You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Your last post.

Here's a link to an xtranormal video about your last post before you die.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The problem with getting Moses' autograph

As an Evangelical Christian my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is important. Often times Evangelicals will defend the viewpoint that the Bible is without error by stating that the original written revelation is inerrant, but that the copies which were made afterwords may have suffered in some way through copyist errors. It is important to realize that these "errors" are extremely marginal and do not impact significant doctrine. Often, we are talking about variations in spellings of proper nouns. These originals are called autographs. It is easy to conceive of an autograph of Romans for example. Paul and his amanuensis (secretary) sit down to write the letter. The letter is copied multiple times. Paul probably has a copy made for himself. The early church makes multiple copies to preserve it and so on and so on. It is easy in this case to understand what the autograph of the epistle to the Romans looks like.

But what about some of the OT books? Take for example the book of Deuteronomy. Scripture is replete with statements acknowledging Moses' authorship over the Law. Much of the book of Deuteronomy is from Moses' first person perspective. It seems natural to read the majority of the book as if Moses is indeed the author. That is until we get to the final chapter. In ch. 34 Moses' death is recorded. It is obvious that someone else has written this part of the book of Deuteronomy. Possibly it was Joshua, but we don't know. Whoever it was didn't leave a signature.

Here is my question: what is the original autograph of Deuteronomy? Is it Moses' work in chs. 1-33, or is it the finished edited version of chs. 1-34? My opinion is that chs. 1-34 is the version we want, but if this is correct, then we are looking for something different than the original which Moses penned. Imagine if we found chs. 1-33 and were completely persuaded that it was Moses' original autograph. Would we throw out ch. 34 as uninspired? Probably not.

My point in this post is not to rattle our faith, but to help us to think through the sometimes 'pat' answers which we give those who wrestle with inerrancy. In this case defining what we mean by "the original autograph of Deuteronomy" is difficult to conceptualize. Thankfully God is great enough and powerful enough that despite our inability to conceptualize what an autograph is, He can preserve His Word to us that we may believe in Him and enjoy His grace.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Something to put it in perspective...

A good friend sent me this and some of the photos are really appropriate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quality control

My daughter works in a factory making dental floss and related hygiene products. Someone noticed a flaw in the packaging that required the unpacking of an entire pallet of dental floss! What was the flaw? The plastic cover wasn’t correctly glued to the paper backing and thus rendering the entire pallet unfit for retail sale. Really? That’s all it took? 

I’m somewhat familiar with quality control. When I used to deliver truckloads of whatever, some products required additional care to ensure they were received claim-free by the end consumer. When John Deere, for example, orders steel parts those parts must be received in near-perfect condition. A high level of quality control allows the customer to purchase a product with confidence that you ‘get what you pay for.’
Where’s the quality control department for the Christian community? 

I mean, really, Harold Camping? Didn’t somebody whisper to him at some point that the Bible itself says that no man knows the time of the Second Coming (Mt. 24:36)? If you take a minute and think about it, you can probably identify a situation where you wish you didn’t actually hear what you thought you heard falling out of a Christian speaker’s mouth. 

Wouldn’t it be awesome if God performed edits of the things we say as we say them? Imagine listening to a sermon and then all of a sudden the pastor’s mouth is moving, but no words are coming out? Oh that? Yeah, he just said something monumentally stupid that got blocked by quality control. No biggie. Let’s move on thankful that the end product contains no defects. 

Maybe that would be nice, but in reality, I think God allows us to hear ‘stupid’ things because the essence of Christianity is not consumption, but participation. Your floss should come perfectly packaged, but the Christian faith requires engagement and careful thought about what we say and careful evaluation of  what we hear.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Protest...

Westboro Baptist Church is the true Christians best friend.

(This is called a shocking statement introduction, hang with me for a bit...)

If you’re not familiar, this church is known for protesting military funerals and such. They are anti-everything: war, homosexuality, Judaism and a host of other issues. While I might agree with some of their positions, I disagree most vehemently with their method of addressing these issues. 

These people demonstrate what James 2 pictures, people who have words, but lack works. 

“14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” NASB

The folks at Westboro appear similar to the folks James dealt with: they have lots of words about issues, but will their words actually help solve… anything? You see, Christianity is much more that saying something about morality, or about God for that matter. Christianity is about following a person: Jesus Christ. As Christians follow Him, they must be like him. How would Jesus deal with a person who was cold and hungry? He’d call for a pizza and give them his coat. 

