Friday, July 31, 2015

End of another Bible class

1. I noticed that Nijay Gupta was talking about teaching Scripture at seminary. I'm just finishing up today teaching the one week "Bible as Scripture" intensive at Wesley Seminary. I second guess myself a lot when it comes to these sorts of things, but am pretty happy with the formula I've been using:
  • I start each day with a quasi-devotional that illustrates the learning of the previous day.
  • After the devotional and prayer, we discuss the reading of the previous night. I have them read and evaluate Green before they come, then Fee and Stuart during the week. This gives them two evangelical poles to situate themselves between. I've recorded videos to give a little exposure to critical issues and have a little book to fill in some other gaps. 
  • After a morning break, I introduce an interpretive tool, which they apply in the early afternoon in groups in relation to a particular passage I have chosen.
  • In late afternoon we regroup and the groups present their initial findings, which they finish up in the evening and submit by the next morning.
2. The flow of the week goes as follows:
  • Monday and Tuesday work on the skills of observation. This is a focus on the literary context. This is a focus on the "world within the text."
  • Monday is on the immediate literary context and they do a "train of thought" assignment. Tuesday is broader literary context and they do a "survey."
  • Wednesday transitions to interpretation, the "world behind the text," and historical-cultural context. In particular, Wednesday is word study day.
  • Thursday then digs deeper into historical-cultural context and answering other kinds of interpretive questions. This is the first day that we go to the library and engage secondary literature.
  • Finally on Friday, we address directly what we have been doing all along in the devotionals and reading discussions--how to discern a biblical theology and appropriate biblical texts.
3. Although I hope eventually to find a better integrating theme, the passages on which the groups work all week (and present on all week) have to do with the Devil (or do they):
  • Genesis 3
  • Job 2
  • Isaiah 14 
  • Matthew 4
  • Luke 10
  • Revelation 12
The reason why these are good passages because they bring out issues like pre-understandings of meaning and sensus plenior. We are, in effect, working toward a biblical theology of the Devil all week, while forcing distinctions between the meanings of each text.

4. I think this works pretty well when I keep on task and have enough caffeine. I do continue to second guess myself.

Is teaching how to do inductive Bible study a little like requiring Greek--just not something everyone is going to be able to do? Would it be better as a capstone after several courses that have more or less modeled the interpretation of biblical texts rather than expected students to do it themselves?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Testament Use of the OT

For a couple years, there's been a hole in my Bible as Scripture class. I have in the syllabus that there will be a video called, "The NT Use of the OT" to watch on Thursday evening. So far, that video has never been ready.

No one ever complains--one less assignment. My problem is that it is a complex topic, and I want to present it in a clear, convincing, and non-offensive way. I probably spent two hours last night trying to record the PowerPoint in its current form and finally just went to bed and mulled it over some more.

So here's the outline I woke up with:

1. The NT can use allegory.
  • Galatians 4:21-31 - Paul uses Sarah and Hagar as an allegory for the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem
  • Hebrews 9:6-10 - The author uses the structure of the earthly tent as an allegory of the two ages and the two covenants.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 - The ox in Deuteronomy represents the minister of the gospel, and "treading the grain" means to minister to a community.
2. The NT (almost) uses pesher.
Pesher is a word used to describe the exegesis of some commentaries at Qumran, where verses are applied to contemporary situations in the interpreter's day. Matthew especially comes close to this.
  • Matthew 2:15 - "Out of Egypt I called my son" in Hosea 11:1
  • Matthew 2:23 - "He will be called a Nazarene" in where?
3. Some Basic Insights
I think that's enough data to draw a very important conclusion. The NT authors did not follow the rules of modern exegesis when they interpreted the OT texts.

4. This makes sense.
  • It makes sense because I do not interpret texts in your head, but in mine.
  • In revelation, God takes on our flesh. He does not expect us to take on his (which is impossible anyway).
5. Meaning is contextual.
  • God revealed truths, promises, and commands to the NT authors within their frame of reference.
  • As they read the OT, God met them in how the OT text appeared to them rather than use it as an opportunity to give them a history lesson.
6. In the OT stories, God gave them...
  • examples to imitate (Job, Hebrews 11)
  • examples to avoid (Esau, Sodom)
  • Illustrations of truths (Abraham, Rahab on faith/works)
  • These examples stand on their own as true. They don’t have to match the OT exactly.
7. Good Jewish Midrash
  • Arguments from lesser to greater
  • Verses connected together by catchwords
  • Points made out of distinctions in detail, such as the use of a singular instead of a plural
8. Metanarratives
  • Paul's Adam-Christ sequence
  • Mark's exile-return sequence
  • Metanarratives, by their very nature, are extra-textual. They stitch together originally separate stories.
9. The OT Law
  • Sacrifices are understood as shadows of Christ.
  • Israelite particulars of the Law (circumcision, Sabbath, food laws) are not applicable to Gentiles.
  • Christ's law is love God/love neighbor (the filter for applying OT ethics).
  • Some laws are continued (sexual laws).
10. Prophecies
Some texts are interpreted "spiritually" (sensus plenior).
  • E.g., about events in the life of Jesus
  • Some predictions expanded in scope (e.g., return from exile, return of the throne of David)
11. Possible Conclusions
  • We can hear God through Scripture, even when we don't know the historical meaning.
  • We should not read NT interpretation for historical information on the OT (e.g., authorship).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quick Bible Answers for the Pastor...

Kelly Hunt, who's in my Bible as Scripture class this week at Wesley Seminary, suggested I put together a little booklet with quick answers a pastor can give when they get a predictable question from someone in their church. So the next thought was, what kinds of questions do you pastors get of this sort? Or if you're not a pastor, what kinds of questions would you like a little "cheat sheet" on?

Here's the question that sparked the thought for him this morning:

Question: Revelation says that you can't add or take away from the Bible. So how can it be good for there to be different versions of the Bible? Either some have verses missing or some have verses added.

Answer: Before getting to the reason why versions are different, this probably isn't what Revelation 22:18-19 was talking about. First, originally it was just talking about the book of Revelation itself, since the other books weren't attached to Revelation yet (at that point it was just on its own scroll). And it probably wasn't talking about individual words like, "star." It probably was talking about adding or taking away from the prophecies of Revelation, not the individual words of Revelation (we ask this question because we come from a literary culture, whereas they thought more in oral terms).

But to explain why some versions have different words, we don't have any of the original "editions" of the Bible. We have lots of copies--more than any other ancient book in fact. They overwhelmingly say the same things. But there are a few--and I mean only a few--famous differences between them.

You shouldn't worry about it though. Every copy has all the basic teachings of Christian faith, and there is no teaching of the Bible that is lost from one copy to the next. There are only a handful of what we might call "big" debates. Was the ending of Mark (16:9-20) in the first copy of Mark? That's the biggest. Was the doxology at the end of the Lord's Prayer in the first copy of Matthew 6:13?

It's important to realize that there's nothing wrong with the ending of Mark, even if it wasn't in the first copy. Everything in it is true. There's nothing wrong with the doxology in the Lord's Prayer, even if it wasn't in the original copy of Matthew.

Scholars aren't trying to cut stuff out. They're only asking the historical question. Does the evidence seem to say that the first copy of Mark had these verses? Or does it seem like the evidence points to them being added later?

The fact that there are minor differences between the copies suggests that God is more concerned with the message than the small details of the wording. God can speak through the King James Version, even if these verses were added later. And God can speak through the NIV, even if these verses actually were in the original versions.

P.S. Would something like this be better in bullet form? In other words, pick the bullets you like.

Life on Other Planets

So James McGrath pointed out a recent article in the Huffington Post called, "Earth 2.0: Bad News for God." I found the point and the tone of the article bizarre.

For one, I am always taken aback at this kind of tone. It's like the person who commented on an old blog post recently that "someone with a religious agenda such as yourself has no business discussing anything other than religion." I am neither a cultural warrior nor a fundamentalist, so it's always sobering when people just lump me in with the Christians who are in the public eye. "My brothers ate sour grapes but my teeth are set on edge."

I seem to remember some of my college professors at SWU raising questions such as this article raises. Did Adam's sin affect the laws of physics in the whole cosmos? If there is life on other planets, did it become fallen as a result of Adam's sin? Did Christ become incarnated on those planets? Did he die for them as well?

I must say that I'm not bothered by these questions and issues in the slightest. But I suppose I've already endured a "questions" phase to my faith in seminary and doctoral work. This article seems like such old news to me. Think C.S. Lewis. To me, Genesis is more profound than some straightforward videotape of creation. And the theological point of view he ridicules is as much Augustine as it is the Bible.

