Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wesleyan Version of the Reformation

Happy Reformation Day!  496 years ago today, Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral.  Today I'd like to give a Wesleyan version of the Reformation.

1. When Martin Luther was over there in Germany, stirring up trouble, we were just a twinkle in Henry VIII's eye. The notorious loser king himself wrote a treatise against Luther called The Defense of the Seven Sacraments (no doubt with some help from someone he later beheaded). Henry opposed the Reformation, was made "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope, and was quite Roman Catholic...

... until the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1527. Over the course of the next 10 years Henry VIII in stages would extract England from the authority of Rome and take over the new Church of England. Religious anarchy began to knock at the door. By 1539 Henry had reaffirmed transubstantiation, celibacy of priests, confession, etc and was trying to get control of English translations of the Bible.

2. The English Reformation didn't really begin taking on a more positive direction, in my opinion, until Thomas Cranmer put together the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.  As this book of Anglican faith and practice developed, it would come to include the Thirty-Nine Articles, the grandpappy of Methodist and Wesleyan statements (although not without alteration). These articles were not a complete statement of faith, but located the Anglican church in relation to the rest of Christendom at the time.

a. For example, they placed the locus of authority for the church in Scripture. You can't require believers to believe or do anything that can't be demonstrated through Scripture. The locus here has to do with salvation, however, not belief about any topic whatsoever. The Apocrypha were included for instruction, but not for doctrine (deuterocanonical, as for Jerome).

b. In general, the Thirty-Nine Articles bear the strong influence of the High Reformation.  There is justification by faith here.  There is Calvin's predestination and the continuance of a sin nature after faith. There is the rejection of transubstantiation but continuation of infant baptism. Priests can marry. Only two sacraments. It opposes those Anabaptists who shared their possessions in common, as well as speaking in other tongues. It was possible to commit the unpardonable sin.

3. Much of Anglicanism would follow a Calvinist route, and Wesley himself said he was a "hair's breadth" from Calvin. However, England in the 1700s was impacted fairly strongly by the thinking of another individual who came out of Calvinism, Jacobus Arminius (d. 1609).

Some of the most important distinctions included that God's election was conditional on our choice, that God desired everyone to be saved, and that the atonement was thus in theory for everyone. Wesley would follow this line of thought rather than that of Calvinist Anglicanism.

4. Wesley represents a true amalgam of influences.  At Oxford he drank deeply from Roman Catholic writers on the goal of holiness.  He took justification by faith from Luther and extended Calvin's more pessimistic version of sanctification to stretch toward Catholic holiness.  He took prevenient grace from Arminius.

But the real missing piece of the equation was the Pietism of the Moravians.  Very unusual for the day, they believed they knew they were saved. Wesley's thinking took on an experiential dimension. In 1738 he felt his heart strangely warmed. He would understand holiness as another experience to be pursued in the life of a believer, "Christian perfection."

5. The Wesleyan tradition is not part of the high Reformation. Justification by faith, yes. But not Luther's "at the same time sinner and saint." Depraved and elected, yes, but not determined and requiring faithfulness to be maintained. The Bible sufficient for salvation, yes? But much to learn from tradition as well.

Happy Reformation Day!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who are you?

Did some thinking last week about this question.  Who are you?

1. A lot of who you are is who others think you are.
Whether we like it or not, a good deal of who we are is a matter of who others think we are.  It is real because it has real consequences.
  • What others think of me (perception is a reality)
  • What I think of myself (whether my self-perception is "accurate" or not)
  • What God thinks of me - P.S. This is who I truly am and it no doubt includes all the complexity of this post and more. At root, he considers me to be created in his image, which makes me immensely valuable. 
2. A lot of who we are is determined, outside our control.
  • We are more than animals, but we are animals. We have drives and urges. Much of what we call our sinful nature relates to our animal drives gone amok.  
  • groups I didn't choose - A person does not generally choose to be Irish or female, yet these group memberships are part of our default identity.
  • default self-concept - By default, we start with a sense of ourselves that intrinsically relates to our genetics and environment
3. In Western culture, we especially consider identity a matter of what we are by choice.
  • self-concept by choice (who we decide to be, despite our default self-concept)
  • decision for/against God (and what God does to me in response) - From a Christian perspective, this aspect of my choice is most determinative of who I am, not least because God changes us in response to our choice for him.
  • my choices, actions, patterns of behavior - These relate to the previous one.  Probably more than any other factor, our choices in the face of all the forces around us indicate who we are. They are embodiments of the attitudes we choose to embrace.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Persuasive versus Coercive Leadership

Last week, in church leadership class at the seminary, we talked about whether God was a more coercive or persuasive leader. Does God orchestrate everything that happens in the world or is his normal operating mode to try to persuade us to make the right choices?

Have you ever heard the saying, "Don't ask a question you don't want an answer to?" Occasionally there is a calculus you make in leadership whether to use your power to lead a group or organization in a certain direction or to go through the process of building buy-in and consensus to get the group to own the direction you want to go.

Ideally, having everyone on board with a certain trajectory is much to be preferred. But the danger is that, having sought the approval of the group, you don't get it. In that case, moving forward would require even more force than before. If you ask a group what they think of a certain direction, they may say no.

So sometimes leaders use their power to set a change in motion without really asking. Or, they may only give the organization partial information, getting just enough buy-in to keep moving without the group really knowing what its in for until it's too late. Or, they may move a train so far along that it would take more and more force of opposition to stop it by the time it is put in the hands of the group.

There are clearly risks on both sides. If a leader believes a certain decision is very important, yet that it will face significant opposition or resistance, he or she may use the authority of his or her position to move in that direction without seeking the buy-in of the group until the train has already left the station. There are dangers here. It can be the last card a leader plays, an act of self-sacrifice.

A leader who takes this sort of risk better hope that the decision works, because the group will be looking for an opportunity to eat him or her alive.  If the risky manipulation falls on its face, the leader will probably be gone very soon. In a context where the people can boot you, a leader usually cannot play this card too often. Of course some leaders are good at this sort of thing and create a climate of passivity among a group.

So it's much to be preferred to get the buy-in and collaboration of a group--or at least to make the group feel like it's getting a say.  Unless the leader is a genius and absolutely right on everything, it's likely that the group has genuine insight into the consequences of a decision. Yes, there will almost always be nay-sayers. But the nay-sayers are probably right on some things. You want some of them around to point out the down side... you just don't want a majority of them around.

There is sometimes a hubris to leadership. I know the right decision for us to make. I'm the leader. Sometimes that's true. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the time it's false!

We could multiply examples. There's the health care law.  There's leadership of the House. There are many a general church decision. Pastors often have new directions in which they want their churches to go. No doubt you can think of an example in your context.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Goal-Setting in Marital Counseling (2)

I've already done a little summarizing of Stone's Strategies for Brief Pastoral Counseling.  Here's a summary of chapter 10:

Chapter 10: "The Necessity of Goal Setting and Counselor Flexibility in Efficient and Effective Couples Counseling"

This chapter starts with the assumption that a pastor must be careful with time management in the local church. The assumption is that most pastors will not have more than 10 hours a week to give to counseling. If you have one wedding a month, you might have 4 pre-marital counseling sessions. If you have one funeral a month, you might take up 4 hours that month to care for those who are left behind. If you have some individuals or couples you regularly meet with to counsel, it will be easy to fill up those 10 hours.

In this chapter, Frank Thomas focuses on a strategy in marital counseling that does not focus on past causes of problems but on what is potentially useful in their situation. What experiences, skills, and resources do they have? What can they actually do to alleviate their problems?

Thomas gives several basic principles for a “competency-based” type of counseling for relationships. One assumption is that change is inevitable. Most people engage a marital counselor because they are “stuck”. People tend to describe their situation in a static way, as if something is always happening a certain way or the state of their relationship is always a certain way. Movement can happen if they can identify exceptions—instances when the irritation was not happening or they were not thinking about that “state” of the relationship.

Counselees should set their own goals for counseling. Their motivation will be higher when they are headed in a direction they want to go. They should take a small, positive step as soon as possible.

“In pastoral care and counseling, carefully timed meetings that focus on what is changeable in the present and future are more effective than long-term, continuous counseling focused on the intractable past” (141). Focusing on the past may even make a situation more overwhelming. By contrast, the future can offer hope. “Efficient pastoral intervention seizes the moment of motivation, engages the couple’s resources, and establishes momentum.”

The chapter focuses on three basic principles in short-term marital counseling. The first is that brief counseling is not inferior to long-term counseling. Not only does the research indicate both to be comparable in effectiveness, but most counselors are not going to get a long-term commitment from their counselees anyway. The typical duration of counseling in a local church setting is two or three sessions. In short, no matter what you think the ideal is, you probably will only get time for brief counseling.

The second principle is goal-setting. Thomas considers goal-setting one of the most crucial tasks of a brief counselor’s “to do” list. Such goals must be important to those who are being counseled and should not be compromises. The goals need to be mutual so that both are motivated. So a commonly agreed goal might be to argue less rather than to fix a specific issue about which one or the other spouse tends to argue.

Goals should result in something positive rather than the absence of something negative. A future of “staying sober” is more likely than one of “not drinking”. So if the goal is “fighting less”, what would the couple be doing instead? What are they doing when they are not arguing?

