Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why I Am not an Arminian . . . or a Calvinist

A week ago I wrote a post about being a non-Presbyterian.  Womanofthehouse challenged me to write a post about why I'm not an Arminian.  I was going to do it earlier today, really, I was.  But frankly I am having a hard time knowing how to address the subject.  I don't want to be like those people out there (mostly Calvinists) who put up blog posts explaining why Arminians are heretics.  That would require me also to be one of the people who would subsequently put up a blog post explaining why Calvinists are heretics.  I don't think that's fair, though I'd tend to want to use a nice word like "heterodox" for both camps.

Since the tea isn't quite ready, I'll try a thumbnail sketch.  Remember, Calvinists, I'm not an Arminian.  Remember, Arminians, I'm not a Calvinist.

The debate is often neatly framed by the old-fashioned Calvinist acrostic, TULIP.  I'll try to be fair to both sides and present what I'd say.  Maybe there's a dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran out there who will tell me how heterodox I am too (hints to the Lutheran people I know look at this blog).

T - Total Depravity - The Calvinist affirms that as a result of the Fall, all people are totally depraved.  This does not indicate they are absolutely as bad in every way as they possibly can be, but that evil has permeated all their being.  Many Arminians will affirm this as well, though some fall into semi-Pelagianism which indicates that people learn to be evil.  This is most clearly seen among those who suggest there is an age or developmental level before which God will not hold us accountable for our sin.  With the Calvinist, I would affirm depravity, absolutely and completely.

U - Unconditional Election - The Calvinist will affirm that the elect are chosen by God, before the foundation of the world, to be redeemed in Christ, regardless of their own inclinations.  The Arminian will normally explain some way that God foreknows who will believe and then elects those people.  I frankly can't come up with a good defense for the Arminian views of election.  It's in the Scripture so they have to say something.  Yet Arminians really seem to want salvation to be a result of our own decision to believe Christ.  This means that God's election must be dependent on something.   I'd affirm unconditional election, at least as some people would understand it.  God has elected to atone for the sins of the world.  Unlike the Arminian, I'd say this has nothing to do with my decision or inclination.  Unlike the Calvinist, I'd say that we are able to reject God's election of us, and that without a continual working of the Holy Spirit we will indeed do so.

L - Limited Atonement - I know most Calvinists now prefer the term "particular atonement."  By this the Calvinist says the death of Christ is effective only for the elect.  He did not die for everyone's sins, but only for the sins of the elect.  The Arminian will flat-out reject this idea.  Arminians almost universally affirm that Christ died for everyone's sins.  Calvinists will defend God's sovereignty by saying that his death is absolutely completely effective in every instance, therefore he died only for those who believe.  Arminians will defend man's responsibility by saying that Christ's death is effective but we are able to reject the substitutionary atonement.  I'd have to say there is more than adequate Scriptural evidence that we are able to thwart God's will, that Jesus is the one who takes away everyone's sins, and that we reject him.

I - Irresistible Grace - Most Calvinists now prefer the term "effectual call" but that really ruins the acrostic.  Calvinists, defending God's sovereignty, affirm that when the Holy Spirit calls people, they cannot refuse.  He gives people a new heart to believe and then calls them, so there is no way in the world anyone who is called will refuse.  All who refuse the oral and written calls to repent and believe are, in fact, not of the elect, did not have Christ atone for their sins, and have not been called by the Holy Spirit.  Arminians, on the other hand, will affirm God's grace shed on every person, that all are able to come to repentance and subsequently receive forgiveness.  Both of these views fall short of a Scriptural understanding that God in fact uses real means of grace to impart saving and sustaining grace to people.  The Scripture says that people receive regeneration of the Holy Spirit through hearing the Word, which imparts faith.  People are baptized for remission of sins.  People receive real forgiveness when God's word of absolution is proclaimed over them.  People receive real spiritual nourishment when the literal body and blood of our Lord and Savior is given to them, consecrated by the words our Lord gave, saying "this IS my body."  God uses means of grace and they accomplish their purpose, according to the promises given in Scripture.  Yet when we choose to reject those means of grace, they become ineffectual.  They are not resistible but they are rejectable.

