Monthly Archives: May 2009

Peter Leithart: Deep Exegesis

deep exegesisI like to help people learn how to read texts, especially the Biblical text. Watching others experience what Wald called, “The Joy of Discovery,” is a great joy for me. Peter Leithart is a writer who has helped me grow in my understanding of how to read texts, which has been a blessing for me behind both the pulpit and lectern.

Peter J. Leithart, Dean of Graduate Studies and Senior Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College, is in my Fab-Five-Dream-Team of professors under whom I wish I could have studied (along with Bauman, Lundin, Veith, and Bauer, with Jacobs as the Sixth Man and Thiselton as a coach). I enjoy reading Leithart’s blog for his keen literary and theological insights.  Readers of his blog would be familiar with his posts in the area of hermeneutics. Recently, while on his blog, I noticed that Leithart has a new work on hermeneutics available for pre-order: Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture (Baylor University Press, 2009). From the amazon.com product description:

Seeking to train readers to hear all that is being said within a written text, Peter Leithart advocates a hermeneutics of the letter that is not rigidly literalist and looks to learn to read not just the Bible, but everything–from Jesus and Paul. Thus Deep Exegesis explores the nature of reading itself taking clues from Jesus and Paul on the meaning of meaning, the functions of language, and proper modes of interpretation. By looking (and listening) closely, and by including passages from the Bible and other literary sources, Leithart aims to do for the text what Jesus did for the blind man in John 9: to make new by opening eyes. The book is a powerful invitation to enter the depths of a text.

Also, here is sample post entitled, “Another Hermeneutical Parable” from Leithart’s “hermeneutics” category on his blog (August 13, 2008):

For centuries, piano virtuosos had thrilled audiences with audacious performances of Liszt’s seventh Etude (in G minor, “Eroica”).  Liszt scholars had written analyses of the music, and critics had compared various performances to one another and to what they believed was Liszt’s original intention for the music.

An industrious Liszt scholar then discovered by diligent study of Liszt’s notes and manuscripts that the Etude had been mistakenly transcribed since its first publication.  It was written in G major, not minor, and the score was full of divergences from Liszt’s own composition.  The scholar meticulously and compellingly proved his case.

Liszt scholarship had to be revised.  Pianists relearned the piece, and critics revised their estimates of performances based on a radically revised score.  (Mysteriously, a church in South Carolina split over the issue).

Moral: Every text generates a tradition of performance.  But the text remains the touchstone of performance, such that it is always possible to point to the text and say “You got it wrong here.”

I am looking forward to Leithart’s text. I would encourage you to pick up a copy and join him in thinking more deeply about how we discern meaning from texts. I am certain Leithart writes to glorify Christ and his work in redemption, and that Deep Exegesis intends to help us to read to such ends. (For the intermediate reader, I also encourage you to obtain Elliott E. Johnson’s, Expository Hermeneutics [Zondervan, 1990], which also serves to help us read texts as if authors invested meaning into texts.)

Where Are All The Brothers Anniversary Giveaway to HBCU Campus Ministry

Hampton University Chapel

Hampton University Chapel

In light of the one-year anniversary of Where Are All The Brothers?, I wish to give away some books to a ministry to an HBCU campus. It is important to see that the ministry is “to” the campus, not necessarily “on” an HBCU campus, although “on” could qualify under “to.” It can be a ministry to students on the campus, to faculty on the campus, or to staff on the campus. All segments of such campuses need to be reached with the Gospel, and reaching any one of these groups could mean for a wider outreach to the entire campus.

I would like to give away six (6) copies of the book for evangelistic purposes – five (5) for a small group or discipleship group and one (1) to the group’s leader – to the first campus ministry to an HBCU who writes me one page or less that provides me with the following information on the intended use of the book:

 

 

  • Name of college campus and location
  • Name of campus ministry and sponsoring organization (i.e., church or para-church ministry)
  • Name of leader of the ministry to the campus
  • Your plan for using the book in the process of discipleship (i.e., weekly small group or monthly book reading, etc…)
  • Your plan for using the book in evangelism (i.e., we will give these copies away when finished studying them, we will purchase additional copies to give away once we have studied the book, or we will give one to every new college student/faculty member that joins our study, etc…)
  • The estimated date you will begin using the book as a group
  • How else my church can pray for your ministry
  • To whom to ship the book

You may write to me at Reformation Alive Baptist Church, 9900 E-Greenbelt RD. #321, Lanham, MD, 20706, or at Washington Bible College, 6511 Princess Garden Pkwy, Lanham, MD, 20706.

