Archives For preston

I get asked quite often how much money one should spend on building a personal library, and about what sort of books should be in that library. My answer usually directs them to some good reference tools, such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries, or other Main Carouselresources that they will return to often. But my answer has recently changed. If you want to get a resource that will be with you the rest of your life, I would recommend a Bible software program. And if you want a Bible software program, I’d highly recommend Accordance.

Let me give you a quick back-story so you can learn from my mistake. When I was doing my master’s degree, I kept eying all the Bible programs out there (Gramcord, Logos, Bible Works, and Accordance), but I never ended up buying any of them. They can be expensive, especially for a seminary student living on Ramen noodles. So I kept buying books and more books, and at the end of my degree, I could have easily afforded a Bible program for half the price of what I spent on books (granted, some of the books were necessary).

When I started my Ph.D., I had my heart set on getting a Bible program and I had my eye on Accordance, which my friends all said was the most highly acclaimed program for high-level study. But then I started hanging out with some super smart (like, creepy smart) professors, who mocked the idea of Bible programs. “If you want to know how many times a Greek word is found in the New Testament, just read the Greek New Testament.”

Yes, thank you, I thought. But how about the rest of us who don’t have an encyclopedic memory of all the words in the Greek New Testament?

In any case, I continued to flip vocab cards and write down word occurrences, and never actually bought a Bible program. And that was a mistake. I could have saved a ton of time and not a few tears if I had just bit the financial bullet and purchased Accordance.

This is why I am so thankful that as of Summer 2014, I am a proud owner of Accordance! And it has revolutionized my study.

For those of you who don’t know, Accordance (like other programs) gives you a wealth of sources, such as books, commentaries, atlases, reference tools, translations (tons of translations); but it also allows you to search for words, phrases, Greek and Hebrew constructions, and other such functions to enable you to dig deep into the text. I won’t go into detail about how to do this—Accordance has many tutorials and videos to guide you through this. But I do want you to know that it is much easier than I thought.

For instance, if you wanted to see how many times the Greek word agape occurs in the New Testament, you can do this with one click. But this is only the beginning of a whole new world. With a few more clicks, you can see which books or which authors use the Accordance 10 screenshotword, in which form (future, past, present), how many times the noun form is used (agape) along with the verb (agapao), along with the adjective, adverb, and other words with the same root. You can search the Greek translation of the Old Testament, other commentaries and dictionaries that use the word, and this is still only the beginning. With just a few simple clicks, you can have a screen full of definitions, stats, articles, and parallels that will keep you busy for hours.

But Accordance isn’t just for language study. A lot of you probably don’t know Greek and probably never will. If you’re wondering if Accordance is just for the ivory tower or those climbing it, then you may be interested in one of the lower level packages, such as the Bible Study Collection or even the Starter version. Even these will give you access not only to a bunch of English resources (including several translations and dictionaries), but will also link up all the English words with the Greek word in Strong’s Concordance, which you may be familiar with.

Another thing I like about Accordance is that the different packages (there are 6 levels in all) don’t bog you down with too many resources that you will never use. I haven’t done a thorough search through all the other Bible programs out there, but some of the ones I’ve looked at seemed to have tons of sources that I would never read and would never recommend my students reading (outdated commentaries from 100 years ago or books written by people that will only lower your grade if you cite them on a research paper—at least in my class). Now, there are still some books in Accordance that I will probably never use, but the list seems smaller than other programs.

But if you’re thinking about buying a Bible program, I’d definitely recommend doing your own research on them all before you do. While I’m extremely happy with Accordance, I would make sure it’s the right fit for you. I would recommend spending an hour touring through some of the videos on the Accordance Vimeo page, or some of the tutorials they have online, to see if it’s the type of program that will help you in your studies. And if you do end up getting Accordance, I would highly recommend putting it into your mind that you will take the time to watch even more videos to learn how to use it. Accordance is the Photoshop of Bible Software; you can do some basic stuff right away but will need to invest some time learning all of its endless capabilities.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Before you blast me for the very title, please hear me out. I’m posting this blog as a genuine invitation for good, logical, critical feedback. I don’t intend to be offensive and I don’t mean any harm by this post. Please hear me out; please read what I say.Luke and leah I’m inviting good, healthy, and humble push-back. If I’m wrong, please show me where.