P - Perseverance of the saints - Calvinists will affirm that all the elect live out their lives in the Christian faith.  Those who depart from the faith were never believers to begin with.  Those who seemingly believe on Christ, seem to depart from the faith, then return to faith in Christ were not true believers the first time or else were believers all along but spent some time not acting like believers.  Arminians tend to go a very different tack with this.  Because our salvation is mediated by our decision to believe, we believe and are saved, we reject and are rejected, we believe again and are saved again, etc.  Of course, the vast majority of Arminians expect and hope that once someone believes that person will remain faithful to the end, as do Calvinists.  Yet their views of the person's security are quite different from each other.  The picture the Scripture paints isn't quite as mechanistic as either a Calvinist or Arminian view here.  It is that those who are believing in Christ are believers.  All who die in faith in Christ are redeemed.  It doesn't seem appropriate to go beyond this, as the Scripture never seems to do so.

So this post has ended up saying why I'm not an Arminian and why I'm not a Calvinist.  Ultimately both views seem to go beyond what the Scripture teaches in their attempts at systematizing the way salvation and persistence in the faith happen.  Of course there are lots of places we could engage in dispute, as have countless others through the generations, about various specific points.   But I won't push that right now.  My point here is simply to lay out, in sketch, the most important distinctives and some of my reasons for rejection of each of those points of view.

So, come on, LPR people and other Lutherans who check this blog - fix me up and point out where I've run madly astray!  All you Arminians and Calvinists are welcome to as well, just remember, everyone, do it in a kind spirit, remembering I've tried to be fair and charitable to your points of view as well.

The tea is still hot, kind of.  Good night!

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Joshua

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Joshua."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  107-117.

As with all the historical books of the Old Testament, Joshua is anonymous.  Internal evidence points to later composition, ex. "to this day" many times.  This would indicate authorship after the time of Joshua, possibly substantially later.

Some literary-critical scholars in the 19th century considered Joshua to be part of a "hexateuch" following the patterns of Genesis through Deuteronomy.  This effort was largely abandoned in the 20th century.  Tradition critics viewed Joshua as a series of etiological tales, explaining why Jews practice as they do.

The Exodus seems to be dated in the 2nd half of the 15th century and the early 14th century, cf. 1 Kings 6.1.  Some archaeologists suggest a later date, about 1250, looking at evidence of invasions and burned layers.  Yet the Bible does not support Israelite practice of burning cities wholesale, so burn layers may not be an accurate indicator of the invasion.  Of course, the time of Joshua follows on the heels of the Exodus.

Joshua records a systematic conquest of the land.  There are various models of conquest in which an army may overrun territory, people may socially infiltrate, or a peasant revolt may arise.  Studies are not conclusive about the means of Israel's conquest.

The book serves as a bridge between the Exodus and the later books showing Israel settled.  Stylistic analysis shows the text moving from historical narrative about invasion to description of a settled people and their administration.

The theology of Joshua is built on a holy war, a promised land, a unified nation, a strong and godly leader, and a covenant with God.  As we look to the New Testament we see Jesus (Joshua's name in Greek) bringing promised rest, a model of faith, serving as God's warrior, and carrying out conquest.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


She asks: "What's a combo driveway?"

I answer: "It's got a drink and fries?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Three visits that make me glad I'm not a Presbyterian

In the past year I've visited three Presbyterian church congregations, all in different denominations, all in different states.  Nothing I'm going to say should be taken to impugn individuals or specific congregations.  The visits I made may not have been representative of the congregations or of the denominations.  All three congregations seem to have some strengths.  Yet each one pointed out some reasons I would have trouble being a Presbyterian, or any sort of a Calvinist.  I'd like to tell a little about these adventures.

All three churches read the Scripture.  None read it as much as the Lutheran congregation I'm in.  But all three read a significant passage of Scripture, long enough to give some context.  This is good.  I could wish that more Christian congregations took the Scripture seriously enough to read more than a couple of verses in a worship service.