What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Ministry of Virginia Wright

I didn't feel like I should let the passing of Virginia Wright go without some mention here. She is of course the mother of David Wright, the president of Indiana Wesleyan University, who is even more to me a long-standing friend. Her life and the life of my family also have intersections that make her very special to my own pilgrimage. But even if there were no personal connection, her life and ministry, alongside that of her husband Wayne, is too significant not to mention.

It is staggering to me to think of the contribution Mrs. Wright and her husband have made to the kingdom and the Wesleyan Church in particular. She was born on the mission field in India in the 1920s. I have to stretch my mind to think of what it was like to go the mission field in those days. Such missionaries had to consign themselves to the real possibility that they would never return to see their families again.

So when Wayne and Mrs. Wright then later left themselves as missionaries for the Philippines in 1951, they rode a ship rather than an airplane. As David mentioned in the service today, there was no Facebook or Twitter then. They came home twice in an 18 year ministry in the Philippines. There were weekly letters. But when they left, she didn't know if she would see her parents again.

I think of the story of the R. K. Storey family who were missionaries to the Philippines in the 1940s. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time when WW2 broke out and the Japanese took over the Philippines. Hiding in the jungle, they lost a daughter from drinking from a stream on the run. Then he was part of the Bataan Death March across the island as a prisoner of the Japanese.

Joanne Lyon was about 12 years old in the same church as Virginia's mother during those years. She gave a vivid sense of how the reports on the mission work in the Philippines stirred her own heart as a child. What would her ministry have looked like if the Wrights had not been part of her formation? Keith Drury was invoked as saying that if Virginia had been born a couple decades later, she might be the next General Superintendent. That was the forceful stuff of which she was made.

On a personal note, my mother and Mrs. Wright both graduated in the same class from Frankfort Pilgrim College, so that was a strong point of connection for my family. Then Wayne and Virginia taught for a brief stint alongside my grandfather at Frankfort until they went to the mission field. Then the parents of my brother-in-law, Eddie Garcia, were nurtured in their ministries in the Philippines under the work of the Wrights. Wayne installed Eddie's father, Saturnino, as the first National Superintendent of the Philippines for the Wesleyan Church.

In her sermon, General Superintendent Lyon today compared Mrs. Wright to Priscilla in the New Testament. What a model for women ministers Mrs. Wright was! She was a model preacher, a forceful leader, a discerning mentor, a teacher and writer, and much more. How many women saw her preach and thought, "If she can be a minister, I can too." How many men saw her preach and thought, "If then God gave her the same gift that he gave us, who are we to hinder God? Praise God who has given even to women the call to ministry.”

What a rich heritage, not only for the Wright family, but for the whole church! May all who come behind us also find us faithful!

Monday Philosophy: Philo and Christianity (8)

Today we reach the end of Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, edited by Torrey Seland.

Philo the Jew
Philo the Citizen
Philo the Interpreter of the Law and Educated Jew
Philo the Philosopher and how to study Philo
Philo and Society
Philo and Judaism

1. I want to go out of order in this final post on Seland's book. I want to start with the final chapter by David Runia, "Philo and the Patristic Tradition: A List of Direct References." Runia has written extensively on Philo and the early church, most notably in his important work, Philo in Early Christian Literature. He also contributed a chapter on the subject for Kamesar's Cambridge Companion to Philo.

So he only has seven pages of text before giving all the direct references to Philo in Christian literature up until the year 1000. That takes about 12 more pages. A very helpful resource for anyone wanting to do advanced study on Philo in relation to patristic literature.

2. In the text that Runia does provide, he first tells of the survival of Philo's works. Most of the Jewish literature in Alexandria, unfortunately, was destroyed in 115-117 when the Jews revolted against Roman rule in Egypt and lost big time. But Philo's works survived, perhaps because they were valued by Christians in the city.

So when Pantaenus started a Christian school in Alexandria, he quite possibly made sure a copy of Philo's writings were there. But Clement of Alexandria, the successor of Pantaenus in the late 100s, was the first known Christian to quote Philo. Origen, Clement's successor, then took a complete copy of Philo's writings to Caesarea, where eventually Eusebius would know them and write three chapters on them in his famed Ecclesiastical History.

This quote is telling: "Between Josephus in the first century and the Renaissance there is not a single explicit reference to Philo in a Jewish or a non-Christian Greek or Latin source" (270).

3. Runia sees the impact of Philo on the third century Christians largely in terms of his exegesis. Some early Christians found his interpretations of the Old Testament helpful. Also, those who accepted allegorical interpretation liked some of his techniques as well. However, once the church become Trinitarian, his logos approach was less helpful Christologically.

4. So we come to the chapter perhaps of most interest to me. Per Jarle Bekken's, "Philo's Relevance for the Study of the New Testament." There are, I think, some generative ideas tucked in this chapter. It is, by the way, the longest chapter in the book, 42 pages. It had a Borgen feel to it--a very detailed catalog of individual comparisons between rather formal features. So I was not surprised to find that Bekken studied with Borgen.

I would say that the chapter succeeds in two very significant respects. First, if the goal is to give MA or PhD students possible research topics, there are many possibilities to investigate here. There is a long series of possible parallels between Philo and the New Testament in the chapter, especially in John, Galatians, and Romans. Further, Bekken gives parallels that you do not find in my book or the chapter by Siegert in Kamesar's book. That is a strength for the field of Philo introductions.

As an introduction, however, I think you'll do much better to buy my book when it comes to this topic. Bekken's engagement with Hebrews is a case in point. If you were to ask most people where the most likely intersection of Philo and the New Testament is, as far as ideas, I think Hebrews has to be at or near the top of the list. Yet there is nothing of the sort in this chapter. The classic treatment by Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews, isn't even mentioned.

Hebrews is briefly mentioned, however. How? In relation to a possible common exegetical tradition between Hebrews on the idea of God swearing.

So there is a host of possible incidental parallels in the chapter. Philo believed that some proselytes to Judaism were more truly Jews than some who were born Jews. Paul believed that some Gentiles were more truly circumcised than some who were born Jews. Maybe there's common tradition here. Most of the chapter has that general flavor. Some of the parallels seem like possible areas for future research. Some seem rather superficial to me.

You will find nothing on the potential impact of Philo's categories on New Testament Christology. Indeed, even though Bekken focuses heavily on John, there is no discussion of the Logos. The Colossian hymn is not mentioned.

This is, again, a difference in personality. I like to see the big picture. I am interested in ideas. These sorts of almost random, detailed lists of possible but relatively superficial and formal parallels tend to annoy me. I mean no disrespect to Bekken. He obviously is very knowledgeable of Philo and the rabbinic literature--more than I am. And you could criticize my introduction for not dealing with these sorts of potential parallels.

5. In the end, however, I have to consider the book a great success as an introduction to Philo. If you are an undergrad religion major of some kind and are looking to do graduate studies that will intersect with Philo, this is your book. I think this will become the standard text in graduate seminars to come.

It had the desired effect on me. It got me thinking of publishing something on Philo again. Congratulations to Seland and his team for a great introduction to Philo!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

E8. The Church has worship as its most important and central task.

This is the eighth post on the Church in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit in this series had to do with God and Creation (book here), and the second unit was on Christology and Atonement.

We are now in the third and final unit: The Holy Spirit and the Church. The first set of posts in this final unit on the Spirit and the Church was on the Holy Spirit.
The Church has worship as its most important and central task.

1. It goes without saying that the most important thing in the entire universe is God. Nothing else is possible by definition, for to be the one God is to be the most important thing.

God is the source of the universe. The universe could not exist without God, but God could exist without the universe. Those of us in the Wesleyan tradition, of course, believe that God values the creation. The creation is important because God loves it and wants good for it. Every human being is important because God loves it. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God's notice because God loves the creation (Matt. 10:29).

Accordingly, to say God is the most important thing in the universe does not mean that we devalue anything in the creation. It is merely to put the creation into proper perspective. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, "The chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

2. The primary function of both the Church and us as individuals is thus to worship God. It could not be any other way for God is the most important thing. To worship is to give greater honor to something than oneself. To worship God is to give him honor as the most glorious and significant thing in the universe. It is to recognize in our words and actions that God is God. It is to bow before him not only as the sovereign king of the universe, but to give him the honor, glory, and praise that only he has and deserves.

