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When you have to show your cards

I'm in the midst of writing a paper, due on Friday. It's a review of the book Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. As an aside, let me just say that the books in the "Counterpoints" series, from which this book comes, are excellent. I have read a few, and they are really well done.

My responsibility in this assignment is to summarize each of the three views, by Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Peter Enns. After summarizing those views, I have to state my own views, with attention to these issues:

  1. The use of Sensus Plenior as an appropriate way of explaining the NT use of the OT

  2. The best way to understand typology

  3. Whether NT writers take account of the context of OT passages

  4. Whether NT authorsuse of contemporaneous Jewish exegetical methods explains the NT use of the OT

  5. Whether 21st century Christians can replicate the hermeneutical and exegetical methods used by the NT authors. 

Considering that each author has expressed his views clearly, given good Scriptural examples, and been rebutted by the other authors, a reader should have an idea where she will land on the matter. I know where my views are, but coming out with a position with the appropriate amount of Scriptural support and careful thought it always a bit daunting. I have done my reading, including some extra research, and I have come to some conclusions, but it's always hard to articulate things well.

In class, there was a moment when our prof asked us, "Do you think we should use the same interpretive methods as the NT authors?" There was silence. No one wanted to brave an opinion right away. Of course, the two gents who tended to dominate the discussion eventually spoke up. I, however, did not, but when asked, I said, "Do we have to use their methods?" i.e., is it necessary in order to gain meaning. My prof said it was a good point.

It's always a scary process to lay out what we think. When reading the book, I was able to agree on various points from all three authors (yes, despite the controversy surrounding Enns, I did agree with him on some points). It is so easy to just agree with what sounds best without a thorough examination of things. This is about more than endorsing one view; it's about coming to my own conclusions, and most of the time, I feel woefully inept at such things. 

Today is a holiday here in Canada, and soon, we're off to enjoy some family time. Starting tomorrow, though, it's time to get busy. I want to do well, and on my last assignment, the prof noted that he wanted to hear more of my own views, so it's time to stop being timid. He's not there to evaluate me as a colleague; I'm his student, and if I am not as smart as Kaiser, Bock, and Enns, he'll understand.


The Pilgrim's Song

From the Olney Hymns
John Newton
The Pilgrim's Song

From Egypt lately freed
By the Redeemer’s grace;
A rough and thorny path we tread,
In hopes to see his face.

The flesh dislikes the way,
But faith approves it well;
This only leads to endless day,
All others lead to hell.

The promised land of peace
Faith keeps in constant view;
How different from the wilderness
We now are passing through!

Here often from our eyes
Clouds hide the light divine;
There we shall have unclouded skies,
Our Sun will always shine.

Here griefs, and cares, and pains,
And fears, distress us sore;
But there eternal pleasure reigns,
And we shall weep no more.

LORD pardon our complaints,
We follow at thy call;
The joy, prepared for suff’ring saints,
Will make amends for all. 


Before you advise someone with anxiety . . . 

. . . ask yourself if he/she is ready to hear what you're saying.

This past week, I read an interesting article about anxiety, written by Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition. The title, 8 Arguments for Why You Should Be Anxious Today, was provocative, so I clicked on it. For some people who struggle with anxiety, it would be an excellent resource. For some, it would only drive them to being more anxious.

I found the approach, speculating (albeit facetiously, I assume) about whether or not anxiety is "worth it" a little perplexing. Notions of "worth," whether serious or not, don't enter the mind of someone struggling with anxiety. It just happens. Believe it or not, people don't choose to feel anxious. They choose how to cope with it, but even then, it's not always as easy as some (probably the people who have never struggled with it) make it out to be. Anxiety is like a lion inside, waiting to roar, and we often don't know when that's coming.

I have had out of control anxiety. I suspect that I will continue to be sensitive in this area. This time, last year, had I read Justin Taylor's article, I would have thrown something through my monitor. The truth is that anxious Christans, those who struggle on an ongoing basis, know those truths. We've read the Bible. We've underlined verse after verse, written them in our journals, put them on index cards on our desk or refrigerator. And we still struggle. We know anxiety is not worth it. Anxiety is not something everyone can turn on and off like a switch. And everyone's situation is different. As my good friend Persis commented recently, human beings are much more complicated than we want them to be.

If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, be cautious about sharing articles like Taylor's. We all like to help, and it's easy to just send someone a well-meaning article. However, if the person's anxiety is out of control, it may be like talking to a wall. They may think you are not very sympathetic, that you don't understand. Whereas I can read the post today, and appreciate it, when my anxiety was out of control, I would have only felt worse.

