Theology

Strive Not About Words

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Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. (KJV, 2 Timothy 2:14)

I’ve often heard this text used to discourage detailed debate about the meaning of Scripture passages, or even to devalue highly precise Bible study. Is this what Paul’s warning to Timothy here is about?

First, observe that whatever “striving about words” is, Paul clearly saw it as something that threatened Timothy’s ministry. Timothy is to “charge them before the Lord” not to do this. Second, the activity is doubly discouraged as lacking in value (“no profit”) and also as causing damage of some kind to hearers (“subverting”). Third, the activity apparently involved individuals in at least two roles: the “strivers” and the “hearers.”

So what activity is being forbidden here? What is meant by “strive not about words”? Read more about Strive Not About Words

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What is a "Dispensationalist" Theology?

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A Dispensationalist is a Christian who sees in Scripture certain clear divisions in the progress of revelation in which God governs history. At its best this is done on the basis of the covenants revealed in the Bible. A “dispensation” (Greek, oikonomia) is an administration or economy, wherein, within a certain period of time (known to God, but afterwards revealed to man), God pursues His plan through the lives of men. The term oikonomia is made up of two other words: oikos, meaning house, and nemo, meaning to administer, manage, or dispense. Literally, an oikonomia is a house-management or household administration. In its theological usage it is well suited to describe what we might call a divine economy. This is much the way the word is used in Ephesians 1:10; 3:2, 9; Colossians 1:25-26, and 1 Timothy 1:4. These passages also show that Paul held to the reality of certain dispensations in the broad sense given above.

Not unsurprisingly therefore, even Covenant theologians often speak of dispensations. For example, both Charles Hodge and Louis Berkhof employ the term much like Dispensationalists do. Willem VanGemeren speaks of “epochs.” The number of these administrations is open to debate. Though commonly held, the seven dispensations articulated by C. I. Scofield are not the requisite number in order to be admitted into the ranks of Dispensationalist thinkers. The present writer, for instance, questions the theological value of some of these “economies” except perhaps as markers helping one trace the flow of God’s acts in biblical history.

Plain-Sense Interpretation

A characteristic of Dispensational theology is the consistent use of what is called the “grammatico-historical” method of interpretation. Here ‘consistent’ applies in principle, although not always in practice. Whether dealing with biblical narrative, or poetry, or prophetic literature, the Dispensationalist applies the same hermeneutics to each genre. This certainly does not mean that the genre is ignored; clearly, for example, so-called apocalyptic literature is not the same as historical writing or wisdom literature. But Dispensational scholars do not believe that one needs to change hermeneutical horses midstream when one passes, say, from Matthew 23, (Gospel narrative), to Matthew 24-25, (which many scholars would describe as apocalyptic or at least prophetic). They believe that exploring the grammatical sense of a passage within its context, and throwing whatever historical light they can upon a text, will yield the intended meaning. To drift away from this is to get caught up in the currents of the academic fads of the day; whatever is or is not in vogue should not dictate biblical interpretation. Read more about What is a "Dispensationalist" Theology?

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Books of Note - Preaching? and Theology of the Reformers

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Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer

Image of Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching
by Alec Motyer
Christian Focus 2013
Paperback 192

“The Word of God is the constitutive reality at the heart of the Church” (p. 18).

There are as many ideas about how to grow a church as there are books on the subject. There are books that focus on meeting felt needs, worship strategies, small groups and a myriad of other ministries that can be maximized to grow your church. However, what many of these books fail to recognize or address is that the bedrock of growing a church is the ministry of the Word through preaching.

With a biblical focus on the Word of God at the heart of a church Alec Motyer has written Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching. As the Old Testament editor for The Bible Speaks Today series, Motyer has turned his pen to writing on preaching and has written a book that addresses both the biblical-theological aspects as well as some practical issues.