Goals need to be small and focused on the beginning, not on the end or on the long term. It is obvious that goals need to be realistic—and realistic in the minds of everyone involved. “The surest way to continue a couple’s pattern of failure is to set a lofty standard for success that cannot be achieved incrementally” (144). The goal of “handling our disagreements more positively” is far more likely than “never arguing again”.

Goals need to be concrete, specific, and should have to do with behavior. The goals need to be observable to both individuals and the counselor (not in attitudes that you cannot see). It is important for feelings and ways of thinking to change too, but they are much harder to observe.

A final key principle is flexibility on the part of the counselor. Pastors need to be prepared to meet the needs of the people they counsel with a variety of responses. “It is the soul of wisdom to resist enshrining any single model or approach to counseling” (145). Empathy with counselees and showing that you value them is perhaps more important for success than a specific method. The counselor tries to relate to each member of a couple, one at a time, with respect and curiosity.

Flexibility is essential because there is no “normal” counselee, no “one size fits all”. The counselor must not start with pre-conceptions about what should happen but to connect with the couple and draw the necessary information from their conversations. The couple decides when they have achieved enough and whether they will return for more sessions.

This chapter ends with two case studies. The first involved a couple who only could agree that they needed help with their sex life. He wanted everything planned. She wanted everything spontaneous. Beyond the basic problem, they could not agree on any goals. The goal of one worked against the goal of the other. They both identified moments of “exception”, when the problem was not there, but these moments conflicted with each other. An encounter one considered an exception to the problem was the problem for the other.

One week, the counselor asked them not to talk about sex, just to do. That week was worse for both of them. The next week, he asked them not to have sex unless both agreed on every aspect of the encounter. He also had them separately write down “great little moments” so he could get a better feel for what both considered pleasant. He was following adages like, at times, “inaction may be the highest form of action” (148) and “The first rule of holes: When you are in one, stop digging” (149). He asked them only to talk about successful sexual experiences and only to offer ideas if one of them believed the idea could not fail. They found the metaphor of holding hands on a foggy road—he couldn’t see much to analyze and she could enjoy focusing on the next few yards ahead.

The second case study involved a divorced couple that was thinking about getting back together. He had an affair for six months after nine years of marriage, and they had divorced after fourteen years of marriage when she had found out. He had also made some bad business decisions that had hurt the family. The short term goal was to assess the direction and motivation they had to put the marriage back together.

During the second session, the counselor asked the former husband if he would leave the room for a moment and he agreed. The counselor asked her on a scale from one to ten, how motivated she was to get back together. She answered a three.

When he returned, the former husband was surprised to find her motivation so low. They both agreed on a pattern in their relationship. He pushed hard and she usually capitulated to his demands. The counselor met with her for a few more sessions. She was able to pay her bills, be a parent, and even thrive without him. A primary conclusion is that she would need to make significant movement in healing the hurt from the affair before she could even entertain the idea of remarriage.

The couple continued to meet and discuss their differences, but now they did so as equals. She was exhilarated by the thought of a future where she had a voice in the direction of her life—with or without her former husband. One of her most important insights was that she could only change herself. She could not change the past and she could not change her former husband.

The couple at that point continued to move forward on their own and the goal of the counseling session was achieved, namely, to assess the direction and motivation to get back together.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Good News for a Lifetime

Just wrote this:

"What does this fact mean for us [the meaning of the gospel]? In his book, King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight argues that it means we not focus narrowly on just trying to “get people saved.” That is to say, some parts of American Christianity focus quite heavily on getting people to “pray the sinner’s prayer” or get baptized. Preaching the gospel comes to be preaching people to cross an initial threshold into Christianity, getting them converted.

"But if the gospel centers on the good news that Jesus is king, then Jesus is not just king for a day. He is king for the rest of eternity. Believing in the good news cannot thus be something you do for a moment and then walk away. Accepting someone as a Lord is never a matter of a true/false test. A Lord is a master. Someone is not your master unless you do whatever they tell you to do.

"So the person who receives the gospel is someone who becomes a lifelong servant and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It may begin in a moment, but it never ends. Any narrow focus on the gospel as just salvation—let alone just how to get “saved”—deeply impoverishes it."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Paul, Romans, Political Chess (Acts 25)

1. So the Roman governor Felix has been looking for a bribe from Paul for a couple years. I do suspect that Paul brought a sizable amount of money to Jerusalem as a gift/peace offering to the church of Jerusalem. Paul seems to play dumb.

There are many places in the world where bribes are business as usual. Is it appropriate to pay a bribe to a government official to get medical supplies through customs and into a country, for example? It's a sign of a deficient system, yes, dare I say an inferior society. But can it simply be a cultural element that is considered appropriate for doing business in certain places, like a fee?  I suspect great wisdom is necessary here, not because of abstract rules (that answer, I think, is culturally unaware of how extensively our sense of ethics is affected by our own culture) but because of long term consequences.

2.  Festus forces Paul's hand. He suggests Paul go to Jerusalem to stand trial. If the earlier assassins kept their vow, they're all dead, but presumably there were others willing to take their place. The year is around AD60, six years before the Jewish War would break out and eventually spell Jerusalem's demise.

Paul's statement that he had not broken the Jewish Law or done anything against the temple or Caesar is significant. Now Luke has that on the record for posterity.

Paul appeals to Caesar, the right of a Roman citizen. He reminds me of Socrates here. Might be interesting to thumb through Plato's Apology and see if he says anything about being willing do die if he deserves it.  He willingly drank the hemlock after being convicted. Acts 4 also echoed the Apology, when Peter says it is better to obey God over mortals.

3. The rest of the chapter introduces Herod Agrippa II to us. This is the son of the Agrippa who killed the apostle James, son of Zebedee. Of all the Herods, he is the only one portrayed favorably in the New Testament. Herod the Great killed the babies in Bethlehem. Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist.

Again, a recurring theme Luke wanted to get across to his audience, is Paul's innocent (similar to Jesus). Festus tells Agrippa that the complaints about Paul had to do with Jewish matters and his claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Agrippa wants to hear him.

4. Typical monologuing by Festus. What should I charge him with? Help me out here, Agrippa. He has done nothing deserving of death. This again is a nudge to the audience, I think. Paul should not have been put to death by Caesar. Christians are not troublemakers although others give them plenty of trouble...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Gospel in Acts

The Noun: "Gospel"
1. The actual word "gospel" (euangelion) is only used twice in the book of Acts. In Acts 15:7, Peter tells the Jerusalem meeting that God first chose to bring the gospel to the Gentiles through him. This good news was something that they believed. To get a better idea of what this good news was, therefore, we would look at the sermon of Acts 10.

2. The second instance is in Acts 20:24, where Paul says that his ministry is to testify to the "gospel of the grace of God." In this instance, it would be natural to take "grace of God" as the content of the good news. Paul's ministry involved testifying to the good news about the grace of God. Whatever the gospel is, it exemplifies the grace of God in specific ways.

The noun does not occur at all in Luke.

The Verb: "To Preach the Gospel"
The verb form, "to proclaim the good news" (euangelizomai) is probably more helpful in honing in on just want this good news is. The verb appears 15 times in Acts and 10 times in Luke.

1. In one translation of Acts 5:42, Peter and others preach the good news that Jesus is the Christ. This type of good news would fit with the Hellenistic use of the word to announce the birth of a future emperor or a military victory.  "Jesus is the Christ" is the announcement that the king has arrived.

2. Acts 8:4 seems to have a similar sense. Philip and others who are scattered preach good news of "the word." What is the word? The next verse suggests the word was as in 5:42.  Philip was "preaching the Christ" to the Samaritans. We can presume that the word means the same later in the chapter (8:25).

In 8:35 Philip shares the good news with the Ethiopian eunuch. It is also the good news about Jesus. Then Philip continues to share it in the towns of that area (8:40).

3. In Acts 10:36, the message of good news is "peace through Jesus Christ," who is "Lord of all things." Again, we remember Augustus and the good news of his kingship when he ushered in the pax Romana ("Roman peace").

What is nice about Acts 10 here is that Peter goes on to give the details of what this good news of the Christ is (and remember that 15:7 pointed us back to this passage in reference to what the gospel was). The gospel was the word that was proclaimed throughout Judea.  It involved a story that started with John the Baptist.

The story involved casting out demons. But the preaching about him was that he was ordained to be the judge of the living and the dead (10:42). In other words, the good news centers on his kingship. However, it also involves the possibility of forgiveness for sins (10:43).

4. Acts 11:40 - They preached the Lord Jesus (Jesus is Lord, Jesus is king again).
  • Acts 13:32 - The good news promised is that Jesus is God's Son (13:33), his king.
  • Acts 14:7 - Doesn't give contextual clues about what they're preaching but presumably the same.
5. Acts 14:15 - The good news here may be the same, but Paul approaches it much more broadly in terms of the right God rather than the right king.
  • Acts 14:21 - No specifics mentioned, but the message elicits disciples or followers, which we would expect of a king.
  • Acts 15:35 - Paul and Barnabas continue to preach the good news at Antioch. The good news is the "word of the Lord" (cf. 8:25). Since Lord relates to Jesus as king, it fits again that the center of the good news is the enthronement of Jesus as king.
  • Acts 16:10 - no specific content given
6. The final instance of preaching the gospel is in Acts 17:18. Here, the Athenians connect the good news with the announcement of Jesus' resurrection. From elsewhere in Acts, we know that the resurrection for Luke represented Jesus' enthronement as Messiah, Lord, and Son of God... that is, as king.

