Pepperdine

pepperdine2I’d been planning on being at the Pepperdine lectureship for nearly a year now, and scheduled to teach two classes on baptism. Unfortunately, my arthritis has badly flared and I can’t handle either the flight or the walking.

I was counting on hearing the inestimable N.T. Wright speak and meeting him in person as a faculty member, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

I was looking forward especially to meeting many of my readers, some for the first time. Maybe another time …

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Born of Water: Baptism as a Story that Defines Us, Part 1

Over the next few days, I’m going to post some new material written for the new edition of Born of Water.

BaptismofJesus2Most Americans have a Western mindset, born of the Enlightenment and, long before that, the Greek philosophers. We think in terms of propositional truths. We’re all lawyers and scientists. What is true is that which can be stated in a simple, declaratory sentence and tested by logic and experience.

The Jews of biblical times, however, had an Eastern mindset. They thought much more in terms of story and narrative. Hence, their greatest teacher famously taught using parables. He even used his own life as the largest of canvases on which to paint his lessons.

When we Westerners confront a parable of Jesus, we insist on extracting a moral or lesson or principle – ripping the lesson out of its narrative. And that’s not wrong. It just limits what we can learn. Easterners, however, see the story as the moral, and so they seek to live in the story. Continue reading

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Born of Water Expanded

BaptismofJesus2Last night, I got an unusually good night’s sleep, and I woke up realizing that I failed to conclude the book with a practical applications chapter. And so I added new chapter 14.

And then I added chapter 15 (excerpts from Campbell’s Lunenburg letter correspondence) because it seemed like a good idea.

I mean, he and I come to very similar conclusions. I just didn’t want to build the book on Campbell as though he were an apostle. But still he sometimes says things very well.

Born of Water 042916

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Born of Water rewritten

BaptismofJesus2Back in 2002, I taught a Bible class on whether those not properly baptized are damned. I survived.

I wrote up my notes and gave copies to the students. I survived that, too.

By 2005, I’d turned the notes into a book — but never published it.

In 2007, when I started this blog, I posted the book as a free ebook download in .pdf. I’ve not looked at it seriously since. Until now. (I figure books get the greatest circulation if they’re free.)

In preparing to teach on baptism at the Pepperdine Lectures, I thought I should re-read and edit the book. I wound up heavily re-writing it based on the countless conversations I’ve had with the readers here in the posts and in the comments. I mean, over 9 years of daily blogging means I’ve learned a lot from the readers — or in response to the readers’ questions. In either case, because of the readers. It’s now a much deeper, richer, better book. Thank you.

(And I could use some help proofing it. Please let me know if you find any mistakes.)

Download Born of Water 042416. Free (cheap)!

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Thought Question: Hospitality and Islam

jummahChallenging post from Jason Micheli at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog. I’m still hiatusing (not a real word, but it should be). Here’s a key quote, but do take the time to read the whole thing.

Several years ago the church I serve opened the doors of its youth wing to welcome the members of a local mosque. Their own facility was undergoing construction and they needed a place to offer their Friday Jummah prayers. Even though many of the Muslims who came to pray in our building were the same people who drove cabs in our neighborhood, owned the service stations that inspect our cars, cared for our aging parents in the nursing homes, and cleaned our locker rooms at the gym, many from the community greeted the worshippers with fear.

As the Other.

As the enemy.

The members of my church council voted unanimously to show hospitality to our Muslim neighbors; the gesture was not so unanimous in the larger congregation. Many church members and families left over the decision.

Here’s the question: What do you think?

If you were an elder at a church that received such a request, what decision would you make?

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On Hiatus

hiatusI think I’m going to take a break for a few days. I need to work on my Pepperdine presentation, and I’ve been a little distracted lately.

Maybe it’s because I know that after the A-Day game Saturday there will be no college football for a seeming eternity until September. That’s a long time to go without football.

But Pepperdine, Malibu, and seeing friends from around the country will help.

