Bags of Bran

Getting Christology Right
August 15, 2017, 10:46 am
Filed under: Biography

To everyone who struggles to say meaningful things about Christ succinctly without bumbling into heresy, I offer:

He hungers–but He feeds thousands….

He is wearied, but is the Rest of them that are weary….

He is heavy with sleep, but walks lightly over the sea….

He prays, but He hears prayer.

He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.

He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God.

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world….

As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.

As a lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word….

He is…wounded, but He heals every disease….

He dies, but He gives life….

If the one give you a starting point for your error, let the others put an end to it.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. 29.20

Cited in Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity, 312

Augustine and Bible Interpretation
July 15, 2017, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Biography

The man who fears God seeks diligently in Holy Scripture for a knowledge of His will. And when he has become meek through piety, so as to have no love of strife; when furnished also with a knowledge of languages, so as not to be stopped by unknown words and forms of speech, and with the knowledge of certain necessary objects, so as not to be ignorant of the force and nature of those which are used figuratively; and assisted, besides, by accuracy in the texts, which has been secured by skill and care in the matter of correction;—when thus prepared, let him proceed to the examination and solution of the ambiguities of Scripture.

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine

Liturgical Dance?
July 12, 2017, 10:07 am
Filed under: Biography

Kevin Bauder gets to the real issue with the Redeemer offertory: it has no place in a New Testament worship service.

Theology Central

Here is a video of three men performing a concert dance to the Largo from Glinka’s Trio Pathétique in D Minor. The occasion is an offertory at Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The audience responds with applause after the performance. No pulpit is visible, but the elements appear on the Lord’s Table beneath the stage.

Perhaps I should state that I have no principled objection to concert or theater dance. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m one of only a handful of Baptist fundamentalists who have visited the grave of Rudolf Nureyev in Paris. The question is not whether concert dance is in principle a good thing. The question is not even whether Christians ought to be able to enjoy concert dance. The question is whether concert dances (think of ballet) ought to be incorporated into worship. Not everything that can be done in everyday, mundane life ought…

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Strange, Strange Colossians
June 30, 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Biography

The book of Colossians simply doesn’t click for me. The background stuff is bewildering. What on earth was going on there?

I ran across a bizarre passage in the Testament of Solomon, an occultish Jewish document that was very likely extant in Paul’s day, while I was doing some research in Colossians.

72. And I commanded another demon to come before me. And there came before my face thirty-six spirits, their heads shapeless like dogs, but in themselves they were human in form; with faces of asses, faces of oxen, and faces of birds. And I Solomon, on hearing and seeing them, wondered, and I asked them and said: “Who are you?” But they, of one accord with one voice, said1: “We are the thirty-six elements, the world-rulers 2 of this darkness. But, O King Solomon, thou wilt not wrong us nor imprison us, nor lay command on us; but since the Lord God has given thee authority over every spirit, in the air, and on the earth, and under the earth, therefore do we also present ourselves before thee like the other spirits, from ram and bull, from [35] both twin and crab, lion and virgin, scales and scorpion, archer, goat-horned, water-pourer, and fish.

The bold text is what is so interesting. The word here rendered “elements” is the same word Paul uses in Colossians 2:8, translated “elementary principles,” and I think Paul is using it the same way.

Things Unchanged
April 27, 2017, 10:17 am
Filed under: Biography, Pastor Stuff

As I’ve been working through The Benedict Option in fits and starts, I have started to pay more attention to the background and life settings in which saints of other times lived. Recently someone made a remark to the effect that so-and-so was tap-dancing blindfolded in a yard full of rakes. That paints a mental picture, does it not?


As I savored the mental picture, the word “rakes” evoked a memory from the dusty cellars of my college education.* It’s a quote from an Anglican preacher named John Berridge, who lived from 1716-1793, and was one of the preachers involved in the Evangelical Revival in England. Note this well: I am most certainly not advocating everything that came out of the Evangelical Revival, nor am I advocating everything that came out of John Berridge; but he is precisely right on this matter.

The context was this: England was a Christian country, but of the superstitious sort that placed a premium on human works for salvation. In fact, for much of his life, Berridge preached a message of works-righteousness. But he later became convinced that true righteousness before God was a matter of faith, and therefore good works were only good as they were expressions of love and gratitude for God’s grace.

