Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone seeking to understand Arminian theology properly, that is, as taught by James Arminius. Many Calvinists have a grave misunderstanding of classical Arminianism basically, I think, because they may not have not read Arminius' "Works" (I wonder if apologists like James White or theologians like MacArthur read it). In any case, Olson gives a very readable - not at all technical - understanding of Arminianism comparing the erroneous assertions made as to what it teaches with what Arminius himself and those who followed him taught . He admits that some who call themselves Arminians have strayed away from Arminius' teachings, however, it cannot be denied that even Calvinist have done the same with John Calvin. The value in "Arminian Theology" is the clarity he gives to Arminius' teachings and points exactly where others have gotten it all wrong; and, I must admit, in my experience discussing Arminianism as compared to Calvinism, the Calvinist brings up these exact misrepresentations of Arminianism as Olson points out in the book. It also helped me tremendously by pointing out areas where I have misunderstood Arminianism. For the Calvinist and the Arminian this a must read; and for the novice in theology who has an interest in reading Arminius' "Work", I suggest you read Olson's book first.

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Review: Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic

Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic by Larry R. McQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As noted in the preface, "This study brings the themes of the book of Joel into conversation with emerging Pentecostal scholarship..." (p.7).

Unfortunately, I must admit I am new to Pentecostal scholarship and not very knowledgeable of Pentecostalism, although my personal Christian experience has interacted with the views of Pentecostalism (even before I was actually aware of it's existence). In any case, that is just to say that I may not have been able to enjoy the full impact of this book not being fully cognizant to the issues revolving around Pentecostalism's thought and spirituality. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable read for any person of any Christian theological view or denominational persuasion, and much that is said can be applied to the Church universally.

As I understand it, McQueen sees the book of Joel as giving quality to contemporary Pentecostal tradition and as the basis for envisioning Pentecostalism for purposes of renewal.

In the introduction, the author discusses the hermeneutics from the "classical" Pentecostal perspective and then turns to a brief and general review of the book of Joel in light of "previous works."

In chapter 2, he discusses the thesis of the book of Joel as (a) having three movements: lament, salvation, and (what perhaps may have been an issue overlooked by other commentators or scholars), judgment, and (b) that these movements "provides a framework of progression of the relationship" between God and Judah (p.21).

In chapter, he shows how the New Testament appropriated the "themes of Joel" (discussed in chapter 2) to "provide a theological framework for understanding the gift of the Spirit," which he identifies preeminently, so it seems to me, as (a) ushering in the last days; (b) the immediate divine presence and communication to his people and, in consequence, (c) the establishing of a prophetic community (p.44). As such, respecting disciple's experience and Peter's sermon in consequence of the public display of the gift of tongues in Acts 2, "The tongues-speech of the disciple is interpreted by Peter as the manifestation of prophetic inspiration," which "characterizes the last days and is the primary sign of the present of the Spirit" (p.51)

In chapter 4, McQueen shares "how the Pentecostal movement has appropriated the major themes of [lament, salvation, judgment in] the book of Joel" in a way similar to how they were seen as being applied in the New Testament ((p.74), and thereby engages Pentecostal history, theological studies, testimonies, and even the lyrics of a song throughout the chapter. One of his conclusions is that the "early Pentecostals were living signs of eschatological salvation and judgment" (p.92).

In the final chapter, McQueen "provides some reflection on [the] method" of Pentecostal hermeneutics, and does so, interestingly, from personal experience in the writing of this book, contending that "there is more to Pentecostal hermeneutics than reader and text...open to a radically subversive element which stands outside both the Bible text and the interpreter, that is, the critical claim of the Holy Spirit" (p.108).

I have found this reading to be most instructive as to the emphasis that the book of Joel has for the contemporary Church the greater realization of the significance of the Spirit, not only for Biblical interpretation but also for the meaning, character, and method of witness the Church is to live out in the world today.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Devotion 1: Repentance

What is "repentance"?

It is the last word - the sum total of God's call to men as sinners - proclaimed in the Torah and by the last of the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist.

In continuity with the prophets of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the tradition of John the Baptist, it is the first word of God's call to men as sinners proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, carried forward by the apostolic and early Church witnesses; it is the message that continue today, in these the last days since Pentecost, the divine imperative, never watered down through the ages up to today.

It is the call of God to men to abandon their own way of life and live to God's will.  Repentance is the walk of Man's return to the Garden of Eden.

It is the divine call that has an eye to the Kingdom of God, that is, God's all-encompassing glory exposed and ruling over all the earth with absolute moral goodness.  Consequently, it implies both warning and promise: the promise of a new life in a new age for a new people in a new earth centered in a new city.  And the warning of divine retribution against men as sinners who oppose his rule, refusing to align themselves now - not tomorrow, but now - with the imminent and inevitable reign of God's Son, Jesus Christ over all of heaven and earth.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Matthew 3:3 (NET)