Hermeneutics

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René Girard: The Passing of an Amazing and Iconic Thinker

I think it is quite unlikely that many readers of this post know the life and thought of René Girard. I discovered him late in life, only about fifteen years ago. I found his work on human desire both insightful and brilliant. Agree or disagree with Girard’s thought he helped us rethink human desire, anthropology and sin. If you reject the idea of evolution please do not let that issue keep you from learning from this great Christian thinker. This presentation by Fr. James Alison is a great, short summary.

You may need to see this several times to actually process Girard’s central thought but this is as good as any short presentation of the man and his thinking I’ve seen.

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 3 of 4)

B166PIn the case of John Hagee very few people within the larger culture are paying attention to his prophecies. Last week I scanned a copy of John Hagee’s book, Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation (Howard Books, 2010), in a Half-Price Bookstore near home. The copy I looked at was called an “Updated Edition.” (I love how these books have to be updated. I wonder why? This is humor dear reader!) The subtitle on this newer edition reads: “Startling Revelations and Promises of Hope.” The cover speaks of “special updates” on: the death of the dollar, a nuclear Iran, the reaction of Israel, and hope for a troubled nation. Hagee writes of the following:

  1. The impending nuclear war in the Middle East
  2. The coming death of the U. S. dollar
  3. The consequences of rejecting Israel
  4. The absolute accuracy of biblical prophecy
  5. The coming Fourth Reich

The dust jacket of this same book says, “As a candid conservative Christian leader . . . this bestselling author courageously sounds an alarm to awaken the American nation from the slumber

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 2 of 4)

So what did Jesus teach about his coming again and the End?

UnknownWe read the words of Jesus in Mark 13:32-37. These are often read as words about this age and his coming again:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Most of you know that these various biblical texts referring to Jesus’ return are in the three synoptic Gospels. Parallel to Mark’s Gospel we thus read in Matthew 24:29-31:

“Immediately after the suffering of those days

John Hagee: Reflections on My Facebook Post (Part 1 of 4)

Several days ago I posted a comment about John Hagee on my Facebook wall. Hagee is a New York Times best-selling author and pastor from San Antonio, Texas. In this comment I posted a link to a site that was critical of Hagee about his growing predictions of “the end of the world.”

PastorJohnHagee_resizedJohn Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 19,000 active members. He is the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel. (Note this as I will reference it again later.) He is also the president and C.E.O. of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry throughout America and can be seen weekly in 99 million homes and in more than 200 nations worldwide.

John Hagee graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, then earned his Masters Degree from North Texas University. He received his Theological Studies from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and an Honorary Doctorates from Oral Roberts University, Canada Christian College, and from Netanya Academic

The Bible and Science Debate: How Shall We Interpret Genesis?

If I were to pick three highly skilled biblical scholars/exegetes, who also profoundly understand science (two of them – McGrath and Polkinghorne – have a PhD degree in hard science), to speak clearly about the way to properly read the Book of Genesis then I would pick these three theologians. I have met two of them and have read all three for decades now. Perhaps no debate has more unnecessarily divided the church than the raging debate over science and Bible. In particular, it comes down to this: “How do we understand Genesis?” My own thinking has changed about this question, in fact several times over the course of my lifetime. I would now line up well with what these three orthodox and confessional Christian ministers/teachers say in this outstanding video.

In some ways this is one of the most helpful and important videos that I have ever shared on my blog. I hope you will take the twelve minutes needed to watch it carefully. This video should not only disabuse you of the many numerous bad ideas about reading Genesis but it will also help you

The Shameful Story of Judah

UnknownOn Saturday, July 12, I preached the evening vespers service at Lutheran Church of the Master in Carol Stream. My given text was Genesis 38. I think I would never have picked such a story had it not been assigned to me in advance. You can hear my twenty-minute sermon below.

As I grow older I enjoy narrative preaching more than ever. This chapter in Genesis is so obviously narrative, with a clear dose of midrash going on, that it begs for the human imagination to work overtime putting various things together. It also begs another pressing question: “How or why do such lewd and bodacious stories get included in the biblical Canon?” Maybe our views of such things are far too prudish. If some Christians I know oversaw the arrangement of the Canon they would have left a great deal out I feel sure. This story would likely be at the top of their list. In very clear and offensive ways it is perverse to the extreme. I know of nothing else to say about that but it really does beg a

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part Five)

UnknownA common view, at least within many evangelical circles, is that a “culture” cannot be changed. Before I proceed to argue against this view let me define my terms just a bit.

I am using the word “culture” as it has evolved in English usage through the social sciences. It came to refer, in the 20th century, to a central concept within anthropology that encompassed the range of human phenomena that cannot be directly attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term “culture” has two meanings:

  1. The evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols and to act imaginatively and creatively.
  2. The distinct ways that people, who live differently, classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

It is this second use that I have in mind in my title for this series of blogs. Can a seminary, such as Westminster in Philadelphia, experience a significant cultural change that would make it look, feel and function like a different institution?

How could the institutional culture at Westminster Theological Seminary be truly changed? How could the present members

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love (Part Three)

There have been a number of previous controversies at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA). In the middle of the last decade there was one that many believe is linked (in some way) to the “retirement” issue of Doug Green. The Enns debate surrounded the teaching of Dr. Peter Enns, an Old Testament professor who left the faculty six years ago. It is widely believed that some of the issues regarding the teaching of Pete Enns, according to people on both sides of the current 2014 Douglas Green controversy, should be understood in the broader context of the seminary’s debate over hermeneutics. Dr. Enns resigned, under considerable duress, in 2008. The issue surrounding Enns’ teaching grew out of the publication of his book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker, 2005). Unknown This book was unfavorably reviewed in the magazine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. A battle about what Enns wrote followed. Articles appeared in academic journals and many people beyond the school were hard pressed to understand the central issue. I recall reviewing the book myself and then reading the review published in

Westminster Theological Seminary: Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part Two)

Yesterday I provided a general historical overview of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I wrote this overview because of my long interest in the school, its faculty and its students, mostly those who are graduates and who remain friends. I am not a Westminster graduate. I have never been a Presbyterian. I am an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. This Dutch tradition is far less rigid in how it uses the confessions standards than the more conservative tradition at Westminster. I say all this because my true desire in writing these posts is to serve the good of the kingdom of God and to be utterly transparent in what I write. I am far more interested in the impact of Westminster upon the wider church. Westminster’s impact, in my view, has been primarily one that has been good for the mission of the church. I am also deeply interested in how the school has dealt with the removal of several faculty members in recent years. green-2With this in mind my second point about Westminster Seminary,

Westminster Theological Seminary: Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part One)

220px-Machen_Hall,_Westminster_Theological_Seminary,_Glenside_PA_01In early June I commented on my Facebook wall about the “retirement” of Old Testament professor Dr. Douglas Green at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (WTS). You can read the official Westminster announcement online. The seminary says that Dr. Green is leaving for early “retirement.” But Doug Green is not of retirement age in the normative use of this word, meaning he is not 65 or older. The school says that he will honorably retire next year, on October 1, 2015. But he left his teaching position as of the end of the last term (2014). I commented on my Facebook wall about this departure in a manner that challenged this statement. I also questioned the integrity of the investigation and the final decision made by the board. (My words were not as charitable as they should have been and I noted that within a few hours of posting my short comment.) While I confess that I know a great deal about this decision, and much which gives me genuine pause (none of which comes from Dr. Green who

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