This is a glory and honor that only he has. Nothing can compare. Nothing deserves or should have our loyalty and devotion more than he should. No loyalty or devotion we have can conflict with our loyalty and devotion to him. All other loyalties and devotions must fit within our loyalty and devotion to him. This is the greatest commandment of all, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30; Deut. 6:5).

Love in this context is not a feeling, but a commitment of intention and action. It is choice to value God above all else. Such love is not possible without the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

Such love is not only individual but corporate. We as the Church commit to honor God in all we do and think. Our corporate worship is a regular recommitment of us as the Church to honor God above all else and to act with love toward him in all we do and think.

3. Accordingly, there is no greater function that the Church has than to worship God. This follows naturally from the fact that God is the most important thing. True, God does not want us just to sit around all the time and just think about him and praise Him. He also wants us also to worship and adore him by the things we do in his name in the church and the world.

However, we cannot lose sight that all the things we may do in the name of God in the church and the world are ultimately expressions of praise to God as God. Our lives, our service, our mission are all expressions of worship to God as the most important thing. And we must regularly stop simply to praise him, both as individuals and as the Church. We must set aside regular time and space, "sacred time and space," to do nothing but to worship him.

4. We can certainly worship God with our minds, but our minds are only part of who we are as human beings. It is from our "hearts," our deepest being, that we most centrally worship God. Are our wills aligned with God? Are we committed to God? Do we adore God? Do we long for God?

Human feelings are fickle, and are not sure indicators of our relationship with God. But it is nonetheless natural that we would feel a longing for God in worship. It is no surprise that music--singing and instruments--have been part of the worship of God for as long as time can remember. Dancing and physical demonstrations have often accompanied the worship of God in history.

The power of ritual is not to be underestimated. The power to tap into the human subconscious by actions that are connected with the worship of God and with our spiritual past goes far beyond mere ideas. This relates not only to our spiritual past as individuals, which in itself is immensely powerful, the emotional memory of previous encounters with God. It also relates to our corporate spiritual past, actions that Christians have done for millennia or even that go back into the distant history of Israel.

5. The Church thus sets aside regular time to meet together in worship. Since the earliest days after Christ, we have primarily met together on the Lord's Day, Sunday, for this is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday when the Church gathers together, it remembers that Christ is risen from the dead in victory and is enthroned at God's right hand as king of all.

This is what the word church means in Greek. It is an assembly, a gathering. We meet to encounter God and to hear any word he might have for us. We meet to fellowship and encourage one another. But the most important thing we gather to do is to worship him. The visible church assembles to worship.

We will gather to worship God and the lamb for all eternity. "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24).

Revelation pictures a similar scene: "At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! ... And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, 'Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.' And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.'" (Rev. 4:2, 8-11)

We thus pray, not only to ask requests of the Lord for ourselves and others. We pray, not only to thank God for the things he has done for us. We pray to glorify God as God. We pray to honor him as the most important thing in the universe. We pray to express our love and longing for him. Praising God is the most important thing we do in prayer. And we pray, not only as individuals, but we pray as the Church assembled together visibly on earth, just as we will pray in assembly in the kingdom of God, just as the angels praise God now around his heavenly throne.

6. We worship God not only in the time we set aside in assembly to worship him. Our entire lives should be an expression of our devotion to God and of him as our first priority in life. We can thus glorify God in all we think and do.

"Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17). "Do everything for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Nothing we do should conflict with our devotion to God.

Certainly we glorify and worship God as we participate in the mission of God to redeem the world and see it reconciled to him. Certainly we glorify and worship God as we teach one another and grow in our walk with God. Certainly we glorify and worship God as we fellowship with one another. We worship and glorify God in everything that we do together as the Church.

Certainly we glorify and worship God by presenting our bodies both individually and corporately as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1-2). Certainly we glorify and worship God by not letting the power of Sin rule over our bodies (Rom. 6:12). We glorify and worship God by doing the good we know he wants us to do and by avoiding the evil that grieves him.

But we also can glorify God in the more mundane tasks of our lives by giving him the glory in everything we do. Our work in the world can be an expression of glory to God. Our work can be an act of worship. We can glorify God as we raise our families and invest time in our children and parents. Our relationships in our families can be an expression of worship.

Our relationships with others can be an expression of worship as we serve others and fellowship as God created us to relate to one another as human beings. We can even praise God as we enjoy the pleasures of life and creation that God has made not only for him to enjoy but for us to enjoy as well. Our thanks to God for all the good things we experience naturally lead us to praise him for who he is.

We can thus praise God in everything we do, making our whole life a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.

7. We must also recognize that at times things arise in our lives that can compete with God for our ultimate loyalty. Certainly we cannot let anything in our lives contradict our love of God. We cannot always remove the things that tempt us to act against our love of God, but the Spirit can give us power not to act in thought or deed in a way that violates the love of God. If we can remove the sources of temptation, we of course should. But sometimes we cannot and must rely on the Spirit's power to overcome.

At times, however, other things can become "idols." These things may not in themselves contradict the love of God, but we can let them become more important to us than they should be. In the days of Israel, God commanded them to have no other gods above him (Exod. 20:3-5).

We do not make literal idols any more, but we can have figurative idols in our lives. These are little "gods" than compete with our loyalty to the one true God. They can be our possessions. They can be our ambitions. They can be anything that we value too highly. The proper worship of God demands that nothing in our lives compete with him for our loyalty.

The Church has worship as its most important and central task, as does each individual believer.

Next Sunday: E9. The Church participates in God's mission to the world.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

More "Holy Jumpers"

Last Saturday I started reviewing a book Keith Drury and I are reading called Holy Jumpers, by Bill Kostlevy. This book is about "evangelicals and radicals in Progressive Era America," around the turn of the century 1900. It is especially interested in a group called the Metropolitan Church Association (MCA), a radical holiness group based in Chicago at that time.

1. This week I managed to read three more chapters. (Keith reads like lightning, so I imagine he's already finished) Chapter 3 covers a major revival in Chicago, chapter 4 another major one in Boston, and chapter 5 gives us the launching of the MCA magazine, The Burning Bush.

There's a turning point in the middle of chapter 4, perhaps a turning point that is one of those moments where history could have gone a quite different direction. Here we're talking about the death of Martin Wells Knapp.

I don't know if Kostlevy is just a good story-teller, but as you read chapter 3, you get the impression that the radical holiness movement is soundly moving in one direction. Then Knapp dies and in an instant it feels like it is heading in a quite different direction. What if he had not died? What would the holiness movement have looked like instead?

2. But let me backtrack a little. I have three major take-aways this week. The first is how significant the death of Knapp seems to have been. And lest any Wesleyans lose perspective, Knapp is one of the putative founders of the Pilgrim church, which would become the Wesleyan Church in 1968.

Another main take-away is how extensively involved business and entrepreneurial type individuals were in these beginnings. These were smart cookies on a practical level but completely uneducated on a theological level. Indeed, they were generally against education of that sort. They saw it as a hindrance to the fire.

"In a mere seventy-five days, an estimated 2,200 seekers sought salvation or sanctification at MCA altars" in Chicago in the revival of 1901 (63). Duke Farson and E. L. Harvey were successful businessmen and the driving forces behind this revival. Early on, one holiness commentator remarked that, "fully consecrated and anointed business men may be the most effectual preachers of the word" (57).

This is a sobering dynamic to those of us who are idealists. Sure, there wouldn't have been these results if these preachers were not facilitating something quite spectacular. They were scratching a itch, including spiritual itches. But it happened with a significant bank roll. Farson's financial resources were apparently unending. And it happened with business savvy. One of the players in chapter 5, Frank Messenger, had basically organized a town for a major textile company.

Yet there's little question that these men were pretty ignorant theologically. Harvey and Farson would get more and more crazy: "Now I tell you brothers that if you don't get this jumping into you, you will not be saved," Harvey said (84). When they took their revival to Boston in the winter of 1901, they became known as "pentecostal jumpers" or just "jumpers." Jumping was peculiarly becoming an evidence of the Holy Spirit, an outward sign of divine favor.

You'll remember also that Seth Rees was another putative founder of the Pilgrim church and that he was more or less an employee of these MCA men at this time. He was one of the preachers in both the Chicago and Boston revivals. Yet apparently even he was beginning to get concerned about a certain rigidity that was developing around extreme behavior.

3. So here's a sobering claim. Religion is usually more "successful" in the hands of the less educated, and depth has a tendency to squelch the popularity of religion. There is also truth in the other way of putting it. Intellectual answers do not tend to meet people at their deepest desires and needs. We are more emotional than intellectual beings.

