November 27, 2021

A Controversial Claim

 Dick Lucas, commenting on Colossians 3:18, 

“All this is not to say that the woman will always find the sacrificial giving of herself in loyalty to another congenial. But if we are right in seeing this entire ethical section as a sustained exposition of the rule of Christ, the significant truth about a Christian woman’s relation to her husband is that it mirrors her commitment to her Lord. What Paul is really explaining is what it means to call Christ Lord. In his concept there is no possibility of a married woman’s surrender to a heavenly Christ which is not made visible and actual by some submission to an earthly husband. To claim (as I have heard it said) that the discovery of a new loyalty to the Lord made it imperative (apart from exceptional circumstances) to be disloyal to a husband is to enter a pseudo-spiritual world of double-think.”

(R. C. Lucas, Fullness & Freedom: The Message of Colossians & Philemon, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 160–161.)

Of course, the kicker, as Lucas goes on to point on in his commentary are all of the responsibilities Paul will lay on those who hold authority. This itself would have been controversial in its time, and is a needed refrain in ours. Nonetheless, the real sense in which he lays a responsibility for submission on various people (women, children, servants) in the Colossians text and others like it cuts deeply against the grain of our culture and our nature. 

November 22, 2021

Why Pray?

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

A Response to “Thomas Aquinas’s Understanding of Prayer in the Light of the Doctrine of Creatio Ex Nihilo” by Rudi te Velde


In his paper, “Thomas Aquinas’s Understanding of Prayer in the Light of the Doctrine of Creatio Ex Nihilo”, Rudi te Velde begins with the premise that to pray when one believes in an omnipotent God by whom all things were created and on whom all things - including prayer - depend, creates certain practical and philosophical problems which must be remedied. To put it as he does on page 50, “What is the use of prayer if God’s causality with respect to the world is from all eternity determined and not liable in any way to change?”

St. Thommy to the Rescue

To help walk through this issue, te Velde interacts with the thinking of Thomas Aquinas, particularly his work Summa contra Gentiles. Here Thomas distinguishes between primary and secondary causes. God is the only being or reality who exists outside of the created realm and is therefore the only primary cause. However, he chooses to act through secondary causes. These include, but are not limited to, prayer. Therefore, prayer can be a real cause in the real world, just not in the absolute sense that God himself is.

How’s that Gonna Work?

This is all dependent, te Velde points out, on Thomas’ conception of God as a “God of participation, of letting things share, from his own abundance, in being and goodness” (50). Thus, it is within God’s purview to allow things to be caused within what we might call time and space by other contingencies within time and space. However, there is a particular rub here with prayer, as prayer is petitioning God himself to intervene. And throughout Scripture, it seems he does just that. Both Jeremiah 18 and Isaiah 38 are brought forward as instances of such complexity (57-58). How are we to respond to these hard cases?
It would seem to me that the distinction between primary and secondary causes is helpful if we are careful to state that the reactions of God in time to changing contingencies of his creatures - for example, prayers of repentance - is not in any way an intrinsic change to God himself or to his will, but is the perfect application of his immutable person and purpose. Were the Ninevites, for instance, not to repent, it would have been consistent with God to crush them. But they did repent (at the preaching he sent), and thus he relented. Nothing in God himself changed. The creatures changed, and his response maintained perfect consistency with his immutable purposes.

November 18, 2021

Singing Subversively


Photo by Trevin Rudy on Unsplash

An (appreciative) Response to Michael W Martin and Bryan A Nash


In their paper, “Philippians 2:6-11 as Subversive Hymnos”, Michael W. Martin and Bryan A. Nash argue that, though contested of late, the categorization of Philippians 2:6-11 as a hymn is correct. They do this by comparing the ancient rhetorical theory of hymnos with the text in question, and then looking at the key difference: Christ is praised for some most unusual reasons.

The Marks of a Hymn

Examining ancient textbooks which address the genre of hymnos, Martin and Nash first point to four markers which allow the identification of the hymnos genre (95-109).

  1. Species of rhetoric. There is a close relation between genres of hymnos and encomion, thus hymnos is set apart by the next three markers.

  2. Subject. Whereas encomion takes as its subject man, hymnos is dedicated to a god. 

  3. Length. Here both hymnos and encomion share length, as opposed to epainos, which are brief.

  4. Form and content. The theorists put forward lists (generally consistent, if containing differences) of the types of virtues to be praised and how to cover that ground.

