by Dan Phillips It started Monday morning when I checked in through Facebook, and received a witty reply:

cbc checkin

That put an idea in my mind, and the rest, as they say… well, you know what they say. For you who don't do Twitter or were doing something else (like ministry), here are highlights — and, like SHST, I'll be adding updates probably until about noon Texas time:

Actually, this does it better:

(To be clear: 

this Michael Brown

, not the Ferguson Michael Brown)

…and finally…
UPDATES

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by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Dan back in February 2011. Dan addressed the popular but false ideas behind the slogan “Love, not doctrine.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

Breaking news: Jesus talked about love!

Well honestly, the way I see it mentioned hither and yon, you'd think there was a segment of the church which denied that statement. If so, I've yet to meet it. Certainly there are parts which aren't very good at it, but denial? Denigration? I don't think I've ever heard anyone deny or denigrate genuine, Biblical love — not the way folks have repeatedly denigrated doctrine.

Love is the mark of a disciple (John 13:34-35). In this passage, our Lord does not say that doctrine is the mark of a disciple, or that correctness is the mark of a disciple, or even that truth is the mark of a disciple. So love, some would say, clearly supplants concerns about correct doctrine.

Not so fast. Why stop there? Jesus also does not say that monotheism is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that abstaining from murderrape, or theft is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that wearing clothes or eating are marks of a disciple. He does not even say that believing in Him, in any sense, is the mark of a disciple.

So what have we established? Only that Jesus didn't say what He didn't say in this passage. Which, hopefully, all are agreed upon. We had better hope He said other things, somewhere. Because if all we had were this passage, we would not even know what this passage meant! I mean, what is love? Warm feelings? Cheesy sentimentalism? Coddling? Indulging? Unconditional approval and enabling? Indifference towards damaging (or even damning) error? Treacly benevolence?

So rather than camping on this passage as if it were the only thing Jesus ever said, without any context, what if we — oh, I don't know — considered everything Jesus said? Shall we?

So we ask: is this the only thing Jesus ever said about love, or about what should distinguish His followers? Hardly. Let's start with the latter:  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” Jesus asks (Luke 6:46). So right away, we know that Jesus expects obedience to His words to characterize His real followers.  Nor do we see a hierarchy, as if one may obey some but disregard others. Jesus seems to think that He is our Lord, or He is not; and if He is, what He says should produce obedience in us.

Whatever He means by “love” in John 13, then, it must be characterized and framed by obedience to His words — which, as we just saw, leads us to the rest of the New Testament, and back to the whole of the Old Testament as well.

In fact, Jesus Himself ties those ideas together, repeatedly (John 14:15, 21, 23-24, 15:10). So would He ever have tolerated a notion of love divorced from a specific, set doctrinal framework? Fantasy-Jesus, yes. Fantasy-Jesus thinks all sorts of things, largely things that will keep the world's good graces. The actual Jesus, however, the one who really lived and lives — He would never have conceived of such a view.

Love for God comes first (Matthew 22:37-40). Then, and only then, is it followed by love of neighbor. And what, pray, is love for God? The concept is explained and given full color in the Old Testament, whence Jesus mined this gold. Let's just lift a snippet:

“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

Do you see it yet again? Love for God walks hand in hand with wholehearted acceptance of the full authority of all of God's words. But what is more, plugging in Deuteronomy, it means doctrinal loyalty, it means clinging wholly to the true God — which is to say as well, to the doctrinal truth about God — in the face of all opposing doctrines. It is loyal devotion to God, as His doctrine is revealed in Scripture alone.


by Dan Phillips

Last week I launched a few Tweets on a theme I've hit in the past and mean to develop more in the near future. You may have heard of it: the sufficiency of Scripture.

The specific point I was making was that, if we really believed it, we'd start there, rather than making stuff up and then testing it by Scripture. Here was one of my tweets:

Someone who doesn't follow my account (and thus understandably may not “get” where the shorthand of my tweet was coming from) responded, “So then why do we hear sermons in church instead of just Scripture readings?”

I take it that the idea is, if Scripture is enough, why say anything else? Why not just stand up and read it, and be good with that?

The question itself makes my brain itch. But the calmer DJP says “Teaching opportunity!” so, here we go.

