Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Two of the young men whose acquaintance I have had the pleasure to make are Ryan Jackson and Jonathan Griffiths. I found camaraderie with both upon our first conversations. Tea time provides lots of opportunities for such conversations. I deeply resonate with both Ryan and Jonathan concerning the direction that their research is taking them on their respective topics.
Ryan is working on Paul's use of the expression "new creation." Contrary to the direction that present scholarship is going, Ryan is convinced that Paul's use, such as in 2 Corinthians 5:17, derives from Isaiah 65:17 and context as well as from Isaiah 66:22 and context. Watch for a monograph with his name on it in a few years.
Jonathan, who is leaving for a time today, is working on the concept of eschatology in Hebrews 12. Jonathan requested a copy of the paper I presented at the Saint Andrews Conference on Hebrews and Christian Theology in July 2006. As it turns out, it seems that my paper will provide him some substantial research assistance and support, for he and I share the same basic understanding of eschatology in Hebrews, that there are two notable axis evident in Hebrews, both temporal and spatial. If you wonder what I am talking about, you may check out my paper here. It is on Hebrews 1:6--"And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"
These young men expressed such gratitude for the opportunity to converse with me about their research topics. What I regarded as a friendly conversation, they viewed as tutorial moments. How humbling! Whatever little contribution I may have offered for these young men, it is heartwarming and delightful, for it was my pleasure to meet them. Tyndale House is a research conduit for many up and coming young scholars.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Professor Bruce Metzger
New Testament scholar
Published: 22 February 2007
Bruce Manning Metzger, biblical scholar: born Middletown, Pennsylvania 9 February 1914; ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church 1939; Teaching Fellow in New Testament Greek, Princeton Theological Seminary 1939-40, Instructor in New Testament 1940-44, Associate Professor 1948-54, Professor 1953-84, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature 1964-84 (Emeritus); married 1944 Isobel Mackay (two sons); died Princeton, New Jersey 13 February 2007.
Bruce Metzger, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary, was a Bible translator and New Testament textual critic. His Text of the New Testament: its transmission, corruption and restoration (1964) has been the standard primer for students for over 40 years; in 2005 it went into a fourth revised edition.
Among his many publications that also remain in print are other fundamental studies: The Early Versions of the New Testament: their origin, transmission and limitations (1977), dealing with the translations from Greek into other early languages of Christianity, and The Canon of the New Testament: its origin, development and significance (1987).
For those whose biblical studies are concerned with verifiable scholarship, Metzger has always been a wise guide; his publications are filled with the results of wide reading, encyclopaedic knowledge and meticulous research. His enviably fluid English style brings these topics to life, and his incessant curiosity into the byways of the disciplines throws up some entertaining obiter dicta in footnotes.
On a more popular level, his Manuscripts of the Greek Bible (1981) is an album of photographs of manuscripts with his explanatory notes that introduced the disciplines of palaeography, codicology and papyrology to a public who previously may have thought such subjects belonged to hospital wards.
Metzger was at the centre of major international research work. As a member of the Greek New Testament Project committee he was involved in the preparation of a thesaurus of variant readings in the Greek manuscripts of Luke's gospel, which was eventually published by the Clarendon Press under the editorship of J.K. Elliott in two volumes in 1984 and 1987. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Vetus Latina Institute in Beuron in Germany, whose work involves the recovery of the pre-Jerome Latin Bible. He was also an adviser to the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, from which much pioneering work emerges.
It was his membership of the small committee that was set up by the international bible societies that made Metzger's name well known among New Testament scholars. The United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament which they produced has gone through several editions since it was first published in 1966. Metzger wrote its companion volume, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971) which explained the textual variants printed in the New Testament and the reasons why the committee decided on what to print as its text. That vade-mecum has been a useful first port of call to generations of students.
The text this committee produced was adopted for the 26th edition of the Nestle Novum Testamentum Graece and this ensured that the principal Greek New Testament used today for academic study and as the basis for translations is the one co-edited by Metzger. In addition, for decades Metzger also edited the scholarly monograph series "New Testament Tools and Studies" published by Brill of Leiden.
Amazingly, given his many scholarly commitments, Metzger was also very active for several years as the Chairman of the Bible Translation Committee for the New Revised Standard Version. This inevitably brought him wide recognition. The translation was published in 1990 in the United States to great critical acclaim. The British version appeared in 1994. Its dignified but clear modern English puts it head and shoulders above other modern translations and it is equally valued in public worship and for private academic study.