I agree with the Westboro folks that homosexuality is wrong, but I’d rather hold the hand of someone dying from AIDS than hold one of their ridiculous signs. I agree with many other Christians that abortion is wrong, but I don’t think protest can take the place of compassion. And, by the way, compassion comes at a price. If everyone who held an anti-abortion sign adopted a child abandoned by drug addicted parents we really might rock the world. Would that make James nod his approval? I think it just might. Words aren’t enough. 

Christian, put your sign away and reach out to do good. Rock the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going around your elbow to reach your backside

Did you ever pause to consider that the Bible actually tells us: ‘there is no God?’ No really, it does. Psalm 14:1 says: ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Ah yes, I played a trick: using only part of the verse and ignoring what the verse attempts to teach us about the relationship between a fool and God. My dad, ever one for colorful metaphor, would call this 'going around your elbow to reach your backside.' You might have to think about that for a second, but the point is you're making a task much more difficult. My initial trick isn't too far from what some believers do when they read the Bible. Some well-intentioned Christians focus on a part of the text at the expense of the whole to prove a point. 

I often listen to earnest believers talk about the Bible, noting that they compare a small snippet of the text to their system of theology to demonstrate how their theology accords with Scripture. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Shouldn’t we compare our theology to the Bible and then change our theology accordingly? I would like to humbly submit that we often speak about the Bible from the perspective of systematic theology and don’t allow the Bible to correct our theology. 

The essence of my complaint looks something like this:
Believer 1: The Bible says __x__ and so God must be like __y___.
Believer 2: No, the Bible says __x1__ and so God must be like __z__.
Believer 1: You’re an idiot.  
Believer 2: At least I’m not a heretic. 

The ‘x’ represents a verse or sometimes part of a verse while ‘y’ represents the correlation in systematic theology. Maybe a Biblical example would also help flesh this out. 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1Jo 5:1 ESV)

The phrase ‘born of God’ is used by some to prove that in the process of salvation, believers take no action for themselves. God produces faith in a person, who then believes. Others reject this opinion, saying that God’s grace allows anyone to believe the gospel message. I suppose for them, this particular passage is more a description of the person who has faith and less a prescription for the process of salvation. This contentious debate is between two systems of theology: Calvinism and Arminianism which has been ongoing since the 1500’s. 

The irony, in which I delight, is simply this: the teaching focus of the verse is that believers should love one another and it has become a point of tension between two systems of theology, arguably chock full of believers! While many times this debate occurs in a loving context, many other times it doesn’t.
Perhaps the church would be well served to spend more time in the whole of the Bible and less time using the parts to prove our theological points. For most systems of theology, God wins at the end of the game and I for one want to make sure I’m pulling my weight and not bickering on the sidelines. While you read the Bible, remember that the chapters and verses are only suggestions and not given by God. Be careful when you ‘prove’ a theological point to consider that the whole of the Bible helps us understand God and not just the snips that we happen to like. 

Hopefully you didn't try going around your elbow to reach your backside. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Profitable Discontent

I was recently asked if studying the original languages of Scripture is ‘worth’ the time and effort involved. An investment spends something you have today for the sake of something you want tomorrow. In terms of finance, you take (hopefully) surplus money to purchase a future return on that investment. The purchase might be in the future productivity of a company, or interest payments for the use of your money.  Sometimes your investment ‘pays off,’ but other times you don’t receive the return you expected. 

Studying biblical languages is both an investment and a commitment. You take the time you have today and spend that time working to memorize vocabulary and understand grammar. Sound exciting? Not today; not for many days. The initial investment in Biblical languages is usually two semesters (one year) to understand enough vocabulary and grammar to push through the biblical text. The reward is twofold: the ability to read some of the Bible in the original language and new opportunities to draw meaning out of the text. At the same time a new opportunity arises for further investment with new challenges and rewards. With every new opportunity for further study (formal or informal) the student faces a choice: is my continued study ‘worth’ the investment of time and effort? 

I have been inspired in my own study by one of my professors. Over a break from school, he sent out an email encouraging us to keep up with our Hebrew and mentioned that he had been reviewing vocabulary. He will retire from teaching after this school year. Is continued study worth the investment? This is ultimately a personal question, since study in any field requires discipline and commitment. The only way we can gauge the potential return on the investment is to look at others who have made similar investments in the past, who are enjoying the rewards (and the new challenges) as we consider our own commitments. 