A few months ago, I made an analogy between homosexual relations and incest, and I received quite a few negative comments. To be honest, I don’t remember receiving any logical refutations to the point that I was making, which has caused me to write this post. If I’m off, then please point out the error in my logic. Please correct me with texts, evidence, or logical fallacy.

In my previous post, I pointed out that the moral logic often used in justifying same-sex relations could also be used in justifying incest. That moral logic is: consensuality, mutuality, love, and commitment. That is, if two people love each other, are committed to a life-long relationship, and if their relationship doesn’t harm anyone else, and if such love is mutual, rich, and genuine—then why is it wrong? Why should these two people not consummate their relationship through marriage and sex?

Many people would say that nothing is wrong. If such criteria are met, then the two persons should get married. But in my previous blogs, I simply tried to show that such moral logic could also be used to justify incest. If the only criteria for marriage is mutual love, commitment, and lack of any potential harm to one’s neighbor, then the same criteria could be applied to both incest and homosexual unions.

Please hear me out: I am not saying that gay unions are the same as incest, nor am I saying that gay unions will lead to incest, nor am I saying that gay unions are as bad as incest. Again, I am only trying to analyze the moral logic for gay unions based on analogy.

Now, to justify the analogy, I have to point out that both Moses and Paul did the same thing.

In Leviticus 18, Moses discusses incest quite pervasively in vv. 6-18 and then homosexual relations in v. 22 (cf. 20:13). Paul also talked about homosexual relations (1 Cor 6:9) in the context of incest (1 Cor 5) and sex with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:12ff). This does not mean that incest is the same as homosexual relations, or that homosexual relations will lead to having sex with prostitutes. That’s not what I am saying. And that’s not what the biblical writers were saying. I’m only trying to point out that the biblical writers brought these up in the same contexts; and that’s all I’m trying to do.

So with that lengthy introduction, let me express my questions.

Why are some people so appalled at the analogy? People get upset at the incest analogy, but I’ve yet to hear why incest is so wrong. So my question is: why is incest wrong?

Because Leviticus 18 says so? Well, there are lots of laws in Leviticus that Christians don’t obey. So why should we obey this one?

It’s repeated in the NT? Yes, but only once (1 Cor 5) and there it’s only talking about a man having sex with his stepmother. Where is incest between consenting brother and sister prohibited? Why are we so appalled at incest? Because of Leviticus? Cultural taboos? One passage in the NT?

The same is often thrown at non-affirming Christians for not endorsing same-sex unions.

Leviticus. Cultural taboos. And a few debated passages in the NT.

“Affirming” advocates continue to abhor incestuous unions but I have yet to hear a good argument why. Why is incest wrong? Okay, so incest could produce genetically messed up kids (not that Moses or Paul knew anything about that). But what if the wife/sister is infertile, or what if they use protection? Why is incest wrong if it’s engaged in with committed and consensual love?

Again, I’m not saying that incest is the same as same-sex unions. They are different. I’m not even saying that if we as a culture embrace gay unions that this will lead to incest. This is logically fallacious and untrue. I’m only looking at the strength of the moral logic often used to justify same-sex unions. And I’m genuinely asking for some other criteria that rules out incest that does not also rule out same sex unions.

Let me be frank. If you are gay and reading this post, I would genuinely love to hear from you. I don’t want to offend you by using this analogy, so please excuse me  if I have done so. It’s not my intention.

I’m only wanting to know what’s wrong with this analogy—the analogy of the moral logic used to justify the action, not the analogy of actions. Having committed, consensual, and monogamous relations with your sister (or brother) that doesn’t harm anyone else is wrong—but why?

