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Churches Speaking for the Unborn

Oct 20, 2014 | Trevin Wax

img0945The abortion debate is heating up in my home state of Tennessee. In a few weeks, voters will affirm or reject this amendment to the state Constitution:

Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

The amendment is a long time coming. In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court in a 4-1 decision swept away a number of common-sense abortion restrictions in favor of a perceived Constitutional right to privacy, a decision with implications that exceed even the limits of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Since 2000, the states around Tennessee have increased regulations on abortion, while Tennessee has become something of an “abortion destination” where one can receive an abortion on demand, without waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, and various other elements of informed consent. The TN amendment will open the door for legislation regulating the abortion business.

It’s one thing to be pro-life nationally, but it’s also important to be pro-life locally. That’s why I’ve been watching with interest how this debate has unfolded in our state.

As World reports:

At least 20 county governments have approved resolutions backing Amendment 1, but the pro-abortion side is out-fundraising pro-lifers. The campaign to defeat Amendment 1 took in more than $1.5 million in July, August, and September, while proponents raised $631,576. On Oct. 10 the pro-abortion side had $1.6 million on hand and planned an aggressive get-out-the-vote and television ad campaign.

The list of anti-Amendment-1 contributions is heavy with Planned Parenthood affiliates. The April/May/June published statement, for example, included $189,500 from Planned Parenthood of Middle and Eastern Tennessee, $50,000 from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (Seattle), and other large contributions from Planned Parenthood groups in southern California, Massachusetts, Kansas/Missouri, and Southern states.

The Vote No on 1 campaign has focused on government interference. Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses have rallied people to the phones to call likely voters and encourage them to vote no. I’ve never seen the big abortion businesses so exorcised over the potential of new legislation. I’m not surprised, though, since these types of regulations generally result in less abortions, which lead to less revenue.

Meanwhile, the pink “YesOn1″ signs are everywhere in middle Tennessee. We see bumper stickers, signs in downtown Nashville, in neighborhoods, on busy streets, in front of businesses. And even in front of churches.

It’s the church element that has led to consternation from abortion advocates in Tennessee. Why would a church put up a sign for a Constitutional amendment? Why would a church devote time to informing members about a vote? Isn’t this mixing religion and politics? Isn’t it against IRS regulations?

The week after a large evangelical church in middle Tennessee devoted attention to “YesOn1,” the local newspaper ran a story that featured “dismay” from opponents. The story was fair; it gave voice to both sides of the debate, quoted from the IRS regulations, and laid out the facts with journalistic integrity.

What bothered me about the article was the argument put forth from a woman who, while respecting the church’s work on behalf of the disadvantaged in the city, believed the church had overstepped its bounds in advocating for a political cause. I was afraid that the potential for controversy might cause other churches to stay quiet.

So, I wrote a letter to the editor, which was printed in the next Sunday paper, defending the church’s right to take a position on issues related to life.

In “Church hosts Amendment 1 backers to dismay of opposition,” Rebekah Majors-Manley expresses her disapproval of New Vision Baptist Church’s decision to promote a TN amendment that will allow voters and legislators to pursue reasonable restrictions on abortion access in Tennessee.

Majors-Manley respects New Vision’s work on behalf of the poor, but she believes churches should not take positions in political matters that concern public policy.

On this issue, New Vision is in line with a 2000-year-old tradition of Christians who show love to the most vulnerable human beings among us. Their advocacy for the unborn is reminiscent of the early Christians who rescued infants left to die of exposure in the “throw-away culture” of the Roman Empire.

By leveraging their influence on behalf of the voiceless, New Vision is acting consistently with the witness of Scripture and the testimony of the church for two millennia.

Majors-Manley’s arguments, on the other hand, are reminiscent of the segregationist position a generation ago and the citizens who told pastors and churches to stay out of politics and stop pursuing civil rights for African-Americans. Where would we be without the prophetic witness of Martin Luther King Jr. and prominent churches who leveraged their influence on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized?