A few years earlier Metzger was involved with a more controversial project initiated by Reader's Digest. The condensed Reader's Bible (1982) he edited for them obviously upset many traditionalists, but it did succeed in bringing the Old and New Testament within the grasp of a new readership. Another project of a more popular nature was his editing (with Michael Coogan) of the encyclopaedic Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993).
Bruce Manning Metzger was born into a legal family in Pennsylvania in 1914 and attended Lebanon Valley College before entering Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey as an ordinand of the Presbyterian Church. His successes as a Master's and as a doctoral student there led to his joining its faculty in 1940; he then spent his entire academic life at Princeton. He retired as the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature in 1984.
His wife, Isobel, was the daughter of the Rev John Alexander Mackay, the third president of the seminary. Metzger's full and active life regularly took them well beyond New Jersey. He was an indefatigable traveller, giving lectures throughout North America as well as in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, South America, South Africa, Korea and Japan, among other countries; he was much sought after as a speaker and consultant on the Biblical text. He spent three sabbatical terms in Oxford and Cambridge, and regularly visited Britain. He lectured throughout the British Isles including London, Leeds and Dublin.
Understandably, many academic honours came Metzger's way. He was elected a corresponding fellow of the British Academy and he was especially proud to be awarded its F.C. Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies in 1978. He was also honoured by three Festschriften, in 1981, 1985 and 1994.
A familiar figure at large conferences, Metzger became president of the American Society of Biblical Literature in 1971 and of the international New Testament society Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas the same year. All who met him or corresponded with him attest to his friendliness and his generosity with time and help. His formidable erudition was coupled with an old-fashioned courtesy that branded him a Christian gentleman and scholar.
J. Keith Elliott
Today, Wilberforce's fellow evangelicals in America are recasting their hero's faith for a 21st-century audience — and stirring debate in the process.
Friday marks the 200th anniversary of Parliament's historic vote in 1807 to abolish the slave trade throughout the British Empire. In more than 800 U.S. theaters, Bristol Bay Productions releases Amazing Grace, a film about Wilberforce's sense of calling and career as a lawmaker.
But in the film, Wilberforce (played by Ioan Gruffudd) seeks God in a garden, not a church. He never refers to Jesus. He displays none of the historical figure's passion for winning converts to Christianity.
"The spiritual side (of Wilberforce) has been extremely toned down," says associate producer Bob Beltz, one of several evangelicals involved in the project. "The purpose of the film is to introduce him to a new generation" by appealing to a broad audience that is not necessarily religious.
But other evangelicals criticize the "toned down" approach.
"His stance (on slavery) might seem 'obvious' to us today, but it was inexplicable in his day without his deep evangelical faith," says Timothy Larsen, a Wheaton College theologian and author of the 2006 book Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England (Oxford University Press). "To leave this out is to falsify who the man was."
Though Wilberforce isn't well known to many Americans, he has long been important to evangelicals. Methodist evangelicals named the nation's first historically black college after him when they founded Wilberforce University near Xenia, Ohio, in 1856. Today, Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship outreach project sponsors a Wilberforce Forum think tank. The Wilberforce School in Princeton, N.J., emphasizes "the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things." Books and lecture series also are planned.
Wilberforce's contributions also are being honored in Great Britain for the anniversary year. Britons are issuing commemorative coins and stamps and will reopen a Wilberforce House Museum.
Still, no anniversary event is likely to have more impact than the Amazing Grace movie. With that in mind, some groups are rallying to take part in tie-in activities to make the movie as successful as possible.
Movie marketers declared last Sunday "Amazing Grace Sunday." More than 4,200 churches registered on a coordinating website to take part. Some congregations sang the hymn Amazing Grace, written by a repentant former slave ship captain, John Newton, who is portrayed in the movie as influencing Wilberforce. Some churches also downloaded movie clips to show during worship.
Evangelicals say marketing a movie in church requires a sensitive touch. Craig Detweiler, a theologian and co-director of Fuller Seminary's Reel Spirituality Institute in Pasadena, Calif., says a promotional clip could "seem like a commercial in the context of worship."
But on balance, he says, the movie and its worship-based marketing are positive developments.
"The faith community has been clamoring for this opportunity to vote with their feet" and reward faith-friendly mainstream filmmaking, Detweiler says. "The chance to support films that we may believe in is certainly preferable to (merely) protesting what we don't like."
