Acts' Story: Sent from Jerusalem

Acts 8.4-9.43.
The time came and the witnesses to all that had happened in Jerusalem made their way into other regions of the ancient world. New challenges arose, but also many joys unfolded. In this story, we find a mirror to our own world: who are the unsung heroes behind the scenes of our lives? Are we proclaimers of our Lord or rather of ourselves?

Here is the podcast, and on iTunes.

Here is the PowerPoint

Acts' Story: Strife in Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, God’s power through Jesus’ spirit, and the actions of the apostles has taken center stage. In the next part of the story, other characters are faced with obstacles and challenges as the Church grows and continues to spread the word about what God has done for his people through Jesus.

Here is the podcast and here on iTunes.

Here is the video.

Acts' Story: Power in Jerusalem

The story of emergent Christianity continues with the early followers still frequenting the Temple. In this next chapter of the story, Peter and John go up to the temple for the time of prayer. Here, miraculous power is observed through the connection to the name of Jesus. How is it that this power drove the message onward?

Here is the link to the podcast, for those who would prefer it. Also in iTunes.

Here is the video:

Here is the PowerPoint:

Gospel as Peace: Final Part

In his book “Surprised by Scripture,” N. T. Wright has a fantastic chapter; “Jesus is Coming – plant a Tree.” He describes this hope of renewal when God’s people will live on the renewed earth in peace with one another and with creation itself. 
“‘When Christ shall come,’ we sing in a favorite hymn, ‘with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.’ What we ought to sing is, ‘When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and heal this world, what joy shall fill my heart.’ In the New Testament the Second Coming is not the point at which Jesus snatches people up, away from the earth, to live forever with him somewhere else, but the point at which he returns to reign not only in heaven but upon the earth.”[1]
The new creation God is wielding through Jesus is a wonder surpassing even that of Eden. Violence between God’s creatures and creation has no place there. 
“The Liberation of creation is to happen at the end of history, when Christian believers will attain their full salvation in the glory of the resurrection. . . . Like the Kingdom of God, we cannot achieve the liberation of creation but we can anticipate it.”[2] 
The Bible gives a meta-narrative, but its way of telling the story is often through symbolism, mythologized or parabolic form, and falls outside the kind of reality that includes static knowledge.[3]
Bauckham summarized the meta-narrative[4] in this way: it is the story of humanity and all the nations that comprise it. This story involves God’s chosen clan whose objective was to model a proper community of faith. The story takes a large step forward in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. The story as a whole then expanded to include the rest of the nations within this community, as originally intended. Through Jesus, as idealized Israel and humanity, God has inaugurated the new creation and revealed that restoration is on its way. 
“What we can know from the Bible’s prophetic visions is that it is a new future for the whole creation, not just for humans.”[5] 
We are able to anticipate this kingdom, but it does not mean taking preemptive measures regarding God’s eschatological action. Establishing the kingdom in its universal fullness is God’s prerogative.[6]
Heaven is neither our inheritance nor our hope. The “gospel” has often been reduced merely to “accepting Jesus” as Lord for the purpose of entering into personal salvation and thereby leaving the body and corporeal reality upon death. This is borderline Gnosticism.[7] Thus, sharing the “gospel” with someone is giving them the “secret knowledge” by which they too can escape “hell” and flee into an eternal heavenly bliss. I suggest that this paradigm misses the whole intended point and purpose of our participation in this good creation. 
“Our inheritance is the whole renewed, restored creation . . . the whole world is now God’s holy land. That is how Paul’s retold Exodus narrative makes full and complete sense.”[8] 
I love the way Wright framed it in another place, 
“We find, not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven, but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.”[9]
God introducing shalom into chaos is a theme found throughout the Bible. At creation, the earthlings are made from the ground and placed in a garden to manage, enjoy and dwell with God in an intimate environment. As the narrative depicts, God dwelt with humanity in perfection, everything was right. There was safety and shalom, no fear or violence; everything was in its proper sphere. Humanity chose to rebel, but God continues the work toward restoration. Jesus, through obedience, [10] has become the ultimate ruler, mediator and high Priest of God’s kingdom. This is our hope: if God raised Jesus, we too can be raised.[11]
“The task of creating communities where shalom is lived out may not be easy, but we can know whether or not we are successful in our efforts. How can a community tell if it is practicing shalom? Fortunately, a consistent standard is given throughout the sacred Scriptures. Shalom is always tested on the margins of a society and revealed by how the poor, oppressed, disempowered, and needy are treated.”[12]
As Christians, may we strive to do everything in our power to defeat chaos with shalom, but leave the rest to God. We can pray as though everything were dependant upon God, but we must act as though it is dependant on us. Fear is powerful, but it is no match for hope.