The following is an excerpt from my book, Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 45-46. At the end of the post, enter to win a free copy of Charis!

“Bad little girls get thrown away,” Cynthia reasoned when at five years old she found out she was adopted. She didn’t understand how her parents could give up their Charis front cover_w:tullianchild if they loved her, so Cynthia logically concluded that she was unloved and unworthy—valueless.

All humans crave value; it’s in our DNA. So Cynthia tried to satisfy her craving in unhealthy ways. Maybe sex will give me value, she thought. I want to feel happy; I want to feel loved. A friend of hers had a father with a stash of porn magazines, so the two girls raided the stash and began acting out the sexual activities plastered across the pages. Maybe homosexual sex is where value could be found. The two girls were about seven years old.

When Cynthia was around fourteen, she was sexually abused by a guy in his midtwenties. She then explored value through alcohol, drugs, more sex, and slashing her body with a razor. “I hated myself with a passion,” Cynthia recalls. “I didn’t need people to put me down. Because I did it fine from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. The inner dialogue that went on in my head was I was stupid, I was not wanted, I was ugly. The only thing I was good for was sex.”

More drugs, more sex, more cutting. When Cynthia was seventeen, she married a boy with a similar past and quickly got pregnant.3 Cynthia’s story is frighteningly typical. One in every five girls and one in every twenty boys are victimized by sexual abuse. Twentyeight percent of fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds have been sexually abused on some level as children or teens.4

Eating disorders are rapidly increasing among teens and even among young children. Kids under twelve experienced a 119 percent increase in eating disorders between 1999 and 2006, and the statistics continue to rise.5

But it doesn’t matter where you fall in the statistics. God doesn’t see you as garbage, unwanted, fat, or ugly. Where you see defects, God sees a crown and a robe of glory. You are covered in God’s fingerprints, with God’s breath in your nostrils.

A few years later, Cynthia found Jesus, the One who crowned her with glory and honor. The pain of her past will never fully leave her, but neither will it condemn her. “I have intrinsic value no matter what,” Cynthia says, “just because God made me.” Though she was unwanted and abused, God has crowned her with beauty and love. Some of the greatest lies you’ll ever believe are told by your eyes as you gaze into a mirror. Lies fueled by your own doubt and a culture that worships a false standard of beauty and worth. Beauty is formed in the eye of the beholder. But your Beholder is God. He made you in His own image; He gave you that crown.

I love the redemption Cynthia found in Christ because it challenges a common misconception about God. Too often we think that having a high view of God means we have a low view of people. In fact, I remember reading those very words at the top of a church’s doctrinal statement many years ago:

We seek to have a high view of God and a low view of man

I get the motivation behind this statement. We want to elevate God; we don’t want to worship mankind. But this statement suggests that people have little value, little worth. But we’re created in God’s image and Jesus paid a very high price to restore us back to our Creator. He paid a high price for us (His own blood) since we had an expensive price tag on our heads that reads, Created in God’s Image.

Think about that. We have an exalted status above everything else in creation. We bear God’s image not just by what we do—think, feel, imagine, relate—but simply by who we are. A quadriplegic two-year-old with Down syndrome possesses the CharisSocMed_02image of God and therefore has infinite worth and value in the eyes of God, not because of what she does, but because of whom she reflects. Every human, every single one, bears the glorious image of the transcendent Creator.

Rich, poor, successful, homeless, healthy, disabled, black, white, brown, young, old, famous, abused, abusive, pervert, or priest—whoever you are and whatever you have or have not accomplished—if you are human, then you are cherished and prized and honored and enjoyed as the pinnacle of creation by a Creator who bleeds charis. If you’re reading, listening to, or following the braille dots of this book, you are infinitely more majestic and beautiful than the glimmering peaks of Mount Everest, the soothing turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the commanding cliffs of Yosemite, or the well-titled Grand Canyon, which God carved out of Arizona.

Bad girls don’t get thrown away. They get delighted in by a shameless God on a relentless pursuit to love broken people.