In another innovation, Bristol Bay Productions is encouraging viewers to help end modern-day slavery at amazingchange.com. Amazing Change organizers say as many as 27 million people around the world still endure forced servitude.
According to the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group, such situations range from forced prostitution to domestic servitude without pay and without freedom of movement. They say these include as many as 17,000 people who are illegally trafficked into the USA each year.
In waging a film-based activism campaign, Detweiler says, Bristol Bay is following in the footsteps of former vice president Al Gore's global-warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which also steered viewers to a website and suggested courses of action.
"More and more films are being used as advocacy for political action," Detweiler says. He notes that Blood Diamond, the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring movie that exposes the dark side of the African diamond trade, belongs in the same genre. "We just haven't seen it cross over into the religious market very often."
It seems that the British driving pattern derives from early days, days of horses and horsemen. Evidently, it seemed only reasonable that a horseman would meet another horseman by keeping to the left. This would enable the horseman to remain in the most advantageous position in the event that he would need to draw his sword quickly to defend himself against the on-coming horseman. Given that most people are right handed, approaching another on the left would enable the horseman to employ his right hand more freely. According to one report that I have read, Pope Benefice issued a Papal Edict around A.D. 1300 requiring all to keep to the left on roadways.
In Britain under King George III the Government issued the General Turnpike Act of 1773. Of its various provisions, one seems to have been commendation of keeping to the left on public roadways and streets.
If meeting oncoming horsemen on the left was advantageous and stuck in Britain, why did other countries decide to have traffic meet oncoming vehicles on the left? One offers the following explanation, at least for France.
Reasons to travel on the right are less clear but the generally accepted version of history is as follows: The French, being Catholics, followed Pope Boneface's edict but in the build up to the French Revolution in 1790 the French Aristocracy drove their carriages at great speed on the left hand side of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right side for their own safety. Come the Revolution, instincts of self preservation resulted in the remains of the Aristocracy joining the peasants on the right hand side of the road. The first official record of this was a keep right rule introduced in Paris in 1794.
Political events in France had a big effect on driving habits. Before the Revolution of 1789, the aristocracy drove its carriages along the left side of the roads, forcing the peasants to the other side. But once the Revolution started, these nobles desperately tried to hide their identity by joining the peasant travelers on the right. By 1794 the French government had introduced a keep-right rule in Paris, which later spread to other regions as the conquering armies of Napoléon I marched through much of continental Europe. It is not surprising that Napoléon favored keeping to the right. One reference work explains that because he was left-handed, “his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and any opponent.”
In the late 1700’s, a shift from left to right took place in countries such as the United States, when teamsters started using large freight wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. The wagons had no driver’s seat, so the driver sat on the left rear horse and held his whip in his right hand. Seated on the left, the driver naturally preferred that other wagons pass him on the left so that he could be sure to keep clear of the wheels of oncoming wagons. He did that by driving on the right side of the road.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I want to offer a few reflections upon Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Well, singleness has its advantages, some of which the apostle Paul mentions in his great letter to the Corinthians (7:17-39). But, as Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 point out, singleness has its disadvantages, too. I have been keenly reminded of them these several weeks as I have been working on my B.L. (Bachelor of Loneliness). Yes, by choice to step back into singleness for a designated period of time and not for an indefinite amount of time, for one who is married it is a time of loneliness and a time of being reminded of the great benefits of marriage.
Two are truly better than one. If something needs to be done, I am obligated to do it. No one else will do it for me. Everyday, since I have been at Tyndale House, I have been keenly aware of this. Again, today I have been reminded of this because I have been occupied with washing clothes and cleaning my room. I'm not complaining. It's just that in marriage Lois and I divide various household responsibilities. Marriage lightens the load of each partner. How keenly aware of this I have been today. I miss my wife for these reasons and a whole lot more, including the "lying down together" and "keeping warm" parts mentioned in Ecclesiastes 4. I look forward to getting home to Lois.
Henry, the vacuum cleaner, is hardly a substitute companion. He helped me clean my room, but he lives in a closet.
For you in the upper mid-west region of the USA, remember the Midwest Region of the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting, March 16-17, 2007.
If you have read this blog from its inception, you will recall my entry titled A Humbling Experience While Researching. In it I indicated that I had read a couple of journal articles on precisely the same biblical passage upon which I had earlier written a rather substantial essay, "'Redeemed from the Curse of the Law'": The Use of Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13." If you take a look at it, you will see that it is technical in that if offers a close and tight exegesis of the passages involved. It so happens that David Brondos, whose book D. A. Carson reviews, is one who wrote an essay on the same passage, "The Cross and the Curse: Galatians 3:13 and Paul's Doctrine of Redemption," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 81 (2001): 3-32.