When we think about financial investors, we think of people who keep pushing and are never satisfied no matter how much wealth they have accumulated. I think we should have the same attitude toward investment in Biblical Studies: only satisfied with a little bit more. Not for the purpose of resting in our achievement, but for the purpose of serving our Lord and helping His people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grace to the Humble

I recently had opportunity to preach for some great friends at Cornerstone Community Church’s family camp and selected a text out of 1 Peter. Here’s a synopsis of the sermon…

5b Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1Pe 5:5-7 ESV)
In my own experiences lately and in conversation with friends I realize that many of us are struggling with difficult issues. One of my friends is married to a man with a twenty year drug addiction with no desire for recovery. Several have rebellious children, who have abandoned their family’s moral standards for the sake of fascination with the world. Others are dealing with aging parents and the physical and mental deterioration that awaits us all. I decided that I wanted to better understand the lesson of 1 Peter 5:7 which tells believers to ‘cast their cares’ upon God. 

Casting our cares upon God rests upon an Old Testament promise, that God will grant grace to the humble (see verse 5). How do I become one of the ‘humble,’ for I find myself and my friends in desperate need of God’s grace? Here is an area where the original language helps understand how we have access to grace. The participle ‘casting’ is a participle of means, which tells how an action is to be accomplished. In this passage, the imperative: ‘humble yourselves’ at the beginning of verse six is accomplished by means of ‘casting all your anxieties on him’ at the start of verse seven! When I recognize that the things I am dealing with are too large for me, I have to turn them over to God. The transfer of personal burdens places me in the category of those who are humbling themselves before God, providing access to His grace.

What does grace look like and feel like? Will all my struggles disappear? I think we can all agree that the situation will not necessarily disappear. I may still have to practically deal with a difficult child, spouse or parent, but I do so knowing that God will give grace to deal with the issue. Even the awareness that God is granting you His favor makes a difficult situation easier to handle. When you ‘cast your cares’ upon Him, you can rest assured that He takes interest in your situation. You are not alone, but your Heavenly Father cares enough to carry the load for you.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Website updates!!

Greetings all,
We are very excited to present our Fall course offerings on metachoi.com!! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dealing with Stress

When I find myself feeling a little stressed, I like to look back over the recent past to identify things which could be contributing to feeling a little overwhelmed. This past couple of months has been full of stressful things, both good and bad. On the good list are things like graduations, weddings and visiting relatives. The bad list, well, probably should remain private. (Lest you fret dear reader, my marriage is safe and healthy.)

Perusing the postings on social media reveals the stresses of both friends and acquaintances. It seems that I am not alone and that the world is full of painful events whether they are physical, emotional or psychological. I’m sure there are many ways to deal with stress, but I’d like to present two things to think about.

One of the ways we deal with stress is to ‘rationalize,’ or to identify reasons for the stresses we feel. Some are obvious: when one deals with a debilitating or potentially terminal illness (cancer, for example), reasons for stress abound: the financial stress of medical care, the uncertain outcomes and side effects of treatment, and concern about physical pain and death. Identifying reasons sometimes relates to ultimate causality when we ask the question ‘who or what is causing my illness?’ Other situations are less obvious, like personal relationships, financial worries or even teenage angst. Rationalization can be helpful, but I think there is another way to understand our stresses by understanding the setting in which these stresses occur. 

Understanding the setting of anything sets that knowledge in a context. This can be abbreviated by calling it ‘contextualization,’ understanding the context in which ____x______ occurs. In this essay, I am contextualizing stresses. Not only are we seeking the causes of our stress (rationalization), but also an understanding of the world in which it occurs (contextualization). There may be biblical warrant for this when we consider that the world we live in has been seriously damaged by sin. Things aren’t the way they should be; our context is a broken world. 

Fortunately, that’s not the final word because the context of the world includes a loving and benevolent God. He doesn’t always give us relief from our stress, but at the very least we can take comfort in knowing that He hasn’t avoided hard choices and significant stresses Himself. When God sent Jesus Christ to bear the sins of the world, it was the offering of His innocent, divine Son on behalf of morally corrupted humanity. I’m sure that I don’t understand all the pain and stress that God the Father and God the Son experienced to effect redemption. I’m also sure that when I experience the stress of disease, the emotional pain of relationships or worry over finances, my God understands and has compassion for what I am going through. Leaning on Someone who can relate in times of trouble might just be the best solution to dealing with the stresses and pains we all feel.