7. As far as the Gospel of Luke is concerned. Luke 1:19 indicates that the coming ministry of John the Baptist can be good news. The birth of Jesus the Savior is good news in 2:10 (cf. Augustus). John the Baptist preaches the good news of Jesus' arrival in 3:18.

Jesus preaches the good news of the arrival of the kingdom of God (4:43; cf. 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1) and predicts its demonstrating in his healing ministry (4:18; cf. 7:22).

The good news in Acts centers on the inauguration of Jesus' kingship, with all that it entails. There is continuity between the good news of Jesus reign and the good news in Luke of the arrival of the kingdom of God, for Jesus is the king God is installing. Entailed in that kingship is of course the peace of his reign, forgiveness of sins, the judgment of God's enemies.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Case for Brief Pastoral Counseling 1

I've been summarizing a few chapters from a book called Strategies for Brief Pastoral Counseling. Although clearly the author, Howard Stone, is fighting a battle I don't know, much of what he says fits my intuitions across the board about the penchant of many Christian personalities to want to determine "who you are" before they address "what you do." The result is often narcissistic navel gazing of which I did a plenty in college. This is one personality preference, but not the only one.

The prevailing model of counseling in the United States for a century has been long term counseling. Especially in the model inspired by Freud, the goal was to dig down deep into a person's head and find the underlying causes of problems. The idea was that a person may not even be aware of the real reasons for their current struggles and that if you cannot get at the root, you are just treating the symptoms rather than the real causes. Any solution would at best be short term. You may have heard the stereotypical question, "Now tell me about your mother."

Research does not bear out this approach. Howard Stone, the editor and primary voice behind this book, argues strongly for brief rather than long-term counseling.  Research shows that long-term, get at the root models are no more effective than shorter, get moving models.

"In actual practice, the extensive exploration of a person’s history and the discovery of a problem’s sources generally are not prerequisites for effective and lasting change" (7). Stone is not arguing that a counselor should ignore or gloss over history. Rather, he is claiming that remarkable progress can be made with little or no focus on underlying causes. Indeed, even if one knows the underlying causes of a problem, it is in no way a guarantee that a person will make any progress in solving it.

The task of the counselor is not to make a person perfect but to get them moving in the right direction. Most people resolve their problems by themselves without intervention. The goal is not to change the personality of the counseled or to resolve even most of people’s problems. “Brief pastoral counseling has a considerably more modest goal: to get people moving in a positive direction of their own choosing and then get out of the way” (16).
"Motion brings emotion."  Theory is an abstraction from doing, and it is only one personality that wants to complete the whole abstraction before actually doing anything. That is a legitimate personality (and one that often dominates academics and theology), but it often assumes it is the only valid approach. Treatment can begin before the diagnosis is completed--because when it comes to the human psyche, the diagnosis may never be completed.

The "theory, then practice" approach tends to dominate academics, but we can raise some theoretical questions about it. Ideas do not exist apart from the world of which they are abstractions (Plato was a moron). The purpose of ideas is to help us manipulate the real world. The larger the ideological system, the greater the skew of the real world. (By the way, the Bible is a collection of local ideas--the grander the theological system of reading the Bible, the less of the real Bible it actually is)

A more effective pedagogical (as well as theoretical) model is to present a critical mass of ideas in order to begin to engage the real world. Then return to ideas and refine. Then return to the real world. For most people this cycle of "running the car, looking at the engine, then running the car again" will be the most effective style of pedagogy... or counseling.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ways the NT Uses the OT

Someone asked if I would post something like the following, so here it is.  What are the ways in which the New Testament uses the Old Testament?

1. Literal Interpretation
There are clearly instances where the NT takes an OT passage literally. For example, the examples/exempla of Hebrews 11 take individuals from Old Testament stories as literal examples of faith.  Abraham demonstrated faith when he left Ur and Haran for what would become the land of Egypt (Heb. 11:8). Of course here we are not surprised that the NT interpretation took place within the framework of understanding of the interpreter (e.g., contemporary traditions of authorship were assumed). The point here is that the author's intention was to interpret the OT literally.

Hebrews uses the "lesser to greater" argument several times on the basis of a literal interpretation. If the punishment under the old covenant was severe, and the new covenant is greater than the old covenant, then the punishment under the new covenant should be greater than the punishment under the old covenant.

2. Typological Interpretation
The category of typology is an invention of the Protestant Reformation, as it was important for some Protestants to make a distinction between allegorical interpretation (which was considered bad by the Reformers and associated with Roman Catholic interpretation) and typological interpretation (which was said to take the literal meaning seriously and was thus considered acceptable). 

An example is when Hebrews 3-4 consider the pilgrimage of Israel from Egypt to Canaan as analogous to the audience's pilgrimage in faith. The audience did not want to be like the wilderness generation. They left Egypt but did not enter into God's rest because of disbelief. So the audience was in danger of not entering into God's rest, of not making it to the promised heavenly homeland.  

3. Allegorical Interpretation
The New Testament obviously uses allegory from time to time and doesn't blink an eye. The most obvious example is in Galatians 4:21-31, where Paul even uses the word allegoreo.  Sarah and Hagar become allegories for the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem--clearly nothing that Genesis itself had in mind.  Nor is it based on a contextual reading of the story.

Another example include when Paul makes Deuteronomy 25:4 an allegory for supporting ministers. "Do not muzzle an ox when it is treading grain" becomes "Take care of your ministers when they are ministering to you." Some might argue that this comparison is typology because there is a similarity between the original meaning and the NT meaning.  That is possible in our breakdown, but it would have been an allegory in NT times. 

4. Spiritual Interpretation
In a number of instances, Hebrews changes the meaning of Old Testament words by a number of techniques. These include techniques like 1) excerpting words from a passage, 2) putting the words on Jesus' mouth, or 3) mixing more than one passage together.

a. excerpting
Matthew especially will lift a set of words from somewhere in the OT and put them against the context of Jesus. This method reminds us of the "pesher" interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Matthew 2:15 lifts the words "out of Egypt I called my son" and uses them not of Israel leaving Egypt but of the baby Jesus leaving Egypt. Matthew gives us no indication that he is comparing the exodus with Jesus leading us out of sin. The comparison is between the two sons and the geographical leaving of Egypt.

b. scripting
In a number of places, NT authors put OT words on Jesus' lips. Hebrews 10, for example, puts Psalm 40 on Jesus' lips in a way that obviously was not part of the original meaning.  The psalmist originally was saying that God would rather have obedience that animal sacrifices. Put on the lips of Jesus in Hebrews, the psalm comes to point to the end of the sacrificial system altogether in light of the body of Jesus on the cross. Hebrews makes this point, by the way, on the basis of a difference in the Greek text of Psalm 40 from the original Hebrew text.

c. cross-reference
Biblical authors, like other interpreters of their day, sometimes mixed diverse biblical passages together.  Gezera shewa, for example, was a technique that joined passages on the basis of stitch words or words two passages hold in common.

The NT authors traditionally mixed together Psalm 8 and Psalm 110, two psalms that originally had nothing to do with each other on the basis of things being under feet. Hebrews 4 mixes together Psalm 95 with Genesis 2:2-3 by the theme of "rest."

We might call the above examples types of "spiritual interpretation" because the passages are taken out of context and given a distinctly new significance.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grudem 15b: Creation not God

B. Creation is Distinct and Dependent
The creation is something entirely distinct from God, yet the creation is always dependent on God. God is "far above" the creation, greater than the creation (God is transcendent).  Yet God is always involved with the creation and is present in all the creation (God is immanent).

Grudem presents a number of theological mistakes that have an improper balance of these two truths. Materialism treats the creation as if it is all that exists (practical materialists are those whose lives are oriented around possessions and money).  On the other hand, pantheism equates God with the creation. The world becomes god.  Views that see the world as an "emanation" from God are similar to pantheism because the world is not distinct from God.

Dualism sees the creation as having existed side by side next to God as another ultimate reality.  In other words, it does not see God as creating the universe out of nothing. Is God stronger than the creation?  Will God win out over evil?

Deism then sees God as transcendent but not immanent.  That is to say, God created the universe but is not currently involved in it.  God is like a clock-maker who wound up the world and then left it running on its own.

Grudem's treatment of these unorthodox views is accurate and appropriate. The only place where perhaps it could be improved is in his distinction between transcendent and immanent. I have argued previously that Grudem does not have a fully developed sense of what it means to say that God's essence must be outside the creation since he created the universe out of nothing.

That is to say, creation was not when the Trinity, existing in emptiness, put matter into space. Creation was when God created both the emptiness and the matter in it. The transcendence of God, in relation to the creation, is thus much more than the fact that God is greater and "far above" the creation.  It is that his essence exists "outside" or "other" than this universe, including its space.  God's immanence is thus the presence of his Spirit everywhere within this universe and its space.

C. God Created the Universe to Show His Glory
"The entire creation is intended to show God's glory" (271). "One glance at the sun of the stars convinces us of God's infinite power."  God did not have to create the universe.  It was a "totally free act of God."  God does not need us in any way.

