Friday, September 05, 2014

Around the Horn – 9/6/14

At first, here’s an interesting interview about work and productivity from Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the very interesting Freakonomics. Habits and patterns of work are increasingly important to me. They probably should be for all of us.

At second, here’s a much needed article on Preaching and Piety. Too often, it seems like the beauty of the gospel is being used as a cover for sinfulness. The pastoral qualifications still mean something other than being able to exegete, assemble a message, and deliver it. We should take them seriously.

At third, Andy Naselli links to an article about unmarried couples making out. Andy, in his usual helpful way, highlights a few key points. Read the article anyway. It’s worth it. It needs to be taught and lived by. Along with this topic, Andy also posts eight ways that pastors can prevent sexual sin from John Armstrong’s book The Stain That Stays.

And last, Dan Phillips uses his normal style of blog writing to point out that when a ministry goes off track, the only wrong thing it to have been on the front end of calling it out.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Is There a Difference Between Preaching and Teaching?

Short answer: Biblically, no; practically, perhaps.

Long answer: The public ministry of the Word is sometimes divided into preaching and teaching, with various ways to distinguish between them. Adams (Adams 1982, 5‑6), Zuck (Zuck 1998, 39‑40), and Dodd (Dodd 1980, 7‑35) distinguish between preaching (κηρύσσω and eὐαγγελίζω) and teaching (διδάσκω) in terms of the audience. In this view, preaching is evangelistic activity among unbelievers while teaching is the work of moral or ethical instruction among believers. For Dodd, in particular, the distinction is related to the content, rather than the act of preaching itself (Dodd 1980, 7‑8). Singley (Singley, III 2008, 45‑46) and Prime and Begg (Prime and Begg 2004, 125; cf. Anderson 2006, 93‑94) distinguish between preaching and teaching in terms of intent or goal. In this conception, teaching has as its goal the communication of knowledge whereas preaching has as its goal the movement of the will and emotions to respond to the truth communicated.

While these distinctions may have practical value, it seems doubtful that they can be rigidly sustained from Scripture since the various words used do not fit neatly into the categories of preaching or teaching. Frequently, the words preaching and teaching themselves are not used precisely. For instance, the public ministry of the word is described by using preaching (κηρύσσω or εὐαγγλίζω) and teaching (διδάσκω) alongside each other (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 11:1; Acts 5:42, 13:35, 28:31). The context of these passages do not lend themselves easily to a distinction between preaching and teaching, whether by audience or content, or by goal or intent. They seem to describe the public ministry of the word as a whole rather than as distinct parts. Teaching (διδάσκω) is used for gospel preaching to unbelievers in Acts 4:2, 5:21, and 20:20, and it is used for teaching believers in passages such as Acts 11:26, 18:11, and 1 Tim 4:11. Preaching (κηρύσσω or εὐαγγλίζω) is used for evangelistic work among unbelievers in passages such as Acts 8:4 and 25, and 1 Cor 1:23 and 2:4, and it is used for teaching believers in 2 Tim 4:2. In addition, there are passages in which the spiritual state of the audience for either preaching or teaching is not clearly distinguished.

To use a specific example, in Acts 20:17-35, Paul recounts his entire ministry among the Ephesians “from the day he set foot in Asia” (v. 18) with various terms. He uses proclaiming (ἀναγγέλλω), teaching (διδάσκω), and solemnly testifying (διαμαρτύρομαι) to describe the gospel proclamation of “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 20-21). He further describes his ministry among them as “preaching (κηρύσσω) the kingdom” (v. 25), “declaring (ἀναγγέλλω) the whole purpose of God” (v. 27), and “admonishing (νουθετέω) each one with tears” (v. 31). Here, there seems to be no consistent division between gospel preaching and ethical teaching. The various terms describe the entire ministry of Paul.

In Thessalonica and Athens, Paul reasons (διαλέγομαι) with unbelievers in the synagogue (Acts 17:2, 17), which is the same word used to describe his ministry with believers at Troas (Acts 20:7, 9). This same word (διαλέγομαι) is used for ministry both with believers and unbelievers in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-9). In Athens at Mars’ Hill, Paul “was preaching (εὐαγγλίζω) Jesus and the resurrection” which led the hearers there to inquire more about “this new teaching (διδαχή) … which [he was] proclaiming (λαλέω)” (Acts 17:18-19). Here, the teaching was being preached. In 2 Tim 4:2, κηρύσσω, a key word for preaching to unbelievers, is used for preaching to believers.

In light of these instances in which the same words are used to describe ministry both to believers and unbelievers, and seeing that no clear distinction is consistently apparent between goal or intent of preaching, the distinction between preaching and teaching seems to fade into the background. The full picture of the ministry of the Word is better seen in the totality of the words used to describe it. Greidanus helpfully says, “Preaching can be seen as an activity with many facets—facets which are highlighted by such New Testament words as proclaiming, announcing good news, witnessing, teaching, prophesying, and exhorting” (Greidanus 1988, 7).