I've longed to see both combined. That was my hope when we founded Wesley Seminary. We wanted a seminary that focused on the practice of ministry in a way that hit the most pressing needs of real people in the church. But my hope was also for layers of theological insight to be added to the church.

On the one hand, ministry can be extremely successful with the most basic of sound theological principles, even if they are rather simplistic. I believe part of the success of Wesley Seminary thus far intuitively follows some of the same secrets to the success of these early holiness pioneers and the great revivalists of the 1800s. It has focused on the practical skills of ministry and the basic drives to mission. It has tended to stay near the surface theologically, in what I might call a somewhat parable level understanding of God.

Where the rub always seems to come in theological education is in what I am calling "literal depth." There often seems to be a tendency for theological professors to want to squash what I'm calling a more parable-level understanding. Since faith is often attached to these simplistic parables, some seminaries ironically can have the unfortunate effect of diminishing faith and perhaps even reducing what might have been a more impactful ministry.

By the same token, some of the most popular seminaries right now are those that are more or less superficial (I'll resist naming the one that first popped into my head). Indeed, many fundamentalist seminaries generate enthusiasm by attacking theological depth, just like the "jumpers" at the turn of the century. And, like the jumpers, there are plenty of rich business donors around today who are willing to put their money and business sense behind very practical but relatively shallow faith.

History suggests two things--the practical and shallow tends to win out strongly in the short run. But depth tends to prevail over time within any one movement.

4. Again, I was very struck at the apparently immense impact that Knapp's death had on the trajectory of the movement. Also again, perhaps Kostlevy is just a good story teller.

A week before Knapp's death, Harvey was set to come speak at the 1902 camp meeting in Cincinnati at what is now God's Bible School. Harvey had apparently convinced Knapp at the Chicago revival that he needed to come out of the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME from here on), and Knapp had done so. Indeed, Harvey and Farson would soon preach that you could not be a sanctified minister and stay in these established churches.

Then Knapp died and a series of most curious events would unfold. First, he was said to have written down three names on a piece of paper to indicate who would control the school and mission. They were three women--his wife, Mary Storey (a professor who had remained in the ME Church), and his traveling assistant, Bessie Queen.

Although in the broader society at the time, to name three women might have seemed immensely controversial, we have to remember that the holiness movement was feminist in the strongest of terms in its beginnings. I noticed in Wallace Thorton's telling of the story that he feels the need to explain this prominent role of women to the modern day holiness audience. Is this possibly a sign that contemporary holiness churches have strayed from their roots on this issue?

It seems to me that, in the late twentieth century, the contemporary holiness movement swapped out political and fundamentalist conservatism for its earlier social radicalism. A movement that used to consist of the most radical feminists of the day now in many respects might feel closer to an anti-women in ministry place like Bob Jones University than to somewhere like IWU, which is closer to its roots on these sorts of issues.

I have seen a wedding ceremony in the modern holiness movement that put a strong emphasis on the headship of the husband that would never have entered into the mind of its founding mothers and fathers. Both the wives of Martin Wells Knapp and Seth C. Rees were ordained themselves! This is my third take-away from these chapters--the prominent and unashamed role of women in the roots of the holiness movement. (We will see the near communism among many of these radical types as well in the final post next week.)

5. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself. The entire situation around Knapp's death is bizarre. I could write a couple rather salacious novels out of the data, but I'll leave it to your imagination.

His body was cremated, a BIG no, no for this crowd. Rees doesn't return from the Boston revival to do the funeral, a choice that probably ended any real significant role for him in the future of God's Bible School. Harvey's role in the scheduled revival is immediately revoked. GBS immediately reverses its stand on "comeouterism."

The figure of Bessie Queen is the most intriguing of all. A young, pretty assistant now becomes the dominant figure at GBS. She controls The Revivalist, and thus becomes the dominant controller of the voice of the holiness movement for a brief time. She is said to dominate Mrs. Knapp.
Bessie Queen Standley

Soon Harvey indicates that Knapp had confessed to him an inappropriate relationship with Queen, with whom Knapp had sometimes traveled alone. It is confirmed by another secretary who defects from GBS to MCA. In a personal interview, Arthur Bray in my own Wesleyan circles confirmed to Kostlevy that this was genuinely believed by these figures at the MCA.

But Godbey stands up for her, as does Mrs. Knapp. Within a year of his death, Queen--who had written earlier that she would never marry because she was married to The Revivalist--marries Meredith D. Standley, Knapp's replacement as Bible teacher at GBS (and an original graduate).

There is an afterlife to the Bessie Queen story. Knapp's own son, along with other donors, would take the school to court over financial misappropriation. The suit was not fully resolved until the 1980s, perhaps the longest running court case in Ohio, maybe national history. In 1950, the Standleys were removed from their leadership over the school by the State of Ohio. The general target of these accusations was not Meredith but Bessie Standley.

Again, one wonders what great things might have been accomplished without these distractions. Then again, if Knapp had not died, would the school have gone in a different, more radical direction?

Cartoon showing how the
founder of Asbury College
got what he deserved when
 after turning away the
MCA he found himself
 turned away.
6. The MCA soon found itself isolated from the rest of the holiness movement. Rees would leave and work with The Revivalist for a time instead. (He seems to have moved around a lot. Keith wonders if he was hard to work for. Interestingly, both of his sons more or less left the holiness movement and became somewhat mainline in their approach to Christianity.)

It was during this season that the MCA periodical, The Burning Bush, became a powerful tool. Knapp had also used cartoons in The Revivalist, a sign of his entrepreneurial bent. But Harvey and Farson would bring the muckraker skills of modern yellow journalism to lambaste their opponents.

(I can feel it in my veins, that revivalist blood. You can see it from time to time on the blog. This week I thought of several inflammatory cartoons I could post here if I ever had a meltdown. Pray it never happens. :-)

What is funny is that the cartoonist they hired wasn't even part of the movement. As savvy businessmen, there was a good deal of "the end justifies the means" in their method. Their goal was nothing short of changing the world. And they were willing to use the means of the world to do it.

By the way, Kostlevy gives an implicit shot at Mark Noll when he notes how engaged these holiness people were in the tools and methods of the world. "The ease with which the MCA adopted journalistic expose, the chief weapon of Progressive reform, may surprise those who continue to understand evangelicalism and the Holiness Movement primarily as expressions of a cultural retreat from modernity" (94). Basically, Noll and Marsden are all wet.

7. Had enough? More next week.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Science: Where are we in time?

Review Post #2

As I look to a possible rhythm of posting for this fall, I'm thinking of looking at Fridays as a science/math type day. So today I thought I'd review the second chapter of Max Tegmark's, Our Mathematical Universe. Some thoughts on the first two chapters are here.

1. So if the previous chapter tried to locate us in space, the third chapter tries to locate us in time. I don't think there were many controversial matters in the previous chapter. But when you begin talking about the age of the universe, some do get nervous.

So before I dive in the chapter, it's worthwhile to do a little Christian processing first. My sense is that the real rub here has to do more with the question of evolution than it does the actual age of the earth. So even John Piper himself does not think the question of the earth's age is restricted by the Bible.

Here the "apparent age" theory, I think, opens the door to let science be science. It would be problematic to my faith if we had to "cook the books" when it came to science because of a supposed interpretation of the Bible, especially when 1) there are so many contradictory interpretations of the Bible and 2) as a Bible scholar, I know that those who care the most about these sorts of things are usually the most ill-equipped interpreters of all.

The apparent age theory is the idea that God created the universe to look like it was really old, even though it is actually very young. I am not endorsing this theory. I am simply saying that, if we allow for the possibility that God made the universe to look old--whether it is or isn't. Then we are free to let the chips lie where they fall as we look at the evidence. Faith isn't at stake so we can be honest with the evidence.

"Whew," so we don't have to be worried about how old the evidence seems to suggest the universe is.

2. It was an interesting thought Tegmark suggests at the beginning of the chapter that, for the Romans, the laws governing the skies appeared to be different than the laws governing the earth. For example, why doesn't the moon fall out of the sky to the ground the way things I throw up do? I didn't see a footnote here, so I'd like to hear it from the ancient horse's mouth.