[1] N. T. Wright, Surprised By Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (New York, NY.: HarperOne, 2014), 102.
[2] Bauckham 2010, 99-100.                                                                          
[3] Ibid., 143.
[4] Ibid., 144.
[5] Ibid., 125.
[6] Ibid.
[7] The view of a “lesser God” within the Hebrew Bible as a mean, violent God contrasted with Jesus, the meek and mild peace-loving savior is stronger in some Protestant traditions than others.
[8] Ibid., 93.
[9] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (London: SPCK, 2007), 26.
[10] Acts 2; Phil 2; Heb 5.
[11] Acts 17; 2 Cor 4:14.
[12] Randy Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 15.
Photo credit: Jon Imhoff, Glacier National Park, MT

Acts' Story: Anointed in Jerusalem

Much of Luke’s purpose is recognized through the story he tells. He demonstrates how Israel’s earlier history was being realized in new ways. He told his story with Israel’s legacy as a backdrop, and stuck to a pattern of using Hebrew Bible themes for the sake of showing the continuity of salvation history.
The people for whom he wrote would have readily understood the themes from which he formed his story, as these were quite familiar.

In the same way that story can powerfully motivate us today, so it did for them. But it was not just any story; it was the legacy of an entire people. By retelling, howbeit in new forms and different ways, the truths of the past were carried into their present to bring to light how God was at work. Without the spirit there would be no story to tell, there would be no assembly and no way to follow.

Here is the PowerPoint:

Gospel as Peace: Part Three

This brings me to the topic of new creation. God created, and it was good. To truly love God's good creation as intended, we must despise all that threatens and destroys it. In the Apocalypse of John, when justice is being done, it was said that those who “destroy the earth” were to be judged.[1] While being careful not to read an anachronistic, post-modern, polluted and industrialized world back into the text, it is worth noting that if there were those guilty of “destroying” the earth then, how much guiltier are we today?
I have found that dualism,[2] as a theological paradigm, has caused a certain amount of damage in the faith community and has resulted in a negative impact upon the environment. Here is what I mean. When the hope of Christianity shifted from bodily resurrection on a renewed and renovated earth to a disembodied, ethereal escape into the heavens and outside of the physical world, the attitude toward the earth changed.
The old cliché, “it’s all going to burn” is a phrase I heard frequently growing up.  When apocalyptic imagery of fire, brimstone and destruction pervades our eschatological motif and accompanies the idea of dualism, there remains little incentive for maintaining an attitude of remediation. The point is fixing, not fleeing. God is going to mend our broken, violent relationship with creation. Biblical prophecy is not only meant to be predictive, but also meant as a call to action by highlighting misconduct now in light of a future reality; inaugurated eschatology.
Jesus’ action – as ours should be – was in anticipation of a greater kingdom, where the defeat of chaos will be universal, throughout all of creation and to every creature. Christians are to be conquering people, howbeit not through the sword, violent measure or human strength, but as channels of mercy, love and grace which bring healing.
“The renewal of creation, the birth of the new world from the laboring womb of the old, will demonstrate that God is in the right . . . the New Testament invites us, then, to imagine a new world as a beautiful, healing community; to envisage it as a world vibrant with life and energy, incorruptible, beyond the reach of death and decay; to hold it in our mind's eye as a world reborn, set free from slavery of corruption, free to be truly what it was made to be.”[3]

I will finish up this series in the next post, concluding with the new creation.

[1] Rev 11:18; cf. 2 Bar 13:11.
[2] I am specifically referencing the dualistic notion of body/soul: humans are mortals that have spiritual experiences, not immortal spirits having human experiences. Bauckham touches on this: Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Ecology : Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Waco, TX.: Baylor University Press, 2010), 148-49, 171.
[3] N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 118.

Acts' Story: Beginning From Jerusalem

I will continue posting my series on the "Gospel as Peace" in the next few weeks. This post, however, is to share something a bit different with you. I have been afforded the privilege to fill-in at a local congregation for a few months. Throughout my time there, we will be examining the book of Acts.

