Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Return to the Temple

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
(Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

Adolf Schlatter: "When Jewish forces manned the temple walls to turn back the attack of Roman legions, there had to be a partial devastation of the temple. Then a portion of the temple courts was burned down. Such damage to the temple was a bitter blow to Jewish authorities, but it did not leave them without hope. When the battle was over, the people quickly used their resources to restore the temple to its earlier perfection, and the damage was quickly repaired.

Were these events comparable to what would take place after Jesus left the temple? Did he now leave the temple with his followers so as later to lead them back into it? Might they expect, first, judgment to be rendered that would bring woe even to the temple but disrupt it only temporarily, because it would be restored when the day of Christ comes?

With thoughts like these, did the disciples understand what Jesus was doing when he left the temple? No! He leaves nothing standing; every stone will be ripped out of its setting; all that will remain is a pile of rubble. There is no restoration for the temple and the worship ceremonies it housed and the Jerusalem of old... But with this verdict Jesus by no means proclaimed only unrelenting wrath and the absolute validity of the judgment that punishes irredeemable guilt with unending death. He simultaneously sets forth deeply religious testimony to the sanctity of the new covenant. The new covenant truly makes the old one old. The old has passed away, and there is no way back to it...Jesus used such strong language to disengage the disciples entirely from the temple, so that they would not pour new wine into old wineskins but rather learn from him how God's grace visits them. (Do We Know Jesus?: Daily Insights for the Mind and Soul, pg. 394)

This short devotional by Schlatter is packed with insight. First, for Christianity as a whole, we must beware of anything that would take us back to operating under the auspices of the old covenant. Second, and more personally, what Schlatter says of the temple is, in many ways, true of the Christians new life in Christ. How do Jesus and the apostles talk about coming to Christ? Jesus talks of a new birth (John 3:3). He speaks of taking up one's cross and following him (Mark 8:34). The apostles speak of dying to the old self, allowing it to be buried, and being raised to newness of life with Christ (Romans 6:1-5, Colossians 2:12, 3:3, 1 Peter 2:24). Why such decisive, even harsh, language. To show us that we can't expect a mere reformation of a slightly flawed character when we come to Christ. Or, in Schlatter's words, 'to disengage us entirely from self'. Once you come to Christ there is no return to the autonomy of self. God's grace is more radical. Thank God.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Song of the Week

I found this band on noisetrade.com.
I like them a lot, though the best song, 'Joy', isn't available on youtube, so I can't post it. Check em out and you can download the album for free.

Ascend the Hill, 'Sing'

Friday, August 27, 2010

Catechism Questions #4 & 5

Question #4: What does God's law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22—

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.

All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.

(1 Deut. 6:5, 2 Lev. 19:18)

Question #5: Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

(1 Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10; 2 Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Catechism Question #3

Question #3: How do you come to know your misery?

Answer: The law of God tells me. (1 Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Catechism Question #2

From our morning devotions today:

Question 2.
What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort [see question #1]?

Answer. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such redemption.

Scooby-Doo and the New Testament

Have you ever watched Scooby Doo? Who hasn't, right? You know how at the end of the episode, after the kids rip off the mask of the mystery monster, one of them, usually Velma, goes on to explain how the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place? It usually happens right before the "and I would have gotten away with it to if it wasn't for you meddling kids!" Have you ever thought about the parrallels between that Scooby Doo moment and the New Testament? Probably not. Neither did I until I read the chapter by David Steinmetz "Uncovering a Second Narrative: Detective Fiction and the Construction of Historical Method" in The Art of Reading Scripture. Interestingly, his chapter follows Richard Bauckham's on "Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story". The editor placed them next to each other for good reason.

Bauckham argues that the entire Bible can be read as one coherent story with a plot, main characters, etc. I haven't read this chapter by Bauckham, but I've read other books by him (good stuff). The story of Scripture begins with creation. Conflict is introduced in Genesis 3 and climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Revelation is somewhat of a epilogue - kind of like the "The Scouring of the Shire" in The Return of the King. The great battle has already been one, just a mopping up operation is left.

If the story climaxes in Jesus, what of Acts and all those epistles? They are, according to Steinmetz, the second narrative. Or, in my parlance, the Scooby Doo moment. It's Peter, and Paul, and John (not Mary) explaining the mystery that they has been revealed (through the inspiration of the Spirit). He explains,

"The mystery story in its classical form is often an enormous puzzle that is slowly put together, bit by bit, until at the end all of the small parts fall together into an intelligible pattern that makes sense of the whole. This kind of mystery story has two narratives"

The first, in Steinmetz's view, is a long 'ramshackle' story that doesn't seem to be going anywhere important. Details seem random, etc. But the second narrative explains the first for us, fits all the pieces together so you see there were no random details after all. He asserts,

"The long, ramshackle narrative of Israel with its promising starts and unexpected twists, with its ecstasies and its betrayals, its laws, its learning, its wisdom, its martyred prophets - this long narrative is retold and reevaluated in the light of what early Christians regarded as the concluding chapter God had written in Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of what we might call second narrative moments, short retellings of Old Testament stories in the light of Christ...They disclose at the end the structure of the whole from the beginning"

Sounds cool huh. It is, but it also has important ramifications for how you approach Scripture - which hermeneutical approach you'll adopt. Steinmetz explains,

"Historical criticism [read source criticism, form criticism and redaction criticism] attempts to set texts in their own place and time. It can this properly only if it avoids anachronism, that is, reading back into earlier texts the views and assumptions of texts from a much later period. Traditional exegesis, on the other hand, was written by people who were convinced that no one can properly understand earlier developments in the biblical story unless one reads them in light of the later. How the story ends makes a difference for the beginning and the middle of the story as well as for its conclusion."