 

Enter below to win one of 10 free copies of Charis! You have until Friday July 18th to qualify.

 

Enter to Win a Free Copy of Charis

I often get asked if I’m “Reformed.” Oftentimes people just assume that I’m “Reformed.” Since I don’t care for labels and resist giving yes or no answers to always reformingcomplex questions, I usually give an answer much longer than the asker cared to receive.

I’m I “Reformed?” No, but I am “reformed”—lower-case “r.” Here’s why.

I believe that God’s agency is primary, prior to, and causative of a person’s response to God in salvation. (Whoa dude, I thought this was “Theology for Real Life,” not “Theology for Real Geeks.”) In other words, I chose God because He first chose me. I repented and believed because God’s Spirit enabled me to. When I heard the gospel, God opened up my heart to understand and welcome the truth, just like He did to Lydia in Acts 16.

I also emphasize, cherish, and rejoice in God’s sovereignty over all things. I love it. I don’t always understand it, but I love the fact that God reigns over the universe. I believe that God can do whatever God wants to do, and He can tell me to do whatever He wants to tell me what to do. He’s God. I’m created. He makes up the rules. I’m only to follow them. From Genesis through Revelation, with some extended pit stops in Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Romans 9, the Bible celebrates God’s freedom. Sometimes it’s hard to rejoice in. Still, the Bible doesn’t seem to make excuses for God’s actions in the world. He made it. He governs it. He will redeem it as He sees fit. And I live by this truth. Yes, I’m “reformed.”

I also believe in and will take a bullet for the authority of the Bible. Our beliefs and behaviors should be derived from the text—even if the text offends our presuppositions and tradition. If my student says “I believe that God…” I immediately ask where? What passage? What book? What theological theme are you deriving your beliefs from? When my heart says, “I feel like God is…” I challenge my deceitful heart with the God-breathed text. Yes, I’m “reformed.”

But I’m not “Reformed.”

I’m not part of any specific “Reformed” tradition and I think that the Bible challenges all theological systems—not just Arminian ones. And not everything about the “Reformed tradition” (or traditions) rightly captures, to my mind, what the Bible actually says. In fact, just the other day I hung out with a bunch of Arminians from the Nazarene tradition and I was pleasantly shocked at just how passionate they were about the gospel, the authority of Scripture, and even God’s sovereignty in salvation and the world. Sure, we may quibble about the ordo salutus and finer points of the atonement, but on the central points of the gospel I felt that we were on the same team. Unfortunately, some “Reformed” people only know of one team; the “Reformed” team. No, I’m not “Reformed.” I love to learn from people outside my tradition.

I’m also very willing to ditch, reevaluate, shift and sift various doctrines that have been traditionally called “Reformed.” That is, if the Bible demands it. Justification, sanctification, baptism, hell, heaven—we lay them all before the text of calvin and lutherScripture because we’re reformed. We don’t lock them in a safe and throw away the key because we’re Reformed. Remember, semper reformanda: “always reforming.” To be truly reformed is to be in a constant state of humbly submitting what you think the text says before the text itself since the text—not your, or your favorite Reformed preacher’s, understanding of the text—is inspired and authoritative.

And I believe in grace. Not just the “doctrines of grace” but “incarnating grace.” Showing favor (grace) unconditionally (biblical grace) to people of every sexual orientation. If believing in the doctrines of grace doesn’t move you to love your enemies, then you don’t really believe in the doctrines of grace. You endorse them. Sign off on them. Nod your head when you’re reading Calvin’s Institutes. But until we love the unlovable, we fail to incarnate grace and imitate the one who died for His enemies.

Jesus. Died. For. His. Enemies.

He calls His followers to merely love them. He cut us some seriously slack!