The Acts of the Apostles is without question the most exciting and dramatic book in the New Testament, and possibly in the entire Bible. The story of the beginnings, of what became known as Christianity, is narrated with great vigor and vividness, leaving its reader wide-eyed in amazement. Even today, this book has the ability to ignite passion and stir emotion from those within the faith community.

We will begin this adventure examining what we can know about who, where, when, why, and how, and then, as best as we can, listen with their ears, read through their eyes to see what God is saying to us in our time. It all began in Jerusalem…
Note: The last few minutes of my final text, comments, conclusions, application were cut-off due to a technical glitche.

Here is the PowerPoint:

Gospel as Peace: Part Two

The Synoptics portray Jesus as a tireless itinerant preacher of the gospel of the kingdom about 30 times. In Matthew 4, Jesus is preaching the kingdom, and in chapter 9 he is still preaching that same kingdom. He was also teaching ethics (i.e. Sermon on the Mount), and the proper behavior of citizens belonging to that kingdom.
I am not minimizing the tremendous impact that the resurrection had as “assurance”[1] or its importance regarding atonement. The gospel of the kingdom was certainly further illuminated in light of Jesus’ resurrection, and subsequently incorporated into this message. The kingdom of God still seemed to remain as the primary message.[2] In Acts, Paul’s mission was “proclaiming the kingdom” and for him was “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:24-27).
Even today, when reciting the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “your kingdom come.”[3] The disciples were taught to pray for something to come “on earth as it is in heaven,” which is a way of anticipating the “new heaven and new earth.” It is not a NT concept; its roots are firmly planted in the Hebrew Bible. This is why Jesus was able – often to the consternation of Christians – to use the phrase without defining it.[4] Jesus’ hearers would certainly have been well-acquainted with this theme. The kingship of God is closely related to creation, not merely over humanity, which is a favorite subject of the Psalms.
Jesus, as an apocalyptic prophet, was proclaiming the reign of God coming with power and introducing shalom over the kingdoms of the world. It would be an actual kingdom, where the powers of evil would be overthrown. The disciples were even told that they would be given administrative positions in this theocracy which was to appear onto the scene of human history at some unknown point in the future.[5] This is the rule of God and the renewal, not destruction and replacement, of creation itself.   
The good news of the kingdom of God could be summarized as, “everything wrong with the world being made right; God’s will being done on earth as already is done in heaven.” It is in this sense that I find the fullest expression of shalom. In a way, I do believe that the kingdom has already come in the hearts and minds of those who “love his appearing,”[6] but also realize that as a Christian, I wait for the blessed hope[7] while living at peace with all.[8] We wait for the reconciliation of all things. The shalom of then can still fill us now.

[1] Acts 17:31.
[2] Acts 8:12; 19:8; 28:23, 30, 31.
[3] Matt 6:10; Luke 11:2
[4] E.g. Isa 40:9-11; 52:6-10; 65:17; 66:22; Jer 23:5, 6; Dan 2:44; 7:14, 27; Obad 17-21; Zech 9:10; 14:3, 9, 16; 2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1.
[5] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 1999), 128.
[6] 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28.
[7] Tit 2:13
[8] Rom 12:18
To see part one, click here.

Gospel as Peace: Part One

This post begins a short three or four part series on the Gospel as a source of peace in our world. 

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”[1]

To call oneself Christian implies a certain loyalty to the eponymous rabbi whence the title derives. His question still lingers in the ears of any would-be follower, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 NRS). He expected those who heard him, to take his words seriously.
Luke describes Jesus preaching the kingdom of God:[2] “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God . . . I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43 NRS).[3] The kingdom of God is the overarching theme of Jesus’ action and teaching.[4] This begs the question, if Jesus’ purpose was preaching the kingdom of God, what was he proclaiming? When posing the question “what is the gospel?” to modern Christians, I generally get an answer pertaining to Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. But according to the Synoptics, it was not until the last third of his ministry that Jesus revealed he was going to die. And when he did, he was met with opposition: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”[5] It’s not the response one would expect if the disciples had already been preaching that Jesus was going to die for the sins of the world and be resurrected. And indeed, the disciples had been preaching the gospel of the kingdom prior to Jesus revealing his death and resurrection, “he [Jesus] sent them [disciples] out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2 NRS).[6] If Jesus’ death and resurrection were the central components of the gospel of the kingdom of God message, why didn’t they know?
John the Baptist had a similar message, “the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt 3:2 NRS). The interesting thing about John is that when in prison, he sent word to Jesus by his disciples asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matt 11:3 NRS, cf. Luke 7:19). This “coming one,”[7] according to some sources, was expected to be a liberator: giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, cleansing lepers and causing the deaf to hear.[8] These were all actions that met chaos with shalom in the name of the Lord. Surely, if the death of Jesus was being preached as the “gospel of the kingdom,”[9]  John would have known. After all, it is he who baptized Jesus and had been preaching a similar message. But we get no such message from anyone.