New Vision’s “good work” on behalf of the poor cannot be separated from their work on behalf of the unborn. When walking the Jericho Road, Christians see all who are in need — whether poor, downtrodden, wounded, or unborn — and like the Good Samaritan, we say, “There is my neighbor.”

We’re living in an interesting cultural moment. Though religious influence seems to be on the decline, recent polls show Americans want more religious voices speaking out on political issues, not less. Just last week, city attorneys in Houston issued subpoenas to local pastors who had expressed opposition to an ordinance regarding access to public restrooms. Thousands of pastors are, in effect, daring the IRS to investigate them after endorsing candidates on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”

I’m uncomfortable with pastors endorsing political candidates (even though I affirm their right to do so), largely because of how easy it is for churches to become a rallying point for political agendas – whether on the left or the right. But when it comes to defending the weakest members of the human family, I believe churches should feel free to speak up.

Neighbors who love the vulnerable. This is who we are. This is what the gospel makes us.

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Worth a Look 10.20.14

Oct 20, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible by James Hoffmeier. $0.99.

The Immigration Crisis addresses this complex issue through a comprehensive look at the Bible. By a careful study of relevant materials in the Old Testament, in combination with archaeological and sociological materials, the author forms a clear definition of an alien in Israelite society. This understanding is an important starting point in the current debate.

If you read only one review of Peter Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So, make sure it’s this one:

In the end, The Bible Tells Me So is a book about contradictions. Enns intended it to be a book about contradictions in the Bible. But it becomes quickly apparent that the contradictions are really in Enns’s own worldview.

An update on the Anglican Church in North America:

The ACNA has emerged as the almost undisputed rival Anglican body in the United States, claiming more than 112,000 members. Being such a new organization, it can be rather safely said that the huge majority are active members—not ‘lapsed’, as is common in The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, for instance—as belonging to the ACNA is a decision one must make very wilfully at this stage.

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard – The Changing Meaning of Courage in the Face of Impending Death:

Attitudes have changed about disease and death since then—and, in my view, not for the better. Indeed, today, many might secretly consider Landon a chump for choosing to struggle until his natural death. If that seems harsh, consider the ongoing international media swoon over twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard, who has announced her plan to commit assisted suicide—legal in Oregon, where she moved from California after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Hillsong’s Brian Houston on Gay Marriage: “I Believe Paul’s Writings are Clear on This Subject”

“I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference,” Houston says in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Saturday. ”Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage,” he adds. “I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

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You Who Are Both Victim and Priest

Oct 19, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Agnus_Dei_(The_Lamb_of_God),_by_Francisco_de_Zurbaran,_c._1635-1640_-_San_Diego_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC06627O Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world,
look upon us and have mercy upon us.

You who are both victim and Priest,
both Reward and Redeemer,
keep safe from all evil
those whom You have redeemed,
O Savior of the world.

Irenaeus, 130-202 A.D.

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Our Evangelistic Mandate is from the Whole Bible

Oct 18, 2014 | Trevin Wax

bible-light-raysOne of my favorite run-on sentences ever. From John Stott:

Our mandate for world evangelization is the whole Bible. It is to be found

  • in the creation of God (because of which all human beings are responsible to Him)
  • in the character of God (as outgoing, loving, compassionate, not willing that any should perish, desiring that all should come to repentance)
  • in the promises of God (that all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed and will become the Messiah’s inheritance)
  • in the Christ of God (now exalted with universal authority, to receive universal acclaim)
  • in the Spirit of God (who convicts of sin, witnesses to Christ, and impels the church to evangelize)
  • and in the church of God (which is a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evangelize until Christ returns).

– “The Bible in World Evangelization” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

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Gospel-Centered Teaching Conference

Oct 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

I’m looking forward to participating in this event in January. If you are in the Southeast, I hope you can join us. We’re praying it will be a good day of training for small group and Sunday School leaders.

gospel_CenterLarge_Flyer (1)

Register here.

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How Should Christians Regard Israel and Treat Jews?

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

006063796XOur journey through The Moral Vision of the New Testament continues as Richard Hays devotes a series of chapters to the New Testament’s witness regarding specific, controversial issues. (If you’ve gotten behind in the reading or you’re just joining us, see the reading schedule here.)