And I’m not Reformed because, well, many Reformed people I know seem arrogant. I know this is a stereotype, a generalization, so if you know a ton of people who are both Reformed and humble, then please ignore this paragraph. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve been around a bad crop. But most Reformed people I’ve met, hung out with, read, and listen to, give off an overly confident, some would say arrogant, air about their beliefs. Again, this isn’t all of them, but in my experience it’s a lot of them. And almost all of my friends who are turned off by a reformed way of thinking are actually turned off more by their Reformed friends than their beliefs. So even though I hope I’m alone, I don’t think I am. For some reason, discovering the doctrines of grace becomes like a second conversion where the Reformed person now has it all together, doctrinally speaking, and looks down upon all those lesser species of Christians who are merely 4 or 3 point Calvinists.

I know this, because I used to be one. I was so locked into an airtight theological system and I thought, or knew, I had it all figured out. And I honestly looked down upon people who weren’t Reformed like I was. It didn’t matter that they led hundreds of people to Christ, if they called people to “choose Christ” or quoted the “Nearly Inspired Version” (NIV), they were a lesser-informed Christian. And I looked down upon them. I was overly confident. I was arrogant. I was ignorant and acting contrary to the doctrines of grace.

I’ve since abandoned this way of thinking, even though I’m still reformed. I still believe that God does all things ultimately to bring glory to His name. I believe there is a real hell. I think that election is unconditional. And God’s sovereignty is broadcasted and celebrated on every page of Scripture. But believing these things should push us to be more humble, more careful about thinking you have it all together theologically.

Yes, I’m reformed. But I’m not Reformed.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I spoke at the Audio Feed Festival in Champaign, Illinois. I was invited last year and was excited to speak again this year. The fact thatAudioFeed-8 I agreed to come back shows what I think about the festival. Yeah, it pretty much rocks.

The festival is only two years old, but its roots have a rich history. AudioFeed was born out of the widely popular Cornerstone Music Festival started by the Jesus People USA in 1984. In 2012, Cornerstone announced that this would be the last year of the festival, and AudioFeed said lets keep rocking! So for the last two years AudioFeed has been hosting a music festival where dozens of bands and several speakers come together to enjoy God’s gifts of creativity lavishly poured out on his image bearers.

Yes, it’s a “Christian” music festival—but don’t think CMA. This stuff is different. And in my mind, refreshing.

Artists from several musical genres rock out (or scream out or rap out, or whatever) in a way that might not seem “Christian”—that is, you won’t hear most of these bands on K-Love. The Homeless Gospel Choir is a one-man band who writes satirical songs about nationalistic Christianity. Justin Driggers has tats and dreads and sings emotionally dark, yet real and redemptive, country songs. Timbre shreds on a harp. Sean Michel, whose signature beard puts Phil Robertson to shame, lights

Peter Furler, former lead singer for The Newsboys.

Peter Furler, former lead singer for The Newsboys.

up the stage with deafening guitar riffs, powerful lyrics, and rich sermons between his songs. My Epic, Listener, Flatfoot 56, and several other popular bands drew some loyal crowds. Noah James—a largely unknown Christian artist—sent my heart to heaven and my knees to the cross as he left me spiritually dazed after proclaiming the gospel through some of the best “Christian” music I’ve ever heard. His song “Heaven Is Far” punched through my chest, ripped out my heart, and slammed it at the foot of the cross. Joy collided with frustration over the fact that Noah will probably never break through the political and consumer-driven walls of CMA, which is unfortunate for those who love theology, the cross, and unpredictable music.

Although I rarely visited the “Black Sheep” stage, I could hear the screaming from across the fairgrounds, which freaked out my daughter at first. One band screamed out David Crowder’s “How He Loves Us” just after the lead singer gave his testimony about how Christ rescued his soul from hell. I can’t say I love the hard-core screamo stuff, but I can appreciate someone screaming for Jesus. If we meditated on what we’ve been rescued from, I think we’d probably scream too. Grave Robber, a “horror punk” band, showers the audience with blood launched

Sean Michel ripping it up--Arkansas style

Sean Michel ripping it up–Arkansas style

from cannons in celebration of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But it’s not real blood, which means Grave Robber is tamer than the freak show Moses and Aaron put on in Exodus 24. That was real blood.