The creation shows us God's power and wisdom.  And God has made us in such a way that we enjoy creating things too.  We gain fulfillment when we imitate God.

Grudem is completely orthodox here, although he misses an important dimension.  Calvinists of Grudem's sort often talk about the creation as if its sole purpose is to give glory to God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, the primary purpose of humanity is to glorify God and serve him forever. True though it is, it is not the whole equation.

The part that Grudem and those like him tend to miss is the fact that God created the universe to enjoy it as well.  Calvinists of this sort tend to see God as the greatest narcissist there ever was, as if he only created us so that we would tell him how great he is.  But God genuinely loves the creation.  He genuinely enjoys us.  He created the universe as a legitimate object of love and glory in itself.

D. The Creation was "Very Good"
Since God made the creation to glorify himself, we are not surprised that it does, that it is good. Genesis 1 of course says so. "The material creation is still good in God's sight and should be seen as 'good' by us as well" (272).

Grudem thus teaches it is wrong to have a "false asceticism" that believes we should not enjoy the creation (including the pleasures of marriage and food).  We should feel free to have a "positive, thankful, joyful use of it," 272). God has given us enjoyment of it, so the proper industrial and technological development of it is legitimate.

Certainly Grudem is orthodox to teach that the creation is not intrinsically evil. What is a little surprising is that he does not say anything about the fallenness of creation, which was a key teaching of Augustine and a common Christian belief throughout the centuries. That is to say, most Christians in history have believed that it was not only humanity that became subject to sin when Adam sinned but that creation itself became subject to corruption and decay at that time.

To be sure, not all Christians hold this belief, perhaps especially those who believe in some form of theistic evolution. Paul perhaps more exactly saw the creation as being under the power of evil at this present time, due to an intrinsic weakness (not sinfulness) that it had. Nevertheless, Grudem expresses a fully orthodox sentiment when he sees the creation as good in itself. We are free to enjoy the creation, to exercise, and to explore the greatness God has put into it.

Grudem also misses the fact that God created us to be good stewards of it.  He did not create us to abuse it or exploit it.  That would be treating his property carelessly.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I am grateful to those Republicans in the House and Senate who, in the face of great pressure to vote against reopening the government, agreed to compromise.  You know it had to be a sacrifice for them. It looks like they thought it was the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.

That, to me, is the sign of a true statesman, someone who can lose graciously for the greater good. In this case, it was to make a choice for what they believed was the lesser of two evils.  I have no doubt but that Senator Dan Coats of Indiana and my own Congresswoman Susan Brooks believe with all their heart that the Affordable Care Act is a bad thing. But they apparently thought defaulting on our debt obligations and keeping government employees out of work was a worse evil at this moment.

There are spiritual lessons here. Jesus was not an idealist. That was the Pharisees we love to hate. Jesus believed in getting an ox out of a ditch even if it was the Sabbath (Luke 14:5).  Paul urged the Corinthians that it was better to be cheated and lose, even when you were in the right, for the greater good (1 Cor. 6:7). Jesus' death was the greatest example of a person who was right but surrendered to being wronged for the greater good.

My point is that there is a time to compromise and there is a time to lose. There is even a time to lose a battle so you can fight another day. I remember talking to some missionaries in Sierra Leone who struggled with whether to leave the country during civil war. With some disgrace, they decided it was better to live and be able to come back than to die and never be able to minister there again. No doubt they had to wrestle with the shame of this decision, maybe even the anger of those left behind, but they believed it was the best course of action.

A pastor who operates with a "my way or the highway" attitude is a pastor destined for failure. And we know plenty of laypeople in the church with that attitude--we don't think highly of them. In the university, there is a time when you fight for your outcome. Then there is a time when you realize you've lost the argument and you yield to the majority. Those who don't are not people you ultimately want around in the long term.

The heart of the gospel is a story of winning by losing.  It's about the last being first.  Any construction of Jesus that sees him as a "win at all costs" down here kind of Messiah needs to go back to the Bible. That's the mistake Peter made when he corrected Jesus about going to Jerusalem to die. "No, Jesus," Peter thought.  "Messiahs don't die.  They always win."

So let me express my gratitude to Boehner and Cantor for voting yes.  Surely it had to be the right thing to do for them to vote against all the political pressure going the other way.  My respect for them has gone up greatly.

Compromise is not always a dirty word. There's a another term for it--mutual submission.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Philosophy of History Video

Here's a 34 minute video on the philosophy of history for a class. It's both too long and yet too hurried. But it at least mentions a lot of key issues.

First Century Lawyers (Acts 24)

1. The high priest Ananias (is this the Ananus who put James the brother of Jesus to death in 62?) goes up with a lawyer named Tertullus to see the procurator, Felix about Paul. Both Tertullus and Paul completely flatter the guy.

Tertullus: What tremendous reforms you've brought!
Paul: You are so knowledgeable I am very happy to make my defense.

2. Tertullus calls Paul a ringleader of the Nazarenes (a great put down indeed ;-) and a troublemaker who went around stirring up riots.  He says he tried to defile the temple. By the way, verse 7 appears to be an addition to the KJV text. In the verse, Tertullus faults Claudius Lysias for stealing Paul away from them.

Paul denies it. I didn't argue with anyone at the temple. I haven't stirred up things in the synagogue or anywhere else in Jerusalem. He does admit to being a follower of the Way. He believes in the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.

3. Finally, evidence of the offering!  He came to Jerusalem with gifts for the poor.  Paul indicates that the ones accusing him are from Asia (i.e., Ephesus).

4. Felix wants a bribe. He keeps calling for Paul.  Paul keeps on talking. Felix gets no money.  Paul expounds on righteousness, self-control, and judgment instead.

5. Two years.  Paul runs out the clock until the next governor arrives in maybe AD60, Festus.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MOOC, anyone?

I think anyone can teach a MOOC using Blackboard's public face, CourseSites.  It occurred to me that instead of blogging as much in the Spring, I could offer an informal, not for credit course for 8 weeks or so.  I'd probably charge $10 for registration.

I doubt enough people would be interested to make it worth the time, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Here are some of the courses I've taught over the years: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Paul's letters, Hebrews, Jewish literature between the testaments, Jewish afterlife traditions, Bible Study Method, New Testament Survey, philosophy, ???.  Languages would require multiple courses to get someone to where they could pass a competency exam somewhere.

The format of a MOOC is usually a series of videos with quizzes, optional discussion, and sometimes a final project.  Anyone interested?  If you were, what would pique your interest?

A random thought...

Why do they keep trying to kill me? (Acts 23b)

1. Romans are always rescuing Paul from the fray. The Roman commander rescues Paul from the Sanhedrin, the division between Pharisees and Sadducees is so great.  Some zealous Jews take a vow that they will not eat or drink until Paul is dead.

And they died, that is, if they kept their vow.  We find out that Paul had a sister and nephew in the city. The nephew catches wind of the plot, tells Paul, tells the commander. Instead of sending Paul to the Sanhedrin, Paul is shipped up at night to the coast, to Caesarea.

Fun to think that Paul had a sister in Jerusalem.  Was she older?  Did Paul go to live with her when he was young?  Or did he make it possible for some of his family to move south from Tarsus when he was rising the ranks of the Pharisees?

2. Paul did nothing worthy of death or imprisonment.  So says Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander. On the hypothesis that Acts is an amicus brief for his appearance before Nero, this would be a not so subtle hint to Nero.  I don't think that's likely because of the dating of Acts. The comment corroborates the sense that even though Nero put Paul to death, he was innocent. He was not the troublemaker.

By the way, the letter of Claudius Lysias is an example of an ancient letter--X to Y, Greetings, Body of Letter. The KJV adds a "farewell," a good example of how tradition smoothed things out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sadducees believed in angels (Acts 22b-23a)

1. In the latter part of Acts 22, we learn that Paul was born a Roman citizen. This implies a certain status in the Roman world. It fits with the idea that, back home, he was more the boss of the company than a skilled worker.

2. Paul appears before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23, the Jewish ruling council. He says his conscience is clear. The high priest has him smacked. He says, "The Lord will strike you, you whitewashed wall." Then he realizes it's the high priest and he apologizes, quotes Scripture. I always found that sequence a little funny.

He realizes it's a divided house between Pharisees and Sadducees. He says that he's only in trouble because he believes in the resurrection. That divides the house. The Pharisees start arguing with the Sadducees and Paul just sits back and enjoys.

23:8, however, is a very significant verse, even though hard to understand. It says that the Sadducees do not believe in resurrection, neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both. This verse has sometimes been taken to mean that Sadducees did not believe in angels (and, anachronistically, people used to associate them with modern liberals who didn't believe in the supernatural--a good example of how easy it is to infect our interpretation with our own context).

But this would be the only evidence anywhere to suggest Sadducees didn't believe in angels. (the idea that Sadducees only followed the Law and not the other parts of the OT is similarly based on the contested interpretation of a single statement in Josephus. By the way, there are angels in the Law). And what is worse, the "no angels" interpretation of this verse seems wrong.