But it does make a little sense. Many Jews at the time of Christ thought of the stars as angelic beings. (Which makes the star over Bethlehem potentially get very interesting) Some Greeks and Romans thought of stars as great heroes from the past. These ideas would at least fit with what Tegmark says because, in such cases, the things in the sky would be beings, not rocks. (although Anaxagoras did think the sun was a very hot rock centuries before Christ... he was kicked out of Athens)

By contrast, Newton assumed that the objects in the sky followed the same rules as things on earth. He calculated how fast something orbiting the earth would have to be moving to stay in orbit. His answer was 7.9 kilometers per second. Friction of tides and such is slowing the spinning of the earth, so things were spinning faster in the past than at present.

Apparently, if you extrapolate back, the earth can't be more than 4 or 5 billions years old, because it would have been spinning too fast then to stay together.

3. I suspect the current theory for how the solar system, the galaxies, and the universe formed fits with a host of data. It is not proven, mind you. It is just impressive in its ability to explain a great deal of evidence. If you have a cloud of hydrogen gas--the simplest of all elements, one proton and one electron--two forces will tug at each other.

The one is the force of gravity. It pulls the gas in on itself. The other is the heat of hydrogen running into itself. This heat pushes expansion.

So what happens in mathematical models of this sort of thing is that you eventually get a swirling pizza with a star at the center. The hydrogen in the middle gets so hot that it fuses to form helium, the second simplest element (two protons, two electrons, and two neutrons). The energy levels are also just right for these to fuse to form carbon and from there all the other elements as this plasma mix cools off.

It is a theory, of course. But it seems to make sense, and I can't think of anything in the Bible that would make it problematic.

4. So how old is the earth? Here we get to radioactive decay. The atomic bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki seemed to suggest that our notions of radioactive decay work pretty well with the evidence. What happens is that certain versions of uranium (we call them isotopes) are unstable and tend to disintegrate into lead. This is a process whose rate we have measured.

The "half life" of a radioactive element is how long it takes for half of that element to deteriorate into a simpler element, lower on the periodic table. So at present, it sure seems like we can date things by seeing, for example, how much lead and how much uranium are in a given rock sample. They have done such with certain rocks in Australia, as well as with meteorites and the result is the suggestion that the earth is about 4.4 billion years old, while the solar system is about 4.5 billion years old.

Now these conclusions are based on theories, but they seem to have consistently great explanatory power. Again, for those who think the Bible absolutely teaches a young earth, there is a release valve. If we allow for the possibility that God created rocks with some of the uranium already decomposed, we don't have to worry about this issue. We can take the science at its face value and say that the earth and solar system at least look to be billions of years old.

5. The universe is expanding. This was a hard won conclusion of twentieth century science. There were several people early on who suggested that this was a natural conclusion of Einstein's general relativity. But they were not popular voices. It is a great example of how peer pressure and popularity contests take place in science too.

So a guy named Fred Hoyle had a winning personality and he was saying what people wanted to hear--that the universe wasn't expanding but was pretty much just going along as usual. Meanwhile, Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest, was ignored when he suggested that the universe was expanding.

And here let me pause to express my confusion as to why some Christians think the idea of a "big bang" at the beginning is problematic. What is a big bang but the indication that the universe had a beginning? It seems to fit very nicely with the cosmological argument for God's existence, that the bang needed someone to trigger it. All I can think of is that people associate a big bang with evolution or assume it means there is no one doing the banging.

On the contrary, you might paraphrase Genesis 1:1 to say, "In the beginning, God caused a big bang, and the heavens and earth were the result." Could it be that the reason so many rejected the expanding universe of Lemaître and Friedmann is precisely because of how well it fit with the idea of a creation?

But the discovery of the "blue shift" of all galaxies we can see (they are all "moving away" from us, like the Doppler effect when an ambulance passes you and the sound gets stretched out) suggests the universe is expanding. When you do the math, it suggests that the universe is about 14 billion years old.

6. So here's a question. If we can see stars that are more than 14 billion light years away (a light year is the distance light travels in a year, going 186,000 meters per second), then doesn't the universe have to be older than that for us to see them?

Here is a key insight from Einstein's general relativity. It's not really that the stars are moving away from us. It's that space--the emptiness itself--is expanding. The space between things is getting bigger everywhere. Fascinating!

Nothing can move faster than the speed of light through space. "But space itself is free to stretch however fast it wants to" (48).

7. Looking into space is like looking back in time. And our telescopes get better and better. Thank the Lord that NASA somehow got money out of Congress to send up telescopes and probes into space.

So the further you look out into space, the older the things you are seeing. We can now see galaxies forming, and what we see looks just like the theory of coagulating gases I mentioned above. The further out you go, you get to the plasma pool of hydrogen atoms. And finally you get background radiation, the afterglow of the beginning. You hear the echo of God's word, "Let there be light."

I'll leave the chapter at that. Tegmark does not believe it all goes back to a singularity, an infinite point. We'll see what he is thinking here in later chapters, I'm sure. But he thinks that the quantum mechanics breaks down about a second before "nucleosynthesis," the formation of nucleuses.

We'll see what that means. By "big bang," he means that "everything we can observe was once hotter than the core of the Sun, expanding so fast that it doubled its size in under a second" (65). Not my definition, but we'll see where he goes with it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

7. Philo and Judaism

Only one chapter today of Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, edited by Torrey Seland. Three more chapters by the end of the week to go.

Philo the Jew
Philo the Citizen
Philo the Interpreter of the Law and Educated Jew
Philo the Philosopher and how to study Philo
Philo and Society

1. Our next chapter moves on to the insights Philo might shed on Judaism, both locally and in the wider Jewish world of his day. None other than Ellen Birnbaum is our next author, "Philo's Relevance for the Study of Jews and Judaism in Antiquity."

She begins with all the cautionary tales. Is Philo typical of the Judaism of his day? Can we even speak of a common Judaism? With what other sources should Philo be compared?

She then proceeds to look at Philo in terms of practices, beliefs and ideas, community institutions, biblical interpretation, Jewish identity, interaction with non-Jews, and historical events pertaining to Jews.

2. For example, with regard to Passover, it is interesting that Philo does not focus on the "passing over" of the Israelites while the Egyptian firstborn die. For Philo, celebration of the Passover has to do with crossing the Red Sea. It's a crossing feast. In this case, she does not consider the evidence great enough to generalize that all Alexandrians had this view. She only muses whether the Therapeutae, a group in Egypt Philo mentions, might have.

She asks the same question of whether Alexandrians might have observed a kind of proto-Seder there. Did they offer their own sacrifices in Alexandria? Of course she mentions in this chapter the fact that Philo never mentions the temple at Leontopolis.

3. Next she treats how Philo might inform our understanding of Jewish beliefs and ideas at the time. For example, Philo's view of divine powers has enough similarity to later rabbinic views that we must surely think there is some common tradition here. For him, two names of God are "Lord" and "God," which represent his royal and creative powers respectively. The rabbis also correlated God's names with his merciful and punitive sides (but they flipped the names).

Covenant is not a major category for Philo. In this he is not alone among Jews of the time, which warns the E. P. Sanders' and N. T. Wright's of the world not to overgeneralize.

4. With regard to the temple, Philo shows that even a Diaspora Jew could be invested in its significance. He provides significant evidence for the ancient synagogue and house of prayer. We learn a bit about the gerousia at Alexandria, its Jewish ruling council.

Throughout the chapter, Ellen points out possibilities for further research, indeed one of the great strengths of this book.

5. Philo not only considered the Pentateuch inspired, but its Greek translation as well, like the Letter of Aristeas. She mentions some evidence that Philo at one point refers to the traditional Jewish division of Scripture into Torah, Prophets, and Writings (Contempl. 25). I have missed so far in the book Philo's reference to Jeremiah as also initiated in the mysteries (Cher. 48-49). I think the question of Philo's "canon" might have born more discussion.

 Philo's exegetical method has been deeply explored by scholars. It bears both similarities and differences with other interpreters. These aspects of Philo have of course been treated extensively already in the book in the chapters by Borgen (on the Jewish side) and Sterling (on the Hellenistic side).

6. Next we have a section on what insights Philo might bring to Jewish identity at the time. His mention of the Essenes and Therapeutae are here, as well as insights he might offer to our understanding of how one became a proselyte to Judaism. Ellen has some fun comments on "once-a-year" Jews in this section, Jews Philo bemoans as only observing their Judaism on the Day of Atonement. This sentence is worth quoting:

"Some have observed that Alexandria, with its remarkably varied range of Jews, calls to mind the similarly diverse Jewish population of a modern American city like New York, albeit twenty centuries later" (218).

7. Philo's views toward non-Jews is quite negative, especially in Alexandria. He despises Egyptians and most Alexandrians, although positive toward the Ptolemies of older days. Another area ripe for further research. Ellen mentions that he may have been educated in the gymnasium, harkening  back to the chapter by Koskenniemi.