Applied to The Text

After laying their groundwork, the authors set about their real business of arguing that the above marks fit with what we see in Philippians 2. (110-134)

  1. Species of rhetoric. Here Paul’s writing falls directly within the realm of reinforcing virtue by praising the one who possesses said virtue. 

  2. Subject. Though Christ’s humanity is in view, he is clearly identified as God, and thus the category of hymnos is fitting. 

  3. Length. Though it is shorter than many examples of ancient hymns, it falls within the boundaries of expected length. 

  4. Form and Content. The list of Christ’s praiseworthy attributes also fits the description of hymnos - running through a catalog of reasons to praise him.

The Subversion

Where this paper stands out is in taking up that last point and arguing that while Christ is being praised, the reasons given for praising him subvert the very expectations upon which the hymnos genre was built, both for Latin and Greek writers. That Christ is praised, not for his God-ness, but for his laying aside his Divine rights and taking the form of a servant (117), is but one example they give. Citing the work of Robert Alter (109-110), they point out that often the most instructive part of a piece of art is not where it conforms to expectations, but where it defies those expectations.

In Philippians 2:6-11, Christ is pictured as one deserving all praise - but he is also pictured as the One who reorients our thinking about that which is praiseworthy. Something to keep in mind when we come later to Philippians 4:8 and read, “if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.”

November 17, 2021

Williamson on Roe

 This article over at National Review is more than worth your time. Moving, clear, profound.

November 16, 2021

Broken For You

 The following post is adapted from a Communion Meditation given at Remsen Bible Fellowship on 11/7/2021.


In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells us that when we come to the communion table we are to do so, "in remembrance of me." In this post, I want us to fix our minds on, to remember, one particular passage . Let's examine the words of Jesus in John 19:28-29.


"28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth." (ESV)

As we briefly consider these verses, I want to organize our thoughts under two headings, plan and pain.


First, plan. Note in verse 28, John tells us that Jesus spoke. His words were not mere incoherent cries., they were words intended to bring a particular result - the fulfillment of Scripture. Psalm 69:21 says,


"for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink." 

When Jesus said, "I thirst," there stood nearby a jar full of sour wine, wine vinegar. And they filled a sponge to give to him.

Passages like this aren't what we normally think of when we contemplate the Scriptures being fulfilled. But Psalm 69 gives us a pattern or a type. A servant of the Lord, suffering unjustly, with enemies on every side. This pattern finds its true expression - its fulfillment - in Jesus at the cross. Remember that this was God's plan.


Remember also the pain which Jesus suffered. His words of thirst were not mere trickery to get those Scriptures fulfilled. As a true man Jesus suffered tremendously on the cross. His body was broken. And he thirsted. But friends, because of the plan, the pain had meaning. Jesus thirsted so that all who come to him might have streams of living water flow from within. Jesus drank the sour wine of God's wrath that those who receive him might enjoy the sweet wine at his wedding supper. Jesus suffered and thirsted and died that all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness might be blessed - blessed by receiving satisfaction in and from him. 

So remember. Remember what Jesus did, and why he did. Jesus died for you.

August 25, 2021

His Day Approaching



      28        “And it shall come to pass afterward, 

      that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; 

                  your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 

      your old men shall dream dreams, 

      and your young men shall see visions. 

            29       Even on the male and female servants 

      in those days I will pour out my Spirit. 

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Introduction and Author

The book of Joel opens by telling us that the word of the LORD came to Joel, the son of Pethuel (1:1). His name means, “Yahweh is God,” and little else is known of him outside this book. The major theme of the book is the yom yhwh, or “day of the LORD”, a phrase found 5 times in Joel as compared to just 13 times in 7 other prophetic books. In connection with this theme we find the prophet speaking of the need for repentance (2:13), the blessing of being in God’s presence (3:17-18), and a future outpouring of His Spirit (the subject of this paper).

Background and Setting

It is uncertain when Joel prophesied. Given it’s foregrounded status in the canon of the minor prophets, many place it in a similar time frame with Hosea and Amos (eighth century B.C.). However, given the internal evidence, many scholars prefer to date it after the exile to Babylon in 586 B.C. Further, there are multiple references to a standing temple, which would lead the reader to believe that the book was written to the Jewish community after the rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C. 