All three churches sang some Christian songs.  One used two different hymnals.  One used one hymnal.  One projected words on a screen.  Of the three congregations, the one with the songs which were most relevant to the theme of the day and which had content that was the most clear in its presentation of the Scripture was the one with two hymnals.  The one with one hymnal didn't do too badly.  The one with songs projected on the screen seemed to have songs in which the Gospel was veiled.  They did not proclaim specific truth of God with clarity and power.

All three churches had welcoming congregations.  The most welcoming was the one with two hymnals.  The least welcoming was the one with one hymnal.

In each worship service the pastor preached a fairly lengthy sermon which was based fairly clearly on the passage of Scripture which was read in the service.  Two of the sermons had a great deal to do with the main point of the text which was read.  One of the sermons dealt primarily with matters which were not the main point of the text which was read.

So far, these are just observations.  They have nothing to do with the predicate of my header, though they do have to do with the subject of my header.

There were some commonalities among the three services that struck me.  Now we deal with the predicate in the header.

First, each church had a time for confession and forgiveness.  Yet in each instance, the congregation was left with somewhat vague statements of confession to proclaim corporately.  In one instance the congregation, in their confession, proclaimed their enthusiasm for serving the Lord.  In one instance, the congregation's confession was a moment (a short moment) for silent reflection.  In each instance, the pastor's proclamation of forgiveness fell sort of a proclamation of forgiveness.  At best it was a prayer that if we were truly sincere about our confession we would be accepted by God.  At worst, it was a plea that the Lord would have mercy on his people and give them a greater desire to follow his Law.

Confession and absolution is not about hoping the Lord will forgive you if you are repentant enough.  It is about proclaiming your failures and receiving firm words of assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for your failures and through his work on your behalf has forgiven all your sin.  If the confession and absolution I saw in the Presbyterian churches was the norm, I'm glad I am not part of that tradition.

Historically, Presbyterians have been famous for detailed exposition of Scripture.  They are well known for the two hour sermons in which every detail of a difficult passage of the Bible is explained.  They are well known for applying Scripture to the lives of the people in the congregation.  In my Lutheran tradition the basic framework of exegesis and preaching is the Law and Gospel distinctive.  In the Law we are told what we must do to be pleasing to God.  In the Gospel we are told what God has done in Christ to make us pleasing to himself.  So we come to expect that a sermon from any passage of Scripture will first confront us with our sin, then proclaim the forgiveness and life that Jesus has provided.

Of the three sermons I heard, one was entirely predicated on God's righteous demand that we obey His Law.  When we have failed to obey the Law, we live in condemnation.  Our cure is to repent and then obey the Law.  One of the three sermons I heard had a bit of a mix of Law and Gospel, but sometimes it tended to say that the good news was that we would be able to follow God's Law.  It also was what we might term a "salad bar" sermon.  That is, it has "lettuce" coming up at the end.  We hear God's commands, we hear the Gospel, then we wrap it up with "let us therefore..." keep God's commands.  The third sermon I heard had no clear proclamation of the Gospel.  Jesus did not do anything in the sermon.  It was unclear that salvation was through Jesus' substitutionary atonement.

It would seem that two of the three sermons I heard fit into historic Presbyterian patterns.  But notice while they did talk about Jesus and forgiveness of sin they left the burden for belief, obedience, on the Christian, not on the Christ, who is the only one ever shown to be able to fulfill God's Law.  This is not the hope I need.  I know I have failed.  I know I am in sin.  I don't need someone to tell me I'm a sinner and that I need to repent and then not sin any more.  I know I can't do that.  I need someone to tell me I'm a sinner and then point me to how Christ has become sin for me and redeemed me from the curse of the Law.

I had understood that Presbyterians treated baptism sacramentally, as an effectual ushering of a child into a covenant family.  I'm a little weak on the exact explanation of how the covenant theology works.  But I was at a baptism of a child in one of these congregations.  It surprised me that the pastor said specifically that the water was symbolic of an inward change.  This struck me as the same message that a Zwinglian would have, not a Calvinist.  I wonder if that is typical of Presbyterians now?