[1] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, revised ed. (The Random House Publishing Group, 1982), 290.
[2] Matthew 19:23 offers a parallelism showing kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God to be synonymous terms. Matthew is the only gospel writer to use kingdom of Heaven, meaning, the God of Heaven establishing a Kingdom. Heaven was a word that was used by the Jews as a replacement of God’s name. There is no sense of “going to heaven” in the use of kingdom of Heaven.  
[3] Other elements of his mission could be “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6; 15:24); “calling sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:32); “save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10); “destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8).
[4] Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Ecology : Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Waco, TX.: Baylor University Press, 2010), 164.
[5] Matt 16:23 cf. Mar 8:32; 9:31 “they did not understand”; Luke 18:34.
[6] Luke 9:8; 60; 10:9. 9:22 is the first mention of Jesus predicting his suffering in Luke.
[7] I. Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary : The Gospel of Luke : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 287-90.
[8] Isa 35:5-6; 61:1-2. Jesus leaves out “freedom to prisoners” in his response to John, almost as if to say, “sorry John, you are not going to be released from prison.” He even adds, “blessed is anyone [John?] who takes no offense.”
[9] Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16; Mark seems to reduce to just “gospel.” (Bauckham 2010, 164).
Click here for part two.

Reclaiming the Apocalypse: Some Thoughts on Revelation 19:11-21

Fear is powerful. It can elicit awe, foster motivation, induce panic, create division and frequently cause disruption. Fear is chaotic and disrupts inner shalom. It can be created in various ways, one of which is ignorance. Often, that which is not understood and cannot be controlled is a source of fear.
In response to the disturbing content within the Apocalypse, there are Christians today that express a response of fear when reading or discussing Revelation. Experiences range from neglecting Revelation for reading, study, and preaching, as well as questioning its authentic inclusion in the NT canon. I am not necessarily taking a position one way or another, just pointing out the variety of feelings toward this book.
Juxtaposed to a response of fear, theories have been proposed to explain the imagery in the apocalyptic text. Often, these propositions ignore the genre and view the Apocalypse as speaking only to the future. Up to the present time, every attempt to force the text into a modern framework for predicting or elucidating current and expected events has failed completely.
“Those to whom John originally wrote Revelation may have known how to interpret apocalyptic texts. Most present-day people do not, so the possibility of unqualified readers going astray is even greater than with other parts of the New Testament. Let readers beware.”[1] 
These approaches have wreaked fear into the hearts and minds of those on whom the paradigm has been forced. Unfortunately, this “fleecing good-minded folks”[2] has become all too common and is partially responsible for the disdain many have of Revelation.
When examining the text with consistent hermeneutical methods and in light of its historical and literary context, a clearer vision emerges. Richard Bauckham said it well:
“Revelation itself allows no neutral perception: either one shares Rome’s own ideology, the view of the Empire promoted by Roman propaganda, or one sees it from the perspective of heaven, which unmasks the pretensions of Rome. Revelation portrays the Roman Empire as a system of violent oppression, founded on conquest, maintained by violence and oppression. It is a system both of political tyranny and of economic exploitation.” [3] 
Focusing on the aspects of war and violence as though it were the point of the vision seems to miss the allusions being represented.[4]
An import element to note in this passage is the image of a slaughter. Although universal in language, “flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great” (19:18 NRS),[5] these are not worshippers of God but those who have refused and rebelled. Here, God is crushing a political system for refusing to acknowledge heaven’s kingship. This system has usurped the divine prerogative for personal greed and oppressed the weak.[6] 
The paradoxical conquering motif is prevalent throughout the Apocalypse. While often accused of being a violent depiction of slaughter and carnage only, Jesus in the Apocalypse – it can be consistently argued – is dripping with his own blood, rather than that of his enemies. The Greek word for “slaughtered,” is always used in the Apocalypse in relation to the violent acts of empire.[7] The only weapon this text describes in Jesus’ arsenal as a conquering Messiah is the sword of his mouth,[8] not in his hand.[9] To suggest this text is denoting acts of violence counteracts the intentional apocalyptic imagery that the book evokes; Jesus, as the slain Messiah, has conquered through self-sacrifice.
The irony regarding the Apocalypse of John is that this message, intended as a declaration of hope to early followers, has turned into fearful dread for some modern readers. The response to Revelation – and this text – should be that of shalom, not terror. God’s people can be a people of peace precisely because the Lamb has conquered through self-sacrifice.
Divine judgment is never for justifying human oriented acts of violence or physical aggression. Interpretations used to justify unethical behavior toward humanity and environment merit reconsideration on these grounds alone. Readers are encouraged to “persist in rendering faithful witness, in imitation of Jesus and his ‘patient endurance’ (1:5, 9).”[10]    

