The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture

finelineKary Oberbrunner’s The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture wrestles with the line between Christianity and culture. The author explains,

The first camp separates itself from people, society, and culture in order to stay “unstained.” They turn God’s commands, plus hundreds of other rules and laws, into a heavy burden that supposedly grants personal holiness .. . These people make up the Separatist camp.

The second camp conforms itself to the ideals and philosophies of the world. … These people make up the Conformist camp.

(p. 22) Oberbrunner describes both camps as irrelevant, because —

it isn’t love that characterizes either camp, as Jesus commands, but unbalance. And the church and the world both suffer because of it.

(p. 23)  Later Oberbrunner explains that the failure of the two camps is a lack of love. The Separatists love God but fail to love people as they should. The Conformists love people but fail to love God as they should. Continue reading


Shout Out for Justin Michael Allen

A few of you may have noticed that my Indexing system is UP TO DATE!!!  HOORAY!!!

Justin has agreed to handle the indexing duties and has — remarkably — managed to catch up the indexing despite the deluge of posts over the weekend. (I think the Glen Coffee post got him excited. 😀 (I mean, Christianity and Alabama football … surely the new heavens and new earth will have football stadiums)).

Anyway, it’s been a huge relief for Matthew Proctor to take on the tagging and Justin to take on the indexing. The tagging helps the hit count (meaning more people get some good out of all this, I hope), and the indexing helps people look stuff up and maybe find something helpful to them. Google is great, but just try looking up “truth” and see how many links truly tell you what/who truth is!

And so, if you ever find something helpful to you via the Indexing system (the Index tab at the top of the page and the list of Pages on the left of the page), insert a comment thanking Justin for his help. Indexing is hard work.

(Now if I could find someone to write this stuff …)

Baptist Sacramentalism 2

A while back, I posted the full text of an article by Stanley K. Fowler noting the increasing convergence of Baptist and Church of Christ baptismal theology. It turns out that was a pre-publication copy of an article to be published in Baptist Sacramentalism 2, which is volume 25 of a series called “Studies in Baptist History and Thought.” The book has been available in England for a few weeks, but is just now available in the U.S. I can’t find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble yet, but they should have it soon.

I was privileged to receive the book for free — in exchange for promising to mention in the blog. I made no promises to be complimentary … just to mention it. I can’t be bought that cheap.

Anyway, the book is a collection of 15 essays by Baptist authors on the Baptist view of the sacraments, particularly baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And the articles are uniformly thoughtful, insightful, and well written. Continue reading

Once in a Lifetime Book

Scot McKnight is the author of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, a book on hermeneutics that I’ve been building a series of lessons on here for my church’s adult classes. McKnight is also a leading voice in the emerging church movement — you know, the movement recently trashed by the Gospel Advocate. WIth that in mind, I thought the readers would find this post at his popular blog, Jesus Creed, fascinating —

Once in a Lifetime Book

EFH.jpgEvery now and then, but not very often, someone writes a book that is a once-in-a-lifetime publication. Wow! Everett Ferguson has just given us an exhaustive study of baptism in the first five centuries: Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries..

What are the most decisive arguments in the baptism debates — infant or adult? Submersion, immersion, sprinkling? What most convinced you of your view? Or, do you think the parents or person choose and that the church makes a few options available?

This master historian, well-known for his works on backgrounds to the New Testament, sketches the whole picture: from the Jewish and/or Greco-Roman backgrounds to the New Testament to infant baptism (late 2d century) to baptismal liturgies to baptismal theologies and baptistries themselves — it’s all here.

This book is not innovative; it is not an attempt to argue a brand-new theory; it’s an examination of what can be known from the ancient evidence about baptism. For years I have always gone to G.R. Beasley-Murray’s justifiably well-known book on baptism (Baptism in the New Testament). I will now go first to Ferguson’s magnum opus.

Every pastor, theologian, ecclesial thinker, and theologian needs this book.

Interesting bit of irony — and I’m sure a masterful book. I have a birthday coming and I’m kinda hoping …

In the Shadow of the Temple, by Oskar Skarsaune

intheshadowIn the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (2002) is another book that radically changes our understanding of the history of Christianity. I don’t think it’s suitable for a Bible class or small group study, but it’s an important work for the serious Bible student. It’s not a light read.

The author does a remarkable job of showing how very Jewish the early church was in its thinking — for centuries. Of course, over time the church was taken over by Greek influences, but in the early centuries, the church was deeply rooted in Judaism, even as the church became largely Gentile.

For example, the author notes how Acts describes Paul going from city to city teaching “God fearers,” who were Gentiles who already had become worshippers of the God of the Old Testament. And we can’t help but notice how, even when writing to a predominantly Gentile congregation, Paul argues his points from the Old Testament, presuming that his readers know their Torah. Continue reading

Glen Coffee’s Draft Status Enhanced by His Outspoken Christianity

coffeeI just have to point out a remarkable story about Glen Coffee, running back for Alabama who left school a year early to enter the draft. He was originally rated well below the top-10 running backs in the draft — but his stock rose so that he was drafted as the first pick of the third round.

Why the improvement? His Christianity.

Here’s an earlier post about how Coffee was converted by his roommate while in college. And here’s a story from the Birmingham News about how his draft status went up due to how well he handled himself —

Coffee’s agent Todd Crannell said that they get these scouting reports from the NFL when the the process begins, and Coffee was originally ranked as the 15th best running back, which translates into being a 5th round pick. But Crannell said because of the job Coffee has done representing himself and because of his workouts, he’s climbing.

It’s impossible to tell right now, but Crannell said Coffee is now considered to be the 6th or 7th best back, which might land him in the second or third round. Some of it because of Coffee’s sterling character displayed by his strong faith. So that’s interesting…

Coffee’s recent appearance on the “700 Club” was impressive, as he spoke simply of his faith:

In age when professional athletes are famous for their arrests, drug use, and selfishness, it’s encouraging to see an athlete rewarded for his faith.

The Lost History of Christianity, by Philip Jenkins

I’ve got this big ol’ stack of books I’ve read over the last few months that I keep meaning to post something about.

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died
is a truly fascinating book. Jenkins covers the history of Christianity in Asia, showing that the church made it all the way to Japan by 1000 AD, only to be pushed back and nearly destroyed by Islam. And he points out many of the mistakes that the Asian church made that led to its near demise.

The truly interesting part of the book is its coverage of a part of Christianity that’s been largely ignored by historians. We tend to think of Christianity as a purely Mediterranean phenomenon until the Age of Exploration, but it’s not true. I’m a pretty good student of history, and yet I had no idea until this book that the church had had such great success in Asia for over 1,000 years. Continue reading