As I have studied the Scriptures about baptism I have come to the conviction that, though I don't understand how, baptism does wash sins and deliver the forgiveness purchased by Jesus on the cross. It appears in Scripture that the water is effective when accompanied by the proclamation of the Gospel.  This forgiveness is what we look to in faith, just as we have received the verbal proclamation of forgiveness through the Gospel.

So, everyone, is this what Presbyterianism has to offer?  I don't wish to run anyone down.  These are the observations I made.  Maybe they are not adequately representative.  But I find it hard to believe that these similarities would be accidental.  My final impression, the sum of these experiences, is that this brand of Calvinism leaves the individual responsible for his own salvation, for obedience to God's perfect Law, for hoping that God will accept his repentance as adequately genuine, and for testifying that he should be baptized and received into Christ's kingdom because he believes well enough.  That is a hope in myself, not in Christ, the living God.  If this is what Presbyterians believe, I'll keep looking to another branch of Christian tradition.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Deuteronomy

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Deuteronomy."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  91-106.

Deuteronomy provides us with a record of covenant renewal in Moab (p. 92).  Prior to the time of the 19th century critics, Mosaic authorship was widely affirmed, though isolated areas were always viewed as later updates, cf. 2.10-11, 20-23; 3.9, 11, 13b-14; 10.6-9.

Highlights of 19th century highter criticism: Source criticism severed Deuteronomy's connection with Moses, placing the D source generally in the late 7th century B.C.  This period is significant in the context of Josiah, who seemed to have specifications found in Deuteronomy.  Higher criticism assigned composition of Deuteronomy to Josiah's time as a "pious fraud" (p. 94).

In the early 20th century scholars searched for additional layers of grammar within Deuteronomy so as to assign more redactive effort to the composition.

In the later 20th century scholars have tended to view the material as much older, similar to ancient near eastern treaty forms from the time of Moses.  Literary analysis has again started looking for a unified structure.

The text uses some un-cited quotes on p. 102 to define the theological message as "one God, one people, one land, one sanctuary, and one law."  The text has a brief segment describing all these "one" concepts further.

Lookin to the New Testament we see that God promises to raise up a prophet like Moses.  We see that prophet as Jesus, God the Son.

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Numbers

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Numbers."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  83-90.

Numbers shows continuity with other books of the Pentateuch.  It begins with "and" thus signifying that it is a continuation of the story.  The book focuses on numbering and census elements along with narration of the time in the wilderness.

In authorship and composition we see that the book appears to be a continuation from Leviticus.  This would be a strong indicator of the same author.  Frequently Numbers refers to Moses as the recipient of revelations but almost always in the third person.  This has led to some suggestions of different authorship but does not exclude a traditional view of Mosaic authorship.  Some, but not many, passages seem clearly like they are post-Mosaic insertions.

 - Genre - very diversified in literary genre but all within the context of historical law narrative.
 - Structure - pp. 86-87 show there are many attempts at structural analysis.  The most fruitful attempts at defining a structure are probably anchored by chronology or geography.
 - Style - this is not a literary high point in the Old Testament.  Isolated areas are in an attractive literary style but overall this is not the purpose.

  Sin, judgment and death predominate in the old generation.  There is hope of deliverance in the new generation.  We see God's work of killing sin and bringing new life.

  God stays involved with his people.  He does not treat people as their sins deserve.  The wilderness is seen as a place of wandering in sin.  God's holiness is evident.  Watch for themes of purity and deliverance from sin.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Civil Rights - Indeed!

37 years ago this coming Friday the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion in all fifty states. Since that time, some 45 million Americans, the majority of them of African-American parentage, have been deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our economy has not boomed. Child abuse and neglect have not decreased. Who has suffered the most? The very people the Roe attorneys were trying to protect - the poor. A disproportionate number of the people Martin Luther King, Jr. was trying to encourage to stand up and be counted are unable to stand because they were killed before they were nine months old, before they had a chance to draw a breath in this country.

Roe v. Wade then Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Amazing coincidence, isn't it?
Dave Spotts
blogging at and

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Leviticus

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Leviticus."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  73-82.

