Monday, July 31, 2023

Five Stages of Spiritual Transformation

Image result for john piippo formation
Cape May, New Jersey

God can change human hearts. He is able, and desires, to transform (Rom. 12:2 - meta-morphe) our hearts into increasing Christlikeness (Gal. 4:9).

Since 1977 I have been developing my theory of spiritual transformation, which is about How God Changes People. The inputs for my theory of spiritual transformation have been and are:

1. The countless hours, over forty-plus years, that I have gone alone to a quiet place and prayed.

2. My ongoing saturation in the Christian scriptures, studying and meditating on them.

3. The 3500+ pastors, Christian leaders, seminary students, and lay people I have been privileged to spiritually mentor and coach through class lectures, dialogue, and the submission of their spiritual journals for me to respond to.

4. My past and ongoing study of the history of Christian spirituality.

My theory can be applied not only to the issue of spiritual transformation, but also to the ideas of spiritual “renewal,” “restoration,” “renovation,” and “formation.” All these concepts have to do with “change,” and in Christian spirituality change is good, stasis is bad.  

Spiritually, to not be growing is to be dying. As my friend Jim Hunter has said, “We’re either green and growing, or ripe and rotting.” 

Or, as Robert Quinn has written, it’s either “deep change” or “slow death.”

My approach to spiritual formation (I use “formation” and “transformation” interchangeably) applies and works cross-culturally, cross-temporally (concerning both old and young; and past, present, and future), and with both men and women. This is because the locus of spiritual formation is “the heart.” Thus, change and renewal happen at a deep, ontological level. Because the deeper we go inside persons the more we are all the same, the principles of Christian spiritual formation speak to everyone, everywhere. 

This is my experience over the years as I have been privileged to teach this material to Chinese pastors and leaders in Singapore New York City, and Vancouver, to Indians in India, to African Americans at Payne Theological Seminary, Palmer Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, to African pastors (Kenyan and Ugandan) in Kenya, and to hundreds of Anglo pastors and Christian leaders from the U.S., in Canada, and beyond. In my seminary classes, I have taught this material to pastors and seminary students from every continent and, it seems, representing most of this world’s countries. All this interaction and input has served to help me refine my teachings, reducing them to the following points.

How does God change a human heart? Here is a what I call A Phenomenology of Spiritual Renewal and Transformation; viz., a description of what I see happening when lives are renewed and transformed in Christ.

1 – THE NEED (Recognize how needy you are)

Without this step growth will not occur. To recognize one’s own neediness is to be in a very good place, spiritually. Isaiah 6 serves us well here. Isaiah, who is arguably the most righteous person among the people of Israel, enters the temple and sees a vision of a holy God. The result is that Isaiah is “undone,” or “unraveled,” or “dis-integrated.” There is a huge gap between the holy-otherness of God and Isaiah with his dirty mouth.

To recognize, to internalize, the gap between self and God is crucial to one’s inner change.

2 – THE GAP (Understand the magnitude of the needed transformation)

The Jesus-idea is that God wants to morph us into Christlikeness. Paul, in Galatians 4:19, longs that “Christ be formed” in his Galatian brothers and sisters.

The issue here is not asking “what would Jesus do?” but rather doing what Jesus did, as a matter of the heart. For example, if I had the heart of a great soccer player I would do what a great soccer player does. Jesus, as he hung dying on a cross, did not have took look at a wristband and ask the question, “Now what would I do?” Rather, Jesus forgave his persecutors, and we must believe he did so not as a matter of ethical protocol but because this was, indeed, his very heart.

The word Romans 12:2 uses is, in Greek, metamorphe. Literally, this is about “a change of form.” What is needed here are not more ethical rules to follow, since one can obey laws without having a heart for them. This concerns what Dallas Willard has called “the renovation of the heart.” To be morphed into like-Christ-ness.

Because the magnitude of the transformation is so great, we realize we can’t do this by means of our own will power.



Spiritual formation and transformation into like-Christness is not something we can do on our own. Indeed, if it were something we could do on our own, then we will have greatly diminished Christ. When it comes to this kind of change it is good to realize that we can’t “self-transform.” This is one thing we cannot do in our own wisdom and strength.

There is some good news here. This realization, if it is a heart-reality, frees us from “striving.” When it comes to personal transformation no striving is allowed. It simply won’t do any good to “try harder.” The goal of heart-morphing into Christlikeness is so beyond us that striving is useless. If we are to be transformed, only God can do it.


The God who spoke and brought a universe into being is not puzzled by you and I. We pose no special obstacle to change, except that, in our created uniqueness, we could exercise free will to oppose being changed. 

