The Structure of John 9 - The man born blind

The account of the man born blind has a very elegant structure, which greatly aids in seeing the purpose of the passage.

The basic structure is easily discerned by noting that Jesus is only present in the opening and closing verses:

Dialogs with Jesus 1–7

  • Debates concerning the event v.8–34

Dialogs with Jesus 35–41

Opening and closing

The dialogs with Jesus can be seen to break down into three parts, with an inverse parallel structure:

  1. Relationship between sin and blindness – the disciples understanding corrected 1–3
    1. Jesus role in the world – to be the light 4–5
      1. Jesus Encounters the man: physical eyes are opened 6–7

Debate concerning the event v.8–34

  1. Jesus Encounters the man: spiritual eyes are opened 6–7
  1. Jesus role in the world – to bring blindness as well as light 4–5
  1. Relationship between sin and blindness – the Pharisees understanding corrected 1–3

At this point we might expect the inner debate to neatly fit into the same kind of structure, but it does not seem to.

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How did Psalm 23 get to be written?

Did the young shepherd-boy David sit down under a tree one day, his sheep all around, and start to compose “The Lord is my Shepherd”? Or was it written at the end of his life as he contemplated God’s faithful care?

I like to think that it was both—the first draft composed as a teenager, and then as the years went by, more life experiences were woven in until the final word, “forever”.

In this talk I speculate about what events might have been the inspiration for each line. Check it out:

Part 4. God’s Knowledge

Part four in the series on The Theology of God.

God begins to reveal this attribute very early:

  • when Adam and Eve try to hide in Genesis 3, God demonstrates that he knows where they are.
  • And then a few chapters later we have a story that tells of God’s exact knowledge of the future as well:
  • Abraham was old and had no children, but God foretells precisely what will happen:
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Part 3. God's Justice

Part three in the series on The Theology of God.

  • A lot of people struggle with stories in the Old Testament of God’s judgement
    • Sometimes women and children are wiped out as well
    • How can a God of love do that?
    • Is the Old Testament God a different one, an angry God?
  • This attribute of God is revealed in stages in the Old Testament. The most important ones contained in Genesis are:
  1. The Fall: God responded with
    • Fairness—the punishment matched the crime
    • Consistency: they would die (immediately spiritually, and eventually physically)
    • But he provided for them both physically and spiritually
  2. Cain
    • God is amazingly merciful to this murderer
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The Attributes of God—A New Approach

The Doctrine of God is usually approached using a systematic theology model, i.e. what we know about God from the Bible is classified into a logical system.

What follows is an alternative approach.

  1. God’s Power
  2. God’s Faithful Love
  3. God’s Justice
  4. God’s Knowledge

Part 2. God’s Faithful Love

Part two in the series on The Theology of God.

If Genesis 1:1 begins to reveal God’s power, then the second attribute that is revealed is that he is relational.

  • We get the first hint of this in 1:27 where mankind are created in God’s own image.
  • In 2:8–14 God lovingly creates Eden as a beautiful place for Adam to live.
  • In 2:18 his compassion for Adam leads to the creation of Eve
  • 3:8 implies that he had a daily relationship with them.
  • At the heart of Genesis 3 is a damaged relationship and a promise of future restoration
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Part 1. God’s Power

The first part of the series on The Theology of God introduces the concept of this way of approaching God’s character and attributes, and begins the series by looking at God’s self-revelation of his power.

In addition to Genesis 1 & 2, the main texts are:

  • Psalm 8: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…”
  • Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
  • Genesis 15 links this revelation to the covenant with Abraham: “Gaze into the sky and count the stars…”
  • In Exodus God’s power is revealed as being saving.
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The Attributes of God—A New Approach: Introduction

Traditional Approach

The Doctrine of God is usually approached using a systematic theology model, i.e. what we know about God from the Bible is classified into a logical system.

  • God’s attributes are classified into headings, sometimes under headings like:
    • God Communicable and Incommunicable attributes (Reformed model)
    • God’s Greatness and Goodness (Millard Erickson)
    • What God is (Attributes of God) and What God does (creation, salvation etc.)

Alternative Approach

  • While such an approach is very useful, it is not how God has chosen to reveal himself.
  • Instead, God has chosen, for the most part, to use stories—historical accounts of his interactions with the universe and especially with human beings.
    • God’s attributes rarely found in the abstract, but usually as part of events that were recorded.
      (The closest we have to systematic presentations would be some of the Epistles, such as Ephesians or Romans.)
    • He reveals himself primarily through relationships (e.g. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Nation of Israel, David, and through Jesus).
    • Particular attributes of God are often revealed in each story. e.g. his faithfulness to Abraham in keeping his promise.
  • If the traditional approach is known as Systematic Theology, then this alternative would be Biblical Theology.
Systematic Theology Biblical Theology
Organize truth into a logical system Ask how God has organized truth
Doctrine of God: divide his attributes into categories How has God decided to reveal his nature and character to us?
Good as an end-point The best place to start
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Holy Spirit Baptism

The subject of Holy Spirit Baptism has been very divisive. Typically people are polarized into two camps:

  1. At the moment you become a Christian you receive the Spirit.
    • “Baptism with the Spirit” happens at the point of conversion.
    • There may be later “re-fillings” but all Christians have the Spirit
    • Characteristic of non-Charismatic evangelicals and Third-wave Charismatics such as the Vineyard,
  2. “Baptism with the Spirit” is a second experience after conversion (sometimes called the doctrine of subsequence)
    • There are two kinds of Christians, those who have been Baptized and those who have not.
    • Some groups, such as traditional Pentecostals, would say you must speak in tongues to be baptized.
    • Characteristic of Pentecostals and many Charismatics
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Is it wrong to Celebrate Christmas?

Many things about Christmas have pagan origins. Does this mean that by participating we are opening ourselves to the occult? What about Christmas trees, yule logs, lights, mistletoe and even the date of December 25?

When we look deeper, huge parts of our culture have pagan origins, from the names of the days of the week, the months, common personal names and place names.

One pagan website points out that

  • a bowl of cereal is named after Ceres, the god of agriculture
  • Insomnia comes from Somnus the god of sleep
  • Nike is the Greek goddess of Victory
  • Cars are named Saturn, Taurus etc.
  • (But note that this site is wrong about Easter)

Many people celebrate Halloween, which has much more obvious pagan origins, and some music and new-age practices have explicit connections.

I am going to suggest we can divide these cultural elements into three categories:

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