The chapter ends with a hat tip to Philo's writings about historical events involving the Jews, the pogrom and attempt of Caligula to put a statue in the temple being the main suspects. She mentions that Philo does not mention the laographia or poll tax, one possible reason for tensions between Jews and the city at the time.

So there you have it, a taste of the kinds of issues involved in asking how Philo's writings might illuminate the Judaism of his day, common or otherwise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

6. Philo and Society

Only one chapter today of Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, edited by Torrey Seland. Three more chapters by the end of the week to go.

Philo the Jew
Philo the Citizen
Philo the Interpreter of the Law and Educated Jew
Philo the Philosopher and how to study Philo

1. This was another excellent surprise by Adele Reinhartz. The actual name of the chapter is, "Philo's Exposition of the Law and Social History." To me this chapter seemed an area of emerging Philo studies and clearly a general field that would be of great interest for upcoming researchers.

Reinhartz, a Canadian scholar, is thus developing a method for a new area of Philonic research. She is interested in using Philo to explore the "social history" of Judaism in Alexandria at the time of Christ. Social history is "the study of 'people's relationships with each other in families, kinship groupings, status groupings, villages, urban neighborhoods, regions and politics" (180).

Of course it is not that researchers in Philo have not touched on these matters in an ad hoc way. But Reinhartz develops a cogent method for studying such elements of Philo's writings and then suggests some key conclusions one might reach. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

2. One key methodological obstacle is the fact that Philo's topoi are largely generated from the texts he is interpreting. So can we infer from Philo's strong stance against homosexual practice that there was significant homosexual practice in the Jewish community/Alexandria, or is it simply that the issue is raised by the biblical text he is interpreting (Spec. 2.50; 3.37-42)?

She gives a couple examples of comments by Roman outsiders like Strabo that indicate that non-Jewish sources are generally unreliable in this area. Are we really to believe that Jews practiced female circumcision like the Egyptians apparently did?

3. In the end, there are two views of Philo among scholars. One is that he had no real interest or involvement in the life of the Jewish community and was just an ivory tower blogger who had little interest in the real world (e.g., Samuel Sandmel). Others, like Borgen, believe he was squarely involved in both the Jewish and Alexandrian communities.

[By the way, there is a serious error in a quote of Samuel Belkin on p. 185. The word "no" was omitted, making the sentence sound like it says the opposite of what it was meant to say. Belkin wrote, "The general view prevalent among scholars that Philo had no interest in communal affairs and was, as is sometimes said, an 'individualist' by nature is open to doubt" (185).]

Reinhartz clearly takes the latter view. We can infer realia about Jewish community life in Alexandria from Philo.

4. So she sets down a method. True, Philo sometimes is just interpreting the text in front of him rather than addressing contemporary issues. BUT, she plausibly suggests, we can see hints of his contemporary situation in a) his rationales for the laws, especially when the text doesn't give them, b) his extensions of the laws to areas they do not directly address, c) his reinterpretations of laws that no longer applied to his day, and d) when he gives specifics to general formulations.

In the rest of the chapter, she applies these criteria to Philo's texts. She concludes that some of the realities of Philo's day included things like a) a strong patriarchal culture. She actually argues that b) infanticide may have been an issue among some Jews.

One of the things I appreciated about the chapter is her critique of dreamy descriptions of ancient Jews as obviously untouched by non-Jewish practices such as this. But she is a model of objectivity. Beware when someone in a group is giving the story of that group. There becomes a strong motivation to give a sugar coated version.

She finds evidence of c) monogamy as standard Jewish practice by this time and d) the difficulty of daughters inheriting when a father has deceased.

In general, a fascinating and another outstanding chapter in the book. Great stuff!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

5. Philo the philosopher and more

Two more chapters today here of Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, edited by Torrey Seland. Four more chapters by Thursday to go.

Philo the Jew
Philo the Citizen
Philo the Interpreter of the Law and Educated Jew

1. I have found Greg Sterling to be an imposing scholar. He was at Notre Dame for some twenty years before he recently went to be Dean of Yale Divinity School. How he has been able to produce the academic works he has while being Dean at Notre Dame and now Yale is incomprehensible to me.

His knowledge of the details of Hellenistic philosophy astounds me and thought of him when I read this sentence in the chapter: "Philo knew a good deal about Hellenistic philosophy, considerably more than all but a handful of scholars today" (147). Sterling is one among that handful, as are many of the scholars who make up the Philo guild.

I've never really liked the opinio communis that Philo was an exegete rather than a philosopher, despite Nikiprowetzky. I know what is being said, and it is true. Philo uses philosophy in the service of his exegesis. He is not a professional philosopher.

Yet it seems to me that this distinction may worry too much about modern categories and distinctions. Certainly many ancients thought of him as a philosopher, among other things. We may be preoccupied with the form of his writings, but that says more about us than Philo, I suspect.

2. Philo interpreted Moses by way of philosophy. Plato was his chief source, but he also draws on the Stoics, Pythagoreans, and even on Aristotle. He knows them all and draws on them in an eclectic fashion--"he drew on what he considered to be the best from each tradition and incorporated it into his own thought" (137). Sterling gives an impressive sweep of Philo's engagement with Greek philosophers.

3. Sterling also gives a very helpful overview of Jewish philosophical thinkers in Egypt prior to Philo--chiefly Aristobulus and pseudo-Aristeas. There were also the unnamed Jewish literalists and allegorists of Philo's world.

At the end of the chapter, we get an overview of the different types of work Philo wrote and how philosophy played in each. Interestingly, it is in the Allegorical Commentary that we get the most use of philosophy, namely, in Philo's allegorical interpretation.

Sterling is just an excellent writer. Clear, organized, comprehensive, insightful.

4. Now we arrive at the second half of the book, which has to do with how to study Philo, especially when you are coming to him from another discipline.

The next chapter, "Why Study Philo? How?" is another winner. This is really turning out to be the definitive bridge work for MA or PhD engagement with Philo, although an undergraduate course could easily work through the book as well. If you are just getting into Philo, I would recommend that you read this chapter first.

Seland does an excellent job in this chapter. Following in the tradition of Goodenough (and I might add my own book), Torrey suggests a good order in which to read through Philo's works. He gives David Runia's four recommendations for interpreting passages in Philo. He gives a definitive overview of the differing texts and translations of Philo in multiple languages. In a section that is indicative of our age, he even talks about Google Books, Google Scholar, and other electronic resources, such as his own well-known website.

The chapter is just a great catalog of resources on Philo, including my own book, about which he is kind. :-)

More tomorrow...

Monday, July 20, 2015

4. Philo, Educated Interpreter

Continuing my review of Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, edited by Torrey Seland. My goal is to finish this fine book before the end of the week, which means two chapters a day.

Philo the Jew
Philo the Citizen

1. The first chapter to review today is by Peder Borgen, "Philo - An Interpreter of the Laws of Moses." Borgen is of course a major Philo player. He wrote somewhat of an overview of Philo himself almost twenty years ago. But his greatest contribution to Philo studies, IMO, is his index to Philo, a computer generated concordance to Philo's works. He is much to be revered.

I will say, though, that I have always found him to be somewhat of an "in the weeds" writer. It is perhaps a difference in our personalities, since I am a big picture person, but I always feel like I could use a map to his writing. I often feel like I am joining him in the middle of a conversation and it takes me a little effort to figure out what we are talking about. That does not negate his brilliance!

2. But there is an outline to the chapter. Without warning, we hit the ground running in one type of writing Philo engaged in--"expository writings." He wrote other things, like historical and philosophical treatises. (Just one paragraph putting this chapter into perspective would have been lovely. But as I said, this book is not entirely for the complete beginner.) But the preponderance of his writings were expositions of Scripture.

Borgen divides them into two categories: exegetical commentaries and something called "rewritten Scripture." The category of "rewritten Scripture" is widely used. I have never found that title very helpful. It basically refers to retellings of biblical stories by a later author.

So he overviews these two types of expository writing in Philo. Then he addresses Philo's hermeneutical presuppositions as he interprets. He describes some of the key elements we find in Philo's interpretation. He briefly compares Philo to other interpreters in his context. He covers some of the literary forms Philo employs. He briefly mentions Philo's interpretation in relation to the conflict around 38CE and then ends with an epilogue giving a taste of the impact of Philo's exegesis on early Christian literature.