If you look at the structure of this verse, it seems to go something like the following:
  • Sadducees do not believe in resurrection...
  • Neither in the angel form nor the spirit form...
  • But Pharisees confess both types of resurrection
So the question becomes, what is angel resurrection and what is spirit resurrection? This is a good example of how we read our categories into the biblical texts and say we have a biblical worldview. The distinction between material and immaterial, that we generally apply to these issues, comes from Descartes in the 1500s and not from the Bible. The lines they drew around reality were different in biblical times.

So the difference between embodied/corporeal and disembodied/incorporeal for them was not the same as the Cartesian difference between material/immaterial. Spirits were thinner material for them but still material. Spirit was breath and wind. To be embodied might mean a different material or a thicker material but still material.

So what is the difference between angels and spirits? Some thought of angels as spirits (e.g., Heb. 1:14). But it's possible that Luke thought of angels as more embodied than spirits. NT Wright (Resurrection of the Son of God) has suggested that Acts 23:8 is talking about the intermediate state of the dead. When the house church thinks Peter is dead, they wonder if it is his angel at the door (12:15).

After years of pondering this one, I remain puzzled. Do only special people become angels at death in Luke's thinking?  After years of us telling the people in our churches that you don't become angels at death and that angels aren't good people who died, we see that there was actually a biblical basis for this idea! An angel serves as a messenger of God.

But Luke seems to have another intermediate category for spirits. And neither of these seem to be the same as our resurrection body, for Jesus has flesh and bones in Luke 24:39. In that verse, Jesus contrasts a spirit with his resurrection body, which had flesh and bones.

An important take-away here is to remember that the books of the Bible were revealed in the categories of their day. Just as the universe is not three stories (Phil. 2:10) and the stars aren't in between the waters above and the waters beneath (Gen. 1), we should not confuse the form in which the revelation comes for the substance of the revelation. Biblical cosmologies came in ancient clothing and rarely if ever were the revealed point being made, only the envelope in which it came.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Balancing the Proverbs

My pastor this morning preached on being excellent in your work. It reminded me of one proverb my father passed on in the form of, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."  There's also I another proverb I heard on his lips more rarely, "Good enough for who it's for."

The great thing about proverbs is, as I think Steve Lennox has said, sometimes they're true.  And of course, sometimes they don't apply. Wisdom is knowing when to apply which or even when to preach which. One day begs for the call to perfection. Another begs for preaching against perfectionism.

It might be nice to preach some proverbs in pairs, two point sermons.  Point 1 gives the one side and point 2 the other.  Both are true.

Discernment is knowing when to use which...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reading the Bible Devotionally

I've noticed something awkward that can happen when someone is leading devotions and a Steve Lennox or Bud Bence is in the room. Frankly, it happens a lot when a pastor is in the room. The person leading the devotions can be uncomfortable to share out of fear that they'll get some interpretation wrong.

Here's the big secret. God does not primarily speak through Scripture by way of the "expert" meaning, I don't think. Rather, the Spirit can trigger wisdom and spiritual insight through the text whether it has anything to do with what the text meant originally or not.  Like I said the other day, there are experts on the Bible and it takes years of intense study to truly become one. But you don't have to be an expert for God to speak to you through Scripture.  Otherwise we'd all be sunk.

I heard a devotional the other day.  It was a great devotional that urged us on to healthy lives that took time for God and for rest in our lives.  The author of the biblical text in question might not have recognized much of anything in the devotional. But it doesn't matter because God used the devotional to speak truth to us that fit with the big truths of Scripture.

I venture to say that the majority of stuff preached from the pulpits of the world every Sunday goes well beyond anything the sermon texts and their authors ever imagined. Some of it is probably way off in one respect... and yet way true in another. That's the way the Spirit works, I think, more often than not. Half the time we think we're getting a truth from the Bible we're actually getting a truth from the Spirit, triggered through the words of the Bible.  It's a dance we do with the Spirit and the text.

By the way, I would even put a lot of the insights of a Dennis Kinlaw in this category.  Sure, he knows Hebrew.  He knows the history of interpretation of the Old Testament. He knows the history of the ancient near east like nobody's business. But his preaching insights?  I don't actually think Moses or David or Isaiah would recognize half of it.  But the Spirit has given Kinlaw massive spiritual insight and wisdom in his lifelong dancing with the biblical texts.

So boldly lead your devotionals from the Bible without worrying about whether your wisdom is exactly what the text meant originally. Boldly preach that sermon God has laid on your heart whether you know Greek or not.  Wisdom and insight is not limited to the original meaning. Frankly, the experts often disagree on what the original meaning was in the first place.

If you have the Spirit of Christ--and thus read the Bible with the eyes of faith, hope, and love--the Spirit will steer you and your community of faith in the right direction.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Paul's Conversion Account 2 (Acts 22)

1. We get some background information on Paul. Paul was born in Tarsus but grew up in Jerusalem. He studied at the feet of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a famous Hillelite Pharisee. According to some traditions, he was the grandson of Hillel. We met Gamaliel back in Acts 5.

By stereotype, Hillelite Pharisees were more fatalistic than the other school of Shammai. The Shammaites arguably had a more revolutionary character, "let's help God get stuff done" philosophy. The Hillelites were more "God will do it in his own time," more Quakerish--you can see this in Acts 5. In this respect, Paul sounds a lot more like a Shammaite Pharisee than a Hillelite. Much we just don't know...

2. When Paul says he persecuted followers of the Way to their death, we think of Stephen. We have no record of him causing any other early Christian's death. He seems to have been a "go-fer" for the Sanhedrin.

3. Paul gives three accounts of his conversion in Acts. We had one in Acts 9 by Luke. This one is on Paul's lips. There's another by Paul in Acts 26.  The NIV has smoothed out one minor tension between the first two accounts. In Acts 9 the people with Paul hear the voice but do not see anyone (9:7). In this account, they see the light but do not hear the voice (22:9). The NIV translation removes the question.

4. I wish Jesus would tap me/us on the shoulder this obviously when I was headed in the wrong direction! Paul is blinded. He is later healed, but we can wonder whether he continued to struggle with his eyes to some extent for the rest of his life. Galatians 4:15 suggests that Paul's initial time in Galatia had something to do with his eyes...

(It is hard to know how this might fit with Acts' account. For a long time, I went for a north Galatia audience for Galatians rather than the south Galatian churches of Acts because I didn't see how Paul's first stay in south Galatia could have been related to eye trouble. I finally conceded that it just makes more sense that it would be the churches Acts mentions rather than churches for which we have no record.)

... I personally think this is the only lead we have to go on as far as what Paul's thorn in the flesh might have been (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

5. You have to look up to Ananias.  Good grief, talk about obedience to God!  Your head is saying, "Danger, danger, Will Robinstein." But you go ahead and do what God tells you anyway.

6. Calling Jesus "the Righteous One" is interesting and we find it elsewhere in Acts. Richard Hays thinks Paul reads Habakkuk to say, "My Righeous One will live by faithfulness."  He thinks most of the passages we take as "faith in Christ" are actually about the "faithfulness of Christ."

7. 22:16 makes a connection between baptism and washing sins away. Acts 15:9 made the same connection with the Spirit.  They go together in Acts . You are baptized; you receive the Spirit.

8. Notice again how Acts accentuates the law-keeping of Paul and Ananias, fitting the context in Jerusalem.  Ananias is a devout observer of the Law (22:12).  Paul was praying in the temple when God tells him to leave Jerusalem and that he is sending him to the Gentiles. In Galatians we find out that Paul went to Jerusalem 3 years after his conversion.

It's when Paul mentions the Gentiles that the mob goes wild again...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Where is the scholar of this generation..."

A coworker of mine apparently made a casual comment that "the field of theology is in disarray." I'm not 100% sure what was meant, but let me co-opt the comment.  Study of the Bible in the United States is in disarray. I'm going to blame two things: 1) no clear sense of who you would be talking about with the phrase, "scholars say," and 2) the empowerment of the mob as authorities on the Bible.

1. No clear referent to the word "scholars"
I suppose the word "scholars" has always been a little ambiguous.  There were mainstream scholars, the "liberals."  These were the ones we used to throw rocks at from a distance. They were in their mainline world and didn't pay us much attention. We burned them in effigy but never actually engaged them. Their watchword and song was the historical-critical method, but they didn't make room for miracles or literal resurrections.

Then in the 50s there emerged the guild of evangelical scholarship. They followed a modified version of the historical-critical method, one that allowed for miracles and the supernatural in the historical equation. They also had certain boundaries, electric fences, if you would. You practiced normal historical inquiry until you came near one of these fences and then you shifted into eisegesis.

But little groups like my church at that time, the Pilgrim Holiness Church, didn't have many scholars of the previous two kinds. We had "holiness scholars." These were scholars who knew the biblical text like there was no tomorrow but knew precious little of the historical-cultural world that gave those texts their original meaning. Instead, we unreflectively filled the meanings of those words up with meanings from our revivalist tradition, hopefully with a bit of the Holy Spirit guiding.

These groups were more or less socially isolated. Sects like mine were able to perpetuate ways of thinking about the text without engaging broader scholarship. Some went to seminary (e.g., Asbury) and learned about evangelical scholarship. The Wesleyan Methodists added inerrancy to their Discipline at the behest of an evangelical scholar in their midst (Stephen Paine of Houghton).