We began with the question of Christians using violence in the defense of justice. Then, we looked Hays’ treatment of divorce and remarriage, and the issue of homosexuality. Today, we look at anti-Judaism and ethnic conflict by asking Hays’ question: How should Christians regard Israel and treat Jews?

Reading the Texts

Before analyzing the relevant texts, Hays sets up a way of reading them in historical context. He offers several considerations:

  • First-century Judaism was diverse, not monolithic.
  • Earliest Christianity began as a Jewish sectarian movement.
  • Christianity’s success in reaching Gentiles created a crisis of communal identity.
  • Hostility toward Jews and Judaism is to be understood as “sibling rivalry,” a “struggle for possession of Israel’s heritage.”

Perspectives from 4 Major New Testament Writers

  • Paul: God has not rejected His people, but His people have rejected their Messiah – a tragic state of affairs that brings Paul sorrow. Rather than being targets of contempt, Jews should be seen as the objects of sacrificial love, for the final fruition of God’s dealing with Israel remains to be seen.
  • Luke: The way of salvation runs through Jesus, and those who will not follow are no longer part of the elect. Luke’s position is similar to Paul’s, although he tends to stress the continuity of the church with Israel even more strongly. Luke aborbs the line of salvation history into the church.
  • Matthew: Matthew combines ardent affirmation of the Law and vehement rejection of Judaism. His writings are reflective of an increasingly adversarial relationship between church and synagogue. Matthew provides a supersessionist theology where the church replaces Israel.
  • John: Many of the speeches attributed to Jesus are reflective of the Johannine community’s “frustrated and angry response to Jewish interlocutors” who have refused to accept the claims of Jesus. John’s Gospel features an ontological dualism, and his bitter and polemical treatment of the Jews puts him on the other end of the spectrum from Paul’s hope-filled sorrow.

Synthesis: Israel in Canonical Context

Hays begins with a summary of several points of agreement among the four authors above:

  • All New Testament writings show puzzlement over Israel’s failure to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.
  • No New Testament writer envisions a “separate but equal” salvation for Gentiles and Jews.
  • Paul, Luke, Matthew, and John testify to the persecution of Christians by Jews.
  • No New Testament texts show evidence of racially motivated “anti-Semitism.”
  • Early church conflict should be seen as an intra-Jewish phenomenon.

But Hays sees “wide divergences” as well, tensions that must be allowed to stand. It’s here that Hays makes his boldest claim: “No thoroughgoing synthesis is possible.” So what to do? Hays suggests Paul’s approach should be treated as “the benchmark” because he is the one who best preserves continuity with the larger Scriptural story. Making Matthew and John the norm has led the church to disaster.

Community: The church must adopt an ethic of corporate responsibility that takes to heart Paul’s admonitions in Romans 11.

Cross: Jesus’ death is the enactment and proof of God’s faithfulness to Israel.

New Creation: We are to embody hope and prayer for the eschatological reconciliation of Israel.

Hermeneutics: Responding to the New Testament’s Witness Concerning Israel

We’ve seen how Hays gives Paul the highest place of authority in how we are to view Israel. Next, he examines how the hermeneutical guidelines are presented in the New Testament.

  • Rule: The New Testament doesn’t provide rules that govern the church’s conduct toward Jews.
  • Principle: The New Testament does not appeal to the principle of tolerance toward Judaism.
  • Paradigm: Paul demonstrates anguish for the Jewish people to believe in Jesus.
  • Symbolic World: The story is unfinished, but already we see how God’s judgment and faithfulness to Israel is revealed.
  • Other Authorities: The church’s tradition is mixed and thus offers little help in understanding the New Testament’s witness. The role of reason is inadequate in answering the question of whether Jesus is the Messiah. Experience (post-Holocaust) has led us to reassess our theology and use of Scripture. “The theological trajectory that begins in John 8 ends – one fears - in Auschwitz.”