The content of Leviticus seems to spring naturally from the content presented at the end of Exodus, primarily about priestly activities in worship.  This ties Leviticus into the continuous structure of the Pentateuch.

  There is some debate about chapters 17-27 as a potential insertion but there seems to be general agreement that Leviticus is a cohesive unit placed appropriately in the time line after the construction of the tabernacle.

 - Genre - consistent with the Penteteuch as instructional history, containing a focus on narrative law.
 - Structure - details are spelled out on pp. 75-76
    I Sacrificial Laws 1.1-7.38
    II Priestly Narrative 8.1-10.20
    III Laws to Protect Ritual Cleanness  11.1-16.34
    IV Holiness Code 17-27
 - Style - clear and simple structure, less literary interest than most of the Old Testament

  Leviticus focuses on the holiness of God and the practicum of hte sacrificial system.  It appears that the meaning of the sacrifices was already understood as there is little emphasis on the meaning.

(p. 77) "It is the death of the sacrificial victim that renders the rite effective, and the manipulation of the blood highlights the death that stands in the place of the sinner who offers it."

There is a strong emphasis on purity.  God is concerned with purity in all life categories.  There is also an emphasis on living a distinctive life within defined boujndaries.

  Jesus is the perfect High Priest, the perfect sacrifice.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another long voyage, no berth

We took another trip to Fort Wayne to look for housing.  On some levels it was a fruitless trip and on other levels it may have been very fruitful.  That's the way it is, right?  We want to look at what our Lord is doing in his providence.  Much of the time he doesn't seem to move things the way we might pick.  For instance, on this trip we continued to find houses that either would require more work than we wished to put into them before they were habitable or which were in neighborhoods where we weren't sure we would feel safe.  What kind of providence is this?

It's actually a great providence.  Here's why.  This whole process is pushing me to refine my vision of how I can more effectively pursue my vocation, whatever that vocation really is.  And it does boil down to vocation.  If I spend the rest of my life in Huntington, WV, teaching classes as The Potter's School or wherever else I might end up teaching, it's really all right.  My wife and children have always had food on the table and a roof over their heads.  We have more clothes than we need, though probably not as many as we might like.  One daughter is grown up and married, happy in her vocation as a wife.  Both daughters appear to be serving Christ faithfully in their lives, in age-appropriate manners.  I've had the opportunity to encourage people and strengthen them in their faith, tough I haven't taken all the opportunities I probably could have - like the rest of us.

What does the future hold?  The idea of pastoral ministry is a good one.  As a pastor I'd have the opportunity to spend my full time doing the most exciting thing I get to do on a weekly basis - telling people about the good news of salvation and hope in Christ.  I'd have opportunity to encourage many people in their faith and urge people to live lives of commitment and fidelity to Christ, regardless of their vocation.  Of course, I have those opportunities as a Christian school teacher as well.  I'd have those opportunities in any place the Lord put me.

One idea that has been emerging of late is that a seminary education, as well as being quite expensive, would require me to spend a vicarage year away from my current employment.  I'd then get to spend an additional year in seminary and would probably find it very difficult to return to my current job.  Making ends meet during that time could be phenomenally difficult.  It makes me think I might wish to pursue a different route, that of seeking some professional advancement that may give me a little more job security as a Christian school administrator.  After all, I'm not a stranger to Christian schools or to administration.  It may be that there are some things I can do which would move me in that direction.  It's complex, having several things I could do and which would be very pleasing both to me and to our Savior.

Even if I pursue the professional development, our proposed move to Fort Wayne has some very positive features.  It puts us into a place where I think we'd find more freedom and support surrounding home schooling.  It puts us into a location where there is a broader group of Lutheran church congregations.  It would be very good to see a number in operation, to learn what they are like, to see what is normal and what is an anomaly.  That's something I have no way at all of doing in the area I live now.  It puts us into a location where there are a variety of collegiate programs available, many of which offer training that could lead to advancement in either the pastoral or educational ministry I desire to engage in.  

Now, if someone would come along and want to buy our house, and if we could find a house we'd like to live in . . . 