Campus ministries that already have received copies of the book as gifts cannot apply for the giveaway. The letter must be postmarked by June 8, 2009. I will announce the winner on this blog.

A special note of thanks goes to the brother in Christ living in South Carolina who provided the funds for this and another giveaway coming in a few days. Your friendship is genuine and your love for the lost is humbling.

It should go without saying that one does not need to be the “B” of HBCU in order to participate. If you are not “B,” but have a Gospel ministry to an HBCU campus, I am grateful for your obedience to Christ in this form.

Reformation in Post-Harlem

95thesesOver the course of the last year, some people have raised the question about the lack of a Reformed message in Where Are All The Brothers? I think the concern is this: How can a book be intended to help bring about reformation if it is not overtly Reformed? That is, do I (Redmond) think that it is the preaching of God’s Lordship over all that brought about the Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakenings in America?

I must say, your concern is legitimate. For if I am not reforming with a (biblical) theology, I might be simply a pragmatist. μη γενoιτο! 

Allow me to address this concern with two points:

First, in the book, I am speaking pre-Reformation stuff to pre-Reformation people of the target audience. My intended audience, as a whole, does not readily throw around “total depravity” and “sola gratia” in normal conversation about the Christian life, even though the audience’s culture, by and large, is immersed and meshed into the church and (Christian) religious conversation. Instead, the familiar theological terms come from the music of an ethnic culture, comedians who make parodies of the church, and the sort of introductory-level, Sunday school-sort of “accept, believe, confess” sermons that are the staple of the diet of the sheep within the African American church. “Calvinism” – known as “predestination” – is wrongly perceived as a doctrine that was good only for sustaining antebellum slavery; it has no association with the Great Awakening or the Protestant Reformation, or the demolishing of social ills in British and American societies. Therefore, I thought it was important to start a conversation closer to “give me a drink” rather than closer to “Melchizeldek.” In speaking of expository preaching in today’s world, Carson has noted,

We’re also further removed from the language, the culture, the heritage and so on, today, than unbelievers were in Jewish synagogues in the first century.  So that in Acts 13 in Pisidian Antioch, Paul doesn’t have to lay out a whole lot about Creation and Fall and all that; that’s part of the given. So he tends to focus on a handful of Old Testament passages that demonstrate that the Messiah really did have to suffer, and [he] explains who Jesus is within that kind of context.   By contrast when you come to Acts 17 and the sermon to the intellectuals of Athens, then, although he does actually quote unambiguously a whole clip [of] any biblical text, what he is really doing there is laying out the Bible’s entire storyline: The oneness of God, Creation, providence, God’s aseity, even eventually the nature of sin, he’s both sovereign and personal, and so on, until eventually he comes to Jesus and the final judgment, and you know where he would go if he hadn’t been cut off.  So the more biblically illiterate any culture is, the more it’s imperative to lay out something of the Bible’s storyline into which alone the preaching of Jesus makes sense. If people are really biblically illiterate, and all they’re talking about with Jesus is “come to Jesus and he’ll give you abundant life,” that’s just a cipher – what does “abundant life” mean? More sex? [A] better job? [A] promotion at work? More money? – so that it becomes more important to lay out the Bible’s framework so you know what is meant by the categories that are being used when you do preach Christ. (D. A. Carson, “Observing Evangelicalism with D. A. Carson,” 9marks Audio, accessed May 26, 2009.)