But today, the lines are all blurred.  Post-modernism has dethroned historical-critical scholarship in the first group (the "liberals"), and a kind of mob scholarship (a form of the third group) is even taking over the second (the card carrying "evangelicals"). Where is the scholar of this generation? Just as the anti-government mob wants to take over the government, the anti-scholarship mob would storm the Bastille of biblical scholarship.

2. The empowerment of the mob
From Aristotle to de Tocqueville (who gives a rip about them... we're storming the Bastille) it was well foreseen that the danger of a democracy was mob rule, and IMO, we're not far from that in America right now. Everyone thinks that their opinion on anything is as worthwhile as people who have put in 1000s of hours of study. (I read in a book by IWUs new president, David Wright, that it takes 10,000 hours or about 10 years truly to become an expert at something).

Don't know Greek and Hebrew?  No problem. Your opinion of what the Bible means is as good as anyone else's because we live in a democracy.  Sorry Charlie.  You can know Greek and Hebrew and not truly be an expert on the Bible, but you're not even close if you don't know them.

I sense that even the "establishment" of evangelical Biblical scholarship is in danger. It's ironic that Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who invented the guillotine, eventually lost his life to it in the French Revolution. So the scholars behind the NIV2011, stalwarts like Doug Moo of Wheaton, have now somehow become liberal?  A new book, Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism, is sure to be thought liberal, even though endorsed by scholars at places like Wheaton.

So Wheaton and Asbury become liberal?  Professors at Trinity and Gordon-Conwell liberal?  Senator Dick Lugar is dethroned by the Tea Party for being liberal.  The Bastille is stormed and the mob sharpens their guillotines. "Everyone interpreted what was right in their own eyes."

Make no mistake.  There is such a thing as historical method. You gather evidence.  You construct hypotheses.  You test the hypotheses against the evidence.  The most likely theory is the one that accounts for the most data in a way that is the simplest without being too simple.

Is there certainty? No.  Do we always have enough evidence? No. But this is the method that we use in everyday life to our greatest advantage and this is the method that gives us cell phones and iPads. Anything else is a land of magical thinking.

Also make no mistake. There is a theology that developed in the early centuries of Christianity and that is more or less shared by all the main branches of Christendom. Is it revisable?  I'm a Protestant so I'm going to say yes.  But I'm a Wesleyan so I'm going to say not much.

These are the twin fixed points.  Contextual method of interpretation and theological orthodoxy.  Let the Bible say what it says and process it with orthodox theology. By these two fixed points, we can have an informed faith that can stand the winds of American fickleness and anti-intellectualism.

Once the mob is done burning chairs and breaking windows, I'd be delighted to teach Bible again... the real Bible.

Mobs never change (Acts 21b)

1. It never fails. When they finally get you, they don't actually get you for the right thing. Paul's near the temple with a Gentile.  Someone sees him. Jumps to the wrong conclusion.

Time for another confused mob, like at Ephesus. Someone defiled the temple. This guy brought Gentiles into the temple. The mob tries to kill him. The Romans swoop in. They have to carry him to keep the mob from killing him.

I wonder if most of us have this in us.  Think of the political situation in Washington.  How much are we willing to hear both sides?  How many of us just assumed, with prejudice, that our side was automatically right and quickly fed ourselves with the talking points of our side?  Remember when Dan Rather lost his job because he just assumed forgeries about Bush were authentic. Last week a woman on FOX and Friends was just sure Obama was funding a Muslim memorial through the shutdown.

So many of us are more than happy to buy information that feeds our hates without double checking.  It is the mob in all of us.

2. I don't know if Luke meant for the audience to laugh at Paul's interchanges with Roman soldiers. Paul speaks Greek to the commander who rescues him and asks to speak to the crowd. The Roman commander is confused.  "I thought you were an Egyptian revolutionary."  "No, I'm from Tarsus" (21:37-39).

Then after Paul speaks to the crowd in Aramaic and they get all riled up again, a centurion has another exchange.  "You want to beat me, I'm a Roman citizen." "Really? I am too, paid for it." "Really? I was born one..."  Paul wins. (22:26-28). Paul used to suppress his Roman citizenship. Now he uses it.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Still Sacrificing in the Temple (Acts 21a)

1. More foreshadowing. "Don't go, Don't go, Paul."  Don't open the door!
  • 21:4  "Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem"
  • 21:10-11 Agabas (who I always found slightly comical here) grabs Paul's belt, ties his hands and feet with it (did he lay down on the ground?), and no doubt in a Vincent Price voice says, "the leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and turn him over to the Gentiles."
  • 21:12 Luke and others plead with Paul, "Don't go, don't go!"  Paul says he's willing even to die there.  They give up.  OK, God's will be done.
  • This is clearly foreshadowing and it surely goes beyond mere imprisonment. There's more to come (e.g., 26:32).
2. Philip the evangelist was one of the seven appointed in Acts 6. He lives in Caesarea now, has four virgin prophetess daughters. Clearly women could be prophets in the early church, in fulfillment of Acts 2:17.

3. So wish we knew the stories of people like Mnason (21:16).

4. Jerusalem has become full of Christian Jews who are zealous for the Law (21:20).  James, Jesus' brother, seems to be in charge. He would die at the instigation of the high priest around the year 62 in between Roman procurators (after Festus). He seems to have been stoned.

The year is perhaps AD58.  A decade later, Jerusalem will be at war with Rome. It fits that Jerusalem would be getting more and more a hotbed of zeal. A group called the Zealots would rise (Simon the Zealot???). These groups probably made a correlation between keeping the Law and the messiah coming (or for zealous Christians, returning).

The Christian Jews in Jerusalem apparently were quite insistent that Jewish Christians needed to keep the Jewish Law in all its respects (despite concessions to Gentiles). The rumor is that Paul isn't teaching that Jews need to keep the Law.  If we look at Galatians 2, that's true--at least as far as table fellowship and purity rules. Paul is teaching Jews not to follow Jerusalem's understanding of purity laws if it interferes with Christian fellowship and unity between Jew and Gentile believer.

Either James knows this and is nudging Paul toward keeping the Law or he is trying to smooth things over between Jerusalem and Paul or maybe Acts is trying to smooth over Paul's image. We want Jerusalem to know you keep the Law, Paul... right, Paul, you keep the Law, right???

Part of keeping the Law is participating in temple sacrifices.  Perhaps Paul takes the money from the gift and uses it to pay for the sacrifices at the end of a vow certain people have taken. What?  The church is still offering sacrifices? Didn't Jesus' death take care of that?

I personally don't think Hebrews has been written yet. They believe Jesus' death atoned for the sins of Israel before God at that time.  But it hasn't completely dawned on them that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world for all time...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Foreshadowing of Paul's Death (Acts 20)

1. Paul wrote at least two letters during the first three verses of Acts 20.  Paul writes 2 Corinthians on his way through Macedonia after he left Ephesus.  He goes as far south as Corinth and writes Romans before he heads back north again through Macedonia.

2. Paul picks "Luke" back up at Philippi.

3. The group accompanying him look like those bringing gifts to Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:3-4).  But quite puzzlingly, Acts never mentions the gift.  Did it fail to get delivered?  Did Paul use the money to pay for the vow of the men mentioned in Acts 21? Some of the men delivering the gift are mentioned in various of Paul's letters (e.g., Tychicus in Ephesians).

4. They came together for worship on the first day of the week, probably as a weekly reminder of the resurrection.  Paul preaches long enough for Eutychus to fall out the window and die, so we can imagine that the sermons of Acts at the very least are abridgments of what were originally much longer sermons. Paul raises someone from the dead, just as Peter did, just as Jesus did.

5. Paul avoids Ephesus. I know Acts doesn't say so, but could it at least be in part because he left there in big trouble, maybe even was kicked out of the city?  It's fun that Paul wants to get to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, since this is where Acts began. Verse 21 gives us a great glimpse of the early message preached--repent and have faith.

6. The rest of the chapter is filled with foreshadowing. "You will see my face no longer" (20:25, 38). What does that mean???
  • The "fourth missionary journey" hypothesis of F. F. Bruce, the one that has 1-2 Timothy-Titus written after Paul is released after his first appearance before Nero, requires Paul to see their face again.
  • By the way, Ephesians 3:2 is quite bizarre if Ephesians was written primarily to Ephesus just a couple years later. Of course they had heard of Paul's ministry. He had been there for some 3 years. In this regard, it's worth noting that the words "at Ephesus" are not in the earliest manuscripts of Ephesians 1:1.
  • So 1) Does Luke not know what happened to Paul at the end of Acts when he finally appeared before Nero?  I don't consider this option likely at all, even though it is often suggested. Luke's paraphrase of Mark 13 seems to assume the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the most likely source reconstruction puts Luke in that same period.
  • 2) Does Luke syncopate two appearances before Nero into one, for space reasons or artistic purposes?  I think it's relevant to mention that this two appearance theory is a fairly recent trend. Wesley, for example, assumed that Paul died at the end of Acts.
  • 3) Paul died at the end of Acts, Luke knew it, Luke foreshadowed it.  This hypothesis creates other problems, but seems by far the most likely conclusion.
We will see this foreshadowing of impending doom throughout the rest of Acts. 20:23--I know hardships and prison is a comin'.

