Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Merry Reformation Day!

I have for the past seven or so years, I have lost count, written a Reformation Day reflection to my friends and family.  Here is this year's reflection:

Just this past weekend, a baker’s dozen (that’s 13) young adults from church, plus the White boys, Josiah, Wesley, and Jameson, went out to a corn maize (yes, there is a pun in the “maize” title, but it wasn’t me) 5 miles past Plain City, Ohio.  This, though, was no ordinary maze.  No.  It was a 9 acre corn maize!  After paying 8 dollars for this torture, we preceded to spend an hour in this thing, and making little progress.  Why did we make little progress?  Could it have been that it was 8pm and dark? Yes, slightly.  Could it have also been because it was frigid and windy to boot? Also, yes.  Moreover, could it be that we paused at every fork and analyzed our previous decisions irrationally I might add – me included, considered all opinions as not to step on any toes, and tried to decide how we felt the maize may be taking us by the previous turns we had taken and where we thought we were in relation to the finish line – which of course we really did not know the location of? Yes, most definitely! 

So, as I pondered this year’s Reformation Day reflection the old adage, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”, came to mind. An action oriented statement!

            Martin Luther also said something much similar to this in his career.  Many of you know it, and have probably, like me, have employed it incorrectly.  Luther said to Philip Melanchthon to “sin boldly.”  Many of course have misread this statement to mean what is contrary to Luther’s intention, not to mention Romans 6:1, in an affirmation towards a sinful lifestyle.  But others (cf., have done the opposite of Luther’s intention by parsing it out into fragments to show why Luther would never encourage anyone to sin, therefore sucking any vitality from such an important saying. 

            The true meaning behind this statement is a Reformation statement.  It is a gospel centered statement (see the full statement below).  Luther exhorted Melanchthon, a man who was a paralysis by analysis type guy, to act!  This statement was given in a letter after the Diet of Worms and Luther was held up in Wartburg Castle unable to lead the church.  Melanchthon, being the vice-president of Lutheranism (that is a joke, there was not Lutheran Church yet) needed to lead!  Melanchthon though was paralyzed with fear of making an incorrect move.  He was afraid of sinning!  Luther thus says “Sin boldly!”  Or in other words, trust in the mercy of Christ in the gospel and DO SOMETHING! 

            And here in lies our Reformation exhortation.  Our church society is an anti-Romans 1:16 society.  What do I mean by this?  We are infected with what we call political correctness, and/or an unwillingness to enter into a situation or conversation we may deem offensive or awkward.  So what do we do? We wait. And wait. And think. And analyze.  And decide – irrationally I might add – me too! And wait… for the perfect (romantic) opportunity to “not be ashamed of the gospel” – to take the fork in the road.  But we should ask ourselves, would we be worshiping each Sunday with the people of God if not for one who, by the power of the Spirit, did not wait?  Would we have the Scriptures in our own language if Luther, Tyndale, and countless other men AND WOMEN had waited, ignoring their divine call?  Would we be the first to say “my ministry and evangelism is me being a diligent and hard worker at my job and from the observance of my goodness others will see the light of Christ, without words (thus says Francis Assisi – but he really didn’t, just so you know), but it is true of our story that it was someone who we didn’t even know, using words, and not waiting led us to Jesus? Are we often “sinning boldly” in our church?  I say, no.

            So, today, in my 7th annual (I think?) Reformation Day reflection, I repeat the words said first August 1st, 1521, “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly,  but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world]  we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,  but, as Peter says,  we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.  No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.”

-         Martin Luther, August 1, 1521: A letter to Phillip Melanchthon


Blessings on your week!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The 'Jesus' Hermeneutic

This post has a soft connection to the earlier post that asks, "Where's the Inspiration," which addressed my discouragement when reading scholarship and finding little trace of the doctrine of inspiration in the discussing such methods as redaction, namely the use of the OT in the New.

I am currently reading Kenneth Litwak's Echoes of Scripture in Luke-Acts.  I have been impressed, though I have not agreed at every turn, by how many well rooted hypotheses he has taken on in this study.  It takes some, well let's say, chutzpah!
Particularly interesting is his rejection of the schools of 'proof-from-prophesy' and 'Promise-Fulfillment,' rallying the help from Rebbecca Denova (1997), among others, and taking on most poignantly Darrell Bock and Martin Rese, in reference to their respective, yet similar according to Litwak, methods. 
While taking on these two schools of thought on the OT use in the New, Litwak employs Joel 3:1-5 in Acts 2 as a test case.  Along the way Litwak notes,
"This means that when Peter stands up with the eleven in Acts 2.14, he speaks and declares prophetically by the Spirit.  This implies that Peter's act of interpretation is based upon a 'charismatic hermeneutic.'  It is the Spirit who guides Peter into this new reading of Joel 3.1-5a in light of what God has done in and through Jesus.  The assertion in Lk. 24.45 that Jesus opened the disciples' minds to understand the Scriptures stands tightly connected to Jesus' statement that the scriptures speak of repentance being preached to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem and that the disciples will testify of Jesus they have received power from high...So when Peter addresses the crowd in Acts 2, he does so, in fulfillment of Jesus' promise, as a Spirit-inspired witness, who interprets the Scriptures of Israel.  Peter is doubtless reading the Scriptures the new way that Jesus gave his disciples."
Litwak says one thing here: there is a new hermeneutic in the church post-ascension.  He calls it a 'charismatic hermeneutic' or 'messianic hermeneutic.'  I like 'The Jesus Hermeneutic' better - that's simply what it sounds like to me.

When I first read his claim that Peter was giving a 'revisionary reading' of Joel 3, I had pause; everyone should!  Good things rarely follow such expressions.  But, I find Litwak's understanding and explanation of the text refreshing in that he, first, does his homework. That is, there is clear interaction with the relevant primary texts of the Second Temple period, and the OT and NT.  Additionally, he interacts with the relevant secondary sources, even those outside the biblical studies disciplines.  So Litwak cannot simply be a conversation killer.  The homework is done and presented.  Second, and given credibility in broader scholarship by the first, he accords the Spirit and Jesus their proper place in the interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel in the NT writings.  Jesus "opens the minds" of those on the road to Emmaus with a new hermeneutic and the Spirit inspires a new interpretation, and both of these revelations still work within the relevant cultural sitz im Leben as is expected from the organic nature of God's normal means of communication; hence the use of Jewish interpretation methods (Pesher and Midrash) and Paul in Acts 17 quoting the poets and using no Scripture overtly. 

Today I read a review of I.H. Marshall's NTT.  This comment gets to the point I have been feeling when reading, reading, and reading, and finding little evangelical affirmation of inspiration - even from evangelicals:
In understated but readily discernible ways Marshall writes as a believing Christian.  While this is viewed as quaint or gauche by some in the discipline, Marshall is clearly not afraid of what they will think or say about his views...Marshall's aim seems to be for (student) readers to be encouraged in the direction of Christian faith rather than confused or put off by it.
 Well said, and applicable to the writing of Litwak, and previously Michael Shepherd.  Both are models to be followed, at least in this case.