Living the Text: The Church as Community Overcoming Ethnic Division

  • The New Testament argues for transcending ethnic divisions within the church.
  • Racism is a heresy. The church must seek reconciliation across ethnic and racial lines.

Some Personal Considerations: This chapter is the most disappointing (and disturbing) in the book. In a sense, Hays throws up his hands at the diversity of the New Testament witnesses and decides that Paul should be allowed to set the framework for the way we read the other witnesses.

My problems with Hays’ approach are not in his conclusions but in his method. He doesn’t simply read John or Matthew in light of Paul; instead, he dismisses the other witnesses in favor of Paul. For example, Hays argues that Jesus’ “revelation discourses” in John are not truly from Jesus but should be seen as prophetic-theological commentary for the evangelist’s own time. We are to see John’s “Jesus” as “historically understandable” but “theologically misconceived” (434).

What is most disturbing to me about Hays’ treatment of “John’s Jesus” is that it reflects a radical revision of how we read the Gospels. His post-Holocaust reflection has led to a dismissal of John’s witness to Jesus. Furthermore, Hays’ method here is at odds with his overall proposal, one that claims to take Scripture as authoritative and desires to hear the biblical witness on its own terms and not ours. Someone to the left of Hays on sexual ethics could easily employ his hermeneutic on John’s Gospel to Paul’s words on homosexuality, something which Hays (thankfully) does not do, even as he hands the methodological sword to his opponents to use it against him.

As an evangelical, I believe John’s perspective of Jesus is equally inspired to the other Gospels and therefore historically accurate. I recommend Craig Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of John’s Gospelwhich adopts a critical realistic approach and makes a cogent case for the historicity of these words. I close this chapter, thankful for the right and true things Hays has to say about ethnic diversity and the heresy of racism, and deeply frustrated that he chose to trample over John’s portrait of Jesus to get there.

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The Mars Hill Postmortem

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Ballard CampusThe news of Mark Driscoll’s resignation closes a painful chapter in the life of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This is a time to pray for the Driscoll family, Mars Hill Church, and those who have suffered through various forms of spiritual abuse.

What can we learn from this situation? We should consider four lessons to take away, but I want to preface these remarks with two caveats.

First, this blog is not a place for gossip and personal attacks, and I will not allow the comments section to become a feast for those who are hungry to either defend or decry the Driscolls or Mars Hill. Go elsewhere if you’re looking for drama.

Secondly, the title of this post does not imply that Mars Hill Church’s ministry is over. The good news is that King Jesus loves to take seemingly hopeless situations and bring resurrection life from them. (Case in point: New Life Church where Ted Haggard was once pastor.) I use the term “postmortem” because a difficult season of Mars Hill ministry has come to an end, and in between this chapter and the next, we should examine the causes that contributed to this situation.

So, with a heavy but hopeful heart, here are four things I hope we can learn from the events at Mars Hill.

1. Leadership Matters

This situation marks the first time I recall a pastor resigning from a church for a reason other than marital infidelity or embezzlement. There were moral issues and financial impropriety involved in the Mars Hill controversy, of course, but the presenting reason for Mark’s resignation is an abusive form of leadership that revealed significant character flaws.

What we can learn: Leadership matters. Church members need to know what spiritual abuse of leadership looks like, and church leaders need to be trained well, enthusiastically supported when they walk in line with Scripture, and held accountable when they abuse their position of authority.

2. Church Polity Matters

The last Mark Driscoll talk I listened to was several years ago. In it, he mocked Congregationalists for our inefficient and ineffective structures of authority. His prescription sounded something like this: gather a group of aggressive “yes men” to run the church, implement changes, and then rubber stamp the pastor’s agenda.

I understand why Driscoll’s bravado appealed to younger pastors. But efficiency is not and never has been the point. Polity is about authority and governance, not what makes the best sense in corporate America.

Churches of all kinds often have squabbles and pastoral issues (we’re all sinners, after all). But whatever polity your church adopts, you should ensure an appropriate accountability to people within the body. No leader should be unable to be confronted. If your elders never say no, you don’t really have elders.