When I read Brondos's essay, I decided to put the best construction on the fact that he made no reference to my essay, which, by the way, shows up in every major index system, including ATLA. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt that he had simply missed my essay in the ATLA listing as he researched essays on the selected passage. Yet, I wondered if he selectively ignored my essay because it demonstrates from biblical evidence an argument that leads to conclusions that counter his own conclusions. Upon reading D. A. Carson's review of Brondos's book, Paul on the Cross, which I have not had an opportunity either to see or to read, my formerly private thoughts may be more accurate than my previously expressed public thoughts. Is it conceivable that I misplaced the cause of my expressed humility? Which is the cause? Did he accidentally overlook my essay by missing it on the ATLA or other index retrieval system? Or, did he overlook my essay by suppressing it because my argument and conclusions countered his own? You be the judge. Read D. A. Carson's review of Brondos's book. As in his book, so also in his essay, Brondos contends that
Pauline scholars have tended to look to some version of the doctrines of atonement found in later Christian tradition for the narrative framework and ideas necessary to interpret Paul's thought in Gal. 3.13. However, a proper understanding of the foundtational story found in the primitive Christian tradition provides us with all the elements we need to understand this passage: by being obedient unto death in seeking the redemption of others, Christ attained that redemption once for all when God responded by raising him, since now exalted in power, he is certain to redeem God's people from the law's curse when he comes again ("The Cross and the Curse: Galatians 3:13 and Paul's Doctrine of Redemption," JSNT 81 (2001): 32 [Brondos's own abstract]).Taking offense at the longstanding Christian belief in substitutionary or vicarious atonement may have prompted his slighting of my essay, for, as you will see if you read the following paragraphs, I make a case that Deuteronomy 21:22-23, in the Old Testament covenant framework, depicts substitution. On the other hand, it seems somewhat odd that Brondos did not cite my essay as a contemporary example of one who holds what he regards as a wrong view of Paul's understanding. Here, then are crucial excerpts from the conclusion of my essay.
Do scholars selectively ignore some books or articles that do not fit the direction of their research or challenge the conclusions to which they have come? I am afraid that we scholars are very much tempted to do just that when we encounter an essay or a book containing an argument, especially a carefully reasoned exegetical argument, that does not fit our template. Do scholars have templates in their minds from which they argue. Indeed, we do. Is it possible to overcome the temptation to lay our preconceived notions and beliefs upon the text and avoid coming to the conclusions that we presume from the beginning? Yes, but it is difficult for us as it is for all others.
Deut 21:22-23 from this hermeneutical matrix clarifies the legitimacy of Paul's use of that passage in Gal 3:13. In its OT covenantal context, Deut 21:22-23 prepares for and anticipates Christ's curse bearing upon the cross. The corpse of the covenant-breaker is hung “upon the tree" as a gruesome sign that he is an object of curse. He is suspended between heaven and earth, exposed to the vengeance of God to propitiate his wrath toward Reading (Num 25:4; 2 Sam 21:6ff). Israel
From his salvation-historical perspective, Paul argues that Christ hung “upon the tree" in
's place, bearing the curse of the violated covenant and turning away God's wrath from his people by redeeming them out from under the law's curse. This redemption of believing Jews from the law's curse is epochal in character, for Christ replaces the law for Jews and in so doing extends to Gentiles the blessing promised to Abraham. Thus, Jew and Gentile together are made recipients of the long-awaited Spirit of the new covenant. Israel
If this study is reasonably correct in its identification of biblical authorization for Paul's quotation of Deut 21:22-23 in Gal 3:13, it demonstrates the short-sightedness of exegesis that becomes unduly entangled in pursuing hidden midrashic link-words. Paul's warrant for employing his selected passage, though undoubtedly influenced by gezerah shawah, is not bound to the middoth, nor is he driven to find and appropriate in an ad hoc manner OT passages to validate the NT creed. The eye of faith, reading the OT through Paul's optic (namely the coming of Christ) will yield fresh and rewarding insights concerning how the NT cites the OT.
