Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Infusing Hope into Difficult Circumstances: Paul's letters to the Thessalonians

My recent commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the Story of God Bible Commentary series was released earlier this month. Here is a short video in which I explain purpose of the series and talk about what I see Paul doing in these letters.

You can buy it on Amazon for  only $23.00 in print or $20.00 in digital format.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pete Enns on the Gift of Darkness

Only those who have gone through a difficult, dark period in their life and faith truly understand the experience. 

Pete Enns has a short piece on his blog today about the gift of darkness. His post is a reflection on St. John of the Cross.

The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it.”
St. John of the Cross 
"During the dark night the tried-and-true rituals and creeds of religion no longer satisfy or bring assurances of God’s love. (So you might get bored with church services for very good reasons too, but that is not the same as mere spiritual laziness or a lack of faith.)"
Pete Enns

You can read the full post here

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Biblical World reaches one million hits!

Today the Biblical World blog reached one million hits! I started the blog in July of 2010 and never thought I would see this many visitors.

 Of course not everyone who visits is looking for my blog, but I still consider it accomplishment. Over the last few years I have tried to ensure that people who visit the blog do so because they are interested in the content and not because I had a picture or title that was designed to hook-in visitors who are looking for something else. I am unsure to what degree I have been successful.

Many thanks to everyone who reads the blog. It's not as active as it once was, but I still try to use it for letting people know about important events and developments related to the Bible.  Perhaps we will hit two million even quicker?

Now if I just had a dollar for every person who visited . . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Afraid you'll be left behind? The Origins of the "Rapture."

The Nicholas Cage reboot of the Left Behind series is attempting to breath new life into a story that is fairly worn out.

Although I haven't seen the film, I know that its premise is based on the idea that God will secretly "snatch away" the Christians just before a period of intense suffering begins on the earth under the leadership of the Antichrist.

The belief in a pretribulation rapture is well known in North America. Even people who aren't believers are aware of it. This is probably due to the way it has been woven into various aspects of Protestantism throughout the 20th century.

The problem, however, is that belief in a pretribulation rapture is relatively new in Church history. It began with a prophecy at a prayer meeting in either Scotland or Ireland and moved to the USA with the teachings of J. Nelson Darby and was popularized through the preaching of D. L. Moody and the Scofield Bible. I have told this story to my students a number of times over the years.

Today, in response to the Nicholas Cage reboot, Ben Witherington has produced a short video explaining the (short) history of the pretributlation rapture. If you have never heard this before, I think you will find it quite interesting.

 Incidentally,Witherington places the prayer meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. I had once read it took place in Ireland at the home of Lady Powerscourt.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Online sample of my new commentary

Zondervan has uploaded a sample from my forthcoming commentary. 

You can read the introductory material and the exposition of 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 here

To learn more about the Story of God Series click here

A new commentary for today’s world, The Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. The first commentary series to do so, SGBC offers a clear and compelling exposition of biblical texts, guiding everyday readers in how to creatively and faithfully live out the Bible in their own contexts. Its story-centric approach is ideal for pastors, students, Sunday school teachers, and laypeople alike.

It's scheduled to be released on October 14th, but you can pre-order your hardcover or Ebook version today!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It (A review)

Every once in a while someone writes a book that says exactly what you have been thinking for a long time. In Pete Enns’ most recent book I found a description of the Bible and how it works articulated just the way I would say it. In fact, I wish I had said it!

In The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it (HarperOne, 2014), Enns leads readers on a journey of new discovery. Many readers of the Bible (ok, all of us) approach the Bible with certain presuppositions about the way we think the Bible works. But as Enns points out time and again, while we may approach the Bible with an “owner’s manual” or “rule book” mentality, the Bible rarely behaves the way we want it to behave (p. 73). In fact, the more we read the Bible and try to apply it, the more we realize that it is a complex book that is not so easily tamed.

Enns’ goal in this volume is not to tame the beast, but to help readers discover a new appreciation for the Bible.  And although Enns has a PhD from Harvard and is probably too smart for his own good, this is not an academic essay on the Bible that will help cure your insomnia. In many ways this is a personal story in which Enns describes his own journey from an “owner’s manual” approach to the Bible to informed believer. This is a book by someone who found that the Bible is much more exciting and useful than a simple “rulebook.”

