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Written by Dr. David Lamb Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:00

"Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?”

 I was on the campus of Bucknell University speaking on my book (God Behaving Badly) at an event sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  This was the first question for the Q&A time.  I had been informed beforehand that the Atheist and Agnostic club would be joining us. 

 I repeated the question back to the student, “Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?”  She responded, “No, I don’t believe in God.”  So, I guess we know where the atheists are sitting.  They took up an entire row. 

 I said, “I believe God is good, but I’m not sure I understand what you are asking.  What do you mean by ‘omni-benevolent’?” 

 I think she assumed I was just going to say, “Yes” and then she would spring her trap about a totally good God “creating” evil.  I didn’t want to do that.  My answer didn’t satisfy her, but I was trying a new tactic. 

 Jesus often responded to a question with a question, particularly when people were trying to trap him (Mark 2:7-8; 11:28-30; 12:23-26).  When the religious leaders asked about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), he first asks, “Why do you put me to the test?”  Then after they obtain a denarius he asks, “Whose likeness is this?”  In response to their “Caesar’s”, he delivers one of the best lines in Scripture, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (I wish I were as clever as Jesus.) 

 The Bucknell Q&A session was extremely engaging and after 45 minutes, the atheists still wanted to keep talking.  I had a great time talking to about 10 atheists over the course of the next hour before I had to leave.  At the end, several atheists came up and thanked me and one even apologized for the intensity of his “colleagues.”  While I know some of the atheists felt like my questions were evasive, I honestly wanted to listen to them before responding.  Too often these types of discussions involve no genuine listening. 

 Even when Jesus’ disciples asked him a question, he replied with question (Mark 4:38-41; 6:37-38; 7:17-18; 8:4-5).  I think we need to ask more questions. 

How do you respond to questions? 


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 Dr. Derek Cooper Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00

     “That’s too much to ask,” an older Christian said to me recently during our conversation about Jesus’ weighty call of discipleship upon the believer’s life.

     “That’s not what Christianity is about,” he continued. “I go to church every Sunday, I’m not involved in any great sin, and I try to do what’s best for my family. Jesus came to take away my sin, but he did not come to make me poor and homeless.”

     The conversation above represents one of many I have had over the years with Christians. In short, everyone loves talking about Jesus. But discipleship is another matter. Isn’t discipleship only for the really radical, committed Christians?

     The theme of discipleship as a calling for all Christians looms large in the New Testament, especially in the teachings of Jesus. It is a theme that is peppered heavily throughout his parables and stories from beginning to end.  One of the first places we see this theme materialize is during the calling of Jesus’ twelve disciples. What I have always appreciated about this passage is its unadorned description of what discipleship entails, which, in Mark’s version of the story of Jesus, is simply two things: (1) being with Jesus and (2) being sent out by Jesus. As Mark explains: 

Jesus now went up to the mountain and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the message (Mark 3:13-14). 

     Though austere and artlessly simple, a casual reading of the Gospels demonstrates that this definition of discipleship expects more than it indicates. As is well known, Jesus commands his disciples to expect persecution, rejection from the world, and even death – spiritual death most certainly, but also potentially physical death.

     In fact, when all of the potential – yet ultimately failed – stories of discipleship in the Gospels are investigated, an obvious theme appears: When discipleship fails, it is either because (a) a person refuses to be with Jesus or because (b) a person refuses to be sent out by Jesus.

     By contrast, we can explain the meaning of discipleship in more positive terms. Discipleship occurs when (a) a person accepts Jesus’ call to be with him and when (b) a person accepts Jesus’ command to be sent out by him. It really is that simple.

     Discipleship is about being pastored by Jesus and about being sent by Jesus.

     Does this describe your relationship with Jesus?

 

Dr. 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: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Manton-Thought-Puritan-History/dp/1596382139/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319153564&sr=8-1#_. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.

 

   

Written by Mrs. Pam Smith Monday, 27 February 2012 00:00

My friend who served at another seminary is on her way home to Jesus.

I remember how years ago she sought me out to connect as two sisters doing kingdom business. We met over lunch. There was not a hint of competitive spirit between us.  We shared a heart to see God glorified by finding ways we could serve each other.

God provided an opportunity for me to serve her first. She asked me to come to her seminary to do a couple of presentations to students on how to do an effective résumé. What a joy it was to know that I might be used to help her ministry students get employment.