We are made rather uncomfortable with the ideals and principles that ought to guide all scholarship. Why? It is because true biblical scholarship will arrive at conclusions to which the biblical text leads, and often those conclusions cut cross-grain with our preconceived notions and ideas. Is there a danger in submitting ourselves to wherever the biblical text will lead us? Indeed, there is, for our ideas, beliefs, prejudices, and conclusions may be significantly challenged by the biblical text rightly read and followed. Such is the nature of Scripture. Is it not? Is this not precisely why biblical scholarship must always be prepared to be humbled rightly and even greatly by the biblical text? Herein is proper humility.
It is widely accepted that Christians were persecuted for preaching a crucified messiah because, according to Deut. 21.22-23, one who is crucified is also accursed. However, the arguments in favor of that position are weak. A larger examination of Jewish texts on Deut. 21.22-23 and crucifixion per se demonstrate that attitudes toward crucifixion and its victims were generally very different. The article conclues that Deut 21.22-23 is an unlikely basis for early Jewish rejection and persecution of Christianity and that other causes should be sought.How could a scholar who gives careful examination to Galatians 3:13 and to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 fail to account for a substantial essay that addresses both passages at length? May God spare me from failing to account for essays, theses, dissertations, and books in my research, and especially those that I need most crucially to read and to examine in that they will challenge me and push me to examine the biblical text more closely and to scrutinize my own predilections and assumptions. Amen.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun
Reviewed by Jan N. Bremmer
The Scriptures and the Lord: Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon; A Study in Text, Ritual and Interpretation
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas
David A. Brondos
Paul on the Cross: Reconstructing the Apostle's Story of Redemption
Reviewed by D. A. Carson
Clayton N. Jefford
The Apostolic Fathers: An Essential Guide
Reviewed by Laurence L. Welborn
Antti Laato and Johannes C. de Moor, eds.
Theodicy in the World of the Bible: The Goodness of God and the Problem of Evil
Reviewed by Lorenzo DiTommaso
Philip L. Mayo
"Those Who Call Themselves Jews": The Church and Judaism in the Apocalypse of John
Reviewed by David L. Barr
Donald K. McKim, ed.
Calvin and the Bible
Reviewed by Henning Graf Reventlow
Aharon Oppenheimer; ed. Nili Oppenheimer
Between Rome and Babylon: Studies in Jewish Leadership and Society
Reviewed by Edward J. Mills III
The Heart Set Free: Sin and Redemption in the Gospels, Augustine, Dante, and Flannery O'Connor
Reviewed by Alice M. Sinnott
Udo Rüterswörden, ed.
Martin Noth-aus der Sicht der heutigen Forschung
Reviewed by Steven L. McKenzie
"Wie der Hirsch lechzt nach frischem Wasser.": Studien zu Psalm 42/43 in Religionsgeschichte, Theologie und kirchlicher Praxis
Reviewed by Stefan Beyerle
Udo Schnelle; trans. M. Eugene Boring
Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology
Reviewed by Kenneth Atkinson
Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life
Reviewed by Valérie Nicolet Anderson
Christiane de Vos
Klage als Gotteslob aus der Tiefe: Der Mench vor Gott in der individuellen Klagepsalmen
Reviewed by Marianne Grohmann
Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire
Reviewed by Angela Standhartinger
- Chae, Daniel Jong Sang. Paul as Apostle to the Gentiles: His Apostolic Self-Awareness and its Influence on the Soteriological Argument in Romans. Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster, 1997.
- Kim, Johann D. God, Israel, and the Gentiles: Rhetoric and Situation in Romans 9-11. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 176. Atlanta, Georgia: SBL, 2000.
Today I learned at a Tyndale House residents' meeting that the £131.50 (approx. $262.00) per annum fee is not voluntary in the sense that residents pay the tax to keep a clear conscience. No. No. There are government vehicles that patrol streets and roads with electronic snooping equipment to check whether one's residence is emitting telltale signals that indicate that a television is operating and tuning into channels. If so, expect to receive notice and pay up.
Are you considering taking up residence in the UK for a few months and you plan to use a television? Here is the page for you to consult. English is not your mother tongue? No problem. There are links for numerous languages so that you can read the web pages in your own language.
If you want to obtain a general overview of the television user fee license, Wikipedia offers a good beginning point here.
Incidentally, during our residents' meeting, when we were told about the government vehicles that snoop about to detect whether residents' televisions are tuned into channels or simply playing DVD or VHS movies, one resident quipped, "That's like a police state!" Touché.