The first five chapters address the nature of preaching. These chapters are exegetically grounded in various passages of Scripture. Motyer defines good preaching as that which has a “sense of being plain and unmistakable” (p. 11). Preaching that is good is to be expositional, that is, “the restatement of a Scripture” (p. 30). Motyer wants to impress upon his readers that preaching is the ground upon which the whole church grows and functions. All ministry grows out of the Word and the preaching of the Word. His exegetical work deals with many NT passages that provide us with the nature and task of faithful biblical preachers. His observation, especially of the book of Acts, is that it is the ministry of the preaching of the Word that drove the growth of the early church. Surely there were other attending contributions, like the work of the Spirit through the Word, but it was always the Word that led the way and was responded to. Read more about Books of Note - Preaching? and Theology of the Reformers

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The Good Addiction

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One of the things that always amuses me about being a pastor’s wife is that people think they have to be careful around me. As if I have a delicate condition that can’t handle the realities of the world. In order to protect me, they shuffle, they fumble, they apologize and then use euphemisms to describe situations that I could paint in living color. What they don’t understand is that, behind this genteel exterior, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen the brokenness, heard the sobs, and felt the ache of a creation waiting for redemption. In this kind of work, you lose your innocence pretty quickly.

Those who haven’t probably aren’t doing their jobs.

The other amusing thing is how quickly my conversations with my pastor-husband turn from the prosaic to the profound. One moment we’re discussing the rotation of children’s workers, and the next we’re talking about how to apply the realities of theosis to counseling.

Just last week over our dessert and coffee, we found ourselves discussing the nature of addiction. Whether it manifests itself in substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling, or pornography, the roots and overall structure of addiction is fairly consistent. And one of the most dangerous characteristics of addiction is that it always leaves you wanting more. You tell yourself this one thing, this one game, this one look will be enough. But it never is. You are left craving the next hit, the bigger fix, to achieve the high that you felt the first time.

I wonder if this is something of what Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught that if you lust after a woman you’ve already committed adultery (Matt. 5:27-28) and if you hate it’s as if you had murdered your brother (Matt. 5:21-22). Clearly, Jesus was internalizing the Law, moving it past externals to show us that God is just as (more?) concerned with our hearts as with whether or not we act appropriately. But Jesus was never one to teach one-dimensionally so I can’t help but wonder if He was alluding to something else about the nature of sin. Read more about The Good Addiction

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God Gave Us a Book

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Can the supernatural and the natural realms talk together? Is communication possible between God and people? This crucial question polarized our nation’s founding fathers. All of the founders believed in a supernatural realm—God was a given. But a few of the founders insisted that God created the universe to run on its own without Him (a view known as Deism). For all practical purposes, these men dismissed the very possibility of communication between the natural and supernatural realms.

Since the early influences of Deism, American culture has been shaped by the anti-supernaturalist philosophies of biological evolution and secular humanism. Secularism is not merely anti-religious, although it is that. Secularism is, more fundamentally, an utter denial of the sacred and thus a disaffirmation of the indispensability of a supernatural realm—a supposition rendered reasonable by the theory of biological evolution. Whereas Deism was stuck with a Creator (albeit a silent one), evolutionism eliminated the notion of a Creator and completely eradicated the necessity of a supernatural realm. Secularism stands in at this point to assert what evolutionism suggested: supernaturalism is a myth.

It would seem that most Americans today embrace some form of evolutionism (fueled by evolutionism’s monopoly of the public education system), but few Americans are pure secularists. Surveys indicate that most Americans pray, and praying evidences at least a wishful hope in the existence of a supernatural realm (which goes far to explain the angst secularist educators suffer when public school students talk to God). Despite the inroads of Deism and secularism, many Americans still believe in a supernatural realm with which communication is possible. Read more about God Gave Us a Book

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Book Review - Slave of Christ by Murray Harris

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Paul begins his letter to the Romans by identifying himself: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ”—at least, this is how it is translated in the King James, English Standard, American Standard, Revised Standard, and New International versions. The New King James Version translates it this way, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ,” while the Holman Christian Standard Bible and New Living Translation say, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” This translation difference can be seen in most instances of the English translation of the Greek word doulos, used 126 times in the Greek New Testament.

What is the meaning of the Greek word doulos in its linguistic and cultural context? In Slave of Christ, Murray J. Harris presents a convincing case that the New Testament use of doulos refers to the ownership and authority of a master over a slave. Through a comprehensive review and synthesis of biblical and extrabiblical literature, as well as a detailed description of the meaning and connotation of slavery in the world of the New Testament, Harris argues that the New Testament use of the word doulos is a metaphor for wholehearted and total devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 19). Read more about Book Review - Slave of Christ by Murray Harris

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