The truth of the sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains everything for which we need a word from God. That's what it does mean. It doesn't mean that, whenever we have a need, we whip out a Bible and read a passage at random without a moment's thought (before or after), and call it good.

The life of faith and obedience that the Bible (the Bible, the words in the Bible, the contents of what Scripture teaches) calls us to means that we read it, study it, understand it, think about it, and apply it.

So here's this “church”-thingie. What's it for? What am I supposed to look for in it? Who leads it? If I'm one of those leader-people, what am I supposed to do?

From what Scripture teaches me, I should start with the assumption that I don't have one clue, no idea whatever — unless I get that idea from Scripture itself. (If you're not clear on why that is, I can recommend something that goes to the literal heart of the matter in great Biblical detail.) So I consciously set aside my assumptions and biases and preferences, and go to the Bible, God's Word, believing that it contains everything for which I need a word from God.

So, let's fast-forward through decades of study and all, and get to the bottom-line: if Scripture is sufficient, then why do we preach sermons, in church?

Because that sufficient Scripture tells us to. See, for instance, 1 Timothy 3:2; 4:13; 5:17; and 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 1:9.

See? That's how it works. It won't teach anyone who is unteachable — nothing does that. But it does give us everything for which we need a word from God.

Like to hear that opened up even further, live and in person? I know this conference that's coming up. We'd love it if you came!

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by Dan Phillips

If I were to ask what leprechauns, mermaids, and loving homosexual couples have in common, I'm pretty sure this readership would have the answer. I'd like to help you explain why you answer as you do.

What they have in common with each other is, of course, that they are all mythical creatures, living only in fantasy and imagination and every movie, TV show, and commercial in existence… or at least that's true in the latter case.

This is a truth that has obviously not reached everybody. In fact, apparently it hasn't even reached those who made the decision to become spotlight-Christians, performers whose entire career is predicated on their claim to be Christian — which is to say, lifelong and advancing students of the words of God (John 8:31-32). I have in mind here folks like Dan Haseltine, lead singer for the group Jars of Clay. Note this tweet of his:

This “loving gay couples” meme is heard so much today; it's hard not to think in response:

The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of “love.” If “love” means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states… well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the “discussion” is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought…well, felt… to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?

Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego. Then, everything changes.

To begin with the fear of God is to acknowledge, from the outset, the Lordship and ultimacy of God, and the dependence and fallenness of man. It is to acknowledge that our hearts cannot be trusted (Prov. 28:26 {NAS]; Jer. 17:9). It is to acknowledge that real life is only found in knowing God through His word (Prov. 3:18; 4:13; John 6:63, 68). It is to see that rebellion and unbelief are the sure way of death and misery (Gen. 2:17; Pro. 8:36; Rom. 6:23).

As we learn from God how He wants us to treat others, we learn that He wants us to love them, even if they are our enemies (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44). We learn that love is not primarily about feeling. Love is about doing what is for the greatest good of the other, even if that costs us (cf. Exod. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21). We see the grandest display of love in the Father's gift of His son for our salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

So, you see, there never was such a thing as a “loving homosexual couple.” Nor was there ever yet a “loving adulterous couple,” or a “loving fornicating couple.” Accomplices? Yes. Co-conspirators, co-perpetrators? Sure. But loving? Never.

Love is a commitment to the good of the other — and rebellion against God is never for the good of the other. Sin against God is never for the good of the other. Turning away from life and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, and embracing guilt and wrath and doom and despair, wrapped in a straitjacket of rationalizations and distractions — these things are never about the good of the other.

Real love will point someone away from sin and death, and to Christ, the Gospel, life and forgiveness. If that
Christward call to repentant faith is absent, so is love.

This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom, in our murky, fogbound culture.

That is, if fitting in with the culture isn't our highest ambition. Which it never will be, once our own world has been tilted by the Gospel.

Postscript: this and related matters are opened more fully in “Adultery De-Glamorized,” a sermon on Proverbs 6:24-35.

