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Thursday
May182017

If I could kill a word

Pardon me for using a pop culture introduction to this post. I don't usually like to do that.

I was out for a coffee date yesterday. In the car, during the hour drive, I had the radio on. I have one of those old fashioned cars that does not have satellite radio, so I listen to the regular kind of radio. The music fare out there is pretty dismal. There are really only three stations I can stomach at any one time: the oldies/easy listening station, CBC, and the country station, and the country station gets played when the oldies station plays something I don't like. On the country station yesterday, I heard a song which caught my attention, called "If I Could Kill a Word." The opening verse say this:

If I could kill a word and watch it die
I'd poison never, shoot goodbye
Beat regret when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I'd pound fear to a pile of sand
Choke lonely out with my bare hands
I'd hang hate so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word

Of course, it's one of those sappy country songs, and is actually quite forgettable, but as a lover of words, the thought of killing one was interesting. I thought to myself, "I'd like to kill the word platform." Not the kind that someone stands on; I mean the other kind.

The Reality of Influence

The reality is (and often, it is a sad reality) that people who become well-known have influence. For some inexplicable reason, women want to know what Oprah is reading and will follow her suggestions. At the beginning of every year, we Christians who love reading want to know what the well-known Christians are reading, and we may take them up on their suggestions. Influence is a reality.

What I really find troublesome is the very self-conscious nature of our influence in these days. The idea of building a platform means we recognize our influence (or maybe we think we have influence or are looking to have it). And I think in recognizing influence, one must tread carefully. It isn't far from recognizing influence to demanding influence or presuming a false level of influence. In short, it can be a direct line to pride.

There have always been influential people, but with the internet, we are faced every day with those people, knowing much more about their personal lives than we need to. We have gone from a suitable mystery about them to a constant diet of the minutae of their lives, making our own little worlds seem, well, little.

The Example of B.B.

I cannot help but think of B.B. Warfield. If there was ever a man of influence, it was Warfield; in his day and in ours. That man would have had a platform if he were alive today. Part of me hopes he would have a healthy distance from social media. Despite his brilliance and influence, he seldom left home for more than a few hours a day. His wife was an invalid, and had in fact been so from early in their married life. He stayed close to her in order to care for her. Today, that would mean not attending large conferences or preaching engagements. No book tours. Hardly the picture of a man tending to his platform. 

Live as Redeemed People

If one is influential, it is a huge responsibility. Our nature is to lift up those who have ability and have become known. But it is an unfair thing to do, because there is only one way off of a pedestal: down. The wonderful thing is, however, that as Christians, we serve one who truly reigns and will never be toppled from his throne. We don't need a platform to minister to others. We don't need a platform to do the work of Christ. All we need to do is live as redeemed people, clothing ourselves with Christ, and taking every opportunity to love others and serve them. We don't need a platform to be good spouses or children, to be good writers and thinkers. In fact, to live to the glory of God, we don't actually need a platform at all.

Yes, if I could kill a word, it would be platform. At least in its figuarative sense. The other kind of platform is pretty useful.

Tuesday
May162017

How do I become a better Bible teacher?

The short answer to that question is easy: be a student yourself.

Watch/Listen to Good Teachers

I returned to teaching teens this past fall. The first week I taught, I found myself frustrated because I was reminded that teenagers don't react the same way to being taught in the same way that women who are there because they do want to be taught. I had to sit back and think about how I could generate more interest and discussion.

Over the next little while, I watched my theology professor as he led the class and specifically, how he answered questions from us. There was always a true interest in giving the best answer. If you need inspiration, watch others who teach. Listen to sermons online. Listen to podcasts. There are many ways to sit under experienced teachers without attending seminary. Listen to how the teacher opens up the Scriptures; listen carefully. In the winter of 2016, I took hermeneutics, and Dr. Barker, the prof, basically gave a little sermon about a text every class. I learned a lot from just watching him.

Read Good Books

Look for Bible study books. Read more than one, and don't be afraid to read one that takes you deeper than you may want to go. I have written previously about books I would recommend for Bible study, but I would add another which I have just begun: Inductive Bible Study, by Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. It goes into much more detail, especially about the process of observation, interpretation, and application. Most of us are very quick to move to interpretation without spending enough time in observation, and observation really should take the longest amount of time in a study. 

Be Humble

Intellectual humility is something I have really come to appreciate this past semester. Dr. Fowler, my theology professor, is 70 years old. Aside from the fact that he has spent a lot more time in school than I have, he has also been a Christian longer than I have and has served longer than I have. Despite his superior credentials, he is a very humble man. Students want to learn when they realize that their teacher is also a pilgrim on the journey. There is no room for arrogance when teaching. Teaching the Bible is an act of service, not an opportunity to draw attention to ourselves. We must remember that at one time, we knew much less than we do now, and that there is still more which we don't know yet.