God can change me into greater Christlikeness, and desires to do so.



Allow God to get his hands on you. Enter into the “spiritual gymnasium” and “exercise unto godliness.” (See 1 Timothy 4:7) But isn’t that a kind of “striving?” No, because the spiritual exercises or disciplines are simply ways of ushering us into God’s presence. Once we abide there, God himself changes us. We are like lumps of clay on a potter’s wheel, with God himself the shaper of our hearts.

John 14-16 is important here, as Jesus gives his “final discourse” to his disciples. Be a branch, connected to Jesus the true Vine. The stuff and life and resources and joy and peace and power of “the Vine” begins to course through the arteries of “the branch.” Just as a branch could not be attached to a healthy apply tree and fail to produce apples, so you and I cannot consistently dwell in God’s presence & remain unchanged.

Don't focus on change.

Don't work to make it happen.

Focus on staying connected to Christ, and you will be changed.

Mostly, this is a slow-cooker, not a microwave.

Free Speech Victory at the Supreme Court


                                                                 (Batesville, Arkansas)

In a landmark decision last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld free speech for all Americans in 303 Creative v. Elenis, stating, “as this Court has long held, the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong.” Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represented Denver-area graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith and her studio 303 Creative, whom Colorado had censored for seven years.

“The U.S. Supreme Court rightly reaffirmed that the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe. The court reiterated that it’s unconstitutional for the state to eliminate from the public square ideas it dislikes, including the belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife,” said ADF CEO, President, and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Lorie and 303 Creative. “Disagreement isn’t discrimination, and the government can’t mislabel speech as discrimination to censor it.”

Full article HERE.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Being In the Will of God


Monroe County Community College

"Hearing God only makes sense in the framework of living in the will of God." (Willard, Hearing God, K125)

But of course. If someone is not living in the will of God, how should they expect to hear from God, except the Spirit telling them "Live in the will of God."

For Willard, "doing the will of God is a different matter than just doing what God wants us to do." (Ib.) It is about being in the will of God; or, being (living) in the heart of God. 

Living in the heart of God includes doing, but is in the first place about being. "Generally we are in God’s will whenever we are leading the kind of life he wants for us." (Kindle Location 135)

It is possible to do all the things that God wants us to do and still not be the kind of person God wants us to be. A religious person, for example, might do all kinds of things without having a heart of love. Willard writes: "An obsession merely with doing all God commands may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person he wants us to be." (K136)

Love comes first, from which appropriate obedience emerges.

First, live life out of your "in Christ" status. This is the great Pauline imperative. Hearing God's voice is a byproduct of a Christ-abiding life.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

How to Hear God's Voice

Here are some thoughts on How to Hear God's Voice.

1. Saturate yourself in Scripture.

2. Read the Bible realistically – assume that the experiences recorded there are basically of the same kind as ours would have been if we have been there.

3. Don’t fast-food the God-relationship.

4. Don't multi-task the God-relationship.

5. Have a humble heart. Humility is needed for all authentic listening.

6. Hang around people who actually do #s 1-5 above. Talk together about what you feel God has been saying to you.

BOOKS on the theme of listening to God - Here are some of my favorites.

Blackaby, Henry T., and King, Claude V. Experiencing God. An excellent, clearly written text that is especially good for church study.

Deere, Jack. Surprised By the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). A very good, clearly written biblical and historical presentation of how one hears God speaking to them.

Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus. Very good as it gets at the real Jesus.

Payne, Leanne. Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991). A very good, well-written text on what it means to hear God’s voice.

D.L. Moody had many years of successful ministry, when one day he had a powerful experience with God. Moody writes: "I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name… I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world; it would be as small dust in the balance.” (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 49)

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

'Arsenokoitais' Redux ('1946')

                                                                       (Rain drops)

The recent movie '1946' claims "that the biblical translators of the Revised Standard Version made an error when they chose to use the word “homosexual” in a couple of verses that appear in two of Paul’s New Testament letters. The contention is that those working on the text should have rendered the Greek term in the manuscripts to be something that represents an abusive form of sex vs. what eventually appeared in the English RSV translation." (See here.)

The Greek words are arsenokoitais and malakoi. See:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Tim. 1:8–11).

Arsen means 'male'; koite means 'bed'.

For the meaning of arsenokoitais see my post "Arsenokoitais" (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

Arguably the most thorough, scholarly treatmen of these two words is by New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon, in The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. (Pp. 378 - 412)

What does Gagnon think of '1946'? He tweets: 

"The so-called "1946" film is one of the dumbest pieces of heretical propaganda that I have ever witnessed (and I have seen a lot). Churches that buy into that propaganda are both heretical and exegetically incompetent. *Arsenokoitai* in 1 Cor 6:9 means "men lying with a male.""