In a similar manner, I have attempted to lay out a very basic theological framework for the reader familiar with African American religious jargon and ethnic objections.

dietofwormsSecond, the text assumes a Reformed worldview, which includes directing people to healthy churches. As can be observed if one reads the complete text, Brothers? is intended to reveal the depravity of the reader’s thinking, pointing him to the Scriptures for the answers he seeks (along with examples of the Christian life lived out among God’s people), eventually leading him to a full presentation of the Gospel that rests on Christ alone for salvation. If the reader turns to Christ as Lord, the suggested reading in the book points him to texts of Reformed Theology. However, it is my hope that those who give the books to unbelieving men will follow-up with discussions about Christ and conversations about theology, for proclaiming the Gospel to the lost is, in part, how one lives out a reformation.

 

Next: A book giveaway.

Calvin Catechism: Fri May 14 Q 139 The Priority of the First Commandment

Fri May 14 Q 139 The Priority of the First Commandment

139. Why does He mention this at the beginning of His law?
To remind us how much we are bound to obey His good pleasure, and what gratitude it should be on our part if we do the contrary.

 

After leaving the application of the typology of the Exodus deliverance to the church – and that with reference to the necessity of our obedience to the Exodus Deliverer – the Catechism turns to the order of the commandments. In particular, it seeks to draw out the significance of the placing first in order both the identity of the Deliverer and the priority of the deliverer in the law of the lives of God’s people. As common in the earlier English understanding of the structuring of the commandments, the identity of the Lord as Deliverer is considered to be part of the first commandment.

The Catechism is right to wed the two ideas of identity and priority together, and also to recognize their placing in the Decalogue. For the priority – you shall have no other gods before Me – is based on the work of the Deliverer. The one providential over all is the same who redeemed his people from bondage and is leading them to a place of promise. He is sovereign, merciful and faithful toward his people, freeing them from a bondage of which they could not free themselves, and taking them to a place of pleasure of which they have never seen nor could imagine, nor are able to obtain on their own (cf. Dt. 6:10-11). To worship another god rather than this God would be wrong in light of his salvation and possession of them, and his promises to them. To worship another god also would have been detrimental to Israel, for they would move away from a relationship with sovereign, redeeming, merciful and faithful god, replacing him with gods who are not gods and attempting to live life without the backing of the power and love of the covenant-keeping God.

Moreover, all of the other commandments flow from the first. Israel could not live in peace, obtain the promises, or have the orderly structuring of the ceremonial, cultic, familial, or civil aspects of their society without the proper worship of their Savior. Without God above all, and thus an awareness of accountability to him, there would be no fear of taking his name in vain, no concern for keeping the personal and land Sabbaths, no need to honor father and mother, and no warrant for protecting the life, property, marriage, or  testimony of their brother or alien. The worshipper could then seek earthly pleasure in the amoral freedoms offered under the systems of the idols of the nations. Again, however, this would be to the detriment of individual and community: There would be no hope of rest, no harmony in their homes, no regard for life, ownership or truth, and no protection from vigilante justice or savagery. When God is removed from first place, a situation is produced in which society gravitates toward the survival of the fittest and the rise of “superman” (übermensch).

We are bound to obey the Lord’s good pleasure. If not, we do so to our own peril. We should make it our aim to have no gods before our Redeemer, who elected us from eternity past and purchased us at the Cross by his blood. The first commandment establishes him in first place. He alone must be our priority, for he alone is our good and our God.

Questions for Bryan Chapell on Christ-Centered Worship (UPDATED)

Bryann ChapellThis August, Baker Academic will publish Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Chapell, who is President and Professor of Practical Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO, previously has published Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, 2nd ed. (Baker, 2005), a text I use in my Homiletics I course and one which I highly recommend for preachers of the Scriptures. This August will also witness the release of his Ephesians commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary Series (P&R Publishing).

Bryan and I had a brief opportunity to talk about Christ-Centered Worship while attending The Gospel Coalition conference last month. As a result of the conversation, I have asked him to share some thoughts on the book with us: 

It would seem that the notion of having Christ at the center of our public gathering would be ubiquitous for believers. So what do you mean when you say “Christ-Centered” worship?