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by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Dan back in January 2013. Dan explains why if you're going to remove verses from the Bible, Gen 1:1 is the only one you need to bother with.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Folks at war with God have always snipped out the parts of the Bible that they didn't like. Rationalist critics in the 19th-21st centuries have turned Biblical authorship claims into pious lies at best, rationalized prophecies and miracles to remove, well, prophecy and miracles. Anything that offended their rival philosophy was discarded by one elaborate contrivance or another.

Some are less artful. A well-known actor tries to ameliorate his guilt over pursuing his slavery to unnatural desires by snipping out unwelcome passages from Gideon's Bibles in motel rooms. This is vandalism as therapy, evidently yet another pursuit of the idle rich.

It has occurred to me, however, that every one of these folks could save themselves a lot of trouble. Just one snip is all it would take.

Snip out Genesis 1:1.

Among the things the decades have brought to me is a deepening appreciation of the opening chapters of Genesis, and particularly of the first verse. As S. Lewis Johnson once remarked, if you believe Genesis 1:1, nothing in all the rest of the Bible is incredible. Reject it, and all goes with it.

In Genesis 1:1 we find a sovereign, self-existing, timeless, omniscient God creating the universe by fiat. Simply because He wants it to exist, because He wills it to exist, it comes to exist. There is none of the struggle and bloodshed of contemporary myths. Simply one God, creating all things the way He wants to create them, simply because He wants to for His own glorious reasons.

Much follows from this simple fact, this simple act. Because He pre-existed everything, God is independent of everything, and everything is dependent on Him. Because all that is exists as a reflection of His will, the universe is neither undefined nor self-defining. It is pre-defined. Scrooge isn't wrong when he says “An ant is what it is and a grasshopper is what it is” (though he is wrong about Christmas). He just didn't go far enough, and add that the ant and the grasshopper are what they are as created and defined by a sovereign God.

And so is man. So while the emergent and the PoMo alike gaze inward to the endless morass of their own subjectivity, and while the immoral pursue their cravings, and while the materialistic pretends to acknowledge nothing beyond “molecules in motion,” their pursuit is a charade. It reminds us of the riddle:

Question: if we call a tail a “leg,” how many legs does a dog have?

Answer: four. It doesn't matter what you call it, a tail is a tail.

And so with ourselves. We can self-realize and self-actualize and self-affirm and self-love all we like, but we are creatures of a sovereign God. Our choices are only two: believe Him and think accordingly; or to come up with a diverting ruse.

But the ruse will always be a lie, and its pursuit will always be a doomed and damned enterprise.

As Genesis 1:1 reminds us. It reminds us by what it says about the beginning; but it also does that by its very use of the word, “beginning.” Because just as the word “black” makes one think of “white,” and “up” brings to mind “down,” what does the word “beginning” suggest?

End.”

And as Genesis ends, so ends the Bible, with a vision of all rebellion defeated, Christ made head over all (cf. Eph. 1:10 Gk.), and God and His people reconciled forever in a glorious new Eden (Rev. 21—22).

Genesis 1:1 is the first sign-post, pointing to that inevitable resolution.

Which is why it should really be the first to go.


by Dan Phillips

(Logos Bible Software, 2011)

Logos' Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series continues to grow. I reviewed the first volume by Gary Derickson first, then the commentary on James by Will Varner, then the commentary on the Song of Songs by A. Boyd Luter. Refer to the first (Derickson) review to understand the well-designed aim and focus of this series, which Logos provides me for possible reviews such as this.

Though Logos is selling Colossians (by H. Wayne House) and Philemon (by Ehorn) together, only Philemon is currently available. A longtime lover (and teacher, and preacher) of Colossians, I'll likely review that volume for you when it is released. The author of this commentary is Seth Ehorn, who is in the doctoral
program for New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, New College. Before this, Ehorn distinguished himself in his Master's studies at Wheaton College Graduate School, and has been creating entries for journals and upcoming publications.

As to this commentary, the thoroughness and currency of documentation once again immediately makes an impression. Six of the three hundred and sixty-eight footnotes speckle the first paragraph alone, referring to lit from the 1920s to the 2000s.

