Review: Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

All the events in the NT occurred against the historic background of the Roman Empire. Throughout the NT, we find and feel the presence, sometimes center stage, sometimes more peripheral, of Rome, its agents and its influence. At least four Roman Emperors are mentioned in the Gospels and Acts, three by name (Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius). One issues a decree that is unwittingly crucial in fulfilling a Hebrew prophecy made seven centuries earlier (Micah 5:2; see Luke 2:1). One orders Jews out of Rome (Claudius) and one is the Caesar to whom Paul appealed his criminal case (Nero), and about whom history records that he began the systematic persecution of Christians and who, tradition has it, executed both Paul and Peter.

Roman governors rule in Judea (Quirinius, Pilate, Felix, Festus), and elsewhere. Jesus, who had instructed His listeners to “render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” was condemned by to death by a Roman governor, beaten, then crucified by Roman soldiers, who also guarded His tomb in hopes of preventing His departure from the grave. Roman soldiers are found in Judea, and in Galilee, some being converts of John the Baptist, and others respectful and appreciative acquaintances of Jesus. A Roman centurion was among the early converts in Acts; Roman soldiers rescued Paul from the Jerusalem mob, and escorted him safely to Caesarea. Another spared his life after the shipwreck on Malta. Some of Caesar’s own palace guards became converts in Rome. Paul’s (and Silas’) Roman citizen plays an important part in the narrative in Acts. Something over 20 Latin words are borrowed into the Greek NT, nearly all being words associated with government and rule. Everywhere in the NT, there is Roman government, Roman law, Roman commerce, Roman coins, Roman culture and custom. Read more about Review: Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament

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A History of the Problem of Evil - Modern Philosophy, Part 2

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Hume (1711-1776)

Leading up to Hume, theodicy grew to be an increasingly central issue not only in theological discussion but also in philosophical inquiry—for some (such as Leibniz) it was a primary stimulus. Hume’s empiricism brought no less emphasis on the topic but did, however, generate dramatically disparate conclusions. Countering in particular the teleological concept, Hume attacks theism mercilessly. While epistemology may be his primary battleground, the problem of evil attracts much of his attention. It is notable that for Hume arriving at a theodicy was not his ambition, rather he sought to obliterate traditional notions of God. Having already countered to his own satisfaction a priori arguments for God’s existence, Hume attacks what he believes to be the last bastion of grounding for belief in God—the teleological idea. Read more about A History of the Problem of Evil - Modern Philosophy, Part 2

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A History of the Problem of Evil - Modern Philosophy

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Read the series so far.

Calvin (1509-1564)

Calvin resolutely disregards human volition as a means of absolving God for evil’s existence, and thus rejects earlier mainstream theodicies. In Ockham, however, Calvin finds an agreeable response to the problem, and builds upon Ockham’s foundation—his conception of good. Calvin minces no words when describing the root of good:

The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found.1

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Understanding the Small Church - Six Trends

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From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Though we may understand the characteristics of the small church, ministry is not static, but dynamic. It is not conducted in a sterile test tube isolated from the winds of culture. Instead, we find that the culture in which we live intertwines with the programs we conduct. As a result, the trends that blow across the cultural landscape infiltrate the cracks of the church and affect the ministry and flow of the congregation. Some of these trends are positive, resulting in new opportunities to reach people for Christ. Others undermine the foundation of the church and, if not confronted with a biblical response, assault the stability of the ministry. Still others are neutral, having in themselves no moral or spiritual implications, but radically affect the manner in which the church conducts its ministry. Read more about Understanding the Small Church - Six Trends

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From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

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devotionsOne from the SharperIron archive. Originally published in the Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2011 and used here by permission. All rights reserved.

My wife and I were talking about the spiritual hazards in the current culture when she asked, “How do believers make it these days without daily quiet time?” This is a subject I rarely hear mentioned anymore. Maybe that’s because the matter is too personal.

Years ago a Bible college student confided that as he walked to breakfast on his first day of class, his suite-mate asked, “Well, George, what did the Lord give you in quiet time this morning?”

George’s mind worked fast. After the initial shock at the intrusion, he quickly made up something to tell. The next morning it happened again, and again he made up something to make himself look good. The third morning George got up earlier and prayed for the Lord to give him something he could share. From then on he had an appointment with the Lord and didn’t need any further prompting. Read more about From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

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A Review of "Darwin's Doubt"

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Stephen Meyer has been a thorn in the side of dogmatic evolutionists for a good while now. He has worked as a geophysicist and has a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Cambridge. His previous book of nearly 600 pages, Signature in the Cell, dealt with the criteria for determining information, especially in the formation and function of cells. It went into some detail about so-called “Shannon Information,” which is most often the kind pointed out by evolutionists. Shannon calculated the mathematical relationship between information and probability, showing that the amount of information conveyed by an event is inversely related to its probability (less probability, more information). The trouble with Shannon’s theory was that it could not distinguish meaningful information from gibberish. The solution to that problem forms another part of the book. Meyer demonstrates that complex specified information has both very high mathematical improbability, while also being goal-centered.

Then Signature included Meyer’s long interactions with the computer simulations of Kuppers, Dawkins, Schneider, Kauffman, and Avida, showing that they all presuppose what they claim to disprove: the need for an intelligent agent. Additionally, none of them fulfill their promises. The DNA molecule came under investigation throughout Signature, and the vaunted “scientific method” was examined, and it was shown that along with it being a fluid concept, many scientists devoted to it actually utilize intelligent design in their work. Read more about A Review of "Darwin's Doubt"

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Understanding the Small Church - Characteristics

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From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Characteristic 1: the small church is relationally driven

Perhaps the single most important distinctive of the small church is that it is relationally rather than program driven. There exists within the congregation a family atmosphere where individuals are considered part of a bigger family, where relationships become more important than performance and organization. The small church has a place for everyone and shows concern for everyone. People are counted rather than programs and ministries. Rather than the life of the church revolving around the worship service or the programs, it centers around the relational bonds of the congregation.

This has enormous impact upon how the small church functions and organizes its ministry. Within the small church, it is not the person’s position that gives power and authority to the individual but the relationships the person has with the other members. Consequently, the pastor is often not the primary leader of the congregation. That role is often given to an individual or family, who, by their personal interaction with others, influences the rest of the church. Read more about Understanding the Small Church - Characteristics

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Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

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From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission.

When David arrived at his first pastorate, he was excited about the possibilities. The church was a small church located on the fringe of a large metropolitan area. David had received high marks in his seminary experience and he was well trained for ministry. Before and during seminary he had attended a large, nationally recognized church in one of the major cities of the United States. He had spent six months on staff as an intern in order to get a feel for developing ministries and leading the programs of the church.

However, upon his arrival at the small church he sensed things were vastly different from his large church experience. And after he had been serving as the pastor for several months, David fully realized that the small church functioned with a unique set of characteristics. At first he tried to change them. Following the recommendations of the latest writings on the seeker-sensitive model of ministry, he tried to bring the church up to the 21st century (at least in his estimation). After several frustrating years, he stepped back and decided that perhaps he first needed to understand his people and what they wanted the church to be and do.

He began to do some careful listening and realized that they had the same heart for evangelism, discipleship and worship that he possessed, only they expressed it differently. Rather than try to change them, he decided that he would change his own attitudes and actions. For the first time since his arrival, he accepted them for who they were and how they expressed their faith in Christ. Read more about Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

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