The Gift of the Spirit, v28-29

Following a section in which the prophet had called for the people to repent (2:14-17), and then foretold what God’s response would look like (He would bless the land, 2:18-27), the prophet turns to a time “afterward” (v28). During this time there would be a great outpouring of God’s Spirit upon “all flesh” (v28). Whereas in times past the gift of the Spirit had been for specific people, usually of a special class, for a particular ministry or service, in this time the outpouring would be general for all the people of God. There would be no distinction based upon gender, age, or socio-economic status. The dreams, visions, and other forms of receiving messages from God (cf. Hebrews 1:1) would no longer be the provenance of a select few individuals, but would characterize the people of God generally. This is in some sense a fulfillment of Moses’ desire in Numbers 11:29, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

The Only Way to Be Safe, v30-32

This time of God’s outpouring would not only be associated with a time of repentance (v17), however. It would also be tied to “the great and awesome day of the LORD” (v31). This is pictured in stark and even startling terms. In language picked up in Revelation (compare v30 with Revelation 6:12), the prophet describes a time of great violence toward all who stand under the wrath of Yahweh. Some of what is described relates most likely to the results of human wars (“blood and fire and columns of smoke,” v30). However, some of what is described seems to be direct Divine punishment (“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood,” v31). The people would surely ask the question: how can one remain safe in such a dark time?

The answer is really quite simple: call upon the name of the Lord (v32). If one calls upon the LORD, he (or she) will be heard, and will be safe. 

A Sort-of Conclusion

The complication in understanding this text comes from its application in the New Testament. Peter picks this text on the day of Pentecost as the basis for what we might call the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:1-40, esp v17-21). In this sermon he pictures the text from Joel 2 as at least in some sense fulfilled. In Acts 2:33 he notes that the Holy Spirit has been poured out, as evidenced by the events of 2:6-12. And his response to the question, “how can we be saved?” is to call upon the name of the LORD-the Lord Jesus Christ (2:37-38). 

Again, straightforward enough, but what are we to make of the lack of smoke and fire and bloody moons? Has the day of the LORD come without notice? Or was the prophecy a failure? Or was Peter mistaken in seeing the text as fulfilled? It seems best to agree with Chisholm that, “since Jesus gives his Spirit to each new believer during the present era, it is probably [best] to view Joel 2:28-29 as being gradually fulfilled during this age, with verses 30-32 awaiting realization at the very end of the age.” That is, the beginning of this prophecy is being worked out even as we speak, and has been for the past two millennia. But it awaits a full and complete fulfillment in that great and climactic yom yhwh.


Barry, John. et al. 2012. Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

Cabal, Ted. et al., 2007. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. 2002. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Jamieson, Robert, with A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 1871. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Taylor, Justin, ed. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

Thomas, Robert L. 1998. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.).

August 22, 2021

Movin, Movin, Gone

                                                      Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A Response to “A Gospel on the Move” by Eric D. Barreto

In his paper, “A Gospel on the Move: Practice, Proclamation, and Place in Luke-Acts,” Eric D. Barreto argues that from the narrative coming to us as the twin books of Luke and Acts we can draw imaginative tools useful for understanding and evaluating the world around us today. He extends this specifically into the area of border and imigration policy, encouraging his reader to embrace a disruptive and Jesus like stance toward including outsiders in our conception of family and those who belong.


Barreto asks an important question in his third paragraph on page 175, “how do we move from narration to injunction, from storytelling to ethics, and from narrative to action?” This is an important hermeneutical question. If James urges us to be doers and not mere hearers of the word (see James 1:22), then the question of how we move from a narrative text to draw its lessons and make them land in our modern world is an exceedingly important one.

One helpful tool in this toolbox is the concept of “theological imagination” (176). This concept is one for which I have a great deal of fondness and affinity. We do not simply come to the Scriptures looking for lists of “how-to” in didactic form, we need to have our imaginations shaped by the text of Scripture.

Finally, the emphasis upon meals, especially in the Luke narrative (see 176-182) as places of belonging and new identity was, I believe, at least hitting at something important.


Where this paper fell short was the fact that in trying to construct a theological imagination, the author repeatedly tries to over-imagine the text itself, rather than being shaped by the text and imagining from that place of formation. For example, on page 181 he reimagines the meaning of sinner in Luke 19, taking it to mean that Zacheuss was only perceived as a sinner. But this removes the emotional force (not to mention the salvific theme as it had stood to that point in Luke) of Jesus declaring this one who was in fact a sinner to now be a “child of Abraham.” By reimagining the meaning the author has changed the meaning of the text and made it less impactful.

