Over the past few years, I have begun to gather reflections on various topics in the form of theses, brief statements that could serve as the foundation for much further discussion. The genre has a long history in Christendom, from the proverbs of Solomon to the “chapters” of the monastics to the “texts” of the Philokalia to the 95 theses of Martin Luther. I find the genre more suitable than an essay for providing a quick look at a subject from a number of different angles.
Fellowship Community Chapel Position Papers
In the course of pastoring a small church plant for almost six years, I had occasion to write a series of position papers for the people of my congregation. This blog was originally created as a repository for those papers. Some of them (especially the first) were written because I didn’t want to keep repeating myself every time a new person heard me teach. (I was working with a specific population where use of Greek and Hebrew in the sermon was very highly regarded). Others, particularly the last two, were written because we were working out how to “do church” together, and those issues are tough. My people needed the chance to pray, think, hear again, reflect, and sometimes, just sit with some of these concepts for a while before discussing them. Face to face conversation, or even a sermon, doesn’t really allow for that, so written communication seemed a venue better suited to their needs at the time.
*Fair Warning: These papers are highly occasional. In other words, there is a rough logic to the order of these papers and the confluence of issues that arises in each one, but it is the logic of the needs of a particular church body in a particular situation at a particular time. Which is to say that my writing models are Peter, Paul, James and John more than Hodge, Warfield, Chafer and Erickson. Needless to say, I don’t think this is much of a drawback, but it does call for some care in reading outside the original context.
My most-requested paper is Buy a Sword: Toward a Theology of Civilian Self-Defense. In it, I bypass the debate with pacifism and get right down to a serious consideration of self-defense from a Christian perspective. This paper caught me mid-paradigm-shift when it comes to theological method. Although I still agree with the conclusions in the paper, I wouldn’t handle the development the same way at all. I hope to give the subject a thorough reworking in a book-length treatment one of these days. Update: Audio of the original presentation is now available here.
In 2005, I was asked to begin work on a very brief Ephesians commentary (as a chapter in a one-volume New Testament commentary). Work on that project has stalled for various reasons, but you can read the first draft of the Introduction here.
It’s not technically writing (except for the handouts), but of late I’ve also had the privilege of teaching a series on hermeneutics and Bible study methods at another local church. If you’re used to hermeneutics books written by people other than God, you’ll find my approach a little unusual, but also, I think, quite profitable.
Old Journal Articles
Orthodoxy, Character, Wisdom and Witness: An Open Letter to the Free Grace Community is a plea to all sides in the current food fight over gospel content to adhere to biblical standards not only in the content of our doctrine, but in the manner of our conduct. Nothing is quite as ugly as an ungracious man preaching a gracious message.
Many people believe that they can’t really understand the Bible because they’re not scholars, don’t know the original languages, etc. Others believe that carnal believers, unbelievers, or [insert other disenfranchised class here] can’t understand the Bible. Who Can Understand the Bible? takes on these common fallacies and explores what the Bible itself has to say about who can understand it — and who can’t.
Beyond the Pulpit: Two Ways Ordinary Believers Minister to the Church articulates important elements of church life that are absolutely beyond the reach of paid staff. In some of the most important parts of the church’s ministry, if the work will be done at all, the rank and file believers must do it.
In late 2007 the Free Grace Alliance, of which I am not a member, graciously invited me to sit on a couple of panels at their annual conference. In that setting, I was representing minority views on a couple of very volatile issues, and I thank the FGA for the gracious treatment I got. At their request, I provided this brief for the moderator of one of the panels. The panel format itself consisted of opening statements from each panelist, followed by questions taken from the floor. I don’t have transcriptions of the question portion, but here are my opening statements for the panels on assurance and the relationship of the cross to the gospel. Taken together, these three documents and my open letter give my basic orientation on the theological food fights presently dividing the free grace community.