[1] Patricia M. McDonald, God and Violence: Biblical Resources for living in a small world (Scottdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2004), 248.
[2] Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 324.
[3] Richard Bauckham, New Testament Theology Series: The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New York, NY.: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 35.
[4] The Isaianic root of Jesse, the servant of Yahweh (Isa 11:4; 49:2 cf. Rev 19:11) with a mouth like a rod and sharp sword is he who will fairly treat the poor and oppressed. Even faithfulness and righteousness are around his waist.
[5] Cf. 19:19; cf. 6:15; 13:16.
[6] This is also reminiscent of Psalm 2, where the “kings of the earth” (2:2) set themselves against Yahweh and his anointed in rebellion. “Probably also from the psalm is John's use of the phrase 'the kings of the earth' as his standard term for the political powers opposed to God which Christ will subdue (1:5; 6:15; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19; 21:24; cf. 16:14).” Bauckham, 1993, 69.
[7] Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther, Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now (Bible & Liberation) (Maryknoll, NY.: Orbis Books, 2005), 140.
[8] Cf. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21.
[9] See Michael J Goreman, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness : Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Eugene, OR.: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010), 153-155.
[10] McDonald 2004, 275.

Learn War No More - Micah 3:1-4:5

If only God were worshipped, there would not be dissensions and wars. For men would know that they are the sons of one God.” – Lactantius.[1]

“No one will make them afraid.” More beautiful words have rarely been uttered. There will be worship instead of war and wickedness, bounty rather than bribery and bloodshed, peace in place of perversion.
There is nothing pleasant surrounding the prospect of judgment or impending doom. But at this time, the proclamation of justice against civil authorities and spiritual leaders of the nation[2] would have been welcome news. Micah posits to deliver the words of Yahweh, making accusations against the rich who have acted oppressively by coveting, seizing fields, houses and inheritance (2:2); tearing the skin off (3:2); eating the flesh and breaking the bones (3:3) of the people. This is “the sin of abusing one’s fellow man.”[3] Unfortunately, it was not the only time when the leadership of Israel was convicted of this charge.[4]
Yahweh in this oracle is portrayed in an “old tradition of the theophany of the divine warrior,”[5] having been roused to action due to the injustice, cruelty, and abominations done by a select group.[6] Finally, because of God’s action, peace and salvation would come to the troubled remnant of Israel.
Commentators have suggested these visions and others similar (Isa 2; 60) reflect the culmination of the ages, or eschaton where all wars will cease. David Leiter observed that such outlining is often perceived as having “little or no practical implications for our current age. . . . The vision indeed had contemporary implications for Israel and if taken seriously can also have implications for our world today.”[7] Yet, there are social critiques within this oracle that are able to be applied to various situations in the present, as well as hope for peace in the future.
In consideration of the warrior imagery, Scott Holland noted that we are more comfortable with a God who fits our own ideology and are sometimes willing to substitute divine “otherness” for our own system of ethics. “We tend to make God in our image and thus in the process make ourselves like God.”[8] If a religious group becomes violent about their religion, it is possibly because their violent perspective has created a god to meet that desire. I conclude – from a meta-narrative perspective – that ultimate redemption and reconciliation is the final objective.  However, the way God goes about that is not always clear. [9]
Ultimately, we must leave vengeance up to God, “precisely because God has the prerogative to give and take life that we do not have.”[10]  These words of Scott Holland have stuck with me since I first read them: “Could it be that because Yahweh is a warrior, we can be a people of peace?”[11] Willard Swartley, also citing this statement, eloquently explained that attributing violence to God is an inaccurate and wrong accusation from a Scriptural perspective. It undermines God’s moral character and redemptive intentions as well as confuses the perversion of human violence with God’s divine prerogative to establish justice. It can also depend on how "violence" is defined. If it entails a violation of a norm, Swartley would argue that for Christians the terms should not apply to God, who is the transcendent source of norms. Nevertheless, judgment characterizes the sovereign and holy God, who punishes humanity for their sins expressly to end human violence.[12]
Micah’s promise of restoration and deliverance is one of hope, and relevant to all those who long for peace and justice to be the order of the day.[13] Embedded within the purpose of prophetic oracles is the call for repentance. If repentance occurs, right relationship with God is restored, divine judgment can be averted and peace will be the result.[14]    