Approaching Philemon, Ehorn notes the letter's the lack of explicit development of usual Pauline themes (resurrection, etc), and the fact that theologies seldom refer extensively to Philemon. Yet,

[d]espite these apparent lacunae, Philemon is not just a fine literary and rhetorical achievement. Nor is it just an interesting cultural artifact. …Presumably, Paul himself imagined that this letter would instigate great change in his hearers and especially in the life of a slave named Onesimus. Further, the multiple addressees in the letter seem to invite a wider readership, perhaps not only for the accountability of Paul’s request in the letter, but also for the edification of all who were addressed. It is in this latter sense that Philemon is to be understood as Christian Scripture.

In keeping with the brevity of the epistle, I'll keep my review briefer than some previous. I appreciated Ehorn's detailed and up-to-date attention to every aspect of the Greek text from every angle. I also appreciated the breadth and thoroughness of his documentation, which itself opens the doors to a lot of great material.

However what often stood out to me was Ehorn's reluctance to commit himself. Now, obviously one would not want a scholar to pretend certainty unwarranted by the evidence. Yet one has to admit that one wondered why Ehorn was chosen to write this particular commentary, given that he did not appear to have many singular insights to bring to light or trumpet.

For instance, we read, the epistle might have been written from Rome. Or maybe it was Ephesus. The evidence is inconclusive — though Ehorn makes an extended case for an (undocumented!) Ephesian imprisonment. Ehorn then argued against too tightly joining Colossians and Philemon, as is commonly done; he thinks Philemon precedes Colossians. By how long? Unknown. Or maybe it should really be connected with Philippians, instead of Colossians? Don't know. Finally, he concludes, “In the light of Paul’s request for lodging, it is easier to think that Paul wrote to Philemon from Ephesus than from Rome, thus probably between A.D. 52 and 55.” Oh, so Ephesus it is…maybe.

So, what is the letter about? Exactly who was Philemon? What was Onesimus’ relationship with him? Why was Onesimus absent from him? How did Onesimus come to encounter Paul? In response, Ehorn quotes C. S. Lewis: “Almost anything can be read into any book if you are determined enough,” adding:

These words—penned by C. S. Lewis—are acutely true of the letter to Philemon. All these questions are left unanswered by the letter that is both short in length and short on details. Of course, such information would have been unnecessary to include in the letter seeing as the recipients would have had intimate knowledge of such issues already. Thus, as modern interpreters we are operating at a deficit. We are reading only half of the conversation. Nevertheless, such historical distance (not to mention social, political, etc.) should not drive readers to despair. Rather, it should warrant caution against over interpretation and humility regarding conclusions.

I'll attest that Ehorn certainly heeds his own advice. For instance, what is the narrative frame to the epistle, the background? The traditional (fugitivus) hypothesis sees Onesimus as a runaway slave, converted by Paul's ministry, returned by Paul. But, Ehorn counters, this would be a legal offense, and no remorse is expressed by or for Onesimus. Ehorn floats other possibilities, then concludes that it is impossible to be sure. For his part, he is “tentatively inclined to follow the recent trend of interpreters who read the letter to Philemon as concerning a slave who intentionally sought Paul for intercession with his master.” But who knows?

Ehorn then says that the subject of slavery, peripheral to the book itself, has come to overshadow the actual content of the book. So no great help on that issue, here.

Ehorn makes good theological observations. For instance, though  Philemon doesn't stress usual Pauline themes, Ehorn notes that God and Christ (not the Spirit) are mentioned numerous times directly, and 2 passages feature the “divine passive” in two passages:

In two instances Paul employed the divine passive to indicate God as agent (vv 15, 22).61 Taken thusly, Paul not only hinted at the providential outworking of God in the details of Onesimus’ separation and return (v 15), but indicated that it was God who could grant him freedom from his imprisoned status (v 22). If God’s hand were involved in the separation of Onesimus from Philemon, then Philemon’s response to his slave would have to be tempered by his own view of the reality of God’s presence and providence in his life. Much like the circumstances of Joseph with his conniving brothers (cf. Gen 45:5, 8; 50:20; cf. also Esth 4:14), Philemon was summoned to look upon his circumstances and see them as the outworking of God. Perhaps with the clarity of hindsight, Philemon saw that the return of a slave who was now “useful” (v 11) and “a beloved brother” (v 16) was an act of God, who works “all things for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28).

This is a good example of Ehorn's theological sensitivity, and the useful material he produces.