The distinction in content or emphasis between the ministry of the Word to unbelievers and believers is a valid one since the two groups often need to hear different messages. Likewise, the distinction between teaching as informing the hearer of truth and preaching as appealing to the will and emotions to respond to the truth is helpful. Yet these distinctions seem borne more out of practicality than out of the words Scripture uses for the preaching task. Again, Greidanus is helpful: “Although one facet or another may certainly be accentuated to match the text and the contemporary audience, preaching cannot be reduced to only one of its many facets” (Greidanus 1988, 7).

A distinction between preaching and teaching may be useful when considering the various speaking opportunities in the church. There are occasions where the particular forum will involve more teaching (communicating truth) than preaching (persuading). There are also occasions where the audience will include unbelievers in needed of gospel proclamation, and other times where it will be mostly believers in need of ethical and moral instruction. The wise pastor will be sensitive to these occasions and adjust both his content and his intent accordingly.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Around the Horn – 8/29/14

At first, NASCAR recently instituted a new rule that prohibits drivers or crew members from going on the track or approaching another moving vehicle. I am going to go ahead and go out on a limb here and suggest that if your employees need to be instructed not to stand in the middle of a road where cars are traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour, you should consider something besides a rule, something like, oh I don’t know … sending them back to first grade. I don’t say that to make light of the death of a racer, but seriously, why do you need a rule to tell people to stay out of the way of speeding cars? Isn’t that the first thing parents teach kids when they let them out of the back yard as a toddler? Yes, parents have to supervise that for a few years, but usually that becomes unnecessary. Apparently not if you are a NASCAR driver.

At second, here’s a nice article about teacher and author Jamie Langston Turner. In my thirty years of formal education, I have had a lot of teachers. She is at the top of the list. She is an excellent writer as well.

At third, here’s a good article on life and class reunions:

It was obvious that none of us had gotten through life without challenges and sorrow. No matter how successful, how financially secure, everyone I talked to had dealt with something – from disabled children to mental health issues; from surviving breast cancer to broken marriages and addiction. Life can be a marathon through a minefield.

And the homerun today, something that I would swear has to be a parody. Except it’s believable.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The NFL and Violence Against Women

Roger Goodell and the NFL absolutely dropped the ball on the Ray Rice domestic violence situation.

Rice knocked his then girlfriend/now wife (what was she thinking? Does she have no one speaking into her life?) unconscious in a hotel elevator. He is now suspended for two games of the 2014 season.

Yes, that’s not a typo. He knocked his girlfriend unconscious in a rage and is suspended for two games.

By comparison, Terrell Pryor pulled some shenanigans to avoid an NCAA suspension and get in the NFL through the supplemental draft and got a five game suspension before he was ever in the NFL.

A guy named Robert Mathis got four games for taking some fertility drugs to help his wife conceive. Yes, four games for trying to start a family with your wife. Two games for knocking out your soon-to-be wife.

Using marijuana will you get you a whole year in the NFL, even in states where it’s legal to smoke marijuana.

So assuming the rational position that the punishment should fit the crime, and that we reward or punish based on relative significance, the NFL has declared that beating a woman unconscious is not as significant as trying to have a baby with a women you are married to. It’s not as significant as taking money and favors in college when you have no accountability or responsibility to the NFL. And it’s way less significant than smoking pot.

Why should anyone think that the NFL takes violence against women seriously?

That’s not a rhetorical question. Go ahead. Someone tell me why anyone should think the NFL takes domestic violence seriously.

I’ll be waiting.

Until then, Roger Goodell should be without a job.

The league owners should demand either a higher suspension of Rice (at least a year, perhaps two, maybe even three), or a resignation from Goodell for embarrassing them and their league in this manner.

Until one or the other happens, no one should think the NFL cares about domestic violence.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Something on Eschatology for Saturday

The end of the week brings thoughts of the end of the age. At least for me it does, as I finalize a message for tomorrow on Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse.

A lot could be said about this passage, but what gets my keyboard going today is Craig Blomberg’s comments in the NAC regarding the identity of the “great distress” (NIV) in Matthew 24:21. He says,

The concept of a period of unparalleled distress (based on Dan 12:1) causes problems. If these two verses simply depict the horrors surrounding the war of A.D. 70, it is hard to see how v. 21 could be true. If they point to some end-time sacrilege, just before the Parousia, then it is hard to see how Matthew allows for a gap of at least two thousand years between vv. 20–21.*

I think he is correct that these verses cannot describe the war of A. D. 70. There’s too much history of violence to identify that event as “unequaled from the beginning until now, and never to be equaled again.” Not to mention, the Bible describes a period just before the end that is even worse than A.D. 70. It might be that A.D. 70 is a type of some sort, or a downpayment of sorts on that which is to come. But it is not likely the referent of Jesus’ words.

It is the second part of Blomberg’s argument that is more troubling. He says it is hard to see a gap of almost two thousand years between vv. 20-21.

But why? That such a gap is possible is clearly testified to in the OT where the coming of Christ is pictured as one event when in fact we know it as two events.

An example of this is Isaiah 9:6-7:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

The period between the birth of the Son and his eternal kingdom of justice and righteousness is at least two thousand years. So if this two thousand year gap can be seen between two verses in Isaiah 9, why can it not be seen between two verses in Matthew 24?

I don’t pretend this is an easy passage. Everytime I read it, I feel as if I have more questions than answers. But that doesn’t stop me from drawing enough conclusions from the text to preach it to the Lord’s assembled people.

In the end (no pun intended), there is much that we do not know.

I tend to think that Matthew 24 describes events that are generally characteristic of “the last days” as marked by the return of Christ to heaven. This is the church age. This age culminates in a period of The Tribulation (which is not to be confused with tribulation). The Tribulation in Scripture is a defined period of time in which events such as the ones described in Matthew 24 actually increase and intensify around the world, and end with a very visible and unmistakable coming of the Lord in power and glory.

I have yet to see a convincing exegetical explanation for how it can be otherwise.

Having said that, two points follow:

First, Christ in Matthew 24 shows us that eschatology is not some insignificant add-on to Christianity and the gospel which we are to talk about only when forced to. No, Christ actually brings the subject up, and likely baits his disciples into asking for more information about it. (I could say more about this to defend it, but I won’t here, except to suggest that the disciples, upon hearing Christ’s prophecy of temple destruction, may have recalled Zechariah 14:1-2).

Too many today are treating eschatology with the old and tired “panmillennial” joke—as in, it will all pan out in the end. I think Scripture is too clear for such a trivial treatment. While I can share good Christian fellowship with brothers and sisters who disagree with me, I don’t think that makes this insignificant, if for no other reason than Christ devotes a major section of his teaching to it in Matthew.

Second, I don’t think Christ’s intent was to encourage us to read the newspaper as an appendix to Matthew 24. The events of the Middle East do not help us understand Christ’s words here.

Blomberg takes a strange shot at “the unrelenting pessimism of traditional dispensationalism” (357). I wonder what he means. I find traditional dispensationalism to be extremely optimistic. After all, we are the ones who think the world will get better when it has a righteous branch of David ruling it, and further, we do not share the overwhelming burden of trying to bring it in. Is there anything more optimistic than a great restoration that we do not have to bring about?

I personally find amillennialism to be extremely depressing. I read the OT with interest and see a world that seems amazing. And then I look around and think, “This is it”? This is what God meant? I  know most amillennialists, good and faithful brothers, see those promises fulfilled in the eternal state. But I cannot reconcile the eternal state with the words of the OT. I am a premillennialist primarily because of the OT.

I could find a bit more hope in postmillennialism because at least there is the promise of a brighter day. But the hopeless burden of working towards that end is depressing.

My hope rests on the fact that God will do as he said, restoring the world and everything in it, reigning in peace and justice, punishing the wicked, and bringing prosperity once again to his people Israel and to the worshippers of the one true God.

In the end, I think we can conclude four basic things from Matthew 24.

First, don’t let wickedness and danger around you freeze your love (v. 12). That danger is not limited to the Tribulation. It is a real danger now. The tendency towards complacency in the face of danger and persecution is real in all ages.

Second, don’t let wickedness and danger around you cause you to quit (v. 13). Endurance in the face of trial is necessary for salvation. That’s a hard verse, and one that a lot of people want to minimize. We dare not. True faith is at the last persevering faith. Don’t despair. That doesn’t mean perfect faith. It simply means real faith. Faith in God and his promises ultimately and finally wins.

Third, don’t let wickedness and danger around you cause you to not preach the gospel (v. 14). The promise that the gospel will be preached in the whole world is part of our commission (Matthew 28:18-20). It happens before the end. Though many dangers, toils, and snares await those who take the gospel to others, we dare not quit before the end. Keep preaching wherever you are.

Fourth, keep watching for the return of Christ. Matthew 24 closes with a parable, and several parables continue into Matthew 25, all on the theme of watching while we wait. There is a kind of servant who beats on the slaves and eats and drinks with pleasure and ease because he doubt the master will come back now. He is surprised by the master’s return, and is punished for it. The faithful servant keeps watching and is blessed.

So brothers and sisters, though we may not be entirely clear about the precise identity of the events Jesus describes or entirely clear about the order in which they will take place, let us be as those who love with heat, who persevere in faith, who preach with boldness, and who watch with alertness for we do not know the day and the hour of his coming.

*Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. Vol. 22. The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992, 360.