Please don’t misunderstand me: there were sin problems at Mars Hill, not merely structural problems. But not all structures are equal in helping churches through sin problems. Evangelicals don’t like to talk about polity because we’re so diverse on this issue, but we must not ignore the impact these questions have when a church is in crisis.

What we can learn: Polity matters. Know your church’s structure of authority well and do your best to empower godly people to lead well through times of crisis. 

3. Character Matters as Much as Doctrine

In conservative evangelical churches, we often determine “who’s in” and “who’s out” by doctrinal and theological precision and pay less attention to the fruit of the Spirit. Doctrine matters, for sure, but the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to watch his life, too. And I worry that we are slow to see some leaders’ “life” not lining up with godly character as long as their doctrinal checklist turns out to be sound.

Conservative evangelicals are not alone in this regard. Every tribe has its blind spots. It’s human nature to assume the best of your friends and worst of your enemies. I have seen this club mentality when well-known evangelicals with good reputations and solid character are dismissed simply because their biblical exegesis differs from ours. And I think some Christian leaders were slow to see the problems with Driscoll because he ”believes the right things.”

If anything, evangelicals gifted with discernment and biblical doctrine of sin and grace should have been the first to expose these problems. I know some of this critique happened behind the scenes, inside and outside Mars Hill. But more could have been done sooner to warn and protect the flock.

Like my friend Lizette Beard says, “I don’t care who you are or how big your church or ministry is. Nobody gets a pass on the fruit of the Spirit.” Theological precision is vitally important, but never at the expense of failing to love our neighbors and never as an excuse for sin.

What we can learn: Don’t dismiss people outside your theological circles who exhibit the fruit of a vibrant walk with Christ. Also, don’t overlook or excuse character flaws from leaders inside your theological circles, as if doctrine matters more than life.

4. The Celebrity Culture Hinders Our Witness

Some have pointed out the dangers of celebrity-ism in Christian circles, to the point the critics of celebrity have become quasi-celebrities themselves. Fame is not inherently bad, and a pastor or leader who is appreciated and respected for faithful service is worthy of commendation.

But let’s not ignore the kind of celebrity culture we live in, where we are apt to jump on the bandwagon and praise someone simply because everyone else is, regardless of credibility or ministry qualification. This YouTube prank in New York City of a man pretending to be a celebrity for a few moments is illustrative of the kind of world we live in. The crowd wants to be in tune with the latest trend and fashion and therefore makes up reasons to gawk at the celebrity.

In our celebrity-driven world, we are more apt to promote and praise people simply for attracting attention than for demonstrating faithful service and ministry experience over many years. The social media world adds another layer of complexity, as people who burst onto the scene with a strong social presence and later torn apart limb from limb on the same social media channels. We prop people up and then watch them fall.

What we can learn: Look for wisdom and maturity more than glitz and glamor. Be willing to ask tough questions of the popular leader no one wants to challenge.

Conclusion

Tim Keller describes a “gospel-based ministry” not merely in terms of doctrinal correctness but as being “marked by loving honesty, not spin, image, and flattery.”

Likewise, John Stott writes: The Christian minister should be preoccupied with the people’s spiritual progress and care nothing for his own prestige.

The temptations to make your ministry all about yourself are ever-present. Take heed, lest you fall. For, in Stott’s words, “Only when pastor and people keep their eyes on Christ will their mutual relations keep healthy, profitable, and pleasing to God.”

See also:

Eric Geiger – “A Tale of Two Mars Hills”

Ed Stetzer - “Unhealthy Christian Organizations”

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Worth a Look 10.16.14

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther. $2.99.

A treasury of accessible devotionals taken from Luther’s best writings and sermons from the years 1513 through 1546. This carefully updated translation retains the meaning, tone, and imagery of Luther’s works.

Crushing Idealism in Community:

It’s easy to have a grand picture of what living in Christian community looks like. But we should consider whether idealism is actually getting in the way of experiencing good gospel community. If we are leading people to an idealistic view of community then they are going to be disappointed and disillusioned when it actually gets hard.