7. I wonder if there are allusions to 2 Timothy in these comments. Paul wants to finish the race (20:24). He warns them about false teachers who will come in. Verse 30 may allude to some of the people that John would later have trouble with.

Paul has not taken their money, like the lovers of money in 1 Timothy 6. He has worked with his own hands. He gives us a Jesus quote that isn't in the gospels, which is really cool.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Hard Work of Reconciliation

I thought I'd post my seminary post this week here as well.
Conflict happens. It happens often. Some people seem to thrive on it and probably like it a little too much. Others do not voice their concerns and frustrations because they want to avoid conflict. They may unhealthily avoid conflict.

But inevitably, conflict comes.  Some conflict happens cleanly. People disagree, but they keep their disagreement from getting personal. They do not attack each other, but they hammer out their differences in ideas or in course of action. In the end, they do not hold a grudge. If a decision needs to be made, it is made by those in authority and accepted by the party that loses.

When conflict happens in this way, it can be very healthy and beneficial.  If those who disagree keep silent, the rest of those involved may miss out on important insights.  Still more, sometimes new and better ideas emerge in the give and take of disagreement. If those who disagree are silent, they may find their concerns overlooked. Similarly, those making the decisions will usually make a better and more informed decision if all voices are heard.

The problem is that conflict often happens in a way that is hurtful. To some extent, it doesn't matter whether the hurt was intended or not.  If a person feels hurt, the hurt is real. Friendships end this way. Enemies develop this way. The easy way is to let the divide take over, to avoid the other person indefinitely and carry a grudge.

This is the human way, but it is not the Jesus way.  No matter how hard it is, as Jesus-followers, God calls us to do the hard work of reconciliation. And what is impossible in our fallen humanness, God can give us the spiritual power to do.

1. Reconciliation is the Jesus outcome.
It takes two parties to have reconciliation. Sometimes one half of a conflict is willing to work to be reconciled but the other isn't. In such cases we can only do our best and leave the rest to God. It may take a while to heal from conflict. Especially if we are the one by whom the other party felt injured, we should not expect immediate reconciliation always to be possible.

But reconciliation is the goal. In our humanness, God will give us some time to say, "Not now," but he never gives us the space to say, "Not ever." In Matthew 18, Jesus tells Peter that we must forgive our brothers and sisters seventy times seven. He tells one of the scarier parables, one in which the debts the master has already forgiven are unforgiven because a servant refuses to forgive someone else. Scripture gives no promise of forgiveness to the person who refuses to forgive others.

Reconciliation is always God's preferred outcome, even though it is usually the hardest outcome.

2. Motion brings emotion.
We can do the loving thing even when we do not feel very loving toward another person. We know what we want to do, what we feel like doing. But we should also know what we should do, what Jesus would do. We may want to avoid the other person and perhaps we should for a while. We may want to hurt the other person one way or another--which we should never do.

By God's grace, we can still "love our enemy" in our actions even if we do not feel like it.  We can kill them with kindness. We can heap coals of fire on their heads (although here we must be careful not to be passive-aggressive, sneaking in hate in the guise of doing good). Just because we do not feel loving toward them does not mean that we cannot act lovingly toward them. And the more we act lovingly toward others the more we will feel forgiving of them.

3. Stay away from bad situations.
If we know that we will not be able to control our tongue in a certain situation, then we should avoid it. If we know we will not be able to be loving around someone, we should stay away for a while. Again, no one said reconciliation is easy. At some point we have to jump into contact or else it will never take place. But we should be wise about the time and the place that we work for reconciliation.

The best way to be reconciled is of course not to become alienated in the first place.  And here, following the basic rules of respect comes in very handy. We can disagree agreeably.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Demons and a Riot (Acts 19b)

I bet this is the passage from which some televangelists got the idea of mailing out handkerchiefs and such that they had blessed.  Fascinating...

VERY interesting that there were traveling Jewish exorcists going around too. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest?  What high priest is that?  Of the Jerusalem temple?  We don't know of any high priest by that name.  Did the Essenes have people who called themselves high priests?

All sorts of novels you could write.  Did some Essenes somewhere continue what they considered the proper high priestly line?  Did this connect with followers of John the Baptist at Ephesus?  Or were there Jews in the Diaspora who called themselves priests?

We have a whole bunch of magical papyri from this time period.  They include long lists of the names of deities.  It's like an exorcist would go through the lists until they came on a name that seemed to work on the demon in question. So it is no surprise that this traveling band of exorcists would try on the name of Jesus to see if it worked.

Of course it doesn't work very well. The man with the evil spirit drives them out of the house, naked and beaten. Believers who had those sorts of magical books burned them. I wonder how many book burnings in history this incident has inspired!

Then there is the riot.  The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the world (although here's all that's left)...

Remaining pillar of temple of Artemis
Looks like a typical mob.  Everyone shouting.  Not even quite sure what they're upset about.  They're in the theater:

Theater at Ephesus
I wonder if Paul was imprisoned for a while after this incident.  Acts doesn't mention it, but check out 2 Corinthians 1:8 and compare it to Philippians 1:20. It might also give another reason why Paul doesn't go back into Ephesus when he travels back through in 20:17. If he was imprisoned, this would be a time when he could have written Philippians.

I love Ephesus.  Just think of this place where Priscilla and Aquila started planting.  What a significant ministry Paul watered here.  Then he was followed by John in the latter part of the first century.

P.S. This passage uses the word "ekklesia" of the mob. People just used the word. They didn't think of "called out ones."

  • The handkerchief incident reminds me of the woman touching the hem of Jesus' garment. Surely has something to do with the faith of the people?
  • Be careful about trying to exorcise demons. Don't mess with demons unless you are really, really right with God.
  • It at least seems like it took Paul longer to get in trouble here. If he wrote Philippians from here, he sure seems a lot more at peace than the earlier letters.  It reminds me of the tone of 2 Corinthians 1-9, which is just after Paul left Ephesus.  Is it a certain kind of maturity that comes when you reach the end of doing everything you can do and you just have to leave the outcome to God?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Grudem 14e: Distinctions in the Trinity

Summary-evaluations of Wayne Grudem's chapter on the Trinity now concludes.
D. Distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
1. Different primary functions in world
The ways in which the different persons of the Trinity relate to the world is called the "economy" of the Trinity. For example, in relation to the Trinity, God the Father spoke the words of creation. The Son carried out these "creative decrees." The Spirit sustained and showed God's immediate presence in the creation. In redemption, God planned it. Jesus accomplished it. The Spirit implemented it, brought it to completion. Grudem sees Son and Spirit as equal in deity, but subordinate in their roles.

2. Eternally existed distinct
Grudem does not believe that the roles of the members of the Trinity are interchangeable. For him, the Father could not have come to die on the cross. They each have fixed "positions" (249). Second, these positions for Grudem are eternal. They have always had them from before the creation.

Finally, these are not distinctions in attribute, deity, or God's essential nature. They hold these things as part of God's one substance. The distinctions are in how they relate to each other, something Grudem calls "ontological equality but economic subordination" (251). He will of course use this understanding to argue for subordination in the family.

3. Relationships between persons and being
How does the being of God relate to the three persons of God? The persons are not each a third of God. Each of the persons is fully God. Yet the persons of God are not something added on to God, extra parts that the persons have that the others do not. The persons are not just different ways of looking at God (modalism), like looking at the same man as father, son, and husband.

Perhaps the analogy Grudem likes the most, but certainly considers imperfect, is a man thinking as subject, thinking about himself as object, and thinking about his ideas about himself--himself as subject, object, and thoughts about himself. He fully admits this doesn't get at it perfectly. God's existence is just a kind of existence far different than anything in our experience.

4. Can we understand it?
We simply cannot remove the mystery from the Trinity. He has already said that all analogies ultimately break down at some point. We simply will never be able to understand it fully. At the same time, he says, Scripture does not ask us to believe in a contradiction.

It is best to begin where Grudem ends. We believe in the Trinity because it is a doctrine of faith, because we believe that the Holy Spirit worked in the church universal to establish it as common doctrine. If we were truly limited to the Bible alone, other configurations would be possible. In fact, most scholars of the history of theology would argue that Grudem's version of subordinationism has historically been considered mildly heretical. It is possible to argue for it from the biblical texts, as Grudem does, but it is probably not the common consensus of Christians throughout the ages.

The historical understanding is not that the roles of the persons of the Trinity are subordinate but that the humanity of Jesus was subordinate to God the Father (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:28). The incarnation--the pre-existent Son of God taking on flesh--is a matter for later in the book, but historically Christians have believed that the Son was not human before he came to earth. In that sense, the historical Christian belief is that only the human nature of Christ is subordinate to God the Father and that the Son did not have this dimension until the incarnation.

But as Grudem says, no analogy is adequate to explain or describe the Trinity and we must ultimately consign its full understanding to mystery. Grudem seems right to say that the different persons of the Trinity tend to do different things. He also seems on to something when he recognizes a connection between the creation and the various roles they play.

God the Father seems to relate more to God's transcendence. God the Spirit seems to relate more to God's immanence.  And God the Son seems to relate especially to bridging the gap between God's transcendence and his immanence.

An individual can speculate about such things, but refinement of doctrine is ultimately a matter for the universal church. But we can ask whether a more developed understanding of creation out of nothing would affect the way the church understands the Trinity.

