On harmonization. Or not.
Lots of people have tried to write harmonies of the gospels (all the gospels in one account) with varying degrees of success. Not least Calvin. They can be useful, for example, when trying to piece together the final hours of Christ and, even, answer accusations of inconsistency. But they are plagued with difficulty, not least because the gospels are not linear biographies of the life of Jesus.
However, they are also deadly for preachers. Let me explain. I've heard lots of sermons (LOTS!) which go something like this: "Now, even though it's not here in [Mark's] account, [Luke] throws in some extra details which are worth considering." (Substitute any gospel name). At the risk of sounding like the Preaching Taliban, I want to say NO! The gospels are Spirit inspired Scripture and if you are going elsewhere to add in some detail to the account you're preaching, I would suggest you've rather missed the point. Of course, there are credations of this. Bringing in some colour from a parallel account is not so grievous a sin! But when another gospel account is needed in order to interpret another, then I think you're saying something about Scripture which I don't think you believe, and you will be in great danger of missing the point of why the account was written in the first place.
Harmonization is interesting. But surelly not in preaching?
Same sex attraction: further resources for pastors part 2
…and following on from yesterday's post, here is a very helpful interview with Rosaria Butterfield. It's particularly useful for pastors wanting to think through how their church can be welcoming to people from the gay and lesbian community, and do evangelism to them. It's also really encouraging on the power and sufficiency of God's word.
Same sex attraction: further resources for pastors
Our afternoon seminar option on same sex attraction was carefully planned and very well received. We'll have the audio up soon. Meanwhile here is some follow up material from Ed :
Want a good short introduction to the whole issue?
Then hot off the press there is Sam Allberry’s excellent Is God Anti-Gay? from the Good Book Company.
Want to understand what it feels like to be a Christian man who experiences same-sex attraction?
Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality beautifully and honestly provides one man’s account. I have yet to find another book that so effectively and encouragingly encapsulates the experience of same-sex attraction.
Want to understand what if feels like to be a Christian woman who experiences same-sex-attraction?
Alex Tylee’s Walking with Gay Friends: A journey of informed compassion shares her story and provides much practical help for those seeking to encourage people like her.
Want to thoroughly investigate the Bible passages?
The place to go is Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. It will cost you but it will be worth it for its exhaustive coverage of the relevant passages.
Want some input from a heavyweight Christian ethicist?
Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. I can’t recommend the chapter on homosexuality more highly.
Want something to help a teenager begin to think through these issues?
Scott Petty’s Sex (in the Good Company’s Little black Books series) would be the first place to go.
Want to think about the whole issue of sexual identity from a refreshing perspective?
Then Jenell Williams Paris’ The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are will not fail to get you thinking in really helpful ways.
Want to clarify your church/ organisation’s position on the whole issue of homosexuality?
The Evangelical Alliance have given you a head start in their Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality (Edited by Andrew Goddard and Don Horrocks).
Want to begin to get your head around the secular Gay community and where they’re coming from?
Andrew Sullivan’s Love Undetectable: reflections on friendship, sex and survival will help you feel the power of their thinking and feelings.
It’s the big idea, stupid
Back from the busyness of the EMA to real work – sermon preparation. This Sunday I'm preaching on Romans 11 (gulp!). I've been wrestling with it for a few weeks, not wanting to come to it for the first time this Monday morning before it is due. There's obviously lots going on in Romans 11 and, here's the thing, there are loads of places where I could easily be distracted. What is more, I can't possibly dot every i and cross every t. We've preached through Romans before, so this time around, we're going at a fairly robust pace to see some of the big things Paul is teaching.
So, how do I take a dense, argued (often controversial) passage like Romans 11 and make it into a Christian sermon? Well, part of the answer is, at least, that I do what we tell our students. You sit down and look at the passage and work out what it is really about. What's the big idea? What's the theme? Far from being a narrow minded intellectual exercise, this is a liberating part of my preparation. For if I can work out what the passage is about as originally written, I'm well on my way to preaching it faithfully.
It's fascinating. Many experienced preachers ditch this stage because they feel it's for students and beginners. I think that sometimes shows in rambling, confused sermons. But twice in Romans I've found it an invaluable discipline. Once, when I preached Romans 7 and now in Romans 11. Paul's big point is, of course, that God has not rejected his people (Rom 11.1) and keeping that in mind keeps the sermon on track.
Horrah for the big idea.
Charlie Fadipe on this year’s EMA
Charlie is an FIEC pastor in Wiltshire. This is an encouraging report
Philip Jensen at EMA 86
Still buzzing from last week's great EMA. I've been going over my notes from Vaughan's expositions of 1 Peter. Apart from the fact that I drew parallels between Vaughan's management style and that of Mohammad al Fayed (positively, it must be said), there are a few things worth linking. We'll have the audio and video up soon, but in the meantime:
- here is the combined audio from 1986. We'll strip out Jensen's talks soon, but for the moment it's a large file with all the audio of which Jensen's three talks are a significant part. The comibined file will also give you Dick and Packer. Good stuff from the early days!
- Vaughan referred to a paper by John Frame called Machen's warrior children. And here it is.
- Our own Teaching 1 Peter volume by Angus MacLeay is very useful for preachers and teachers
- Vaughan also referenced Karen Jobes 1 Peter commentary as being the best technical commentary he had used.
Update – Jensen's talks now available separately here.
Facts and figures
Some more detailed analysis of EMA to follow but – to be perfectly honest – this week's posts have been written prior to the EMA as we anticipated having NO time this week to keep the blog up to date. Here are our facts and figures for the EMA for 2013, correct as of Thursday of last week.
We have 1,225 delegates from 5 continents, 24 countries and – within the UK – 645 churches.
- Here is cause for encouragement. There are at least 645 (and, of course, many, many more) churches in the UK for whom faithful Bible expository ministry lies at the heart of what they do. In this sense, the EMA crowd is self-selecting. That's a lot of churches and is one of the most thrilling statistics we have.
- Here is cause for prayer. What are 645 churches amongst a population of over 60 million (1 for every almost 100,000 people). Of course there are more churches preaching God's word faithfully than are here at the EMA, many more. Even so, this hardly represents a picture of a church mobilised to reach the country for Christ.
Join me then, in thanking God and praying. If you're interested, here is the Google map of where delegates are coming from in the UK. It hardly warrants close analysis because (a) the EMA crowd are not representative of every Bible believing church and (b) our database is not always up to date. However, especially in the SE, spot the holes!!
Interesting also that we have a number of refused visas from those who hoped to come but have not been allowed, despite attending the EMA in the past. Please do pray for a more measured response from UK Government on such permissions.
Thinking about the British Museum and DayOne's excellent book (as you do), I remembered this article by Walter Kaiser on top 15 biblical archaeological finds. Go to p22 of the online magazine. It's really good background for preachers and church members. Nothing quite beats seeing the objects themselves and four of Kaiser's top 15 are here in London.
Already anticipating 2014….
Please pray for the EMA today (Friday)
Please, can we ask you this week to pray for the EMA? You may well not be coming, but even so, we still covet your prayers. Each day this week we will post a particular topic to pray for. Today we're praying for Spirit of God to be at work.
We're not under any illusion. A gathering of such people is anathema to Satan and we should expect him to be 'prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour' (1 Peter 5.8). However, we also know that the King and Saviour Jesus has tied up the 'strong man.' We would like to invite you to pray for the Spirit's refreshing, transforming, conforming work in the heart of every delegate, speaker and worker. We would also like to invite you to pray against the 'rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.' May we all put on the full armour of God to take our stand 'against the devil's schemes.'
Please pray this with us this weekend.
Thank you for praying.