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The Politics of Gay Marriage (Democracy)

pogoWe imagine that the Bible does not address Christians in a democracy because democracy was invented by America. Not so. Athens was a democracy (of sorts) going back to 507 BC. However, it only lasted until about 460 BC.

Rome itself was a republic, governed by a Senate, until Julius became Caesar. By the time of Jesus, Octavius (Augustus Caesar and adopted son of Julius) had established himself as absolute ruler of the Empire, and yet the Senate continued to meet and make laws — subject to the Caesar’s approval. That is, the Senate was a sham.

Before the American Revolution, various experiments in democracy may be found, including England’s Parliament and its House of Commons. Like Rome, however, the king or queen had ultimate authority, and yet in England the Parliament was given considerable power. In fact, it can be fairly argued that the United States rebelled to gain their rights as British citizens — insisting that living on the other side of the Atlantic did not deprive them of rights under the British Magna Carta, Constitution, and Bill of Rights (not to be confused with the American documents of the same names).

The American Revolution led to the US Constitution, which led to such prosperity and freedom that the US was likely the wealthiest nation in the world per capita by the end of the 18th Century. Christian Americans thought they might live to see the Millennium established, things were so good — unless you were a slave. And the “unless” part soon brought an end to such optimism. Continue reading

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The Politics of Gay Marriage (God gave them up, Part 2)

pogoRichard P. Hays explains the theology of Rom 1 in more detail —

Homosexual activity, then, is not a provocation of “the wrath of God” (Rom. 1: 18); rather, it is a consequence of God’s decision to “give up” rebellious creatures to follow their own futile thinking and desires. The unrighteous behavior catalogued in Romans 1: 26– 31 is a list of symptoms: the underlying sickness of humanity as a whole, Jews and Greeks alike, is that they have turned away from God and fallen under the power of sin (cf. Rom. 3: 9).

When this context is kept clearly in view, several important observations follow:

  • Paul is not describing the individual life histories of pagan sinners; not every pagan has first known the true God of Israel and then chosen to turn away into idolatry. When Paul writes, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,” he is giving a global account of the universal fall of humanity. This fall is manifested continually in the various ungodly behaviors listed in verses 24– 31.
  • Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings “exchange” these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”
  • Homosexual acts are not, however, specially reprehensible sins; they are no worse than any of the other manifestations of human unrighteousness listed in the passage (w. 29– 31)— no worse in principle than covetousness or gossip or disrespect for parents.
  • Homosexual activity will not incur God’s punishment: it is its own punishment, an “antireward.” Paul here simply echoes a traditional Jewish idea. The Wisdom of Solomon, an intertestamental writing that has surely informed Paul’s thinking in Romans 1, puts it like this: “Therefore those who lived unrighteously, in a life of folly, [God] tormented through their own abominations” (Wisdom of Solomon 12: 23).

Continue reading

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The Politics of Gay Marriage (God gave them up, Part 1)

pogoI always get in trouble when I make this argument (like that’s anything different), but I’ve yet to hear a counter-argument other than “I don’t like this result.” I don’t like it either. But it is what it is.

In Rom 1, Paul presents an argument showing that the pagan Greco-Roman world displays all the marks of having been abandoned by God.

Now, this is not familiar thinking because we tend to think of God being all about love and loving his enemies as well as his own children — which is true. But Paul says that those who abandon God will eventually be abandoned by God. Continue reading

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The Politics of Gay Marriage (Powers, Part 2)

pogoSo what is the Christian to do with these powers, rulers, and authorities? Serve them or defeat them?

Richard Beck offers a third alternative based on his reading of Hendrik Berkhof’s Christ and the Powers (translated by John Howard Yoder).

To begin, Berkhof makes the argument that the mere existence of the church is an act of defiance and resistance to the Powers. Resistance occurs where there are people confessing Jesus as Lord of all in the face of the Powers. Berkhof:

[T]he very presence of the church in a world ruled by the Powers is a superlatively positive and aggressive fact…All resistance and every attack against the gods of this age will be unfruitful, unless the church is resistance and attack, unless she demonstrates in her life and fellowship how men can live freed from the Powers.

Continue reading

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