Thirsty in the EU

Aside

Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall said the ruling made the “bendy banana law” look “positively sane”.

He said: “I had to read this four or five times before I believed it. It is a perfect example of what Brussels does best. Spend three years, with 20 separate pieces of correspondence before summoning 21 professors to Parma where they decide with great solemnity that drinking water cannot be sold as a way to combat dehydration.

Switching to Galaxy SII

I haven’t been able to put much interesting up here lately with too many other family and work commitments going on, and for some of those I’ll talk put some video and pictures up in the future. But one thing that took up a few days was running the whole family up to the Twin Cities, and on our shopping plan was to update our phone plans. My friends tease me for still being on T-Mobile (I think we were like their first customers in 1999), and for being so chintsy with our phones.
But all of that changed on this trip, when we fully updated our contracts, our handsets, and got caught up with the 21st century. I went with the pictured Samsung Galaxy S2, and my wife got the Tmobile G2x.

T-Mobile has been in the news a lot for their infamous buy-out from AT&T. But with this visit, at least, we saw a lot to like at T-Mobile. Continue reading

The Technical Is Pastoral…

Aside

technical_work…and the grammatical is applicable. In his very good series “How Seminarians Can Learn to Preach to Normal People” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Tim Raymond offers the following, generally true advice:

…Learn to rely on both exegetical and pastoral commentaries… Exegetical commentaries, such as the NICOT or the NIGTC, tend to query the text by asking grammatical, linguistic, historical, and text-critical questions such as, “What is the significance of this aorist?”, “Was this passage in the autograph?”, “How does this verse correlate with what we know from Phoenician archeology?”, and so forth. Pastoral commentaries, such as John Owen on Hebrews or James Boice’s commentaries, tend to ask theological, devotional, and spiritual questions of the text such as, “How does this passage feed my soul?”, “How might this passage help my congregation endure through suffering?”, “How can God’s Spirit actually enable me to obey this command?,” and so forth… What I’m arguing for here is that if a pastor wants to do responsible expositional preaching to ordinary people, he needs to rely on both types of commentaries.

I think Raymond is generally right on, and I’ve enjoyed reading his series. But I would like to nuance this; not by bifurcating the academic from the practical, but rather pointing out that excellent application derives from solid, technical exegesis. So instead of saying: “Is this an aorist?” and “How does this apply to families?” as two separate questions, let us instead ask one question: “What does the fact that this verb is an aorist say to the families in our congregation?” To quote somebody else, the Bible is already practical. Its the prepositions, grammatical constructions, and first-century context that helps us to understand how it is practical.

I think Raymond is basically saying this. He later notes, “Since all pastoral application is dependent on right exegesis, the faithful preacher will need to use academic commentaries to ensure proper interpretation.” This is probably only a difference of emphasis. But the emphasis I’m trying to make says that the exegesis itself is what is practical.

How to Listen to Bad Sermons

Dear Zion,
We have spent some time thinking about the importance of sermons in the regular, spiritual diet of God’s people, including how to hear a sermon, and also how to live from a sermon. But this all assumes that we are hearing good sermons to begin with. What should we do when we listen to a bad sermon?

Scripture tells us that there are some sermons so bad, we should not listen to them. When Paul soberly warned and admonished Timothy “to preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2), the emphasis must be retained: a sermon is only a useful sermon if the content is the Word of God. Paul himself resolved to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where the content of many (most?) sermons do not rely on God’s Word and His power, but instead rely on the preacher’s experiences, storytelling, practical suggestions, and eloquence. The preacher may even begin with a Bible passage, but the content of the sermon that follows is not coming from sacred Scripture. If sermons today were edited down to only “Christ and Him crucified,” how much would be left?

Similarly, Paul warned Timothy that there would be a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but they will gather around them a great number of [preachers] to say what their itching ears want to hear, to suit their own desires” (II Timothy 4:3). Continue reading

The Problem with Most Bible Studies

You know that feeling you get when someone perfectly describes something you have witnessed or seen dozens of times, but never been able to articulate yourself? I had that feeling as I listened to Christian Smith describe the average, American Evangelical Bible study. The following quote is taken from an interview at The White Horse Inn:

Basically, what gets reported [by anthropologists studying evangelical Bible studies], and what I think I agree with, is:
The text is read, umm… what the text actually says is not all that much paid attention to. People, rather, sort of search around in their heads and their memories and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude, “Oh yeah, well that makes me feel like this…” or, “What I think is that…” or, “In my opinion what it means is this…” And usually, the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe.

Nailed it.