Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jesus Has No Father... I Have No Heavenly Father?

Some who work to evangelize Muslims suggest dropping the language of "Father" and "Son" to refer the _________ and the _________ of the godhead. The need for blanks to write the second clause of that sentence might suffice as a tidy illustration of the problems that arise in doing that: (1) It makes it clear that we really have no other clear way of talking about their distinct existence and eternal relationship. (2) It hints that loosing these two expressions means losing the Trinity. (3) It means we lose "our Father" who is the giver of every good gift. (4) It means we lose our elder brother, to whom we are joined as co-heirs of all God offers.

It makes it clear that we really have no other clear way of talking about their distinct existence and eternal relationship. The people proposing that we avoid this language suggest that we must use another expression, so we avoid the stumbling stone of Muslims getting the offensive notion that God the Father sired the Son by sexual relations with a goddess or woman. This is indeed an offensive and deeply pagan notion. But it's not Christian doctrine. And what other language does God's self-revelation allow us but Father and Son for this?

Would we move to the sub-Christian position of Adoptionism? Would we suggest that Yahweh God adopted either a human or a secondary "god" as his "son" and then conferred upon him some measure of divinity? Dropping the Father-Son language seems like the fast track to Christological heresy of one form or another.

Would we forsake familial language entirely?If so, we would at that point begin speaking of something other than what the Scriptures speaks of. That's not even acceptable as exposition--let alone translation. What other relational terms do we have that would convey this eternal relation in the godhead? At best, any substitute suggested might convey a limited aspect of what the relation is. Drop "Father" for "The Almighty"--and then distinguish that title what? Jesus Christ the Lord is The Everlasting Almighty God. Drop "Son" for some expression of messianic royalty? But any legitimate member of the Davidic dynasty carried a messianic title, and that title came by being called "my son" by Yahweh (Ps 2:7; 2Sam 7:14; Ps 89:26-27). Throughout the Old Testament, that title came by divine adoption at their coronation; in Christ, that title came by ontology, he is eternally "the Son."

It hints that loosing these two expressions means losing the Trinity. Really, I fear that losing these two expressions means abandoning orthodox trinitarian theology. Nowhere in the Scriptures does any writer explicitly spell out the trinitarian distinctions and mutual divinity of the three members of the Godhead. We arrive at "the Trinity" from clear and necessary implications deriving from how the members of the Godhead refer to each other. Jesus says, "my Father" (Matt 10:32-33; Matt 11:27); the Father says, "This is my Son" (Matt 3:17). Abandoning familial language means losing the Trinity--and the Church rightly calls that heresy.

It means we lose "our Father" who is the giver of every good gift. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught the "Our Father" (Matt 6:9). When Jesus taught on prayer, he told his disciples to trust God to give good gifts--like a father does (Matt 11:9-13). In spite of all the titles that a Muslim learns for God, one beloved relational title is missing, "our Father." and oh what a loss that is! Oh what a comfort an assurance that provides believers. Oh what robbery to deny, forgo, or hold off telling the lost that their Father awaits them with open arms.

It means we lose our elder brother, to whom we are joined as co-heirs of all God offers. We gain nothing from God, except in Christ; we're heirs of heaven and earth in Christ. Jesus, the eternal Son, is the inheriting Son (Heb 1:2). Indeed, we become fellow heirs with Jesus the Christ (Rom 8:17). "For every one of Godʼs promises are 'Yes' in him; therefore also through him the 'Amen' is spoken, to the glory we give to God" (2 Cor 1:20).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, June 22, 2012

Biblical Studies Resources

I've recently joined the Tyndale House project called STEP - Scripture Tools for Every Person - in Cambridge, U.K. I am now the project's Director of Distance Research.  

I'll continue my travels to lecture all over Eurasia for our Bible schools and seminaries, and I'll continue writing courses for Global University's graduate program. But the Assemblies of God World Missions has seconded me to that project, so I can devote considerable time to it. I'll be recruiting and supervising volunteer researchers, writers, and editors. I'll also likely do a lot of final editing.