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Agricola Urbanus - My Interest in Beans and Tomatoes

There are a few things I consider pretty important in a garden.  One of the foremost is that it should give me food I like.  Preferably it should give a lot of that food in a minimal amount of space.  Zucchini?  No thanks.  Great yield.  I don't like it.  Won't grow it.  It would be nice to think plants would water themselves and take care of themselves, but that's too much to hope.

If we have to take care of something though let's look at green beans.  Specifically, pole beans.  As opposed to bush beans, pole beans tend to have high yields.  It's also common to be able to pick pole beans while standing fairly upright.  A 100 foot row of pole beans will normally yield about 150 pounds of beans.  Of course, you can have multiple shorter rows as well :).  They need water, sunshine, and some poles they can climb up.

Our family also likes tomatoes.  We aren't fond of slices of tomato but we like spaghetti and other foods that use a good deal of tomato sauce.  Roma tomatoes tend to be fairly small, dense tomatoes which don't have a lot of water to cook off before you have sauce.  The plants can be planted 16-18" apart with supporting poles or cages to keep them upright.  Tomato plants especially like lots of sunshine.

Tomatoes and beans?  Writing about this in January makes me look forward to July. 

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Exodus

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Exodus."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  57-71.

Exodus seems to be a clear continuation from Genesis.
  It begins with "and."
  It repeats Genesis 46.8.
  It continues the saga of what to do with Joseph's bones.

 - Authorship and Composition
     Exodus seems consistent with Genesis.
     The Decalog is integrated.  There are possible redactions (editorial changes) but they are not necessarily considered later editorial additions.
 - Nature and Date of the Exodus
     Based on the census of men of combatant age the total population is probably in the millions.
     The people leave slavery in Egypt by the hand of Moses.
     1 Kings 6.1 is clearly dated at 967 B.C. and states the Exodus is 480 years previous.
     Judges 11.26, which is not as clearly dated, indicates the Exodus is about 300 years before Jephthah.
     Various questions about the dating are raised briefly on pp. 59-62 of the text.

 - Structure - the book basically divides into three parts, whether thematically or geographically.
     Geographically: 1) Israel in Egypt (1.1-13.16), 2) Israel in the Wilderness (13.17-18.27), Israel at Sinai (9.1-40.38).
     Thematically: 1( God delivers Israel from Egyptian bondage (1.1-18.27), God gives Israel His Law (19.1-24.18), God Commands Israel to Build the Tabernacle (25.1-40.38).
 - Genre - prophetic or theological history with an important role of the Law.

     God can deliver his people.  He gives his law in the wilderness, a place of wandering and lostness.  He provides salvation through the Gospel, signified by the Tabernacle, all parts of which look toward Christ.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Housing Search Update

Here's a quick update on our planned move to Fort Wayne, thus allowing me to attend seminary either toward a degree or at least for some very serious ongoing education.

1) Our house in Huntington is now on the market.  The virtual tour has had a lot of hits.  Hopefully we'll have lots of people looking at the house in person.  We would like someone to find the house and enjoy living in it as we have.

2) We have looked at houses in Fort Wayne on the Internet and for one day in person.  We have a list of houses lined up for another trip to Fort Wayne.  We're watching for a good bargain but there are some related thoughts we are bearing in mind.

  a) It would be great to own the place we move to outright before I would start seminary classes.
  b) The seminary plan has two years of classroom work, a relocation for a vicarage year, then another year of classroom work.  It would be good to be able to rent the house to a seminarian during the vicarage year.
  c) Retirement happens to everyone eventually.  If we find a house and community we like a lot, I may consider continuing to own the house while working as a pastor then returning there for retirement one of these years.

Generally we have been pleased with what we see.  In nearly every location there are some houses around which show evidence of care.  Of course, some are less cared-for.  But the community seems to be quite pleasant.

Agricola Urbanus - Take Dominion over a Yard

This post is a follow-up on the benefits and drawbacks of a cash economy.  Did you ever think of the biblical command to take dominion over the earth?  Want to do it?  Think you need a huge farm?  Think again.  Regardless of your circumstances, you have been placed in a location where the Lord would have you take care of this world and your surroundings.  Maybe it's a multi-thousand acre farm.  Maybe it's a 30x60 foot lot like where I now live.  Maybe it's an apartment or a dormitory room.  When I think of taking dominion over a yard, it may be a lawn or it may be a "yard," i.e., a three foot by three foot area.  We've all got at least a few of those.