I want to think a lot more about the practical implications of this interpretation and especially for preaching. Thoughts?

Monday, August 23, 2010


This morning I started a new devotional path with the boys. Over the summer we focused on the Bible's big story (again. We did that last summer too, but got distracted by the little - and fun - stories). We're using the Heidelberg Catechism - a Reformed Catechism that is old (1563; though the language was updated in 1998 for the RCA church) and more broadly reformed than, say, the Westminster Confession/Catechism. We'll do a question a day, but are flexible and may spend more than one day on some questions. Here's the first:

Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Oh, and I'm using Kevin DeYoung's book The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism as my guide.

Song (s) of the Week

Here's the last of my month of old school Christian heavy metal. Three random songs from three random bands.

Scattered Few, 'Kill the Sarx'

Deliverance, 'Weapons of our Warfare'

Bride, 'Rattelsnakes inthe Playground'

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You look silly when you cry in class...

My sons will laugh at me, but I had to fight back tears in class the other day - and no, not tears of boredom or tears because there is no coffee to be found anywhere on Covenant's campus (though I had an awful headache much of the week). We were discussing the theologian Adolf Schlatter. It was the first time I had ever heard of him (at least that I can remember). What I learned, however, compelled me to order a biography of Schlatter, Adolf Schlatter: A Biography of Germany's Premier Biblical Theologian and a daily devotional by him, Do We Know Jesus?: Daily Insights for the Mind and Soul, and listened to a lecture given by Robert Yarbrough on his life (there are more that I look forward to listening to soon). It was also enough to make me cry. Why?

First, his courage. He was a conservative Christian scholar at a time and in a place when it was very difficult to be a conservative. As a professor in Berlin, he was the antithesis to the liberal Harnock. But for years, he had to endure scorn of colleagues and students alike. If I'm remembering right, his comprehensive exams consisted of eight written exams and five oral exams for his PhD - an unheard of amount of testing (the written exams were given over the course of three days). In addition, he wrote against the National Socialist Party (and had several of his books banned by the SS. Unfortunately, there seems to be a good bit of debate about some antisemitic things he wrote. I haven't had the time to chase that down yet and Yarbrough doesn't address it. He doesn't appear to have been one of the signer of the Barmen Declaration - but I can forgive him that - he was 82 and mostly home bound at the time).

Second, he was brilliant in a way that I'll never be because 1) I'm not that smart, 2) I'm lazy compared to him. He was competent in philosophy, and Biblical Theology, a good exegete, and a popular author. In fact, his brilliance won friends out of enemies. Harnock, the arch liberal of the time, was impressed by him and considered him a friend. Students who once mocked him flocked to his classes after his reputation for scholarship and joy were established. (His classes were often over 125 students). He wrote a ton as well - some very technical stuff, but also popular devotionals. Hearing about a man that was nearly omnicompetent is really humbling when I consider myself barely competent in a few fields, and incompetent in so many.

His life backed up his warm theology. Towards the end of his life, after his wife died, it was said you could still hear him singing hymns to himself every morning. He was a steady rock. He taught for 100 semesters continuously without a sabbatical before he retired. Even after forced retirement at 70, he taught as an emeritus professor. He set aside an hour a day to meet with students one on one - unheard of in the German university system. He had open meetings once a week (with cigars) where students from different fields could come and talk about the Bible, or what it mean to be a Christian doctor, etc.

His seriousness. In the last years of his life he read and reread all his books, repenting of mistakes, wondering what he would have to give an account of before the judgment seat.

Tragedy. He lost his son in WW1. Many of his students died in that war, and many more in WW2. The loss of his son (and wife) sent him into depression and his writing nearly ceased for several years.

I'm looking forward to reading and writing more on him. I do recommend the audio by Yarbrough. I'll post later some more on my week, which was great and exhausting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Song (s) of the Week

I listened to this group on my way to St. Louis yesterday. Good stuff, if you're into old school Christian heavy metal (anyone out there with me?).

Sacred Warrior, "Sword of Victory"

"Black Metal"

"Holy, Holy, Holy"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Song(s) of the Week

This has been the busiest week or two in a very long time, so I haven't had time to post 'serious' posts in more than a week - and it may be another week or so before I can post again. However, I am continuing retro August this week with the Christian Metal Band Bloodgood. I think I had three or four of their albums and saw them in concert at least once. Actually, for 80's metal, it's not bad - and the lyrics certainly aren't ambiguous! Here's a few of their best:



"Out of the Darkness"

"Top of the Mountain"

"Rounded are the Rocks"

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Song (s) of the Week

I have no idea what spurred this on, but I've had a lot of fun this weekend going taking a time trip back to when I listened to Christian Rock. I don't know if I could name even two or three Christian hardrock groups now, but in the 80's and early 90's, that's all I listened to. I found a bunch of it on YouTube and decided the month of August is a retro month. I owned all of these CD's. Ah, actually, cassettes. I listened to them till they stretched out and sounded all distorted.

I'll start my retro August with a band that is really, really good, and nearly no one know them. Rez, or the Resurrection Band was a pioneer in Christian rock, starting back in 1978 and continuing pretty strong till 1995 or so. Glenn Kaiser is a great bluesy singer, guitar player and started his own band in 2000. Here's a few sample songs:


"Altar of Pain"

"Silence Screams"