My hope in Christ-centered Worship is to show how the church’s worship has always been shaped by its understanding of the Gospel, so that contemporary believers will understand their right and responsibility to shape their worship based on Christ’s ministry to and through them.  Gospel purposes should shape our worship more than personal preferences or respected traditions.  My goal is not to take sides in the traditional/contemporary worship debate, but rather to encourage church leaders to identify their church’s specific Gospel calling as the basis of making decisions about worship that may be traditional, contemporary or something even better.

You have said that the church gathered should include confession of sin as an essential element of worship. Why do you say this?

Worship, in its essence, is a re-presentation of the Gospel.  We are not simply doing a few hymns and prayers as the “prelude” for the sermon.  In the history of the church, across the ages and across traditions, we begin worship with recognition of the glory of God.  This leads to acknowledgment of our humanity and need for grace.  This is followed by assurance of God’s provision which leads the heart to respond in thanksgiving and desire for more instruction to walk in accord with God’s will.  This pattern reflects the progress of the Gospel in the life of the individual believer who has come to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus.  Thus, just as there can be no true Gospel understanding without acknowledgment of our sin and need for grace, so there can be no Gospel-true worship without confession of sin.  This does not mean that confession must only be done one way (in a prayer, in a hymn, in a unison reading, etc.); it does mean that a service without some form of confession deprives God’s people of true worship of the God who saves.  Christ-centered worship should to discern how to maintain the distinctives of the Gospel in ways appropriate for our individual church’s culture, ministry and mission.   In the book Christ-centered Worship, I try to provide many practical examples of how to do this across churches, denominations and cultures.

How does having Christ-centered worship affect our witness in the public square and religiously pluralistic mission fields?

Worship that is truly Christ-centered – that is to say, reflecting the essence of the Gospel in its pattern and progress – automatically is a form of doxological evangelism.  Our praise of grace in corporate solidarity is a simultaneous expression of our mutual humility and common hope.  Such worship necessarily focuses on the unique claims of Christ, but not in a way that is triumphalistic or bigoted.  By acknowledging our need rather that our superiority, we indicate our openness to the hurting and questioning while at the same time heralding the grace that is in Christ alone.

 

(UPDATE: Please note that in the original post, part of Dr. Chapell’s answer to question 2 was lost. I have posted the full answer.)

Christ Centered Worship

Calvin Catechism: Fri May 8 Q 129 and 130: His Will Revealed (Late Post)

seafloor

Fri May 8 Q 129 and 130: His Will Revealed

 
129. But this second point we have mentioned concerning the Christian life.
Yes, and we said that the true and legitimate service of God is to obey His will.
130. Why?
Because He will not be served according to our own imagination, but in the way that pleases Him.

 

The final questions of part 1 of the Catechism makes inquiry of the reiteration found the “second part” of question 128, “…so that we may be governed and led by the Holy Spirit, in the service of God.” That is, the second part makes reference to truth given in questions 7, 91, 112-113 and 126. But rather than explaining the reason for the repeated emphasis or making an apology for the appearance of redundancy, the Catechism reaffirms what has been said and makes reference to it a third time.

            The significance of this should not be underestimated or lost on a contemporary church audience of a progressive and postmodern world. The truths derived from the implications of the Gospel need to be reemphasized to those of us who struggle with faithfulness and full obedience. Therefore, it is stated again that “true and legitimate service of God is to obey His will.” Sufficient service before God cannot be found in any form other than to follow his voice, which is given both through his word in the Scriptures and his word preached, both by the power of the Holy Spirit’s gracious illuminating work (cf. I Thess 2:13; 5:19-21).

            In contrast to some who might wish to claim that all acts of ministry, kindness, compassion, or religion serve God – even some acts that might run contrary to what is revealed in his word – only that of which God has spoken for us to do, and that which aligns with what he has spoken of us to do, will be found pleasing in his sight. The other things we do in the assumption of pleasing him are no more of true service than of any one of us saying, “I have lived and the bottom of the sea without oxygen and spoken with giants squids.” Upon hearing such a statement, a listener might respond by saying, “You mean, you dreamed that you lived at the bottom of the ocean?” What we imagine to be true and right does not necessarily correspond to reality.