Derek Rishmawy – The Progressive Evangelical Package:

Many of us labor under the illusion that the progressive package, the party line, doesn’t exist. Some of those within the camp take its putative diversity and ideological inclusiveness as a point of pride. I suppose for them my aim is to pop their balloon. For others floating within progressivism’s orbit but not yet diving in head-first, I’m hoping to provide some smelling salts. Those looking in with interest would do well to consider the real intellectual and communal pressure there is to conform to the package and examine whether they find the underlying premises convincing and consistent with the gospel.

Fascinating interview with Nancy Writebol about battling Ebola in Africa:

Writebol, who has previous experience working in Ecuador and Zambia, moved to Liberia with her husband, David, in 2013. Nearly a month into treating infected patients, Writebol learned she herself had contracted Ebola. After she and Brantly failed to improve in West Africa, they were flown back to the United States, where they both were treated with the experimental and controversial ZMapp antibodies. Both recovered fully. Writebol and David, currently based in North Carolina, spoke with CT editorial resident Morgan Lee about treating Ebola, where God went during her illness, and her thoughts about those who protested her return to the States.

Check out Amber Stamper’s terrific review of a terrific documentary - Sing Over Me:

Sing Over Me sets out to tell the story of a life and a conversion, and does so. Dennis Jernigan’s story is one of hope and is a beautiful one to hear and share. But as is the hope with any Christian testimony, the goal is for those on the receiving end to be challenged and changed as well. At one point in the film, Jernigan mentions that when he first came out with his testimony in 1988, he was “flooded with people” who wanted to talk to and meet him. Clearly there’s a need for this particular type of testimony — the experience of redemption from homosexuality — to be shared. That was nearly three decades ago, and we now live in a world with even more complex feelings towards homosexuality.

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Pastors, Don’t Commit “Greek Apostasy!”

Oct 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Fall-leaves-028-copy1One of my favorite professors in seminary was Robert Plummer. I put his Hermeneutics class in my list of Top 5 Seminary Classes, and I also did a Greek class on James with him. A couple years ago, I interviewed him about the book, Journeys of Faith. 

Today, I want to introduce a free online resource designed to help busy pastors maintain their Greek language skills post-seminary.

Trevin Wax: When I talk with pastors about studying the biblical languages, they often talk about their love for Greek (Hebrew is another story!) and their appreciation for what they learned in seminary. Sometimes, they admit they don’t use their Greek as much as they used to, and they are worried they will lose it. What changes from seminary to pastoral ministry that leads to a looser grip on Greek?

Rob Plummer: Studying Greek in college or seminary is an artificial environment. Tests and quizzes hold you accountable, you are paying for the instruction, and your regular life is somewhat “on hold” as you focus on acquiring more knowledge and skills. You have a peer group around you, helping move you forward. You have a brilliant and inspiring professor. (ha!) And, if you don’t keep up with your Greek, you’ll get a poor grade or fail.

These outside strictures are a blessing—working together to bring students to an acceptable skill level in NT Greek. When you leave the seminary environment, however, you simply need to face with stark honesty the danger of your apostasy from the language you have come to love.

I am a pastor too, and I know of the many, many real and pressing needs that constantly clamor for our attention. Many pastors begin well, planning to use Greek in ministry – but Greek soon goes the way of the new diet or exercise routine.

Trevin Wax: How did “Daily Dose of Greek” come about?

Rob Plummer: I turned 43 this year, and I realize that I likely only have 20 or so years left of full-time teaching. I asked myself what I really wanted to accomplish and in what ways God has gifted me. I feel like God has gifted me with a love and ability to teach Greek – but one frustration I have is the erosion of many students’ Greek abilities after they graduate. The “daily dose of Greek” website is part of my ongoing life work to leave behind a vast spiritual army of men and women knowledgeable in and zealous for the word of God.

While I was re-taping online Elementary Greek this last summer, I got excited about the tablet and recording technology we were using. I realized it would be possible to produce a series of daily screencasts.