[1] The Divine Institutes, 5.8.66 (ANF 7.143).
[2] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 10:305
[3] Ralph L. Smith, Word Biblical Commentary: Micah-Malachi, vol. 32 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 5.
[4] E.g. Isa 3:12-15; 56:11-12; Ezek 13; 22:24-31; 34; Jer 10:21; 12:10-11; 23:1-5; 50:6-7; Zech 10:2-3.
[5] John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2014), 340.
[6] 2:1–2, 8–9; 3:2–3, 9–11; 7:2–6.
[7] David A. Leiter, Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament (Scottsdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2007), 72.
[8] Scott Holland “The Gospel of Peace and the Violence of God,” Seeking Cultures of Peace: A Peace Church Conversation, ed. Fernando Enns, Scott Holland, and Ann Riggs (Telford, PA.: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004), 141.
[9] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (London: SPCK, 2007), 206.
[10] Holland 2004, 141.
[11] Ibid., 144.
[12] Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 395.
[13] Elelwani B. Farisani, “Micah” The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa and the African Diaspora, ed. Hugh R. Page, Jr. (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2010), 192.
[14] Leiter 2007, 93-4.

BibleWorks and Wise Words of Caution

BibleWorks has been my choice for textual study for a few years. Recently I acquired version 10, and as expected, I like it a lot, although I need to spend a few days just going through the excellent tutorial videos provided by their team.

As I was exploring the Module page on BibleWorks' site, I came across some brief comments at the bottom of the page titled "Some Thoughts About Electronic Libraries." 

Now, just so I'm clear, I am by no means against electronic libraries. For those who invest solely in them and have found them to be the best option in their study routine, that is great. I use electronic resources frequently, as they make research efficient through search capabilities. Resources that I use a lot, I may decide to acquire the digital edition, but I always choose the print edition over the electronic edition if I am purchasing one or the other. Personally, I prefer to have a book in my hands to read rather than an iPad or some other eReader.

However, I have also had reservations about investing my money into resources that I actually do not own. What I mean by that is, when buying an electronic resource, most of the time one is merely purchasing the rights to use or view it, such as commentaries, books, etc. This concerns me a little bit, but perhaps I have read Nineteen Eighty-Four too much.  

In this regard, my respect for BibleWorks has greatly increased. As a digital company whose mission is to "provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to 'rightly divide the word of truth,'" it is impressive for them to caution customers with what they perceive to be weaknesses of technology and to think historically. We, as humans, can easily forget the past. We don't even have to turn the clock back one hundred years to make the point. We take many things for granted and can be prone to assuming that it will always be this way. Here are the points they make:

"We continue to encourage our users to think carefully before building large electronic libraries, for three reasons:

1. There is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today's electronic media. For example, read "Cerf sees a problem: Today's digital data could be gone tomorrow " from ComputerWorld (June 4, 2013), "At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View" from Inside Higher Ed (July 23, 2008), and "The Digital Ice Age" from Popular Mechanics (December 2006).

2. Even more significantly, almost all electronic libraries are in proprietary formats: there is no standard. Proprietary formats, and the software that reads them, come and go (remember DOS?). A recent article in Christian Computing, "Is It Time for a Second STEP?", noted the unlikelihood of a standard format emerging. When an electronic library's proprietary format is abandoned, one's investment in the library is lost.

3. Finally, in most cases one cannot purchase anything more than a license to use the content of an electronic book. Such a license is vulnerable to being revoked, as this April 2014 article from World magazine points out:

Books, on the other hand, are independent of computers. If you use certain reference works on a daily basis, it may make sense to purchase electronic editions, and, for this reason, we are providing (and will continue to provide) a limited collection of locked electronic resources for those who want them. But in our opinion it makes sense to buy print editions first, then electronic editions if you find you really need them."

I don't need extra reasons to like BibleWorks, but I certainly won't disregard them when they come along. Thank you, BibleWorks, for offering wise words of warning.