She served me next by connecting me to a group of women ministry leaders.  The connection led to ministry fruit that continues to grow to this day.  She and I coordinated our schedules so that we could travel a couple of times to Florida on the same plane and I still chuckle over our silliness at the airport.  

It was my turn again.  I coached her into a new work position where I knew she would thrive. I attended her ministry open house after she successful landed the job.  I then wanted her to serve beside me in a campus ministry initiative.  But the cancer beast had begun tearing down her body and she couldn’t commit.  I wanted to hire her part-time so that she didn’t have to work a full schedule. But by that time the cancer beast had grown in power and she had to say no.

As I reflect on our relationship, I count it a privilege to have observed her peace and strong faith through the awfulness of the disease. It is nothing short of inspirational.

Safe passage, friend.


Pam Smith is the Vice President for Student Advancement at Biblical Seminary and also instructs in our counseling program in the areas of career and coaching. Email Pam at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

   

Written by Sam Logan Thursday, 23 February 2012 00:00

Again (like yesterday), the answer is “yes.”

But the trick is to define such boldness in a way that is biblical, in a way that is “missional. “ Once again, I offer Jonathan Edwards’s words as at least the beginning of a definition:

From the Introduction to Section VIII of Part III of the Treatise on Religious Affections

Truly gracious affections differ from those affections that are false and delusive, in that they tend to, and are attended with the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ; or in other words, they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appears in Christ. 

From later in that same section: 

There is a pretended boldness for Christ that arises from no better principle than pride. A man may be forward to expose himself to the dislike of the world, and even to provoke their displeasure, out of pride.  For it is the nature of spiritual pride to cause men to seek distinction and singularity; and so oftentimes to set themselves at war with those whom they call carnal, that they may be more highly exalted among their party. 

 The Scripture knows no true Christians , of a sordid, selfish, cross, and contentious spirit.  Nothing can be a greater absurdity, than a morose, hard, close, high-spirited, spiteful, true Christian.

 And exactly why is that?

 Behold Jesus Christ . . . How did He show His holy boldness and valor?  Not in the exercise of any fiery passions, not in fierce and violent speeches, vehemently declaiming against the intolerable wickedness of opposers, [not in] giving them their own in plain terms; but in not opening his mouth when afflicted and oppressed, in going as a lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, not opening his mouth; praying that the father would forgive his cruel enemies, because they knew not what they did; nor shedding others’ blood, but with an all-conquering patience and love, shedding his own.    

How wonderful it would be if the evangelical Christian church in America were known for its “love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy.”

How wonderful – and pleasing to God - if I were known for this!

 
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 Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00

The answer to this question is, “Yes, of course.”

But the exact nature of that place is often misunderstood and the best expression of the correct understanding of that place is given by that missional theologian par excellence, Jonathan Edwards.

Here is what Edwards says:

Many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the nature of Christian fortitude. It is an exceeding diverse thing from a brutal fierceness, or the boldness of the beasts of prey. True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting, and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of enemies. 

But the passions that are restrained and kept under, in the exercise of this Christian strength and fortitude, are those very passions that are vigorously and violently exerted in a false boldness for Christ. And those affections that are vigorously exerted in true fortitude, are those Christian, holy affections that are directly contrary to them. 

Though Christian fortitude appears, in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears, in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies, and have greatest advantage against us.

The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The Scripture seems to intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this: Prov. 16:32, "He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." [Emphasis added]

For further explanation of what “missional boldness for Christ” looks like, I commend the remainder of Section VIII of Part III of Edwards’s Treatise on Religious Affections

How wonderful it would be if the evangelical Christian church in America were known for its “holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.”

How wonderful – and pleasing to God - if I were known for this!


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. Larry Anderson Tuesday, 21 February 2012 00:00

"It's all right to talk about 'long white robes over yonder,' in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's all right to talk about 'streets flowing with milk and honey,' but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do" (Dr. Martin Luther King; "I've Been to the Mountaintop," April 3, 1968). The next Day Dr. King was assassinated!

Jesus quotes these words in Luke 4 which were taken from Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...." That same day, an attempt was made on Jesus’ life!

In the succinct time and space of a blog I obviously can’t wrestle with all of the implications of this passage, but what I will say is Jesus was definitely letting those in the synagogue know that the Lord/Messiah had come, and they were witnessing the favorable year of the Lord. They were witnessing a year when poverty would be dealt with, hearts would be mended, and injustice would be eradicated.  It was nice to hear these words, and pleasant to reflect on what a great and noble prophet Isaiah was, but it’s a different story when Jesus challenges the hearers of these words to put them into action. When we have to deal with equality, racism, and systemic oppression, it can become a bit uncomfortable as witnessed in the congregation’s response in their desire to kill Jesus on that beautiful Sabbath morning. 