Fellow Americans, our television tax is more concealed. There is a television and radio tax. You did know that. Right? Oh yes. It simply is more veiled in that Congress allocates collected tax revenues to fund National Public Radio and Public Television. It is a less direct tax than here in the UK. We do not pay a direct tax, nor do we acquire a license to operate our television sets. Thank God! We pay a price, of course. We endure more commercials, but then commercials actually do serve various purposes. Now, don't they?
FACULTY OF DIVINITY
MARTIN HENGEL AT 80
Professor Hengel is respected internationally
as a leading Biblical scholar.
For many decades he has maintained a close link
with our University and Faculty,
and with many of our Biblical scholars.
Saturday 3 March 10.15 to 4.30
Venue – Runcie Room, Faculty of Divinity.
At the one day conference in the Runcie Room
a set of short papers will interact with some of the many
strands in Professor Hengel’s scholarly work.
Speakers will include:
Larry Hurtado (Edinburgh)
Justin Meggitt Graham Stanton
Roland Deines (Tübingen &Nottingham)Professor Hengel will contribute to the discussions, as will one of his most
distinguished former pupils, Professor Jörg Frey (Munich).
Parking spaces available close to the
Faculty building, off West Road.
If you plan to attend, please inform
Stephen Witmer in person in Cambridge,
or by e-mail: email@example.com
Monday, February 19, 2007
Various fellows of Pembroke suffered as martyrs during the Reformation period. Nicholas Ridley, after whom Ridley Hall is named, refused to renounce his Protestant faith and perished under Queen Mary I, the Catholic monarch. Americans know of a renowned graduate from Pembroke, Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island.
On the left above is the library. To the right is the old court. Below left is the chapel which replaced the first chapel. The present chapel, designed by Christopher Wren, his first architectural commission, was put into service in 1690.
For more pictures of Pembroke click here
Sunday, February 18, 2007
During the morning worship services at Eden a segment is devoted to addressing the children. Some churches in the States do similar things. The last church I pastored reserved a portion of the morning worship for "Kids' Korner." Many adults often commented to me that they received as much profit from my messages to the children as they did from my regular sermons. (Maybe I should have taken that as a clue about my sermons.)
Today, a college-age young man tailored his message, as is regularly done, to dovetail with the sermon. Given that the sermon was on Mark 6:31-44, the narrative of the feeding of the multitude from five loaves and two fish, the children's message focused on bread. The young man had put together a quiz about bread. He called for two contestants. Two boys stepped forward. Then he called for Stewart White to stand to the right and Marvin Wong, assistant pastor and the gentleman who would preach the sermon, to stand to the left. Then he instructed the two boys, "If you think that the statements that I make about bread are right, stand by Stewart White. If you think that they are wrong, go stand by Marvin Wong." Of course, at that point the entire congregation erupted with laughter, sustained laughter. Neither Stewart nor Marvin exhibited the slightest embarrassment or disgust.
As an American, I may have exhibited surprise, though no one surely took notice. All were enjoying the hilarity of the moment. There are numerous aspects of political correctness in Britain that go well beyond its depths in America. State-sponsored politically correct programs run deep and broad in the UK. Yet, what I witnessed today in church, I sincerely doubt I would ever witness in any church in the USA. If the young man who presented the children's message in Eden Chapel were to do the same in a church in the US, I sincerely expect that he would be severely reprimanded if not banned from any leadership role in the church again.
I may be right or wrong in my above assessment, but one thing is surely right, "White or Wong" was hilarious. It was rather refreshing, actually, to witness people laughing at language-based humor (not ethnic-based humor) without shame, without embarrassment, without outrage, and without the humor stormtroopers descending upon the place with their sanctimonious righteous indignation. Pastor Wong laughed as much as everyone else. (His English is excellent. He has no difficulty pronouncing the "r.") Let's all lighten up, Americans. It was funny.
Pastor Marvin Wong's sermon on Mark 6:31-44 was superb. He showed how Jesus dramatized his "New Moses" role by feeding the multitude in the wilderness. As such, Moses foreshadowed the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled Scripture's prophetic foreshadowing. Pastor Wong rightly showed that details of the biblical story in Mark, such as, "he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd," deliberately echo Moses' prayer, recorded in Numbers 27:16-17, "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd." Pastor Wong demonstrated other Old Testament echoes also. All in all, it was a superb sermon, the best biblically-theologically integrated sermon I have heard for a long time. For anyone who plans to visit Cambridge, I commend Eden Baptist Church. It may take a few days for Pastor Wong's sermon to be uploaded, but if interested in hearing it, you may download it here.