This comfort with reimagining salvation is also displayed when he states on page 176 that “local contexts give shape to the gospel.” That is, he takes the message itself to be malleable to the needs of the moment.


The paper was not without merit. But on the whole, while Barreto raises some good points, I don’t believe his argument holds together. This is because he ends up placing the imaginative power of the reader in the driver’s seat, rather than the text itself.


Eric D. Barreto. 2018. “A Gospel on the Move: Practice, Proclamation, and Place in Luke-Acts.” Interpretation 72 (2): 175–87.

For a more helpful look at theological imagination, see Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers (Bellingham, Wa: Lexham Press: 2019).

August 19, 2021

Help Some Folks

 Hey all,

I know I don’t have a ton of readers these days, but if any of you are so inclined as to help a couple in need, some folks I used to know just lost their home in a wildfire and could sure use a helping hand:

August 15, 2021

Brief Introductions


Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

Introductions to Amos, Nahum, and Zephaniah


Author and Date

Authorship of the book has traditionally been ascribed to the prophet Amos. Nothing is known about Amos other than what he reveals in 1:1 and 7:14, that he is a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs, hailing from Tekoa. He was neither a prophet nor a priest, but was entrusted with a series of messages from the Lord (7:14-15). 

The fact that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel indicate that his prophecy occurred between 765-750 B.C.

Audience and Message

This book is directed toward the northern kingdom of Israel, and the beating heart at the center of the book is God himself. The name Yahweh occurs by itself and in combination with other terms over 80 times in the book. The focus of Yahweh and His speech in the book is to warn Israel that the coming day of the Lord is sure, but it is surely bad news for them, rather than the good news they had assumed it to be. They had sinned grievously and God promised judgement.

Literary Features

This book falls into the category of prophecy, but deploys a number of literary techniques. These include satire, simile and other poetic tools, oracles of woe or judgement, and visions.


Author and Date

The author of this book was the prophet Nahum of Elkosh, for whom it is named (1:1). We do not precisely know where Elkosh was, though it seems likely to have been in Judah. We know the book was written between the dates of 663 and 612 B.C, with a date of 660-630 B.C. most probable due to the depiction of Nineveh as still being a mighty city.

Audience and Message

This book was written to the people of Judah, in order to bring them comfort (in fact, even Nahum’s name means (“comfort”). The message beats one note: the coming destruction of the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. This destruction was deserved because of their utter wickedness. In this sense it is the sequel to Jonah’s prophecy. The people of Judah were to take refuge in God and find comfort as He destroyed their enemies (1:6-7).


Literary Features

The prophecy of Nahum consists entirely of oracles of judgement, and can be considered war poetry. It is also structured in a chiastic fashion, with the chiasm centering on the woe oracle at the beginning of chapter three (3:1-4).


Author and Date

The book of Zephaniah was named after it’s author, the prophet Zephaniah. Unlike most prophets, we have a fairly extensive genealogy given for Zepaniah, which has led many to wonder if the Hezekiah mentioned (1:1), Zephaniah’s great-great-grandfather, is the Hezekiah king of Judah. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (1:1), the dates of which were 640-609 B.C.. This places Zephaniah as a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Audience and Message

The audience for this book was the nation of Judah. The content of the book is largely oracles of judgement against the nations generally, but also including penetrating application of God’s anger toward His own chosen people (3:1). Exhortations to “seek the Lord” (2:3) and to “wait for me” (3:8) punctuate a letter filled with oracles of God’s judgement. The book concludes with a note of hope, with salvation promised not only for Jerusalem (3:11-20), but for all the nations (3:9-10).

Literary Features

The book is broken into three major sections, connected by transitional exhortations in 2:1-3 and 3:8. The genre is prophecy, and this book features many similarities to the “major” prophets, with both oracles of judgement and hope, and moving between speaking against foreign nations and God’s own people.


Carson, D.A., ed. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

_________. NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002).

Taylor, Justin, ed. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

            Unger, Merril, revised by Gary N. Larson. The New Unger’s Bible Handbook (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966. Revised and Updated 1984).

August 12, 2021

Review - Dark Sky by C.J. Box


Dark Sky (Joe Pickett, #21)Dark Sky by C.J. Box
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It wasn't The Great American Novel, but it was fun, thrilling, and even thoughtful at a few points. I enjoy the Joe Pickett character immensely.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (