Sunday, March 31, 2013

He's Alive

Although this is not a theological post (though it is my fist post) I thought you might enjoy watching/listening to this video of a tenor named Philip Webb whom we have enjoyed listening to over the years, and still do. Although you will not see us, we were present for this perfomance a number of years ago. It was good live. :)

Thank you,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Eternal Gospel

Hello to all of my faithful readers. It has been an inexcusably long time since I have posted last, and for that I will apologize. I am still busy, but I wanted to write a short post so that you all would not think I have completely forsaken you. The key word in that sentence was "short", so bear that in mind (it is 12:00 at night, and I am supposed to be up by 8:00 in the morning to head to Church).

What is the Gospel? Is it, "ask Jesus into your heart, and He'll save you from your sins"? Or is it, "God loved you so, so much that He sent His Son to die for you so that He could show you that love"? Or maybe it is, "You have sinned. Because of this sin, you deserve Hell. However, since God loved you, He sent His Son to die in your place. This gift of salvation is yours, if you will just reach out and take it by believing in Christ. If you don't take it, you will go to Hell. Yet if you do take it, your sins will be forgiven and you will live in Heaven forever. Its your choice, so what will you choose?"

The answer is: none of the above. Although the third sounds closest to truth, it is not true at all. There is nothing about repentance, God's eternal plan, sanctification, rebirth, and so on, nor are any of these implied. Thus, we are left with a decent amount of good-sounding, and maybe even wise-sounding, lies which send people to Hell, for it is only by the Gospel that men are saved. (Rom. 1:16) Thus, in order to begin understanding what salvation is, we need to find what the true Gospel is.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Are you at all curious as to what the Gospel is? Are you currently yelling "Heretic!" at the screen since you noticed that I declared your "gospel" to be fake? Do you not care what the Gospel is? If any of the above are true, read on.

In our Church's bible study a couple of days ago, Pastor Frederico brought up a marvelous passage. Let me show you it.

"...I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people..." (Rev. 14:6)

Notice in the beginning of this verse, we find the key to what we are searching for. This is the fact that this angel is preaching an "eternal Gospel" to all the Earth. As is obvious, this Gospel has been here for all of eternity in the mind of God. One thing to note though is that we have always been saved by the Gospel, first the Jew, then the Gentile. "How is this possible!?" You ask. "Jesus had not died on the cross nor rose from the dead when Abraham, or Noah, or even Adam was living! So how could they be saved by the Gospel?" Well, maybe the Gospel is different than you thought, or maybe you are creating a false dilemma in your head since "the blood of bulls and goats [cannot] take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Since death was the penalty for sins, the blood of the Lamb of God has always been required for men to be cleansed of their sins.

Let us continue in the passage, now that you are extremely curious as to what the Gospel is.

"...and [the angel] said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Rev. 14:7)

There is the Gospel by which the Elect are saved. This encompasses all of the Gospel, such as Christ's sacrificial atonement, Resurrection, Sanctification, Rebirth, repentance, and all other teachings which make up the Gospel. If you do not see it at first, read through the Scriptures and you will find that this is truly the summation of the Gospel, "Fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him who made all things."

May you all be granted increasing mercy, grace, and every other good and perfect gift from our Father and His Son, our Risen Lord,

Christopher Stahlberg

Monday, March 18, 2013

Understanding the Context of the Bible

    These are some notes I took of an essay by John Monson of Wheaton College which I felt, though I don't agree with everything he says (example: he is old earth and compares the Bible with ancient myths way to much), was helpful. Also I believe that an understanding of the context which the Bible was written in will protect one from faulty interpretations. This is a continuation of this post.  
    Never before has there ever been a time when knowledge of the biblical world has ever been as easily accessible as today, due to discoveries in language, archeology and geography. Yet at the same time there has never been a time when trust in biblical texts has ever been so low, in both the academia and the church. How can this be and how can contextual studies help correct this paradox?
The paradox may be explained by the philosophy prevalent in larger academic circles, which is everything in the texts must be doubted. The Bible must be deconstructed and contextualized to fit the presuppositions of the reader. That is extreme arrogance!
     It is even worse in the church as we search for a better and more satisfying religious experience, we displace the Scripture and archaeological and linguistic information that can help understand and appreciate the Scriptures even more. That is a great irony! This could be because for the past sixteen centuries the Christian community has been forced to interpret the Bible outside of its original context. That is because, until the late nineteenth century, very few extra-biblical resources. Though more likely, a widespread ignorance and faulty hermeneutic of the text itself is the cause.  But, nonetheless, whatever the origin, the paradox still exists, the Bible has been dismissed and decontextualized in a time when evidence that confirms the biblical text has abounded like never before!

     This essay argues the case for the necessity of contextual approach to interpreting the Bible. God has revealed through time, space, and culture, we must have proper prospective of those factors for a proper interpretation of His word.

Defining Original Context and Biblical Archeology

    The Original Context of the “Biblical World”

Doors used to enter into the “Biblical World” include:
     1)literary and non-literary sources, though mostly the texts including works of Josephus and Epic of Gilgamesh.. Those are fundamental sources for insights into the ancient world.

     1)Ancient artifacts also provide a enliven understanding of the context of the Scriptures
     3)And the geography of the Holy Land.

     This trio is essential for understanding the Scripture as the original readers would have understood it.


    What is Biblical Archeology?

    The basic definition of archeology is the study of human past from material remains. Biblical archeology is similar to other divisions of archeology, while focusing on the periods and places that are related to the Bible.

    “Evangelical ” Biblical Archeology?

     Biblical archeology has been used with strong apologetic motives and also to disassemble the Bible's reliability. Both have failed. The study of B.A driven for apologetic has failed for two reasons 1) the apologists themselves don't do field work. 2) Data can be interpreted both ways.

     It is better to enter the field of B.A for the purpose of understanding the Biblical world than to set out with a Bible proving agenda. For Pete’s sake, there is more to studying the Bible than trying to prove it.


Context in the History of Biblical Interpretation

    If B.A is the primary means of how to interpret the context of the text then it is fair to ask how the Jews and early Christians would have interpreted the text before the discipline of B.A. The clue to interpreting the Bible starts with understanding the author's perspective and how he chose to communicate it. The starting question should not be “What do I think or feel about this passage?” but rather “what does it actually say?” The text does, in fact, speak of the original context, it does speak for itself.

Context as Catalyst and Constraint for Biblical Interpretation

    Context as Catalyst

    The three components of context must be taken into consideration-text, artifact, and geography.

(1)   Geography
Gath from northMegiddo pass aerial from northeast

Geography is very valuable and useful when studying the Bible, it offers a fresh and informative look into the Bible.

Regional “dynamic” (Benjamin's territory). Benjamin's territory has been for a long while, a melting pot. It has been a very historic area, with much significance. It, among other things, was the buffer between Ephraim and Judah's territory. To the original reader the mention of the territory of Benjamin would be very significant! There are also very many examples of the assistance of geographical familiarity.

              Regional perspective. Geography can help one understand a difficult passage or understand the full meaning of a passage with the help of geography. Both Testaments use the regional geography to illustrate a fact, for example.

               Summary. Geography is a untapped but useful tool in the hand of the Bible interpreter.

(2)   Archeology
Byblos, Royal Temple I Abi-shemu sarcophagus

    Archeology yields more information about the biblical world than any other source (question: What other sources are there to describe the biblical world?). Archeology can greatly increase your understanding of the Bible. It will help you understand the world which the author and original audience lived.

(3)   Extra-Biblical Literature
Extra-biblical literature can also give us insight into the Biblical world. For the New Testament we have had a wealth of resources but for the Old Testament, we have had resources available only recently through the decipherment of ancient written languages. Extra-biblical literature, like archaeology, gives one insight into the ancient in which the Bible was written in.
      Thankfully the Bible is written in such a way that it is not impossible to comprehensibly understand it without an exhaustive understanding or knowledge of ancient history. If it was then we could only start to understand it recently due to the recent advancements in archaeology. It is also very important to understand, especially if you do any more study in ancient history as it relates to the Bible, two concepts; the first is that there are more differences in the ancient myths of the cultures in the Levant and the Bible than similarities. Many Biblical historians love to compare the Bible to ancient beliefs common in the ancient middle east, though they seem to forget to emphasize the differences of the Bible with the surrounding cultures. The second fact to remember is this 
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"
Dr. William Barrick
   Remember that one especially.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Godly Men and Youth in the Church

     What is biblical masculinity? A good spot to look to be a godly man is in Titus 2:1-2,6-8
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
Likewise, urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
     First you will notice that the list of requirements for the young men is longer than for the old. That could be because we need the most help, when the young person gets these down he will be more sanctified when he is old, or that the person that Paul is writing to is a young men, thus he will elaborate a little more. What is interesting is that this list for young men is similar the list for an overseer or an elder in Titus 1:7-9.
      Older men are to be temperate, not excessive. The next command is shared with the young man, that is dignity, not childishness, not unintelligence, and not skinny jeans... Dignity is a virtue even when it is looked down upon. Men are to be dignified but not arrogant they are to be "in love." Now let us practice dignity for a second, take the first thought that came to mind out. Love in the Bible is a choice towards someone, a commitment for their betterment. It is not only a feeling or sentiment but part of you volition. You choose to love someone. Older men are love the people around them, to desire their good.
       Older men are to be sound in faith, younger men are to be pure in doctrine. Young men have an uncanny knack to get involved in false doctrine, for whatever reason, even when they know better, and they usually do it just because, which sets them apart from the older man. The older man often chooses their heresy for gain or to protect their sin and failures. That is only what I have noticed in my experience, which is fallible. Let us avoid these pit falls, and depend on the Scriptures to teach us and let us humble ourselves before God's Word, for they are His commandments.
    Older men are to persevere in what is good, not to get lazy or let loose once in a while. Always remain dignified, temperate, and loving, no matter what the occasion.
    Young men are to be an example of good deeds, not just a doer of good deeds, people should look up to the young men of the church to know how to do what is good. The young man is active in good deeds.
     Young  men are to have sound speech. They are to be clean, sensible, not outrages or impure. Their conversation is to be that which is transparent, so the enemy, whether human or supernatural, will have no bases to attack God's church. Now how different is that to the youth of today's church. If a church's young people are above reproach, that alone, will set it way above all other churches. Imagine all the insults and all the bad things that the enemy has said against us because of our young people!
      Well, I hope that is encouraging and helpful. I have written another post on this issue before as well as a post that the admin wrote.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Old Testament and the Israelites

      It has been a very long time since I have written, and I have been convicted. Some repent when convicted, others make excuses about school work... JK. I am going to at least attempt to pick up the slack a little bit, I want to write often about the historical aspects of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. Hopefully, I will be able to find time in my week and a vacant computer to borrow that is connected to the Internet, to write at least a short post of something!
      Understanding the historicity of the Bible is important. It assists you in translation, gives more understanding to why a certain author said something, and it also affects your interpretation. Understanding that the Bible is an ancient Middle Eastern document, written by Middle Eastern men, to be understood clearly by those who were to read it, only encourages a literal and grammatical interpretation of what is actually being said. One thing you learn when studying the ancients and their language is how down to earth kind of people they were, the concept of types and mystical allegories, which butchers the Bible today, was alien to them. So I think that my first post on the history on the Old Testament will be a broad history of the Old Testament as a whole.
     The OT takes up the majority of your Bible, which indicates it's importance. It took a little longer than 1000 years to write the whole OT, versus the 52years to write the New Testament, in the hands of roughly 30 authors. Most OT is written in Hebrew, though there are a few sections written in Aramaic, a common language in the Middle East, similar to what Arabic is to the Middle East today or what is English to the world.
     The OT can be divided into 3 sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature. The last two sections are based on the first section, the Law, thus if you know well the Law the whole Bible will open its meaning up to you, for the NT is based on the OT, which, as I have said before, is based on the Law. By the way, that is a hint to the road to understanding the relationship between the OT and the NT.
     The OT was written to the Israelites, God's chosen nation. The Israelites were an actual nation that was officially formed about 1445 BC, when they walked out of Egypt, then one of the most powerful nations at the time. From them, came the seed prophesied in Genesis 3:15 that would crush the seed of the serpent, it was them that were to bless the nations Genesis 12:1-3, they also had the job to wield God's wrath upon the nations Genesis 9:25-27 Deuteronomy 9:4-5 Deuteronomy 25:17-19. They incompletely conquered the Promise Land, which ended up being their doom for they apostatized ultimately because of the negative influence of the nations that they were to destroy (which is a good lesson for Christians today, stay away from evil people) and were brought to captivity by Assyria and Babylon and have only recently been an independent nation.
     So there is much more I could write on but that will have to do. What I have written is VERY basic. The Bible is full of history and historical information that would take lifetimes to understand a little of it, not to mention the theology, wisdom, and doctrine. Lord willing, we will start looking at the history of the Promise Land, the Israelites, the nations surrounding them, and the OT itself in addition to its content soon but, until then...