In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Amber Bowen discussed why Christians should actually listen to atheists. Amber writes:

What can we learn from the atheists’ perspective about us?

 

“Sometimes it’s good for us to actually listen to the atheists…. We hear, ‘You’re atheist, I’m going to plug my ears and I’m going to attack.’ So we’re always on the defensive, and we’re never on the listening side.

 

“One of the big problems we have — especially in this day and age — [is that] we’re really, really obsessed with forming our opinions about things. (‘Am I on this side, or am I on this side? Do I have this view, or do I have this view?’) And we’re really, really set on figuring out the rightness of the issues that we don’t ever take time to stop and examine our own hearts. We’re busier forming our opinions than we are at looking at our hearts.

 

“So… I’m going to throw out some big names: Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Camus, Derrida — you guys should be shivering right now. These are hardcore atheists. These are the bad guys, right, in terms of Christian worldview… But in reality, I think that these guys function for us like the prophets of the Old Testament, or even like Jesus to the Pharisees, or like Paul saying to the churches, ‘Your works are dead. Why are you having Jesus plus all your works?’ or like James who criticizes cheap grace or the practice of favoritism in the church. These people are calling out things, and they can see things that we can’t because we’re within it. So we benefit from actually stopping our defense, listening to them and examining our hearts.

 

Earlier this week, the B&H Academic blog shared a post by Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer discussing a (brief) history of Text Criticism.

Even within the New Testament (NT) itself, we have evidence that the individual NT documents were copied by hand and that these copies circulated among the churches. In Colossians 4:16, Paul writes, “When this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”

 

Over time, the early church grouped selections of inspired writings and copied them together. By the mid-second century, the four canonical Gospels and Paul’s letters were apparently grouped and copied as units. Not much later, the entire NT was grouped and copied as a recognized body of inspired writings. The earliest extant canonical list we have of the NT (the Muratorian Canon) has been dated to AD 190.

 

As early Christians copied, recopied, and copied copies (all by hand), small variations were inevitably introduced into the manuscripts. And, although Church Fathers sometimes speculated about copyist errors or the original reading of manuscripts, it was virtually impossible to codify accurately such discussion until one could reproduce a text without any variation. Thus, after the printing press was introduced to Europe in 1454, possibilities for comparing manuscripts with an unchanging standard arose.

 

Aaron Earls recently posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door discussing why Americans change churches. Aaron writes:

At some point in their lives, half of Americans have searched for a new church to attend.

 

A new survey from Pew Research examines the attitudes surrounding the move and come away with some very interesting findings. Here are five takeaways for Christians hoping to understand the current American religious environment.

 

Keelan Cook recently shared why your community should affect the way you do ministry.

Methods in local church ministry and mission are too often based on the perceived goals of the church instead of the unique nature of their community. Before I sound too critical, I believe many local churches have noble goals, but they are often more self-serving than the church ever realizes. Many churches focus on growth and now diversity as success metrics. These are not bad things. In fact they are good things, but a poor understanding of them can subtly replace more biblical success metrics, such as making good disciples and multiplying gospel witness in the community. For instance, is it better to have one larger church in a city or multiple smaller churches? That is a hard question to answer. And when we talk about diversity, we often have a shallow understanding of that term. Sometimes, a church simply wants different colors of skin. They are not looking for real cultural diversity, or language diversity, or age diversity, or economic diversity. In fact, many churches are simply trying to figure out how to do church the way they want to and convince other kinds of people to come do it that way with them. This is not real diversity.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared 6 go-t0 sources for political news and opinion.

For Christians who wish to be informed on matters of significance in the political arena but who are pressed for time, this article offers six “go-to” sources for political news and opinion. The first four sources are secular outlets; I follow them to keep abreast of breaking news and a variety of perspectives on the news. The last two sources are distinctively Christian outlets that provide conservative evangelical opinions on current events and political developments.

Staying Humble in Seminary (Part 2)

By: Matthew Emerson

On Tuesday, I shared some stories about how God used my seminary experience to show me my pride. I shared that my Meyers-Briggs personality type is ENTJ which means that, left unchecked, I can have a tendency towards overconfidence, arrogance, derision toward those who disagree, and tactlessness. Let’s say you’re not an ENTJ, though. Maybe you don’t struggle with some of what I’ve mentioned. Seminary can still be a place that gives your pride a voice. How do you avoid that? Some suggestions:

  1. Pray. This probably sounds like a trope, but seek the Lord’s face. Understanding God’s kingship and your own place in his kingdom is the first step to humility. Ask God to demonstrate this to you.
  2. Get involved in a local church. I don’t mean just attend a church; I mean let the pastor, staff, fellow members, get to know you at more than a surface level. Biblical counseling, confrontation of and warnings about pride, take place first of all in the local church. Put yourself under good preaching, but also make yourself available to needed, intentional relationships that provide the opportunity for brothers or sisters to speak the truth to you in love.
  3. Get a good anthropology and ecclesiology. God is the source of all the natural talents with which you were born and the spiritual gifts you received at your new birth. You cannot accomplish anything – reading fast, writing well, preaching that shucks the corn and shells the peas – without the help of God Almighty, and you do not exercise those talents and gifts apart from the context of the larger body of Christ. Recognizing that is a big step toward humility.
  4. Listen more than you talk in class. Ask good questions, but don’t just say stuff to say it. Sit at the feet of those who are the experts. Don’t assume because you’ve read one book on a subject that you can now demonstrate to your professor where their oh-so-obvious error is.
  5. Peruse the library. I don’t mean that you should take a nice stroll to clear your head, and because many of us are theo-nerds the place to do that is the bookshelves. I mean, go walk around the library and see how many people have thought deeply, carefully, and thoroughly about biblical studies, theology, practical disciplines, and the like. As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun, and this includes whatever magnum opus you plan to write for your Theology II research paper. Or your dissertation. Get a good dose of academic humility by meditating on what others have done before you got here.

Humility is in many ways about perspective. We need to see our own place in God’s story, we need to see how God has gifted the brothers and sisters around us, and we need to see all the hard work that scholars in our various fields have put in before we got here. All of this gives us perspective about our own place, our own abilities, our own ideas. Humility comes from knowing ourselves in light of who God is and who we are in the midst of the rest of his creation. Maybe some of you will be able to take that advice and stay humble, or maybe some of you will be humbled in spite of your own blindness to your pride, like I was. Either way, God is faithful to conform us into the image of his Son through the power of his Spirit. Praise him for that merciful grace.

Dr. Matthew Y. Emerson is Dickinson Assistant Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Baptist University. He received a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.