Monday, November 30, 2009

Dan Wallace on SBL

Dan Wallace has a new post about his time and experience at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. After an introduction, he mainly focuses in on the attitude of some (if not most) at SBL toward Evangelicals, you know those crazy people who actually think the Bible is recording real history. His conclusion is right on point and hits the target square in the middle.
If we’re to judge liberal vs. conservative by one’s method, then the new liberal is the evangelical and neo-evangelical who is willing to engage the evidence, examine all sides, and wrestle with the primary data through the various prisms of secondary literature. He’s open. I tell my students every year, “I will respect you far more if you pursue truth and change your views than if you protect your presuppositions and don’t.” And they know my mantra, “Go where the evidence leads.” Sadly, some of the most brilliant scholars in biblical studies have become radically intolerant of conservatives. When conservative professors have that same attitude, they’re usually afraid of having their ideas challenged because they’re insecure in their beliefs. And they’re labeled as fundamentalists. When many “liberal” scholars are just as intolerant, what should we call them?

Letter From a Skeptical Friend: Part 3

In part 3 of our series of letters interacting with Wizard, he raises a question regarding prayer. As always, my response to Wizard (and hopefully some interaction) follows in the comments section. The following was written to us by Wizard:

The next thing I would like to focus on is prayer. The Bible makes it plain that prayer is something that makes a difference. I have no philosophical problem with prayer playing a vital role in a closed future. However, even in a closed future system, prayer should have a noticeable impact. When studies are done on prayer we see that there are no differences in the healing rates of those who have people praying for them and those who do not. I can add from my own personal experiences that prayer for other people seems to make no differences whatsoever. Here is what I do not expect. I do not expect God to be a genie. I do not expect God to give Christians health, wealth and prosperity. However, I do expect based on the Bible's own claims that there would be a marked difference that the prayers of the saints make over against the prayers of other religions or the non-prayer characterized life of the atheist. Specifically I am referring to James 5:14-20 and Matthew 21:22.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

'Been Thinkin' About the Blues: Blind Willie Johnson

I don't understand the blues. The blues come from a world I don't live in. I've never been discriminated against because of my color; I've never lived in abject poverty; my kids don't cry all the time, and I have never felt in danger of my wife leaving me. These are tremendously common themes in the blues, especially the delta blues from the early 20th century. Singer after singer, from Robert Johnson to Lonnie Johnson belted out heartfelt songs bemoaning their unfaithful lovers (see Lonnie Johnson's song "She's Makin' Whoopee In Hell Tonight" for a good example). Nowadays, these themes have become somewhat of a cliche, but there was a time when these ideas were fresh, untried topics for musical exploration.

When I peruse the Mississippi Delta Blues singers, one bluesman who bucked these thematic trends in particular stands out to me. My first exposure to Blind Willie Johnson was his song "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine," which is a cautionary song/sermon about reading the Bible that's in your house before it's too late. (Technically Willie isn't a Delta singer because he was from Texas, but his music had a strong influence on the Delta bluesmen, and he is often, therefore, grouped in with the Delta bluesmen.) The two things which struck me were his sorrowful, shaky, deep, gravelly voice and his simple yet extraordinarily insightful lyrics:
I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don't read it my soul be lost

And sister she taught me how to read,
sister she taught me how to read
If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine

The biggest obstacle to listening to Blind Willie is simply one of linguistics; the man mumbles and roars, he growls and he whispers. He seemingly does everything he can to keep from being clearly heard by doing his best Tom Waits meets late-career Bob Dylan impression. For those who turn up the volume and listen closely, they will be richly rewarded by a dearth of God-glorifying lyrics and tremendous bottleneck guitar playing. Many consider him one of the greatest bottleneck guitarists of all time.

This man recorded only 30 songs between 1927 and 1929, but each and every one was unique and stood on its own as a testament to awesome theology and amazing, world-shaking musicianship. His songs have been covered by the White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and many others. Ry Cooder described Willie's song "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" as "The most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music." And yet for all of the acclaim Blind Willie now enjoys, in life things were not so great for Blind Willie. Legend has it, Willie was blinded at a young age when his stepmother threw lye in his face as revenge against Willie's father who beat her when he caught her cheating on him. Subsequently, Willie's father would leave him on street corners, begging for food and money in exchange for his songs.

Not a lot is known about Blind Willie, but what is known is that he was a preacher who operated The House of Prayer in Beaumont, Texas. In addition to preaching on street corners to whoever would listen, Willie would play his music for passersby, and it was in his songs that listeners could find some of the greatest sermons.

One song, in particular, recorded in 1929, is called "God Moves On The Water." In the song, Willie tells of the sailing and sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The continual refrain in the song is, "God moves, God moves, ah, and the people had to run and pray."
A.G. Smith, mighty man, built a boat that he couldn't understand
Named it a name of God in a tin, without a "c", Lord, he pulled it in
God moves, ah, God moves, God moves, ah, and the people had to run and pray

Willie seems to be saying that God caused the sinking of the great ship as judgment on mankind's hubris. But even if he is not saying that the sinking of the Titanic was a form of judgment, he is at least acknowledging that it happened by the will of God. A very haunting and sad song whose theme is betrayed by a furiously upbeat guitar part.

Willie's life ended almost as sadly as it began. In 1945, Willie's house burned to the ground. With no other place to live, he returned to the burned out ruins of his home, sleeping on his wet mattress until he died several weeks later from pneumonia. He was subsequently buried in an unmarked grave.

Willie committed his most deeply held hopes to his recordings. On one song, "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes," Willie recounts the source of many of his sorrows in life, but then he remembers the one hope he has in Jesus:
My mother, she's in glory, thank God I'm on my way
Father, he's gone too, and sister she could not stay
I'm trusting Him everyday, to bear my burdens away

'Cause I just can't keep from crying sometimes
Well, I just can't keep from crying sometimes
When my heart's full of sorrow and my eyes are filled with tears
Lord, I just can't keep from crying sometimes
Rather than denying the reality or importance of sorrow in the Christian life, Willie acquiesces to the pain, accepting it and then turning it towards the creator, seeking his solace with God since he could find no comfort in this life.
Lord, in my time of dyin', don't want nobody to cry
All I want you to do, is take me when I die
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well, well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus goin' make up
Jesus goin' make up
Jesus goin' make my dyin' bed

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bring the Books Interview

Jonathan interviews Josh Walker from discussing the benefits of blogging and the internet in light of the church needing a second reformation.

Others shows can now be found at

Saturday, November 21, 2009

King and Servant Show 4

Covenant Blessings and Covenant Curses

Jonathan and Bryan discuss what it means to be covenantally blessed or cursed, and how modern definitions of such terms are inadequate.

Others shows can now be found at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

King and Servant Show 3

Listen to Show 3 (Click here)

Jonathan and Bryan discuss the significance of Words, Symbols and Images and how all three are used in every day life to communicate ideas and thought.

King and Servant Show 2

Jonathan and Bryan discuss God's Sovereignty and the importance of not just knowing this truth but living out this truth in our daily lives.

A Tribute to Josh Walker

Mr. Walker, our distinguished and erudite blogger, is going to be turning 85 on Tuesday. Born in 1924 to immigrant parents, Josh traveled the world, eventually discovering the fountain of youth after studying the handwritten journals of Francisco DeAntonia (which he stole from a safety deposit box in Zurich). After his adventures in South America, Josh settled into the common life of an elderly man who appears to be only in his late twenties. Having lived through the Great Depression, World War II (where he fought as a fighter pilot), the Vietnam War, and the Death of God movement in the '60s, Josh says he is no longer afraid of anything except sock puppets, crab bisque, preachers in cardigans, and those who deny penal substitutionary atonement. When asked what he still wants to accomplish in life, Josh just sips his warm milk, looks out the window fondly and smiling says, "I just want to write a book where I destroy all heresy."

Josh's 85th birthday is also a great opportunity for me to plug his Amazon wishlist. Ironically, most of our readers are probably poor ministers/students, but it's worth a shot! If anyone buys Josh a copy of A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity, I will send you a free T-shirt, straight out of my own closet as a thank you gift. You will receive a lower quality gift as thanks for the higher quality gift.

And if you plan on being at ETS, you can even present your gift to him when he delivers his paper on the authorship of Hebrews on Thursday. I hate to be the kind to spoil Josh's conclusion, but a little bird told me that in his paper Josh concludes that Hebrews was written by Brian Setzer. Stop listening to Stray Cats while working on your paper, Josh!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Authorship of Hebrews and Psalm 2:7

I have been M.I.A. from Bring the Books because I have been working on my paper that I will be delivering at ETS on November 19th at 11 am. I have probably spent about 100 hours this year on this single paper. I am pleased with the research and conclusion of the paper but I need to work on the syntax and wording a bit more. One of the pieces of evidence I have found in my study that is pretty compelling to me is how Psalm 2:7 is used in the New Testament to prove a high Christology. Below in a section from my paper on this high Christology.

Hebrews and Paul both seem to have a high Christology. Hebrews 1:1-14 sets forth a Christ that is above the angelic beings. Likewise, Paul argues for an exalted view of Christ in Philippians 2:9-10 and Colossians 1:14-19. In relation to a high Christology, Hebrews 1:1-14 quotes five passages from the Psalter to make its point. The first of these is Psalm 2:7, which is alluded to by Paul in Romans 1:4 to make a strikingly similar point (i.e. high Christology). Further, this same passage from the Psalter is quoted by Paul, as recorded by Luke, in Acts 13:33. In this passage, as with the others, the point that is being made is a high Christology. The Romans and Acts passages link Psalm 2 with the resurrection, while the Hebrews passage links Psalm 2 with the ascension.

Monday, November 9, 2009

United Around What?

I was directed earlier today to this blog and found the video that is posted below. There are many things in this video that are worthy of a response, but the one that seems most pressing to me is the claim of unity that the Roman Catholic Church makes. This video claims that unity must come from unity as being must come from being. However, this is a category error. That is, unity is not in the same category as being. Rather, unity is something that can be ascribed to being. In other words, being can be unified or fragmented. In the case of biblical unity, the Bible calls us to be unified in our understanding of the faith. Take as one example Philippians 1:27 where Paul commands his readers to be of "one mind."

All that to say this, the Bible does not want unity for unity's sake, but rather the Bible wants the Church to be united in her thoughts (or doctrines). Thus, though the Roman Catholic Church claim to have biblical unity, in fact they fall quite short of it. The Roman Catholic Church is not "one mind" with itself on many key issues. For one example, Catholics cannot agree on the doctrine of predestination. The only unity the Roman Catholic Church possess is a structural or ecclesiastical unity and this is not the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17. For Jesus' prayer was that his followers would be one as he and the father are one. The unity that he is asking for is not a structural unity, for the father and the son do not have that kind of unity, rather he is asking for a unity of mind and will. This is biblical unity.

Friday, November 6, 2009

King and Servant Pilot Show

King and Servant Show 1 (Click Here)

Jonathan and Bryan discuss the purpose of the show and the importance of paradoxical theology and it application to Christian Living