For example, the Christians of the councils presumably had no thought for space itself being part of the creation. Creation, for them, was arguably the Trinity (in the emptiness) putting stuff into the emptiness that wasn't there before (creating it out of nothing). However, with the advent of relativity, we now must think of God creating the emptiness itself. We must now think of the very laws of nature being part of the creation.

The very idea of scientific law as part of nature belongs to the fifteen and sixteen hundreds. The assumption of the formative church would have been to see the operations of reason and experience as part of the givenness of the cosmos and they would have connected it to the nature of God.

Arguably, theologians like Grudem continue to blur the creation with the Creator. They have a three or at most four-dimensional understanding of God that ultimately sees him within the same space (and time) as the creation.  In their theology, he is not truly outside space and, although they might say he is timeless, their solution to the question of God's foreknowledge of the future betrays that they do not truly see him as outside time.

So when so many theologians talk of the relationships within the Trinity, we have to wonder if they are still mistaking the analogy for the literal.  That is to say, even "Father" and "Son" are analogies from our world to help us understand a mystery that ultimately reaches beyond our universe and frame of reference.  We believe by faith in some eternal distinction in the pre-universe "nature" of God that corresponds to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But arguably even these distinctions are this-universe analogies.

E. Application
Grudem's primary application is of course to marriage. The husband's role is parallel to that of the Father, whom he believe God intends to have authority over the wife in marriage. The relationship of parents to children is thus analogous for him to the relationship between parents and children. All are equal in humanity, importance, and personhood, but have different fixed roles and levels of authority.

Scholars of the history of theology largely disagree with Grudem (and thus Hodge) on subordination within the Trinity. Historically, it is the humanity of Jesus that is understood to be subordinate to God the Father. If Grudem wants to pull the cork on this issue by trumping the church fathers with Scripture, then he also opens the door to the question of whether Jesus is of "one substance" with the Father in the New Testament. It is no coincidence that, in the Protestant Reformation's turn back to the Bible, we not only saw the rise of Lutherans, but Socinianism as well, which denied the Trinity.

However, in the end, it is not clear that the Trinity is an appropriate model for the family at all.  Jesus is not the bride of God the Father.  He is the Son.  The Holy Spirit is not the child of the Father and Son (a non-traditional family indeed and certain to be incarcerated). Given the mystery of the Trinity and our sense that even the orthodox statements of church history had an underdeveloped sense of ex nihilo, we must consider even the titles of "Father" and "Son" as analogies.  They are metaphors drawn from human life to help us catch a glimpse of God. They are images we must not mistake for the fully literal.

God has no genitals.  He is not literally male or literally a father. God uses feminine images of himself as well (e.g., Isaiah 42:14). We must never mistake the pictures of God for God himself.  God uses pictures in revelation to meet us in language we can understand.  But no human words or thought can fully--or perhaps even literally--capture God in our understanding.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Followers of John the Baptist at Ephesus (Acts 19a)

Yesterday I mentioned that Apollos probably knew only about John the Baptist and not about Jesus. We catch a glimpse of more such people at Ephesus in Acts 19.

In fact, there may have been followers of JB at Ephesus in the late first century who actually rejected Jesus as the one to whom JB pointed. If the Gospel of John was written at Ephesus, could this be why John's Gospel seems to downplay JB (it never tells about Jesus being baptized by JB, JB does not admit to being Elijah, Jesus' disciples baptize at the same time as JB)?

In the incident between Paul and a dozen followers of JB at Ephesus, they have not heard about the Holy Spirit.  As Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos, Paul presents Jesus to them and gives them the rest of the story. They are baptized again in the name of Jesus.  They receive the Spirit.  They even speak in tongues and prophecy.

I think the point of telling this story might be to make it clear that the baptism of John the Baptist is not enough.  It is baptism in the name of Jesus that is the baptism that relates to salvation. It is a baptism that leads to receiving the Spirit, and the tongues speaking authenticated it. (no indication is given that everyone will speak in tongues or whether these tongues were other languages, as in Acts 2).

This is thus not an argument for re-baptism of adults who were baptized as children. From a Christian perspective, this is the first baptism of this group. Again, calling the Jesus movement "the Way," we remember that JB preached, "the way of the Lord" and that John, perhaps written to the Ephesus community, calls Jesus "the way, the truth, and the life."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Meet Apollos, follower of JB (Acts 18b)

Paul is elsewhere when Priscilla and Aquila run into Apollos at Ephesus.  It is fascinating that Acts now shifts to putting Priscilla first. Acts mentioned Aquila first at their first encounter with Paul, maybe because he was more the tent-making guy. But now, when it comes to teaching Apollos about Christ, Acts mentions Priscilla first.  Was she more the leader when it came to spiritual things?

Apollos is well-educated, from a university town, so to speak.  It is perilous to pick someone as the author of Hebrews--we just don't know. But he sure seems like the type of person to have written Hebrews. Here's a guy who would have known of Philo in Alexandria and known a bit of the way he used Scripture.

Apollos fits in a category we will also see at the beginning of Acts 19.  He has heard about the John the Baptist movement out of which the Jesus movement came.  He has heard that the Lord is coming, understood to be the Messiah.  But he didn't know about Jesus and he didn't know about the Holy Spirit.

Priscilla and Aquila take him under their wings. They share the rest of the story. Apollos believes. I would presume he would be baptized and would receive the Holy Spirit, although Acts doesn't tell that part.

He goes back to Corinth, where I suspect he teaches things a little differently than Paul and soon finds himself at the center of an argument between factions in the Corinthian church. His followers say, "But Apollos said we don't need to worry because idols don't really exist."  Paul's core say, "But we shouldn't eat at a pagan temple."  This was 1 Corinthians in the making...

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Parable of the Insistent Treasurer

There was once a treasurer, who had the key to the city's treasury.  On the day that he was supposed to unlock the treasury to pay all the workers in the city and the people that the city owed, he decided to take a stand.

You see, the mayor of the city had convinced the leaders of the city to require everyone to get a doctor. Some people said, "I already have a doctor, but now I'll have to pay more to help others who don't." Some said, "Why should I have to get a doctor when I don't need one right now?"  Others said, "This new rule is too complicated and will actually make things worse."  Of course many also saw it as a wonderful thing and believed that almost everyone in the city would now actually have a doctor.

Nevertheless, the law passed and despite repeated attempts by the treasurer to defeat the new rule, he was foiled at every turn. He took it to the judge but the judge did not stop it.  He tried to get a new mayor, warning the people they would have no other chance to change the rule. But the people re-elected the same mayor as before.  Most of the city accepted that the new rule was going to happen, even those who had opposed it.

But the treasurer was re-elected too, and on the day that he was supposed to unlock the treasury he decided to take one last stand.  "I will not unlock the treasury to pay the city's bills unless the mayor and other city leaders will stop this new rule or at least delay it until I can think of another way to destroy it. Unless they will change or at least delay, then the workers in the city will go without pay and we will not be able to pay the other cities from which we have borrowed. A sizable minority of the people in the city agree with me, and we will take our stand on principle because the leaders and majority of the city are wrong."

I don't know how the story ends.  How do you think it ends?

Exegetical Research Lecture

I did this 32 minute overview of exegetical research for a class I'm teaching.  It explains the domains of literary and historical-cultural evidence as they relate to exegetical conclusions.  The first ten minutes are hermeneutical in orientation, explaining what exegesis is and how it might differ from application or even theological interpretation.

Corinth (Acts 18)

Some notes:
  • Aquila and Priscilla were tradespeople like Paul. They worked with leather. It was another natural point of contact Paul could make in a new city.  He could connect with the synagogue and he could connect with leatherworkers. For a number of reasons--not least his Roman citizenship but perhaps also his comments about stooping to work with his hands--Paul probably was more of an owner of the business back home than a skilled laborer by social location.
  • The Roman Historian Suetonius mentions the conflict over "Chrestus" in Rome around AD49. My hunch is that many Christian Jews were kicked out of the city (it doesn't seem logistically likely that all Jews were). This would have left the Roman church predominantly Gentile in make-up for several years. Some think this is the crisis to which Hebrews 10 refers (I don't). I think it supports a primarily Gentile audience for both Romans and Hebrews.
  • Same pattern as throughout Acts. Goes to synagogue, gets kicked out. But at Corinth, he seems to have some very significant converts to maintain the mission. Again, I wonder if Acts emphasizes this theme as an implicit explanation for why God allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem.
  • Paul stays there the longest period yet, at least a year and a half.  Who knows how many side trips he took while he was there! 
  • His time there may end with an appearance before the proconsul Gallio, who was in Corinth around 50-52. As usual, Paul ends up in trouble with the law. Acts doesn't connect his appearance before Gallio and his leaving of the city but we can at least wonder if he was "urged" to leave town after his trial. Acts arguably downplays such connections, as at Damascus.
  • Paul has shaved his head, presumably in preparation to visit the Jerusalem temple. Acts wants Paul to appear devout in his Jewish law-keeping (cf. Acts 21:24).  In this aspect, again, it gives a different impression than Paul himself gives. Our impression of Paul's own law-keeping is that he would have done something of this sort for political reasons, to peace make with Jerusalem.
  • Paul, Priscilla, and Aquilla head for Ephesus, either kicked out or otherwise.