One day, I doodled a medicine bottle with Greek in the spoon and wrote, “Daily Dose of Greek.” I vetted that possible webpage name with the Greek “Secret Society” (club) I oversee. (The club is made up of more than two hundred former students who scored 100 on an exam and thus were inducted into the A.T. Robertson Secret Society. We have a closed facebook page and website www.atrsecretsociety.org.)

An officer in our Society, Brad Clark, has been a constant source of creativity and encouragement in this project. Another member, Jack Brannen, designed the “double delta” brand graphic. Another member, Joel Wildberger and his wife Katherine Anne, taped the welcome video in their apartment. (Katherine Anne is an amazing wedding filmmaker.) Also, Brian Renshaw in the online SBTS office was invaluable in researching and acquiring the new screencast technology I am using.

Creating the website has been more like rolling down a hill than climbing up one. It has naturally progressed – and the response has been enthusiastic. I’ve received personal messages of thanks from Germany, China, Australia, etc. People from 75 different countries have visited the site.

Trevin Wax: I’ve been using “Daily Dose of Greek” ever since I found out about it. I watch the video while my tea heats up every morning at work. (Seriously!) What other tools should we be using to keep our Greek skills fresh?

Rob Plummer: Recognizing that inexperienced readers of the Greek New Testament are often frustrated by unfamiliar vocabulary words, several publishers are now offering a “reader’s edition,” with uncommon vocabulary words listed verse-by-verse at the bottom of each page. Two of the most popular readers’ editions are:

(1) The UBS Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition with Textual Notes. The Greek text is the United Bible Societies’ critical text of the Greek New Testament. The volume includes glosses (brief definitions) at the bottom of each page for words that occur thirty times or less. Parsing information with difficult grammatical forms is also sometimes provided. Very abbreviated information about the most significant textual variants is given.

(2) Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament. The Greek text is the same as the UBS or Nestle-Aland text except in a very few cases, which are footnoted. At the bottom of each page, brief glosses are provided for all words that occur thirty times or less. No parsing help is provided. The second edition also includes a mini-lexicon with definitions for all words that occur more than thirty times.

Technology changes quickly. Nevertheless, one thing that will remain constant is the ability to read the Greek New Testament and access Greek resources in digital format. The majority of students who continue faithfully reading do so in digital format. This is probably because of (1) ease in access and (2) linked resources. Visit the following websites to keep up on the latest in digital Greek resources and tools:

Trevin Wax: How many people are subscribed to Daily Dose of Greek? What has the response been so far?

Rob Plummer: 2,725 subscribers. We have had overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. I pray I can live up to the expectations.

Trevin Wax: What disciplines do you recommend for us to keep up our familiarity with Greek?

Rob Plummer: Below are a few suggestions to help make this journey a success:

  1. Read the Greek New Testament in your daily devotions. Don’t be afraid to use the digital tools or reading helps mentioned above. Some Christians will be able to read a chapter of Greek every day; others could aim for five to ten verses. Some daily readers like to overlap with the previous day’s reading to help solidify unfamiliar vocabulary.
  2. Include Greek study in your weekly ministerial preparations. Whether preparing for a Sunday School lesson, exposition of a text in a denominational newspaper, or a sermon, the pastor should make study of the Greek New Testament a regular part of his teaching preparations. When Greek study is incorporated both into your private devotions and formal ministry preparations, you have a good chance of faithfully journeying in the Greek New Testament for your lifetime. Southern Baptist statesman Jerry Vines reports that he reads through his Greek New Testament every year.
  3. Take a “Greek retreat” once or twice a year in which you read longer sections of the New Testament, a technical Greek resource, or a Greek grammar. The Greek retreat need last no more than a day or weekend.
  4. Teach Greek. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. Teach Greek to your children, at the local Christian school, or at a Christian college or seminary. You can also volunteer to tutor Greek students in different settings.

For more information, check out Daily Dose of Greek. Also check out Dr. Plummer’s forthcoming intermediate Greek grammar, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek, from which some of this interview was adapted.

Dr. Plummer Daily Dose of Greek Intro from Daily Dose of Greek on Vimeo.

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