Back to the issue of slavery. Ehorn hasn't much to contribute on the issue:

The relationship of Paul to slavery will be discussed only briefly in this section because of the publication of a recent monograph surveying studies on Paul and slavery and another recent collection of specific studies on Philemon. There is hardly necessity for an in-depth rehearsal of the trends of research on Philemon in view of these works. Suffice it to say, the general impact of the letter vis-à-vis slavery is presently in flux.

So Ehorn footnotes two academic works which are not in general circulation to explain why he won't have much to offer on the subject. I rather think it is a major issue in how we approach this book. Will it really do to say “I won't write very much about this (—in a commentary on the letter to slave-owner Philemon!) because some books few people own have”?

This is not to say that Ehorn has nothing to say on the issue. He notes J. M. G. Barclay's verdict that Paul's silence is “disturbing,” adding this:

One cannot help but agree with Barclay’s empathetic statement that, “one can only weep on behalf of those millions of slaves whose lives might have been immeasurably better had Paul been just a little less ‘poetic’ ” (125). This, however, is not so much a problem with Paul per se, as it is with the history of interpretation.

Then, without comment, Ehorn notes that Moo “concluded that Paul did not realize the full implications of the theology he explicated.” What? That sounds disturbingly like Paul K. Jewett's (and others') view on the issue of Paul and women pastors — that Paul just hadn't worked out his own theology yet, so the apostle (!) wrote in error in some passages. Does Moo think that? Does Ehorn agree with Moo?

While Ehorn writes and documents further, he does not really come to a conclusion, other than the conclusion that we do not know enough to come to a conclusion.

In fact later, commenting on vv. 15-16, Ehorn says Paul's “request was opaque.”

This [opaqueness] is demonstrated by the variegated readings of v 16 among commentators. For example, one commentator boldly opined that “Paul is telling Philemon that he surely must manumit Onesimus now that he and Onesimus are brothers in Christ” (Witherington, 80; cf. Bruce, 217; Wolter, 270–72; Fitzmyer, 114–15). Conversely, other scholars find no legal implications regarding the issue of slavery (Lohse, 206; O’Brien, 305–06). Still others find the statement ambiguous, permitting either reading (Stuhlmacher, 43–45; Dunn, 335–36). Or, perhaps as Barclay argues, Paul may have been purposefully ambiguous because he did not know specifically what to recommend.

Ehorn's conclusion? None, apart from affirming that slave and master are now brothers — which is important, to be sure. But is it really all that is warranted?

This is all introductory. Ehorn's commentary, proper, is very detailed, sensitive to nuances of word-choice and case. For instance, on Paul not using “apostle” in the opening words, Ehorn makes a valuable observation:

It is of no small significance that the title ἀπόστολος is not found in letter opening, nor in the document at all, for its absence was likely part of the rhetorical strategy of the letter. That is, Paul had no intention of appealing to his authority as an apostle (cf. vv 8–9). The use of the self-appellation δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ [“prisoner of Christ Jesus”] sets the tone for the letter.

Ehorn's thoroughness is on display in his handling of verse 6 (ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰς Χριστόν), which he notes contains “the most exegetical difficulties of the letter.” Ehorn contributes more than 2000 words (not including footnotes) of exegesis. First, he opens with an array of divergent translations, noting that even the NIV84 and current NIV differ. Here is his own translation: “that the fellowship produced by your faithfulness might become effective in the knowledge of every good thing that is yours for the sake of Messiah.”

Later, Ehorn makes the valuable “applicational and devotional implication” that Onesimus' return teaches that

Onesimus too was to act in a selfless manner when he returned to his master as a “new man” (cf. Eph 4:24). By this it may be seen that conversion was not an escape from the responsibilities of his past. What was wrong still needed to be set right (cf. vv 18–19). Nevertheless, Onesimus’ new status in Christ would shake the foundations of his former relationship with Philemon, perhaps allowing for the forging of a new one as “a beloved brother” (v 16). By his example, Paul demonstrated that one effective way to guide fellow Christians is by gentle shepherding rather than coercive commanding (Calvin, 396).