For a long time I've wished that my students and colleagues had access to the same quality of biblical studies tools that I generally take for granted. We aim to make that happen. We aim to produce the highest quality biblical studies tools and distribute them on the widest possible basis, totally without cost to the user. 

All of these tools will be accessible at three different levels: an entry level, an intermediate level, and an advanced level.
  • To see what we're up to Facebook users can just search there for "Tyndale STEP," or anyone can look here.
  • Check here if you would like to watch the actual program while it's in progress. It will be like peeking through the safety barrier at a construction site: It may look messy, parts will be missing, some parts won't work on the first try, and so forth. But you can play around with it and see where we're heading with some of it.
  • Why don't you volunteer to help us. We're recruiting volunteers with a variety of skill sets to work as volunteers, so we can produce this for free and distribute it without cost. We would especially solicit help producing the Interlinears module, which is a priority right now. You can see what's involved with that and all the other modules on a slide show here. Of course, some of the work requires pretty high-level biblical studies or programming skills, but people with a good knowledge of the English Bible and a desire to help out can make a big contribution as well.
If you would like some really high-quality moderated collections of web resources for biblical and theological studies, I would point you three sources:
  • Tyndale House has Biblical Weblinks, which you can actually include on your own personal or college web site if you like.
  • And Rob Bradshaw has a wonderful classified collection at Theology on the Web, which STEP will incorporate.
  • And if you want a plethora (an excessive amount or number, an abundance) of biblical studies resources available right on your browser's toolbar, get the Tyndale Toolbar. On this, you can do a wide range of things like these: (1) Search for books and articles, (2) find a host of online Bibles in various languages, (3) check an interlinear Bible, (4) translate short phrases from German, Latin, French, and so forth, (5) get free fonts for the biblical languages, (6) find a lexicon for Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, Latin, and so forth--and much more.

I've also been recommending some free desktop Bible software.
  • For a long time I've recommended and distributed e-Sword to my students and colleagues who cannot afford to buy expensive commercial Bible software. 
  • Recently I've discovered TheWORD, which I may start recommending and distributing. I'll have to check it out some more and see if I like it better than e-Sword.
Of course, if you can actually afford to buy pricey biblical studies software, I can only give you some choices and characterize them briefly:
  • I use BibleWorks, which is the ultimate in Windows based high-end academic Bible software. People do sometimes run it on Apple computers, using Parallels or some other approach to running Windows software.
  • Mac, iPad, and iPhone users will more likely prefer AcCordance, the equally high-end academic Bible software. And if you own the desktop AcCordance software, you can use it and any of its modules on your iPhone and/or iPad without any extra cost.
  • Another choice, which runs on nearly all platforms is Logos software. This is not the most powerful original languages study environment, pride of place goes to BibleWorks and AcCordance for that; however, if you want to build a thoroughly integrated biblical studies electronic library, this may be the way to go.
  • For use on the iPhone and iPad, I really like two free apps, one called BibleReader from Olive Tree software and the other called Blue Letter Bible. I think both BibleReader and Blue Letter Bible are available for Android devices as well.
One final note about academic word processing, or just getting a good word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager and so forth if you can't afford to buy Microsoft Office.
  • For just raw power as an academic word processing environment, I use Note Bene, which does it all from automated footnotes to finding resources on the web to handling all the biblical languages beautifully. Doubt if I would actually recommend it to most people who read my blog, but if you're into academic writing, maybe you want to check it out.
  • If you can't afford Microsoft Office and need an office package that doesn't cost anything, I've recommended OpenOffice for a long time, but now I definitely would recommend LibreOffice, it's great!
  • And whether you use MS Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, you people writing academic stuff need to quit fighting with the footnotes and bibliography content and style. Let the free software from Zotero do it for you. It is really amazing software, and you'll be stunned at what a labor saver it will be if you write a lot of stuff with footnotes or embedded citations and bibliographies. Take a tour of Zotero here.