As I sit here on January 16, 2012, I ask myself how much has changed in the two thousand plus years since Jesus preached that morning? I ask myself how much has changed since that evening forty four years ago when Dr. King preached that message?  Are we still simply spiritualizing the call to proclaim the Lord’s favor? Although the battle is no longer primarily Jew against Gentile, our world is still very much separated by skin color, economic status, and political party affiliation.

Why bring up such a touchy subject in an academic blog? Because too often we hide behind our exegesis of the Word and miss the execution of the Word. Missional Theology forces us as followers of Jesus and ambassadors of the mission to pick up our crosses and continue the self-sacrificing radical movement our Lord proclaimed He was ushering in on that Sabbath morning. 

There have been more homicides in the City of Philadelphia this year than days. Teachers, coaches, priests, judges, political figures are all in the news for repulsive acts we never imagined they were capable of. The questionable practice of incarceration concerning minorities has been termed "The New Jim Crow." The economic and educational divide amongst the ‘haves and the have not’s continue to plague a nation ironically known as 'the land of equal opportunity.'

 However, this blog is not about pointing the finger at any socioeconomic group or political party or race of people void of the Spirit of God. This blog is to celebrate the missional movement my seminary has helped pioneer and afforded me the right to thrive in. To actively incarnate the life of Jesus is to continue the mission of bringing the Gospel to bear on every aspect of life that is not just and godly. This King Holiday, I am encouraged because I am equipped with a theology that is not stagnant, but fluid in nature which reflects the Spirit of God.  It challenges every ounce of my being not to sit back and simply preach or teach truth, but actively seek to demonstrate truth and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.  


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. Phil Monroe Monday, 20 February 2012 00:00

We often fail to thank those who have significant positive impact on our lives. It is not like we don’t recognize the impact. Rather, we (okay, I) allow the rush of the present life to get in the way of going back to significant others and thank them. Far too often I am like the 9 lepers who didn’t take the time to find Jesus and thank him for his impact. Well, on February 5, I lost the chance to tell one person of their impact.

For fifteen formative years Mr. Ballard—Arthur “Bud” Ballard—was as much a grandfather to me as I ever had. Both my biological grandfathers had passed away before I could know them. Mr. Ballard was not a famous person. He wasn’t a scholar. He did not obtain a high and lofty position in the community, in politics or the church. What he was to me was man of quiet conviction, a man with laughing eyes, a man who took pleasure in things like serving others, fixing broken things, tending his garden, telling stories, engaging the mind of a boy, and hunting. I’m sure he had many heartaches and frustrations but I never saw them. There was evenness to Mr. Ballard, constancy, which I observed in few others. As a youngster I have memories of being my typical impulsive self around Mr. Ballard while we worked on some project. Okay, he was working and I was “helping.” What I remember is how he smiled at my foolish ideas and then quietly suggested a better way or asked a question that helped me see the limits of my understanding.

This quiet constancy was no more on display than in our annual hunting excursions. When you live in Vermont, there is any number of places to hunt. Mr. Ballard owned a remote hunting camp (think shack with bunks attached to the wall, a stove, and a sink but no outhouse or running water—unless you count the nearby stream). It was a large forested mountain with lots of room for deer to roam. Without the benefit of many hunters, we could hunt for long stretches and see absolutely nothing but trees and snow. Mr. Ballard, along with my father, had a way of tolerating impatient boys, keeping them engaged, teaching them how to use a gun and the skill of starting a fire in the pouring rain to warm fingers and toast sandwiches. 

There’s one more thing Mr. and Mrs. Ballard did for our family. They treated us like family in a place where we had no extended family. My father was the pastor of a church in a small town. He was their pastor. While I didn’t hear all of the conversations between my parents and the Ballards, I never heard any conversation where church politics were being discussed. As a child, I had some inkling that we could be regular people with the Ballards.---

Grandfathers ought to be those who teach us about what it means to be Christlike men and women. I know that not everyone gets that training opportunity from their earthly grandfathers. I am grateful for the teaching I received from Mr. Ballard for those fifteen years. Today, I am writing to his wife of 69 years what I should have said to him a long time ago.  

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe

   

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