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Babylon, Slavery, and the Dark Side of Joy

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Last year, the Yale Center for Faith and Culture sponsored an essay competition on the topic, “Joy and the Good Life.” My entry, “Babylon, Slavery, and the Dark Side of Joy,” received the runner-up prize. Here is a brief synopsis:

In Revelation 18-19, we see the saints in heaven rejoicing over the destruction of the city of Babylon:

"Rejoice over [Babylon], O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!" … After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great harlot [i.e. Babylon] who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants." Once more they cried, "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is s…

Should we be progressive?

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Today at work I caught snippets of a discussion on NPR about a pair of sisters who ran a newspaper advice column. The reporters noted that when the sisters began writing, they were quite conservative. Over the years, however, they became increasingly “progressive” in their views about various social issues such as interracial dating, birth control, extramarital sex, and homosexuality.

As one example, the reporters cited the reply given to a father who was concerned that his daughter was engaged to marry a black man. I don’t remember the reply verbatim, but it ran something like this: “Regardless of how you personally feel about interracial marriage, this is the direction that society is going, so you should just accept it.”

As I reflected on those words, it occurred to me that this is actually a terrible piece of advice. Now don’t get me wrong. The conclusion the sisters reached is certainly correct. Of course this father should accept his daughter’s fiancĂ©. But the reasoning used to…

Reflections on a 20-Week Ultrasound

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In January I viewed my son through a 20-week ultrasound. Two days later, the Senate killed a 20-week abortion ban. Here are a few reflections:

1. Empty Slogans

"My body, my choice!" That slogan never sounded so lame. The beautiful, delicate foot which I saw on the ultrasound screen was most obviously not a piece of my wife's body. I was looking at the body of my son. It is the body of the child, not the body of the mother, which is dismembered in the abortion procedure. The use of such feeble slogans by the pro-choice movement is a mark of intellectual dishonesty. It represents a refusal to engage seriously with the very real ethical issues at stake in the abortion debate.

2. Deceptive Numbers

Only about 1.5% of abortions in America are performed at 20 weeks or later. Sounds rather insignificant, right? What pro-choice advocates often fail to mention, however, is that there are over one million abortions per year in America. One and a half percent of one million is fiftee…

Why I will not watch "The Passion of the Christ"

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I have argued before on this blog that Christians should not entertain themselves with the sort of graphic violence contained in shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead (see my previous post, Rethinking Legalism and Entertainment). But what about Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ? This is certainly a different matter. Christians who watch The Passion are presumably not watching the film to be entertained. Rather, Christians watch this film to remember and to grieve. For this reason, I would never claim that it is a sin to watch The Passion.

Nevertheless, I have chosen not to watch this film, and I would encourage others to abstain. Here is my rationale:

The Power of Evil 

The famed film critic Roger Ebert described The Passion as "the most violent film I have ever seen" and accused the MPAA of lacking "the nerve to give [this film] the NC-17 rating it clearly deserves."

Now someone who witnesses an act of extreme violence against another human b…

Should women serve as ordained ministers?

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I received my MA at Talbot School of Theology, and I am currently working on my PhD at Asbury Theological Seminary. Both are vibrant, evangelical communities. At Talbot, however, most people object to the ordination of women, while at Asbury, most people support the ordination of women.

My experience in both communities has taught me that there are two pitfalls to avoid in this discussion. On the one hand, it is a mistake to think that those who support the ordination of women do so because they reject the authority of Scripture. On the other hand, it is a mistake to think that those who object to the ordination of women do so because they are bigots.

The simple fact of the matter is that, in contrast to issues such as same-sex marriage, the Scripture is rather unclear on the subject of the ordination of women. Thus Christians who desire nothing more than obedience to Scripture may hold different views.

For what it’s worth, here is my take on the matter.

The NT on Women in Ministry

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Peter Williams | On Slavery in the Bible

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Peter Williams is Principal of Tyndale House, an academic library and study center in Cambridge. Williams also lectures in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge and is an expert in ancient Semitic languages. 



[Note: In this lecture, Dr. Williams claims that a certain piece of Roman legislation (the Lex Fufia Caninia)made it illegal for masters to release all of their slaves. This is actually not true. The legislation only prevented masters from releasing all of their slaves posthumously by will. For more on the topic of slavery in the Bible, see my publicationshere.]

A Journal for the Study of New Testament Greek

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This daily journal is a simple tool I created to help students and pastors retain the Greek they learned in seminary. The journal consists of 12 cycles of 16 lessons. Each lesson contains (1) a space to log your daily reading; (2) a space to record unfamiliar vocabulary words from your reading; and (3) a grammar lesson which can be completed in under 5 minutes. An answer key is included for every lesson. These 16 lessons review all major aspects of Greek grammar (see Table of Contents below).

The journal is designed to be completed in one year (one cycle per month). It is available for only $7 on Amazon. Click here to order.



Sample Page (Lessons 1 & 2)

Table of Contents

An Error in the Case for Christ

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Last night I watched The Case for Christ, a film adaption of the bestselling book. Based on a true story, the film depicts the spiritual and intellectual journey of Lee Strobel, a journalist who struggles to disprove Christianity in the wake of his wife's unexpected conversion. The film is very well done, and it offers some substantive information about the critical investigation of the resurrection of Jesus.

However, I would stress here that the film barely scratches the surface of the case for Christ. For a much more robust treatment of the historical evidence for the Christian faith, I would encourage you to peruse the library of video lectures I have assembled here.

Moreover, I did find one significant error in the film which deserves mention. In an interview with an archaeologist turned priest, the following dialogue occurs:

Strobel: I understand that a number of people claim to have seen Jesus after his crucifixion, and some of them even wrote it down. But ... how can we be …

Jesus the slave master

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I recently came across a wonderful tale in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. We are told that after Easter, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem to devise a strategy for spreading the gospel throughout the entire world. They decide to divide up the world by lot, and the region of India falls to Thomas (who is identified in the text as Judas Thomas). Thomas, however, refuses to go. Jesus even appears to Thomas and commands him to go to India, but Thomas still refuses. In response, Jesus finds a slave trader from India.

Now the Lord seeing [the slave trader] walking in the market-place at noon said unto him: "Wouldest thou buy a carpenter?"
And he said to him: "Yea."
And the Lord said to him: "I have a slave that is a carpenter and I desire to sell him." And so saying he showed him Thomas afar off, and agreed with him for three litrae of silver unstamped, and wrote a deed of sale, saying: "I, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, acknowledge that I have sol…

How I Studied for the Comprehensive Exams

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I recently completed my comprehensive exams in the Biblical Studies Ph.D. program at Asbury. Several students who took the exams before I did gave me helpful tips for preparation, and several students who are taking the exams after me have asked for my input. Here is a summary of my experience with the exams.

1) Coursework Phase 

Context and Method Exams:

During this time I began reading through the books on the core reading list. I typically did not take notes, because I felt this would slow me down too much. In a few instances I did write brief summaries of the books. If I had it to do over again, I would have started with the list of key topics (see below) and used this as an outline for taking notes.

Language Exam: 

I simply read Greek and occasionally Hebrew for my devotional reading.

2) Meeting with Exam Committee 

I made sure to obtain written confirmation that everyone agreed on the basic format of the exam. These were the parameters we set:

Language (Dr. Bauer):
Translate 1 passa…