But what kind of person could receive God’s grace? Only one who was aware of his own sinfulness: one could not simply look to his good standing in a Christian community; that was not the standard of comparison. Berridge writes:

And if this was the case in the purest age what else can be expected in succeeding ages? But you say we sojourn in a baptized country. True, the country swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels. A watery profession without the Spirit’s baptism will never wash the heart from pride and subdue it to the gospel doctrines, and legal righteousness will set the heart still more against them. No one can truly bear the doctrines till he cannot bear himself. Jesus Christ inviteth them that are weary [of] themselves and laden with their guilt and sinful nature. Only such received him in Judea and only such receive him in Great Britain. These are prepared for his gospel [who] know what poverty of spirit means and feel that brokenness of heart which God delighteth in and where he only dwells.

America is only a “Christian” nation in the sense that Berridge’s England was a “baptized” country. We may be crawling with evangelicals, but their profession is wearing thinner and thinner in every generation as “more and more people are won to less and less Christianity.”

One of the things that Dreher gets right in The Benedict Option is that much that is called Christianity is utterly devoid of sacrifice. Ours is a country that “swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels” too. Let the swarms swarm; let us make our institutional commitments with people who share our values and goals.

*If I could only bring people’s names to recall with such alacrity, I’d be set.

Spurious Josephus Quotes?!
April 11, 2017, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

“They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.”

Google this quotation, read some of the results, and then tell me that citation and plagiarism problems are new to this age.

Supposedly this quote comes from Josephus. I would have loved to find it and read it in its context because I’m studying resurrection for my sermon. I saw it first in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (unattributed, except as Josephus). Here is the paragraph:

There is a remarkable passage in Josephus, which proves that the best informed among the Jews believed in the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness. ‘They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.’  Not less remarkable is a passage in Shemoth Rabba, ‘Why doth Moses say, (Ex. 32:13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom.  Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.  Then saith Moses, Behold, here am I, and Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Phinehas, and Caleb, and Joshua; but, saith God, there are but seven:  where are the other three?   When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, O Eternal God, [hayim hem ha-metim,] do those live who are dead?  Yes, saith God.  Then saith Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’

Fascinating, no? Josephus believed that Jews held to the immortality of the soul? What an excellent thing to quote in a sermon!

Except I looked in Josephus: it’s not there. Not in the wording above; not in similar wording. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” only occur together once, in a different context. I tried key words; I tried key concepts. Nothing.

So I tried Google, in case it was from a different edition of Josephus. Searching for the initial phrase, I found the same paragraph, but with “Josephus (De Maccab. c. 16)” as the attribution. But again, I have searched Josephus’ entire corpus in vain, manually and electronically, for such a quote. But I found roughly a dozen old books that reproduce the entire paragraph almost verbatim!

The earliest book that contained the quote (and the surrounding paragraph is in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the book of Luke (published 1825). Perhaps he lifted it from someone else? Another book had the paragraph bracketed and the source was listed as Bagster, but I could find no information on it.

Who knows.

Quick thoughts about the Benedict Option
April 1, 2017, 10:34 am
Filed under: Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

Got it!

I have officially 120-some pages of another really good book before I dig into this one. Even though there have been enough reviews done that I have a pretty good idea what I’m in for, it’s still more or less my duty to read it.

I wonder if it will give me new categories to answer the following non-dilemma though:

A popular pastorbloggertwitterer just now cast dust on his head and shreded his garment on Social Media about Dr. Who, the British science fiction show (for those of you who don’t watch it either). Evidently Dr. Who is (and who could have predicted this) coming out, and has a consort. In response to this, Pastorbloggertwitterer suggests (tongue in cheek) that a Biblically faithful sidekick would add some depth and variety to the show.

I say, stop watching it.

And when Marvel superheroes start (start?) getting ambivalent about good and evil, stop watching them. And when Transformers start coming out of the closet, stop watching them. And when classic fairy tales are commandeered to transport enemy troops, stop watching them. Move on.

What do you really have to lose?

When “innocent fun” ceases to be innocent, do we hold funerals for it; or, do we set it aside for permanent things? We are supposed to train our senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14) so that we can stop approving evil things and turn our attention to “the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). Too expensive?

In anticipation of the book, I wonder if there would be profit in revisiting the Fudamentalist/Modernist controversy.


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