I started thinking about the idea of urban farming some years ago when I noticed someone in our neighborhood had fancy colored lettuces among the flowers along the sidewalk.  Why not?  Actually, I wouldn't be likely to do that since I am not fond of lettuce.  But if there's something you want and it can fit tastefully into a planted area you have, why not put it in?  Here are a few really simple ideas.

 ~~ Apple trees produce apples, blossoms, and shade.  If you're going to plant a tree, think about a fruit tree.
 ~~ An herb garden may well fit into a foot-wide place along a porch or walk.
 ~~Raspberry and blackberry under windows could prove very interesting if someone wished to break into that window and rob your house.
 ~~ Some vegetables have large yields in small sunny places.  I especially think about pole beans and carrots.  More posts on those later.

Of course, not all dominion over your space involves food.  Know what's in your yard?  Part of good stewardship is watching the condition of your property.  While you do, keep your eyes open for the wonders of God's creation.  What has he placed right under your nose waiting for you to notice?  Give glory to God and see what you see all around you. 

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Soliciting Posts

I wish I could persuade Martha to post here.  Maybe she could even make the blog look a little less utilitarian.  She's along on this long voyage too, after all.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Liturgy in the New Year

I've been thinking of learning the service patterns in the Lutheran Service Book more deliberately.  I'm going to try to get a through handle on the Evening Prayer time in the month of January.

I know that is underachieving, but it seems to be about my speed.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Introduction to the Old Testament - Genesis

Dillard, Raymond B. & Longman, Tremper III. "Genesis."  An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1994.  37-46.

Genesis covers a tremendously long period of time, from the creation of the world to the captivity of the children of Israel in Egypt.  The book of Genesis is foundational to an understanding of the Torah (Pentateuch) as a whole.  The traditional author is Moses, though there are some areas that appear to be later insertions.  While higher criticism has attacked the unity of authorship, much of this attack does not hold up to serious scrutiny.

 - Composition and authorship is debated, but basically Mosaic authorship is widely accepted among conservatives.
- Text & Tradition 
    Strictly speaking, Genesis is anonymous.
    There is a long tradition of Moses as the law writer.
    There are some hints of later glosses or contributions in isolated areas.
 - Historical-Critical Approaches
    The 17th-19th centuries saw a rise of the critical method.
    1883-85 Wellhausen published a more clear articulation of JEPD than had been articulated before.  There's a good summary of his views on pp. 41-42.
 - Other critical approaches:
     Fragmentary approach - Genesis is gathered from different sources.
     Supplementary approach - there was originally one document to which other features were added.
     Form & Tradition Criticism - see the work of H. Gunkel.
     Some scholars see an oral tradition and folk-lore like development of Genesis.

The text critical approach is declining in prominence.
  Problems: It is difficult to come up with definitive criteria to separate sources.  The approach is also dependent on a particular presupposition about theological development.
  There are recent new literary approaches to the Pentateuch, particularly since 1970, seeing it as essentially similar to other ancient literature.  This approach would seem to be more fruitful.
  Conclusion: the documentary hypothesis is waning, being more loosely held by scholars.

 - Structure - some analysts see an introduction followed by ten episodes each introduced with "these are the generations."  Others look primarily at content and style, generally seeing one segment for chapters 1-11 and the remainder divided by dealings with the various patriarchs.
 - Genre - basically history
 - Literary artistry - while Genesis was typically considered a bit artless recent philological analysis has shown some sophisticated structures within the book.  An example of the structure of chapter 11 verses 1-9 is given on p. 51 of the text.

  In Genesis we see God as the maker and ruler of all.  He makes promises to the patriarchs including a promise of redemption despite the unbelief of mankind.  We see God as the one who overcomes obstacles to redemption.

  As we approach the New Testament we see the very same God who has made and governs everything, who makes promises, and fulfills those promises.