Anxious people feel anxious about everything, including their anxiety. When we read the biblical exhortations and feel as if we've gained no success in our struggle, we feel anxious about our anxiety. It gets worse. We feel defeated. We feel like lousy Christians. We need biblical truth, but we also need to get a hold of the emotional roller coaster we're on, and for some, physical conditions are crucial. 

Unfortunately, I think there runs rampant in the Church the notion that there are no physiological issues related to anxiety; it's all just sin. At one time, I believed that, too. I've learned from experience just how much of an impact it has. Once I could deal with my health issues, I was able to benefit more fully from the regular biblical counsel I was being given. 

Biblical counsel is needed for someone struggling with anxiety, but before it will the most effective, the one struggling has to be approachable, and that may mean waiting. It may mean you help by simply sitting with the person while he's weak and trembling. It may mean praying with the person or just listening. The counsel in Taylor's post is great advice, but make no mistake, for someone struggling with anxiety, whether it's "worth it" or not never enters his mind.


Thankful Thursday

It's been a cooler than normal spring here, but thankfully, things are growing and the birds are singing. I am thankful . . .

. . . for the pair of Cardinals who visit here regularly.

. . . that, despite the fact that it means that my beloved cat wandered away three weeks ago and has not returned, there are more birds than ever in the yard. I guess the word is out that he is gone. I have registered a lost and found claim with our local shelter, but I'm not optimistic. He never made a habit of wandering away for more than a couple of hours, although he was a bit of a fighter.

. . . for pets. They are a source of joy and fun. I admit to missing my cat very much, but I still have my beloved Beagle, Luna, and there is a chance we may be getting her a companion this summer.

. . . for a good first assignment in my course. I had to write about the implications of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Whenever profs ask for the "implications," it is a very open ended question, and those are hard for me. I knew when I submitted it it wasn't my best work, but I was thankful for a good mark anyway, and some very good, concrete suggestions for the subsequent work.

. . . for the ability to use another school's library. Our school library is closed in June and July, but another school not only allows the public in, but I can get a library card, too. I had a wonderful moment of giddiness as I scoured the online catalogue, seeing all of the resources I will be able to use. I have two analytical papers due on July 1st, and then I'll be free until September.

. . . for a planned family get together. It's been 20 years since my three brothers and my parents and I were all together in the same place at one time. I'm hosting the event here in August. I know how much this must mean to my mom, especially.

. . . for foxes. At my school, there is a mother and her seven kits running about the mostly empty campus. On Tuesday morning, as I walked up the steps from the parking lot to the library, one of the kits stopped, looked at me, and then darted under a space in the stairs. One day, I took my camera, but most of my shots were of them running away. At one point, as I looked over the front walkway, I got a little closer.



Seminary will make you question years of blogging

A blog is not a serious thing for the most part. I mean, people like me can have blogs. The blog world is full of people who write daily about things which they know little about. In some circles, to say you have a blog evokes disdain, as if you have a bad rash. Be that as it may, for the past almost twelve years, I have had a blog where I have used the space to articulate things I am processing in my own mind. 

There have been times when I really thought I understood things, but the past year in seminary has shown me just how much I have to learn. I'm sure if I went through the archives of this blog, I could delete much of it because I didn't fully understand the matters. I won't though. If we all waited to utter a word until we had perfect understanding, there would be nothing to read. We'd be in our glorified bodies, and we wouldn't care about blogs.

I'm in the middle of a course on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Who knew it was so complicated? Of course, I assumed that, or why else would there be a course on it? Why else would one of the required readings be Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament? Why else would there be a huge array of resources on the matter to the point where yesterday in the library I uttered aloud (thankfully, it's the spring semester, and the library was fairly empty), "I can't read these all." I had one of those kind of overwhelmed feelings.

But overwhelmed is a good thing sometimes. It keeps me desiring to know more. I love the fact that I can't know it all right now. It's sobering to know that I have written on subjects about which I had insufficient knowledge. It's making me more cautious, although I'm sure I'm not cautious enough yet. My goal when I take my class on Augustine in September that I will say very little and listen more.

The thing I love most about seminary is that it is like drinking deeply and then coming up for air. Sometimes, I stay up for a while, and others, I just can't wait to get back into it. Slogging my way through this three views book sort of felt like that until I got to Darrell Bock's contribution. Another thing about seminary is that by having to read many scholars, one begins to see quite clearly the difference between good communication and not so good. When complex principles are made easy to grasp, you know the guy's a winner.

I won't waste my time agonizing over past bad blogging. Goodness knows, there are people who are well respected bloggers who contribute bad blogging themselves, so I'm in good company. What I hope to do is to keep on learning, keep on processing, and keep on finding ways to articulate what I'm learning. Studying Scripture, learning about God, and all that great stuff does what my good friend Becky said: it makes my heart sing.

And now that I've had some air, it's time to get back to it.