The way I would describe this chapter is a smorgasbord of tastes. It gives you a wealth of specific detail on ways that Philo went about extracting meaning from the biblical texts.

3. The second chapter for today is "Philo and Classical Education," by Erkki Koskenniemi (hereafter EK). This chapter was a great surprise and very well written. EK is clearly up to date on the state of research on education in antiquity and I find his fundamental thesis highly plausible.

It is that classical education cannot be reduced to a single pattern or template. It varied from place to place and from time to time. He is particularly concerned with debate over the role of the gymnasion in antiquity. Was it purely for athletic purposes or for educational purposes as well. Who was allowed to participate in it?

Here is his summary statement: "The gymnasion was thus a significant institution in the Greek world, but it was certainly not identical in every place and time. the duration of the training varied greatly, as did apparently the percentage of non-Greeks involved as well. What preceded the gymnasion also varied, and unfortunately we know only little of it. Apparently, education prior to the gymnasion was mostly private, and uniformity among schools belongs to later times. Some Greek education was provided in the gymnasion, some outside of it, and non-Greeks may have imitated the gymnasions if they were excluded from this institution" (109-110).

4. There was thus no fixed pattern or content, and the older source of H. I. Marrou (1948) systematized and universalized a pattern of ancient education based on scanty evidence. He must thus be used with great caution. At the same time, Teresa Morgan's revision may go too far in the opposite direction (1998).

Nevertheless, we can easily imagine that Homer featured large as a source, that the skills of reading and writing were taught. We can imagine that geometry, astronomy, music, and logic were also common topics.

5. EK next examines evidence for education in Alexandria in particular. Here we have good evidence that the city underwent a transition after Roman occupation, for which we have two key sources. The first is a petition to the emperor from a Jew named Helenos to be a citizen of the city. His father was a citizen, but apparently his mother was not. He was denied.

The second is the letter of Claudius after the pogrom of 38 and the embassy of Philo to the previous emperor Caligula. Claudius indicates that the Jews are not citizens of the city and they cannot participate in the life of the gymnasion.

So Philo's own lifetime seems to have seen this transition take place and solidify. Philo himself probably had access to the best education that the city could offer. But by the time his nephew came through the ranks, it became necessary to pick sides. Either you could be a Jew or you could be a Roman who fully participated in the education of the city.

6. In the end, EK does not conclude that Philo attended a gymnasion in Alexandria as an ephebe at fourteen. Philo mentions the gymnasion more or less in relation to physical training at this stage of life. Clearly Philo had access to the gymnasion for events before the pogrom of 38.

But wherever Philo received his "soul" education, he received one fully as good as any formal Greek education. EK spends the last part of the chapter cataloging all the Greek literature with which Philo not only demonstrates awareness but facility. It is quite impressive.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

E7. The Church is in the world but not of the world.

This is the seventh post on the Church in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit in this series had to do with God and Creation (book here), and the second unit was on Christology and Atonement.

We are now in the third and final unit: The Holy Spirit and the Church. The first set of posts in this final unit on the Spirit and the Church was on the Holy Spirit.
The Church is in the world but not of the world.

1. If visible churches and denominations cannot be equated with the Church, still less can any earthly government or state be equated with the Church. The Church is an invisible Church, and cannot be equated with any particular visible organization.

In 1951, H. Richard Niebuhr presented a number of differing perspectives on how Christianity ideally relates to the culture in which it finds itself. [1] These ranged from those who accommodated Christianity to culture and gave culture the upper hand ("Christ in culture") to those who wanted Christianity to dominate the surrounding culture ("Christ over culture"). Two other points of view were those that saw Christ in culture in inevitable conflict ("Christ against culture") and those who simply saw these two as two different worlds with two different mindsets, both of which we have to live in ("Christ and culture in paradox"). The ideal, he believed, was for Christ to transform culture.

We can summarize these five perspectives as:
  • Christ in culture - Christianity accommodates culture
  • Christ over culture - Christianity dominates culture
  • Christ against culture - Christianity will always be isolated from culture
  • Christ and culture in paradox - We live in two worlds and obey the conflicting rules of both
  • Christ transforms culture - Christianity influences culture for the better
While we would hope that Christianity is always having some positive, transformative effect on its surrounding culture, the dominant stance of Christianity at any one time and place has most to do with the prevailing attitude of the surrounding culture toward it. Similarly, sometimes it is understandable if different individuals take different positions toward the surrounding culture at the same time.

2. We can identify times in history when Christians have predictably taken one particular stance toward the surrounding culture. For example, there are clearly times when the surrounding culture is hostile to Christ and Christians understandably assume a "Christ against culture" stance. This was more or less the position in which the early church found itself.

So Paul tells the believers at Corinth that God will judge the world and they should leave it be (1 Cor. 5:12-13). They should not take conflicts within the church to the Roman authorities (1 Cor. 6:1-6). Instead, he takes an isolationist, "Christ against culture" stance. The church should take care of its own affairs and leave the affairs of the world to itself. As Jesus said, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." (Mark 12:17).

3. This may sound like "Christ and culture in paradox," but it is not. This second perspective is usually associated with the Lutheran tradition. It has the sense that we as Christians sometimes have to do unChristian things when we are in the world. So when we are in the world, we sin, but we have to.

We think of how Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have participated in the assassination attempt on Hitler even though he did not believe it was morally right to kill someone. [2] It is a paradox, but to him it was the nature of our current situation that we are both sinner and saint at the same time. The key, Luther said, is that we are always repenting.

This position, however, is neither biblical nor theologically sound. Not all ethical principles are absolutes. When two moral principles are in conflict, we must choose one and make an exception to the other. This choice does not inevitably involve sin. In other words, it could have been, in the situation of Hitler, morally right to make an exception to the principle not to kill another.

There have been times in history when various figures have done things that would normally be considered immoral or at least less than the ideal, but they have done so for the perpetuation of Christianity. Would there be a church in Russia today if its archbishop had not dirtied himself in the early days of communism?

This is a very shady zone, and one where a person is prone to make excuses. Should you have rather become a martyr ("Christ against culture") than act as you did? I find this perspective the most potentially problematic of them all.

4. Is there a point where Christianity is rightly shaped by the surrounding culture? It inevitably is, whether we like it or not. Much of 1 Peter arguably is the accommodation of early Christians to the social norms of the surrounding culture. Rather than the initially radical, "in Christ there is no longer male and female" (Gal. 3:28; Acts 2:17), 1 Peter tells Christians to hunker down and conform to the norms of the day to avoid unnecessary persecution. Slaves obey unjust masters (1 Pet. 2:18-19). Wives submit to unbelieving husbands (3:1).

Moral principles are always played out in context. The same moral principle in one context can play out in a contradictory way in another. Is it acting respectable for a husband to direct his wife's every move or to act with complete equality in authority? The culture determines which course of action is the respectable one.

5. At times Christianity has assumed a "Christ over culture" position of dominance. Obviously this position is only possible when a Christian group has enough power to exert its authority over the rest of the culture. This was the case throughout much of church history when the Roman Catholic Church held a power that was parallel to that of all worldly authority. It has been the case in countries or states where various forms of Protestant Christianity were able to exert their dominance.

In the United States, we call the Christ over culture position "civil religion." [3] It is a Christian culture that has difficulty distinguishing between patriotism, nationalism, and faith. Issues of nation become issues of Christianity, and issues of Christianity become issues of nation. Take, for example, the question of homosexuality in laws of state. Are there any aspects of this issue that make it a "secular" issue and an issue for a non-Christian environment? Civil religion will not see the distinction and see it as Christian to try to make the laws of state mirror Christian ethical principles.

Similarly, is it particularly Christian to support a country's military? One might rather suspect that Christians would more naturally be wary of a wing of state poised to enact violence and force. Yet the military is regularly celebrated in church across America. Here is an example where issues of the state have become issues of "faith." We put the American flag in our churches because we cannot see a distinction between God and country.

From a Wesleyan-Arminian standpoint, God desires individuals to choose him rather than to force people to serve him. This dynamic has direct implications for the ideal state. The ideal state would obviously be one in which believers can freely live out their faith. The ideal state would be one in which believers can freely and profitably conduct the mission of God. The ideal state is one that protects its citizens from harming themselves and each other, "love of neighbor" played out on a societal scale.

But the ideal state would also be a context in which individuals can choose God freely rather than being compelled to do so. Rather than fight to the death over issues of faith when it is clear that secular forces in broader society are against us, we "give them up" (Rom. 1:28). It is easy to forget that the Church is not the state and go on to make unnecessary enemies for the Church because we are convinced that our faith should dominate.

