The Future of the Churches of Christ: More Stats

totalmembershipAccording to a recent Christianity Today article, the Southern Baptists report yet another year of numerical decline. And the rate of decline is accelerating. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Richard Beck, Part 3 (Rogers on Galatians)

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)

Beck continues to summarize Rogers’ argument —

But what Rogers argues is that what we are seeing in Gal. 3.28 is a fusion of natural kinds. More, we are seeing a fusion of the morally inferior with the morally superior. In the 1st Century slaves, women and Gentiles were all considered to be morally inferior to the highest natural kind: The male Jew. For example, each group was characterized by the sexual perversions we’ve seen Paul describe in Romans 1.

Really? It’s certainly true that male Jews looked down on women and Gentiles. But is it really true that female Jews were viewed as guilty of homosexual deviancy by virtue of their moral inferiority? I’ve not found that anywhere — not in the Talmud, not the OT, not any source on Second Temple Judaism. I don’t believe it. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Richard Beck, Part 2 (Rogers on Romans)

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)In Sexuality and the Christian Body, Part 1, Richard Beck summarizes a view of Christian marriage from Eugene Rogers’ book Sexuality and the Christian Body.

Rom 1 and 11

In particular, Beck reminds us that we are Gentiles grafted by grace into the Jewish stock (Rom 11).

First, this recovery highlights the fact that we are not “by nature” children of God. We’ve been chosen and adopted. In the language of Paul we’ve been “grafted into” the tree of Israel. Second, this action of God, grafting in the Gentiles, highlights how the grace and election of God determines the people of God. We are not God’s children because of nature. We are God’s children because of election. This places election at the center of Christian notions of marriage (and celibacy) rather than a Darwinian focus on procreation. Marriage is grace, not biology. Finally, a recovery of our identity as Gentiles helps us understand why God’s actions toward the Gentiles was such a shock and offense to the Jews (both Christian and non-Christian). Importantly, this shock was very much focused on issues of holiness and morality.

The Jews in fact were shocked that Gentiles could be saved — elect, a part of Israel — without becoming Jews through circumcision, etc. The admission of Gentiles, by faith, is referred to by Paul as “contrary to nature” — Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Richard Beck, Part 1

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)Richard Beck is a professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University. He blogs at Experimental Theology.

I find him intelligent and challenging. I subscribe to his blog via RSS so I don’t miss a single post. Of course, we don’t always agree, but he pushes me to see things I might otherwise not have seen on my own. And that’s all good.

He has posted three times to offer arguments (that he does not necessarily personally endorse) in favor of Christian gay marriage:

Sexuality and the Christian Body, Part 1
Sexuality and the Christian Body, Part 2
Same Sex Marriage in the Image of God?

You should read all three articles in full. Don’t rely on just the parts I quote.

A couple of weeks ago, I invited Richard to participate in this discussion, either through comments or by posting on the blog as I do. Fair is fair. Unfortunately, he is on vacation in Europe and will not be back until August. Moreover, these articles summarize the views of other thinkers. I can hardly ask that Richard defend these positions unless they reflect his own thinking.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Rowan Williams

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)We’re continuing to consider a series of articles making arguments in favor of Christian gay marriage. The next Christian thinker we take up is Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury: Rowan Williams’ four essentials for being ‘Christian’ and “The Body’s Grace”.

In the first article, Williams says,

Archbishops don’t decide doctrine, and in a church where the majority holds a more traditional view, an archbishop has to respect that. I still see a strong case for a less restrictive approach, on the grounds that what the Bible condemns isn’t necessarily what we today recognize as same-sex partnership. 

This is hardly new theological ground. The argument made is that the homosexual relationships Paul would have known were abusive — pederastic, prostitution, or idolatrous — and so Paul was condemning homosexuality of the type he knew. As a First Century man, he would have been unfamiliar with loving, faithful homosexual relationships comparable to healthy heterosexual marriages. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 86 Comments

Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Introduction; Brueggemann

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)A couple of years ago, I posted a series called “Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality.” The point of the series is that we should find our hermeneutics in the scriptures, rather than importing our hermeneutics from law, humanism, or whatever. And the best source of scriptural hermeneutics is to study how Jesus and Paul interpreted and applied the Old Testament.

Here are links to the posts: Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

How to Study the Bible: Theosis, Plain and Simple, Part 3

theword biblepage-781x10242 Cor 5:17

(2Co 5:17 NET)  17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come! 

For many, this is considered the central text on theosis. It’s subtle but important. And so we need to start with some Greek.

“New” is kainos, the same word for “new” as is found in —

(Rev 21:1 ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

(Rev 21:2 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

(Rev 21:5 ESV) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

“New creation” means a creation that’s been renewed or restored, the same idea we find regarding the New Heaven and New Earth in the Rev. The Eschaton — the end of all things — has already happened in each individual Christian from the moment of his or her baptism. God does a miracle in us comparable to the miracle of the Creation itself! It’s not just washing away sins — although it is that! — it is also remaking us so that we are suited for what is to come. Continue reading

Posted in How to Study the Bible, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How to Study the Bible: Theosis, Plain and Simple, Part 2

theword biblepage-781x1024Gal 2:20

(Gal 2:20 NET)  20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

As we covered earlier, God is faithful to his covenant promises (Rom 3:3) and so Jesus has also been faithful, especially on the cross. We respond by being faithful — which can be just as well be translated “having faith.” In having faith, we take a critical step toward becoming like God.

God responds by coming to live within us through his Spirit (Rom 8; Gal 3:3-4), making our one-ness and in-ness that much more so.

Therefore, Paul can say that “I have been crucified with Christ.” We want to argue about when this happens and how it relates to baptism, but the point is more about what our faith, baptism, and receipt of the Spirit do to change who we are. It’s not niggling over God’s timing but submitting to the transformation from self to Christ living in me. Continue reading

Posted in How to Study the Bible, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How to Study the Bible: Theosis, Plain and Simple, Part 1

theword biblepage-781x1024Since the time of the early church fathers, the Christian church has spoken of the final destination of the saved in terms of theosis.

Among the Eastern Orthodox, theosis is considered a central element Christianity. In the West, until recently,  theosis was generally ignored but, when not, was often considered heretical, and it’s easy to see why. Many in the East speak of “deification” or “divinization” of the Christian, as though we become somehow co-equal with God.

That’s not really the teaching, but it’s easy to understand the confusion when such terms are tossed about — and I’ll not be using those terms because that is not what I mean by theosis.

More recently, in the West theosis is becoming a respectable term, thanks in substantial part to the work of Michael J. Gorman. Some Eastern writers may have used overwrought language, but the NT certainly teaches a doctrine of the unity of the saved with God and Jesus. Actually, it’s all over the pages of scripture once you start looking for it. In fact, the Orthodox are right to point out that it’s an important NT concept. Continue reading

Posted in How to Study the Bible, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How to Study the Bible: Christianity, Theosis, and Consummation, Part 2

theword biblepage-781x1024The patience of God

An major theme of the NT is the patience (or forbearance) of God — his decision to wait on us to repent rather than being done with us.

It doesn’t seem that important of a doctrine until you view through the lens of the covenants.

(Rom 2:4 ESV)  4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

(2Pe 3:13-16a ESV)  13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,  16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. 

And all this makes sense of Paul’s speech at Mars Hill — Continue reading

Posted in How to Study the Bible, Uncategorized | 4 Comments