The central thrust of the book is the importance of story. Enns notes the difficulty with holding up the Bible to modern ideas of “history.” While he acknowledges that a lot of history lies behind the Bible, he also gives a number of examples where the Bible simply wouldn’t make the cut in documentary. But the problem is not the Bible, but the expectations moderns readers bring to the Bible.

When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey. The journey was recorded over a thousand years span of time, by different writers, with different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons.

In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in language and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. But they were also ancient – and that explains why the Bible behaves that way. (p. 23)

Rather than view this as a diminishing of the Bible, Enns argues that this is what makes the Bible useful. The Bible is “Story” it is that which shapes the past in order to help us make sense of the present (p. 99).

But it’s not just the stories of the Bible that are complicated. The God we read about in the Bible is also complicated and doesn’t always behave the way we would like. At times God is loving and merciful and at other times he is vengeful and violent. And try as we may to reconcile those contrasting pictures, it’s not possible. Enns, however, invites his readers to embrace this diverse presentation of God.

God certainly is a multidimensional character in the Bible. Sometimes he is up there and out of the way, unmoved and unmovable. But more often he is the kind of God you can actually have a relationship with. Both are in the Bible. Neither cancels the other out, but – ironically, perhaps – the biblical God that is least Godlike is the one we tend to connect with more in our day – to – day lives. A God like us is not a problem. The New Testament, Where God becomes one of us, calls this Good News. (p. 159).

For Enns, it is the revelation of God in Jesus that is most important.  After demonstrating how Jesus, like the Bible, didn’t always behave the way people would expect, Enns proposes that Jesus is actually bigger than the Bible. That is, while the Bible is important and tells us about and directs us towards God and Jesus, it isn’t the final word. Jesus is the final Word (p. 195).

Enns concludes the volume by suggesting that the Bible is unsettling and that it is supposed to be that way (p. 239). Our attempts to tame the Bible, to make it behave will never succeed and only frustrate us more. But that is not a reason for us to give up. Enns suggests that an unsettled faith is a maturing faith (238). He also warns that we shouldn’t expect more from the Bible than you would from Jesus (p. 243). If we are willing to accept the mystery of Jesus as God come in the flesh, we should also accept the mystery of how the Bible came to us with human fingerprints all over it.

This is a book that needed to be written. And if you know anything about Pete Enns and his story you will know that he was just the person to write it. This book should be read by anyone who has been raised in evangelical thinking, but found that at times the answers it provided were unsatisfactory. It’s a book for people who cling to their faith in God in spite of the messiness of the Bible and the way it has been used over the centuries. It is a book that I think puts into words what many have been thinking for a long time.

I highly recommend it!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Book for Every Pastor's Shelf

There are many resources that I regularly recommend to my students. Among them is Craig Keener's Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament (IVP). Providing a chapter by chapter commentary of the New Testament, Craig helps readers to quickly discover what historical, cultural and religious factors may be at work in the text.

The first edition of this important resource was published in 1995. Yesterday I received a copy of the Second Edition, with many thanks to Craig for sending it to me. This is an excellent resource that should be on every pastor's shelf. And it's affordable; less than $30.00. Since the first edition lasted twenty years, your investment should last you for much of your ministry career.

Here's the blurb! Now, if you don't own already own it, click here to buy!
This revised edition of the standard reference work in its field has been expanded throughout to now provide even more up-to-date information by Craig Keener, one of the leading New Testament scholars on Jewish, Greek and Roman culture. To understand and apply the Bible well, you need two crucial sources of information. One is the Bible itself. The other is an understanding of the cultural background of the passage you're reading. Only with the background can you grasp the author's original concerns and purposes. This unique commentary provides, in verse-by-verse format, the crucial cultural background you need for responsible--and richer--Bible study. It includes a glossary of cultural terms and important historical figures, maps and charts, up-to-date bibliographies, and introductory essays about cultural background information for each book of the New Testament. Based on decades of in-depth study, this accessible and bestselling commentary is valuable for pastors in sermon preparation, for Sunday-school and other church teachers as they build lessons, for missionaries concerned not to import their own cultural biases into the Bible, for college and seminary students in classroom assignments, and for everyday Bible readers seeking to deepen and enhance their study of Scripture.