Whenever Christ and state overlap too much, Christ usually does not end up ruling the state but, rather, notions of Christ get infected with the world and the corruption of power. When Christianity is in power--or when any religion is in power--oppression seems to result inevitably. Those in power inevitably cannot distinguish their own ideas from God's. It is thus not Christianity that comes to be in power but one particular, cultural version of it.

6. Christianity is thus best "in the world, but not of it." Yes, there are times when Christians should fight for the concrete protection of others. Yes, there is a time to submit to something less than ideal. We should always be an influence for good and for the positive transformation of society.

This is a consistent theme in the New Testament, which found itself in a "Christ against culture" situation. We confess that we are "strangers and foreigners on the earth" (Heb. 11:13). We look to a coming homeland and city (11:14, 16). We are citizens of a different country (Phil. 3:20).

This fundamental reality is not an excuse for us to leave the world mentally. We are still here. There is good that can be done here. We cannot use our ultimate citizenship as a cop-out to do nothing or to disengage when we can be a transformative influence for good. There are clearly times when God does change the world now for good through Christian influence. It is simply to say that our level of engagement will differ depending on the nature of our context in history.

7. A related question is then the extent to which the visible church coincides with the true, invisible Church. Is the visible church a "hospital for sinners or a haven for saints"? [4] Certainly the true Church only consists of "saints" (that is, those who have been made holy through the blood of Christ). Yet the mission of God through the Church is to reconcile the world, and in that sense the Church had better be engaged in leading "sinners" to healing.

A visible church that only serves "saints" is not engaged in mission, while a church that only engages "sinners" is a doorway that leads to nowhere. [5] Its visible manifestation never gets off the porch and into the house.

Clearly as there are many different members in the body of Christ, there are some churches that are more engaged in mission and there are some churches that are more engaged in the other tasks of the Church (e.g., worship, discipleship, fellowship). If a visible church goes to either extreme, it faces dangers. The purely missional church may see its "saints" evaporate like a puddle of water under a hot sun. The ingrown church may see its "saints" die away like a plant that never bears seeds.

The healthy, visible church is both in the world and not of the world. It is in the world engaged in God's mission. But it is also not of the world in its worship and discipleship.

The church is in the world and is a transformative influence on its context as the opportunity for engagement arises. But it is ultimately not of the world and should not in any way be confused with the state or aspire to impose its will on the secular state.

Next Sunday: E8. The Church has worship as its most important task.

[1] H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1951).

[2] Although see now Mark Theissen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel, Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering his Call to Peacemaking (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). They argue that Bonhoeffer did not participate in the plot.

[3] The classic work here is an article by Robert Bellah, "Civil Religion in America," Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 96 (1): 1–21.

[4] Source unknown.

[5] The "seeker-sensitive" church does well as a doorway. Its services are something like the triage or emergency room of a hospital. But unless discipleship structures are also in place, the prognosis for long term healing and health is not good.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Holy Jumpers" Batman!

Keith Drury and Bob Black are reading a book right now called Holy Jumpers, by Bill Kostlevy. Bill was librarian at Asbury when I was a student there. You might remember that Keith and Bob wrote a history of the Wesleyan Church, so this book is right up their alley.

1. This book is about "evangelicals and radicals in Progressive Era America," which was around the turn of the century 1900. Kostlevy seems especially to be tracing the story of a group called the Metropolitan Church Association (MCA), a radical holiness group that was in Chicago at that time. Their magazine was The Burning Bush. The group intersected heavily with the founders of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, one of the parent bodies of the Wesleyan Church, although they parted ways as the MCA got crazier.

2. So what are we talking about here? For one, we are talking about "demonstrative" preaching and worship, where there was shouting and jumping and crying. Martin Wells Knapp was the founder of God's Bible School, the starter of the magazine, God's Revivalist, and (without knowing it) co-founder of the Pilgrim Holiness Church. He once said that God would not tolerate fireless preachers. He died in 1901, before tongues came into the picture, but he approached having a sense that if you did not have some dramatic, demonstrable, loud experience, you simply were not really sanctified.

I grew up on the tail end of some of the aisle running at various camp meetings. But I haven't seen much of it for years now. The last time I had a taste was at my uncle Maurice's funeral, where there was both some shouting and a little holy laughter.

3. These were "against" people. At first they were not "comeouters," and then they were. Knapp described the Revivalist in negative terms: "In every age the true gospel-herald must 'root out' error, 'pull down' formality, worldliness, and sham religion, 'destroy' the works of the devil and 'throw down' all that persists in the way of revival truth" (27).

What did he have in mind? It included fancy dress, jewelry, and such. The original Free Methodists didn't wear ties. The MCA had problems with wedding rings and silk. They were "sabbatarians" who took a Scottish approach to things you couldn't do on Sundays. They debated whether you should take the train in to camp meeting on a Sunday. They were of course against liquor and the "evil" Catholic immigrant influence.

Ironically, some of what Seth Rees, co-founder of the Pilgrims, would have preached against included values that I consider the best of the Wesleyan tradition: "This sweet, sickish, sentimental gush about 'love and unity' which composes the stock and trade of a great many religious 'tongue-waggers' is producing a race of cringing, sensitive, puny, delicate Christians who wilt and curl under a hot sun" (29) The love of God for him included assault on worldliness.

4. One of the most interesting features is that many of them had a "communal" dimension to their thinking. One of the founders of the MCA, a wealthy businessman named E. L. Harvey, didn't get entirely sanctified until he submitted to give the Lord all his money except for what he needed to subsist on. He and his wife felt guilty about fancy clothes, wedding rings, and nice houses.

In other words, these early radical holiness had a socialist element to their thinking. They had many of the same goals as the socialist "Industrial Workers of the World" and competed for the same people. They just weren't violent like the IWW. They believed that Christians should share their possessions in common like Acts 2 and just keep enough to live on simply.

They had much in common with the social gospel movement in Chicago, although Kostlevy points out a very important difference: "The social gospel was never successful in either the socioeconomic integration of Christian communities or the establishment of churches among the poor. In abandoning, or more commonly minimizing, the evangelical message of personal salvation, Chicago Methodists were unintentionally replacing an experiential basis for unity, which allowed for a degree of cultural diversity, with a cultural and political understanding of Christian mission that saw the recipients as objects of charity and not brothers and sisters in Christ" (48).

5. We are also talking about a radical premillennarianism that seized this radical wing of the holiness movement in the 1890s. Prior to the 1890s, most holiness people--as most Christians in general--were postmillennial. It was in the last decade of the nineteenth century that there was a mass conversion of the radical holiness preachers to a "Left Behind" style eschatology.

These lines from W. B. Godbey in 1898 were fun: "What a wonderful flood of light on this subject is inundating the world! Only two years ago brother Carradine got light on it, and preached it, and Dr. Watson preached his first sermon on it, and there has been a regular revelation on the subject in the last few years. You do not find one sanctified man in a thousand who is not looking for the speedy coming of the lord" (26).

Of course that was well over 100 years ago, so apparently Godbey was off a little on his timing. But premillennialism was part and parcel of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, and most Wesleyans remain premillennial today. One of the debates at the merger of the Wesleyan Church was whether it would have a statement requiring belief in pre-millennialism, which thankfully didn't happen.

Today, we would consider Daniel Steele a much more appropriate holiness model from that era, along with the National Holiness Association (NHA). These were more balanced holiness people. They were not liberals or followers of the social gospel. Yet they were targets of Knapp's vitriol. They weren't radical enough for him. If he had continued living, the MCA probably would have become too radical for him.

When Daniel Steele pointed out to Knapp that premillennialism wasn't in the Apostle's Creed, Knapp more or less replied that the Apostle's Creed was just a man made document.

6. Divine healing was also very important to these more demonstrative strands of the holiness movement. You can see Melvin Dieter's thesis here that the holiness movement of the turn of the century and the Pentecostal movement of that time both grew out of the same fertile soil.

Wesleyans still believe in divine healing today, although we don't emphasize it the way they did 100 years ago. A. B. Simpson was founder of the CMA church about this time, who emphasized a four-fold gospel with which the founders of the Pilgrim church agreed 1) Christ as savior, 2) Christ as sanctifier, 3) Christ as healer, and 4) Christ as coming king.

There is an outline of their preaching. They preached for people to come forward to the altar to get saved and sanctified. They preached healing. And they preached a speedy second coming.

7. There's a little taste of the introduction and first two chapters. Stay tuned for more...