Again, on the meaning of v. 21, Ehorn says maybe Paul wanted Philemon to release Onesimus to do gospel ministry with Paul. Or maybe Paul wanted Philemon to manumit him. Ehorn explains the former option, is a bit dismissive of the perspicuity of the latter, and (non-)concludes, “Either way, Paul left the options open, expecting Philemon to discern the right decision for himself…”

Ehorn's own translation is sometimes unusual. For instance, in verse 23, we read “my fellow-prisoner in reference to Messiah Jesus.” This seems an odd rendering of ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. How “in reference to”? What does that even mean? Isn't “in Christ” a major Pauline theme? Ehorn doesn't really explain the phrase, except insofar as he debates whether the term “fellow-prisoner” is literal or metaphorical (—  here he is again noncommittal).

I did very much appreciate Ehorn's comment on the names in vv. 23-24:

“Epaphras, who is my fellow-prisoner in reference to Messiah Jesus, greets you. Likewise, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke my fellow-workers greet you.” Just as Paul opened the letter by including not only Philemon (v 1), but also Apphia, Archippus, and a church that met in Philemon’s house (v 2), so also Paul concluded the letter by including an epistolary entourage of no less than five people (vv 23–24). This confirms that the issue between Philemon and Onesimus is not just a private affair. Not only does the matter appear in a broader sphere of discourse, but the pressure is on, seeing as Paul had effectively “carbon copied” several others into the conversation.

So it's like using the “CC” function in an email, both spreading the mail, and alerting the primary addressee that others are reading it. Excellent observation. When I teach this, I'm sure I'll use that.

The book ends with a single excursus: “Christ, The Messiah In Theology And Translation.” You know how many times you and I have pointed out that “Christ” isn't Jesus' last name? It's a title? Not so fast, says Ehorn in effect; sometimes it does function as a name in the NT, and not a title.

As to OT use, Ehorn notes that

With the exception of Dan 9:25–26, the use of “Messiah” always referred to a present person, not a future one. Thus, the OT itself does not provide the impetus for expectation of an eschatological figure who would be designated “the Messiah.”

This argument is almost too precise to be helpful, overlooking the body of material pointing to an eschatological priest, king, prophet — all of which share the term “anointed.”

Ehorn concludes:

Although the consensus of scholarly opinion is that Χριστός had lost its titular significance within Paul’s letters, we have seen strong textual and historical reasons to see Paul’s use of Χριστός as not less than, but certainly more than titular.

In other words, Ehorn wants to translate it (sometimes!) as a proper name, not as a title. So he adds,

While translating the word Χριστός differently in context may present something of a problem to English sensibilities, particularly those who are used to hearing the word “Christ” in certain constructions, this is part and parcel of the task of understanding what ancient texts mean.

Accordingly, Ehorn works at coming up with a rationale for sometimes translating Χριστός as “Christ,” and sometimes translating it as “Messiah,” as the HCSB maddeningly does. So δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ in vv. 1 and 9 is “prisoner of Messiah Jesus,” but ἀπὸ … κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in v. 3 is “from…the Lord Jesus Christ.” Also: εἰς Χριστόν  in v. 6 is “for the sake of Messiah,” and vv, 8 and 20 ἐν Χριστῷ are “in Messiah.”

As with all the EEC volumes, Ehorn concludes by providing a list of foreign and technical words (such as anaphoric, conative, dittography, enclitic, hendiadys, inclusio, etc.), and extended bibliographies.

In sum: Ehorn has provided a good survey of the issues in the text, with commentary on those issues worth considering. He offers a number of helpful observations on the text, and is sensitive to its theology. The book is a good education on the current state of Philemon studies. That Ehorn views so much of the evidence as inconclusive earns my respect for Ehorn's humility and candor as a scholar, but prevents me from seeing the commentary as significantly ground-breaking in its own right.

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by Dan Phillips

Repentance is a Topic right now. In itself, that's a good thing. Repentance should be a constant topic in the lives of Christians — not just a constant topic, but a constant reality.

At the moment, I don't want to make a direct comment on the current issue that's brought this to the fore, and readers really shouldn't infer such from what follows.

Instead, I'd like to remind Pyro readers (and inform others) of how our readers have had the opportunity to be prepared to analyze and process such events Biblically, analytically — and not simply emotionally, whether by bitter and accusatory emotions, or chummy and exculpatory emotions.