AudioFeed is one of those places you’d never bring your grandma—though I saw quite a few grey-haired enthusiasts dancing around with ear plugs—but you’d do well to bring your non-churched, de-churched, or overly churched neighbor. Why? Because the music is simply outstanding. It’s fresh. It’s real. It’s unpredictable (blood from cannons, folks). And the musicians are real people who don’t think much of themselves. I don’t want to overly sanctify the musicians—they’re just as screwed up as you and I—but humility seemed to glow from these artists who don’t carry the stage with them when they finish playing. Casual conversations between rock stars and fans is a regular sight at AudioFeed. I met Peter Furler (former lead singer of the Newsboys) in passing, and when he saw me just seconds after his set, he remembered my name. Shane Claiborne, the keynote speaker, defies Christian fame by going out of his way to turn Christian celebriolatry on its head. He talks to people, looks them in the eye, remembers their name, and doesn’t ask to be put up in a hotel. He’d rather stay at the home of people in an effort to obey Jesus’s second greatest command. Shane is one of the most authentic, humble, passionate Christians I’ve ever met. What you read in his books is what you get in the flesh. And that’s pretty rare.

The thing that encouraged me the most was the intellect and passion among the participants. It’s a counter-cultural crowd, but you only become counter-cultural by thinking outside the box, asking hard questions, and not being satisfied by recycled answers. It’s not uncommon, as a speaker, to get questions about apocalyptic readings of Revelation, reader-response hermeneutics, or various theories of the atonement from a dude wearing black eye shadow and spikes. This is why I came back to AudioFeed this year. The festival reminds me that the kingdom of God is pushing forward through all types of people who live out their faith in nontraditional ways. And most of the people who attend this festival have a massive, cross-shaped heart for people. Yes, it’s true. Many of them have problems with patriotism, militarism, capitalism, suits and ties, combs, and the traditional evangelical church. But walk around and talk to them. Get to know their stories. Have a 5 minute conversation with a stranger and he’s likely to give you the shirt off his back. Even if you’re a suit-and-tie wearing CEO of a large company that served in Desert Storm. Disagreement doesn’t interrupt love.

Josh Stump, Shane Claiborne, myself, and Jay Newman. My kind of panel discussion!

Josh Stump, Shane Claiborne, myself, and Jay Newman. My kind of panel discussion!

At AudioFeed, everyone is accepted. Rainbow hair, painted faces, spiked Mohawks, and tattoo-less dorks from California (er, Idaho) wearing flip flops and a sun visor. If you want to wear a black trench coat on a hot July day. That’s cool. What matters is whether you love Jesus and people. You want to walk around hoisting a log on your shoulder, no one’s going to bat an eye as long as you don’t smack anyone with it. (These are all true scenes, by the way.) For one of my talks, I wore a black Harley Davidson shirt and I felt like people were thinking, “you don’t need to dress up here, bro. It’s AudioFeed.”

And this is why I love this festival. Jesus was all about the marginalized, and his followers would have raised a few eyebrows if they entered most of our churches today. Our New Testament was written by a terrorist named Saul, a slave named Luke, a treasonous extortionist named Matthew, and other marginalized ruffians with variegated shades of a shady past. But God loves people unloved by the

Josie and I with Sean Michel. He wouldn't give me the shirt off his back, but he gave me his face on my shirt.

Josie and I with Sean Michel. He wouldn’t give me the shirt off his back, but he gave me his face on my shirt.

religious elite. And God loves diversity. Middle class, white, suburban Christianity only reflects a small sliver of God’s image in the world. AudioFeed reminds us that we serve a beautifully complex and diverse God who loves all types of musical genres and doesn’t have a favorite hair-style. Suits and ties, khakis and blue blazers, boots and 10 gallon hats, black leather and trench coats—they’re all woven from a creation blessed and enjoyed by God.

AudioFeed: A festival that celebrates and magnifies our Triune God who defies singularity.