Teaching is work. Learning the Bible well is work. It may mean that we give up time doing somethiing we enjoy. It may mean shutting ourselves up in study areas and hunkering down. The Bible is an amazing book. It is God's Word. We cannot impart knowledge to others with any degree of success unless we become students ourselves. We cannot teach what we have not learned ourselves.

Monday
May152017

Specialized theology

Since starting seminary, I have benefitted from theologians who are specialists in a particular area. One of the first profs I had specialized in war in the Old Testament. My prof last semester did his doctoral dissertation on baptism. In the books I have used to prepare papers, I have been introduced to other theologians who specialize. When I want to know about a particular subject, especially when looking for a commentary on a book of the Bible, I look for someone who has studied extensively in that area. 

We all have particular areas of interest in our own theological studies. I tend to gravitate to historical theology or systematic theology. How have we understood the Bible? How have we used it to work out doctrinal positions? How do those studies enlarge my view of God? I also like to study about Bible study and hermeneutics. I notice that fellow bloggers also have a favourite interest, and for many, it is the place of women in the Church. 

I tread lightly on this matter, because in all honesty, I am all too aware that one can say something seemingly inconsequential, and then find out later that it was the wrong thing to say. I may be going against my gender, but I sometimes sympathize with the men when they look perplexed: "What did I say wrong?" I don't discount the reality of the marginalization of women, but occasionally, I find myself reluctant to offer an opinion that is not 100% agreement for fear that I will be drummed out of womanhood. Even asking a clarifying question may generate confllict. That troubles me, and is an issue all its own. I have many thoughts on it, but I am a coward, and likely won't articulate many of them.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to study extensively issues such as women, racism, social justice, poverty, covenant theology, or the Trinity. We all have interests which drive us. I don't think we should feel guilty if things about which we feel strongly don't algin with the interests of others. I won't hold it against you if you don't care about how the doctrine of justification developed over time or whether you find your eyes glazing over in a discussion about hermeneutics. By the same token, I hope you would excuse me if I pass by an article about women in the Church or don't react with as much passion as you might. It doesn't mean I don't care, and it doesn't mean I'm not listening.

I do care about how women are treated in the Church. I care deeply. But I care about other matters, too. Part of the beauty of finding our equality in our essence as opposed to our function means that we are free to pursue what we want without fearing that others, especially our sisters in Christ, will accuse us of being apathetic in other areas.

As I get older my poor brain needs focus, and that means that less is more. My greatest desire is to know God more, to be more yielded to him, to know his word better, and to love others better. I don't want to come across as argumentative with anyone whether the subject matter is women, the extent of the atonement, or whether or not I should eat gluten. I just want to keep fixing my eyes on Christ, and follow where he leads. And yes, that may mean I miss out on some reading. I will take that chance.

Sunday
May142017

Daily Readings - John 10:31-42

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 10:31-42

What high honour Jesus Christ puts on the Holy Scriptures! We find him using a text ut of the Psalms as an argument against his enemies, in which the whole poiint lies in the single word 'gods'. And then, having quoted the text, he lays down the great principle: 'The Scripture cannot be broken.' 

The principle here laid down by our Lord is one of vast importance . . . The principle before us, no doubt, is rudely assaulted in the present day. Let no Christian's heart fail because of these assaults. Let us stand our ground manfully and defend the principle of plenary inspiration as we would the apple of our eye. There are difficulties in Scripture, we need not shrink from conceding, things hard to explain, hard to reconcile and hard to understand. But in almost all these difficulties, the fault, we may justly suspect, is not so much in Scripture as in our own weak minds. In all cases we may well be content to wait for more light and believe that all shall be made clear at last.

Friday
May122017

What is piety?

Piety is not a popular word. When we call someone pious, we often use the term as a pejorative one rather than a complimentary one. As with many words, it's a word which has been used and abused to its apparent demise.

In the first book of Calvin's Institutes, he refers to piety in a positive way. In Book 1, Chapter 2, paragraph 1, he emphasizes that piety is something we ought to learn:

For this sense of the powers of God is for us a fit teacher of piety, from which religion is born. I call "piety" that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him -- they will never yeld him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.

"Reverence joined with the love of God." There is that word, "reverence." It's one I've been thinking about lately, especially as seen in the frequently used Titus 2:3: "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good."

What does it mean for an older woman to be reverent? Calvin links reverence with piety, which in turn is linked to love of God. It certainly must begin with love of God.

These days, women like to avoid appearing old. We want to be cool. We want to look young. We love it when people mistake us for being younger than we are. We want to do everything we can to hold back time. The plate in my ankle reminds me that breaking a bone at 51 was not as easy to recover from as it would had I been 15 when I broke it. It would be nice to stop the aging of my bones, but if it meant keeping a 15 year old mind, I'd say "no thanks."

Do we want to be known as someone with piety? Can we ever recover the good use of that word, or will it along with other good words, gather dust?