that, if I don’t get others to vote the way I think they should, the cause of the Kingdom will be lost. But – praise the Lord! – the cause of the Kingdom does not ultimately rest in my hands. My Lord asks me to act according to His word and to leave the ultimate results to Him. That “leaving” is precisely where “trust in the Lord” happens.

Yes, speak the truth, speak it in love (another blog for what that means), but avoid broad blanket statements about other groups of His creatures and be sure that, when you do speak, you tell the WHOLE story and avoid the temptation to converse in tweets or sound bites.

As Jesus Himself suggested in the prayer He gave His disciples, when His will is done in the way we speak, His Kingdom comes . . . right then and right there.


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 and he is President Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In addition to his work at Biblical, he serves as International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship ( http://www.wrfnet.org ). 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 Todd Mangum Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00

My dog, “Happy,” was a hound dog from Virginia. Had he not been welcomed into our home ten years ago, he would have likely spent most of his life in a twenty by twenty pen with a half dozen of his brothers and sisters, released occasionally to chase rabbits and squirrels for a hunt. We liked to think of ourselves as “rescuing” him from such a fate, but, as my wife observed wryly — and accurately: that actually would not have been a bad life . . . for a dog.

And Happy was definitely all dog. He was not a great house pet, truthfully. He shed all over the place. We have a fenced in back yard from which he loved to chase the crows and squirrels, but it wasn’t nearly the wide stretch of land he clearly was designed to romp and run in. He was part Harrier Hound, so when he was poised to launch and lunge off our porch at the nuisance animals he sought to guard us from, he’d go into that “pointer position” that was entertaining to watch.

He sought to protect us — which was more of a hassle really than a help. Heaven forbid someone should knock on our door or ring our doorbell. He treated the Domino’s pizza man like a suspected serial killer. We live next door to the most saintly Mennonite dentist who’s now in his 80s; and that poor, patient, kindly man couldn’t walk out of his back door to his car without Happy rushing the fence and barking like he was some terrorist threat.  “Stupid dog” was probably our most common comment to and about Happy for 10 years.

But we got used to him and actually came to love him — stupid as that is, too. He was the one living being in our house who was always overwhelmingly glad to see me when I got home and could hardly contain himself to greet me. We got used to the thump, thump, thump sound of his tail on the floor whenever we entered a room not knowing he was even there. And the way he loved his “walkies” — like having our own personal trainer; he’d bark us off the couch if we dared sit too long in front of the television.

About two weeks ago, we noticed he seemed to be having trouble walking, favoring one of his back legs. Within a day or two, it was both back legs that seemed to wobble when he tried to walk; and then a front leg, too.  We spent about a thousand dollars — yeah, that still hurts! — on tests and medicines before we realized that the infections he had were mortal; he was not going to be able to fight them off.  After three days of intense fever, we had the vet “help him” go to sleep for good.

And then we grieved for him.  Just a little hole in the heart — but a hole.  Yeah, I’m a bit embarrassed that I could be moved to grief, however mild, over a stupid dog. But there it is.

Now, in the last year, four of my colleagues at Biblical have lost their mothers. Our stupid dog dying is nothing compared to that. In fact, remembering the grief some of my colleagues are going through, I hesitated to even write about something so trivial in comparison as the death of my dog.

But, Death is an enemy — and part of what the death of my dog has raised to my own consciousness is how vicious is this enemy. It takes no account of the young or the old, the innocent or the guilty. Even a harmless, clueless, tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-out family pet is put in its crosshairs — just pure meanness.

Biblically, I’ve noticed passages like the end Joel 1 of late; when Joel prophesies regarding how miserable will be the coming famine, he notes the barns being torn down and the grain drying up, and says: “How the animals groan! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. . . . Even the beasts of the field pant for Thee, Lord, for the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:17-20).  The suffering extending even to the animals indicates how devastating will be the degree of famine and misery; but there’s also something “particularly touching” about innocent animals being helplessly affected by a judgment foist upon them that they had nothing to do with inciting.

In this vein is the end of Jonah. Jonah wants to see the Divine nukes dropped on the hostile city of Nineveh. God rebukes him for his unforgiving lack of compassion and mercilessness, with these words, which incredibly close the whole book:  “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left . . . as well as many animals?”

Catch that?  God looks down from heaven and one of the things He notices and thinks about in considering whether or not to pour down His wrath on a place is, “Well . . . the poor innocent animals don’t deserve the suffering that would result from that. . . .  I don’t think I’ll do it.” . . .

Through the death of my dog, I’m reminded of such scriptural sentiments revealed about the character of the God I serve. And that Death is a bastard of an enemy, a cruel bully that picks on the innocent, the fragile and the helpless.  And one day Jesus is going to kick its butt.  


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.

   

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Written on 07 April 2014 - by R. Todd Mangum
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