            In the same vein, there is no true service to God apart from the reality of what he has revealed to be service to him. It therefore rests upon us to seek his will through his word for all matters of life and faith—those of the individual, family, and church body. Things we do because they seem right, have always been done as part of a Christian or church life, or are sanctioned by years of traditional practice (and of our comfort therein) might not have any merit to God—at least not toward the God who is real rather that the god of our dreams. We should repeat this truth to ourselves and our churches many times over.

Same Sex Marriage: Wearing the “Bigot” Label

civil_rights_march_cut

The following was posted today at Baptist Press. Special thanks to the editors at Baptist Press.

 

Posted on May 7, 2009 | by Eric C. Redmond
 
TEMPLE HILLS, Md. (BP)–In a 48-hour period this week, Washington D.C. and Maine joined Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut in recognizing “same-sex marriages.”

According to law, Congress has 30 days to review the D.C. City Council’s vote. The vote in the Maine Senate that sent the bill to their governor was 21-13 with one lawmaker absent. The vote in D.C. was 12-1 with the lone opposing vote ironically coming from former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. This vote most certainly foreshadows the eventual allowing for “gay marriages” to be performed in D.C.

The atmosphere in the days immediately before the vote found pastors of churches within the nation’s capital joining together in order to rally their members to protest against a favorable vote. Prior to the vote there was a very emotional debate on the issue in the council chamber. Afterwards, those protesting in front of the D.C. City Council building, including many members of the clergy, stormed the hallway outside of the city council’s chambers, vowing to fight to unseat the members of the council who supported the bill. The uproar was of such a nature that law enforcement personnel were called in to clear the hallway of the crowd.

Charges of bigotry were leveled at the protestors by those supporting gay marriage. Some epithets lodged at the band of ministers even suggested that the protestors were using the Bible as a cover-up for their bigotry. Marion Barry, though not called a “bigot,” was told by one of the council member that his position was bigoted, and that he was standing against equality for two fellow council members who are openly gay. Seemingly, this council member felt that Barry, in determining to side with “the ministers, who stand on the moral compass of God,” did not see the two gay men as his equals — “equal” in a sense reminiscent of Sean Penn’s Oscar speech.

It must be asked, however: Why are people, especially Christians, labeled “bigots” when they disagree with the legalization of “same-sex marriages?’ Rather, why are we not considered to be people who have a moral standard based on the objective instruction of the word of God — a people also who do not like it when one segment of a society attempts to impose its (errant) views and standards upon the entire society? It seems that the opposition — those who are for “same-sex marriage” — should be considered to be people who are stuck in their intolerance toward heterosexuals who use the Bible to find an objective standard for defining marriage.

It is likely, however, that supporters of “same-sex marriage” will continue to vilify those who oppose them, depicting their opposition as people akin to those who opposed civil rights for African-Americans four decades ago. This will allow them to gain supporters to their position who would not want to be associated with a vilification similar to being called a “racist.” Also, it is easier to make such vilifications than to look at the Scriptures and judge oneself according to the standards of “natural” and “unnatural.”

The “bigot” label should not deter believers from standing fast for traditional marriage. We must believe that God has spoken, that he has spoken clearly on both the structure of marriage and the sinfulness of homosexual acts — acts that are against the “natural” order of relationships between men and women that was established by the Creator in the creation (Romans 1:26-27). We must make God’s voice known to our children and grandchildren so that they might be able to articulate the truth with certainty and credibility in the world of ideas on Wall Street and Madison Avenue, in Tinsel Town and Cambridge, Mass.

“Because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you,” says Jesus (John 15:19). So as his chosen, when we oppose the world, we will be hated, ostracized, rejected, jeered and labeled “bigots.” Yet it is equally true that those who oppose those of us who support traditional marriage are locked in their hatred toward the truth while claiming to be loving toward all people. It is really they who are the bigots, and such bigots should come out of the closet and be seen for who they are.

 
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Eric C. Redmond is senior pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hill, Md., the and author of “Where Are All The Brothers? Straight Answers To Men’s Questions About the Church.”