This year’s Society of Vineyard Scholars annual meeting was at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Featuring a number of well-known scholars (e.g., Howard Snyder, Craig Keener, Eleanor Mumford), Vineyard thinkers and friends of the Vineyard gathered together to share and hear and pray and reflect and hang out together. [Read more…]
I’m reading a fascinating book recommended to me by my good friend Thomas Lyons titled Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading Bible as Scripture, edited by Joel B. Green and David F. Watson. It’s of interest due to some of the similar challenges that we are facing in the Vineyard… issues related to the functional authority of Scripture, hermeneutics, etc.
My favorite essay in the book is Elaine A. Heath’s, “Reading Scripture for Christian Formation.” Heath provides a look at how John Wesley approached Scripture and, I think, persuasively argues that Wesley never read Scripture in a dualistic manner. [Read more…]
Throughout my theological training, I’ve always loved studying hermeneutics, the “art and science of biblical interpretation.” One reason I’ve really enjoyed this topic is because as I’ve taken numerous graduate level courses, both in seminary and in a graduate university, I’ve come to understand that the subject is far more complicated than the typical “just me and my Bible” approach that many people have. Yet the complexity hasn’t discouraged my own reading of Scripture; if anything, understanding the both the challenges and the different approaches has made reading Scripture far more powerful and engaging.
When we talk about reading, interpreting, and applying Holy Scripture, we can approach it through a variety of different views, such as the theological interpretation of Scripture (TIS) model, the biblical-theological model(s), canonical criticism, or Christological and Christotelic hermeneutics. And this is just scratching the surface of available models.
Now you might be a bit overwhelmed to know there are so many ways in which people read the Bible. Don’t worry about that right now. Just acknowledge it as a reality and let’s move on to my point…
Two weeks ago I was talking to a young twenty something who classified herself as a “skeptic.” Our conversation was about Jesus, faith, church, and the Bible. It was really fun and I think we both were enjoying our conversation. At one point in the discussion, she brought up why she was skeptical about the Bible being a book that God inspired. Her primary reason was because of all the war, killing, and genocide. This is familiar territory for people who talk to secularists or skeptics or agnostics and atheists.
Warfare in the Old Testament is the red headed step child of biblical studies… at least it has been for me! Part of this is to what I’ve time and time again acknowledged: the Old Testament is not my speciality… because of this, I’ve been taking every opportunity to read on the subject!
Enter Boyd Seevers‘ Warfare in the Old Testament: The Organization, Weapons, and Tactics of Ancient Near Eastern Armies. Seevers’ introduction explains his purpose. He writes,
“In order to help us better understand the world and message of the Old Testament, this book wil seek to describe the military practices of David, Joshua, and other Israelites, as well as those of the Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, and others known from the Old Testament. God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to communicate and work with people as they lived in the context of the contemporary culture. Often then, God’s Word is inextricably bound up in the regular cultural practices known to the original participants, authors, and readers. These cultural contexts, as we have seen, often included warfare.”
As I’ve read through Warfare in the Old Testament, I believe Seevers succeeds. This is an excellent reference work in relation to understanding the military practices of Israel and the surrounding nations, including Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, and the Persians.
Whether this will make a splash amongst Old Testament scholars I cannot comment on. I simply do not have the academic background to weigh whether it is ground breaking. But I can recommend that pastors pick up a copy because I believe it will help with your study and overall understanding of the OT. If you are preaching a series that involves the OT narratives, which often included military campaigns, you’ll likely gain from having this on your book shelf.
So get it. You won’t be disappointed.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*
Kenny has written an interesting post on the most biblical form of church government. I’ll be honest. I was very disappointed in it. How could a person suggest a biblical model(s) for church government without mentioning the Old Testament. I’m disappointed, Kenny. Disappointed indeed. Why embrace a Marcionite canon?!?! Why do you only pull from the New Testament for your different models? I have contacted the proper ecclesiastical authorities and you will be swiftly disciplined (excommunicated!).
Calm down, Kenny. I’m joking!
But seriously, I like how Kenny has laid out the different “biblical” models for church government. He observes the following models:
On my first reading of Kenny’s post, I actually wanted to do one of three things. First, I wanted to suggest that, to be fair, there are way more than these four models. Within the broad category of Congregationalism there are a variety of ways that Congregationalism is carried out. The same can be true about different forms of Presbyterianism, etc. But for what it’s worth, I think Kenny’s point was to get us thinking about the fact that our use of “biblical” as an adjective needs to be nuanced a bit. At the very least we should grant that different church polity models all appeal to Scripture. Point granted, Kenny.
Second, I wanted to agree with his point that church’s should be more sensitive (discerning!) about what model will be best for their specific situation. If a church has fifteen people but strongly adheres to a plurality of elders model and requires via their by-laws for seven elders, I’d argue that you are headed in a direction that may become highly unhealthy. Local churches are unique and have different situations at work. Point granted, Kenny.
Third, I want to actually push Kenny further. While he notes these four models and I’m suggesting there are more, I want to drive his point home further by asking this question: where is the Old Testament in your church government models? Better yet, where is the Old Testament in all Christian churches? If the Old Testament we had Patriarchs, Judges, Prophets, Kings, Priests, etc. Those different “offices” called for different forms of government, right? So if we are going to talk about having a “biblical” church government, we need to do better than simply consider twenty seven books of our sixty six book canon. We can’t overlook thirty nine books via our “canon within a canon” thinking. Point expanded, Kenny. Point expanded!
I want to prove (?) Kenny’s point a bit more by suggesting that if we are going to talk about embracing a “biblical” model of government and leadership, we need to realize that it’s far more diverse than we may think. While the New Testament provides a variety of approaches, the Old Testament provides important contributions too.
So let’s assume, for a moment, that Kenny is correct concerning what is best for our churches when it comes to church government. He provides two helpful questions (among others):
“What structures and methods would work best for us as we keep our unique mission and challenges in mind as a congregation?”
“What does our group need in order to truly function based on mission?”
These are excellent questions, Kenny. Job well done. Please forgive me for calling you a Marcionite (have you ever been accused of that?!?!).
All jokes aside, I appreciate where Kenny’s going because he’s simply raising the point that church leadership structures often ignore the pragmatic issue of function. Will having eight pastors in a church of nine help you fulfill the mission of God? Can you function well with that model? Those are great questions. So simply dropping the adjective “biblical” in front of your model may not be as “biblical” as you think. Especially if you ignore the majority of the Bible (Old Testament).
Alright, I’ve gotten that off my chest. Now I want to further this conversation but making a couple of observations:
First, I think there are better models than others. Not all “biblical” models are healthy or even “on the table” for some Evangelicals because they simply see them as impossible. Case in point: the “Apostolic” model. Being that I do not believe there are (A)postles today, I can easily move past that model. Furthermore, I think there are models that have more biblical support than others. For example, I truly believe that on an exegetical level, it’s hard to argue against the plurality of pastoral leaders in local churches. You see it throughout the NT history (cf. Acts 20:17ff) and NT epistles (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-8, etc.).
Second, and related to the first, I think in certain models you have healthier principles at work. The plurality of leaders, regardless of what you call it, is, I think, safer. You have accountability and can save yourself a lot of heartache.
Third, might the emphasis on discerning the Spirit’s work in the local church lead to models that are more effective than a reductionistic perspective that only sees one or two models in the Bible? I think there is some freedom in observing that the Bible offers a number of options for different situations in different stages of the life of the church.
So Kenny the Marcionite has some really helpful thoughts for us to consider. Let’s be careful when we talk about our “biblical” model of church government, especially if we’re ignoring the Old Testament.