Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, March 07, 2003

This week our family watched the special features on the Lord of the Rings DVD I received for Christmas. Four hours on the making of a movie may seem like a long, boring trek, but it was not. It was fascinating, not only because of subject matter, but because of the genius expressed. It was truly a herculean effort to produce even the first movie of the trilogy, and I cannot imagine what it was like to do all three. Now you understand that I am a big fan of the books, and I have appreciated the movie very much as well, if not with the same relish. However, this grand pyramid, this Seventh Wonder of the movie making world does not count for credit in God's eternal economy. I was thinking time and again how disappointed they're all going to be when they find that all is incinerated at the end of time. Every last copy of the DVD, every trace of the work is utterly obliterated.

Will the director, the actors, the producer, the gaffers, the script writers, the caterers, come before the Great White Throne with their film making resume'? Will they claim that they worked on the film version of the Lord of the Rings? Be careful of your Towers of Babel in life. Your grand human endeavors which consume like locusts your time, your money, your heart and soul, are nothing in the end, and less than nothing without Christ. Endeavor rather to meet Him with clear-eyed gaze and full-hearted confidence, so that your reward will last forever.

Courage and Faith.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Hermeneutical issue: the holy character of God. 1 Timothy 6:3-5, "3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain."

I wonder how often this is taught in seminaries as a foundation for interpretation? Paul directly states that our doctrine has to agree with sound words. He goes on to define those sound words with two criteria. The first is the words of Jesus Christ, while the second is the doctrine conforming to godliness. These two are not at the absolute foundation of hermeneutics. They must be developed from the original languages and historical/cultural setting of Scripture so that they are placed in a clear and useful form.

The words of Christ refer to the body of teaching which comes from the gospels and those few references elsewhere. The Sermon on the Mount and the Upper Room Discourse come immediately to mind, but there are many others which would qualify. An interpreter must also develop a doctrine of godliness. EUSEBEIA is godliness, a fairly common expression from both Peter and Paul. It is a sense of awe-filled love for God which goes beyond His awesome power to focus on His perfect righteousness. Our God is so much more than just omnipotence. He is perfect in character, which I think is the true point of awe. Teachers of the Word are to build a set of guidelines from the love, grace, justice, faithfulness, and truth of God, among other attributes. Paul offers these two, the words of Christ and the character of God as the plumbline and square for "doctrine," which in 1 Timothy 6:3 is from DIDASKALIA, "teaching." I believe the emphasis in the passage is on a content system, which is to say in ministry vocabulary "systematic theology."

It comes down to this. Teachers of the Word are to build a systematic theology, a useful orthodoxy for their students, the congregation. The measuring tools for this building must be precise, and the great plumbline and square of this mandated task are the words of Christ and character of God.

Many interpreters of God's word have gone wrong simply and terribly by failing to measure their work by these tools. A theology devoid of love, or apart from the teachings of Christ, is bankrupt indeed.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Libronix Digital Library is an excellent tool for the ministry. Last summer, Jim Myers introduced it to me, and not long after I purchased it for myself. Libronix is a set of computer tools, the most important of which is the librarian. It is essentially a highly customizable search engine usable with books that you have purchased for your digital library. I currently have hundreds of thousands of pages of theological, history, and linguistic reference books and journals. With the librarian I can search through every book I have in about a minute or two, and it will come back with every instance of the search in every one of those books. For instance, I can plug in a Bible verse, like 2 Peter 3:9, and it will come back with everything instance of that verse in the vast library. Another example: I can plug in a term like "unlimited atonement" and it will find what all those books have to say about the subject. The list is as near to endless as you can imagine. Already it has borne fruit in studies on angels, on covenant theology, and many other subjects.

There is also an exegetical guide, which searches lexicons and grammars for the Greek and Hebrew words in a verse, a note taking tool, so that you can attach your own notes to every verse in your digital Bible, a Bible reading planner, a prayer list organizer.

Libronix is not cheap. It has been the major item on my expense account the past six months, running several hundred dollars for all the books that I've added to my own collection of digital theological library. However, it is the single most valuable study tool that I have ever used. It hasn't exactly made books obsolete, but my, the efficiency is super.

At the end of this month, I am attending a two day training seminar called "Camp Logos," which is intensive and advanced training on the Libronix Library System.