In October of 2010 an article titled Repentance: fake and real laid down some cautionary warnings about imitations that can pose as real repentance, while withholding the actual cure itself.

Two days later a followup article titled The fruits of repentance keyed off of that very phrase, which is itself Biblical, and discussed the most commonly missing element in purported repentance: the productive element of repentance, the transformative, mortifying, and thus liberating element in repentance.

Just over a year later I wrote what I refer to as one of my Most Regrettably-Ignored Posts, Ever. Blogging is weird; some posts concerning which I had no particular expectations (like this and this) became huge things; while others of which I had large aims and expectations were virtually ignored.

One of the chief posts in this latter category was T. D. Jakes (and the like) Part Two: thinking clearly about repentance. Unlike later celebrated articles, this was written before the Elephant Room 2 disaster. Had the ideas in the post been broadcast and made the issue, a lot of damage and harm could have been averted.

Ironically, that post involved Mark Driscoll; and as it turned out, involved Driscoll a great deal. Driscoll was the Big Dog who was looked to to give a clean bill of health to T. D. Jakes… which Driscoll pretty much did. So much so, that anyone who didn't hop on-board was a racist.

If the thinking about repentance in this article had been made an issue to Driscoll before the fact, so that these questions and issues could not have been ignored, things might have gone very differently.

But they weren't, and they didn't, respectively.

So here we are again: repentance is an issue, and clarity is a need.

And so once again, I do what I can.

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by Dan Phillips

I am reading through Robert Culver's systematic theology, with varying degrees of profit. Twitter followers have enjoyed quotations I've lifted out and shared, some by Culver, some of those Culver quotes.

This falls into the latter category. I don't know much about the writer (Nathan Hatch of Notre Dame University, then Wake Forest University), but these remarks are dead on-target, could have been written by David Wells or even Carl Trueman

The evangelical movement is amazingly dynamic: entrepreneurial, decentralized, and given to splitting, forming, and reforming.…

The tendency is for us to anoint as leaders those who build a mass following in the free religious market. The thorny problem is that these leaders are not necessarily wise churchmen. They are more likely to be those who assume prominent political roles or who build mass special-purpose ministries. To the extent that this is the case, we allow the market to set the terms of church leadership.

The long-term question for evangelicals is what kind of shepherds we will follow, whether we will follow leaders whose interest is the well-being of the church itself, men and women who are theologically savvy, historically informed, and committed to seeing the church prosper in all of its dimensions and for all of its people.

[Nathan O. Hatch, Wheaton College Alumni Magazine (Summer, 1999), pp. 10, 11; quoted in Culver, R. D. (2005). Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (p. 807). Ross-shire, UK]

Explains — or at least properly frames — a lot, doesn't it?

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by Dan Phillips

Good brothers Denny Burke and Todd Pruitt are writing about this post from Donald Miller in which is says he doesn't go to church much.

Why not?

Because: I, Me, My.

(That's shorter Miller, distilling a post [as our elders might have said] utterly innocent of the least allusion to Scripture.)

All I have to add is to say that you Pyro readers would have been already abundantly well-prepared to respond to Donald Miller decisively and finally, as well as to all the thousands of anonymous donaldmillers running about clutching their notes from “god” excusing them from doing what the actual living real God of Jesus Christ has called all believers to do for the last 2000 years.

“Freshen my memory,” you ask? Sure, I'm here to serve. To pluck out just three:

Thinking like a slave

Thinking Biblically about church attendance, involvement, and membership

Why you need to be in church this Sunday

And then finally and specifically to Miller, there is the indispensable Open Letter to him by the indispensable Frank.

About all of these, and the use they could have been made of in a cooperative Christian blogosphere that was really about the issues concerning which we claim to be passionate rather than the petty maintenance of clubhouses membership lists, I have a great deal to say.

But not here, and not now.

ADDENDUM: Miller circles a bit around the theme of “intimacy with God,” free-associating as if Scripture had nothing to say on the topic. But it does. Were anyone to read Miller, then work through sermons 17-24 on Proverbs 3 in this series, he might think they were preached in response to Miller's entirely erroneous notions… if it weren't for the dates on them.

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