Same-Sex Marriage: What About Shellfish? Or Wearing Garments with Two Kinds of Fabrics?

(Ann Arbor)

(I am again posting this for someone who asked.)

This post is only for those who hold the Judeo-Christian Scriptures as authoritative. 

Someone recently presented this argument to me. I've heard it before. It's time to present the other, more biblically accurate, side. Because the argument relies on a misuse of the Bible, while appealing to its authority.

The argument goes like this.

"The prohibition against homosexual practice in ancient Israel was part of the ceremonial, Levitical law, which also prohibited things such as eating shellfish and pork or wearing a garment made of two kinds of fabrics. Obviously, those laws no longer apply to us today." (From Michael Brown, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, p. 106.)

Michael Brown's response is:

"There were some laws that God gave to Israel to keep them separated from the nations, such as the dietary laws, while other laws were based on universal moral prohibitions that applied to all people, such as laws against murder, adultery, and homosexual practice. These universal moral prohibitions obviously apply to all believers today, while the dietary laws do not." (Ib.)

Brown, who has a PhD in ancient Semitic languages from New York University, and who is arguably one of our greatest Messianic scholars, details this position in Chapter 5: "Levitical Laws and the Meaning of To'Evah (Abomination)."

When I first heard the "shellfish and mixed garments argument," I thought, "Something is wrong with this?" It struck me as hermeneutically naive. If you are going to use this argument in the same-sex discussion, please study it in more depth. Read Brown (and others, like *Robert Gagnon) on this. (It's interesting how these arguments float around in the minds of people who have never studied them, yet are used to support their position. I've done it. I give you permission to let this argument go.)

The prohibition against homosexuality was a universal prohibition. For example, the laws concerning murder are universal, for all people, and not just for Israel. Brown writes:

"How do we know this? It’s simple. The Bible tells us—just to give one example—that God judged Israel for eating unclean animals, but the Bible never tells us that God judged the nations of the world for eating unclean animals. Why? Because it was not intrinsically sinful to eat a pig rather than a cow (although in the ancient world, in particular, it might have been a lot more unhealthy to eat a pig), but it was intrinsically sinful to commit other sins, such as murdering another human being. 
That’s why laws against murder were established by God for all humanity after Noah’s flood, according to Genesis 9:6, whereas God permitted the human race to eat all animals for food (v. 3), as long as the blood was drained. In the same way, the Lord rebuked foreign nations for their sins against one another—acts of murder and violence—because these were wrong for all people, but, as stated, He did not rebuke them for eating animals that were considered unclean for the Israelites. This also carries over to the New Testament, where the authors reiterate God’s universal moral code—laws against murder and adultery, for example—while making clear that food in and of itself doesn’t defile us or make us holy. 

So, to repeat and summarize: there were laws God gave to Israel alone, and there were laws God gave to all people, including Israel, and for the most part, using the entire Bible as our guide, it is easy to see which are which." (Ib., 114)

What about wearing clothes with mixed fabrics? Brown writes:

"God never said that He judged the nations of the world for eating unclean animals or sowing their fields with two different kinds of seeds or wearing garments with mixed fabrics. Nor did He say that the land vomited them out for doing these things. But He did say that about the sins listed in Leviticus 18, including homosexual practice." (Pp. 115-116)

At this point I should just quote Brown's entire chapter. Don't make the shellfish/mixed garments argument any more without reading this.

* See Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, especially Chapter 1, "The Witness of the Old Testament." New Testament scholar Jürgen Becker calls Gagnon's book "the most sophisticated and convincing examination of the biblical data for our time."

For example:

"Lev 18:22 occurs in a larger context of forbidden sexual relations that primarily outlaws incest (18:6-18) and also prohibits adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21), and bestiality (18:23). These prohibitions continue to have universal validity in contemporary society. Only the prohibition against having sexual intercourse with a woman "in her menstrual uncleanness" (18:19) does not." 

"Arsenokoitais" (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

I'm re-posting this for some friends. In response to this. The fallacy in this argument is that New Testament scholars pay far less attention to how a Greek word was translated historically (in various versions of the Bible) then how the word was understood in its first century context. We study words in their original context so as to understand their meaning. How, e.g., a particular German Bible translates a word is largely irrelevant. Or, how the King James translates a word is largely irrelevant to the scholarly discussion of the meaning of the text.

The intra-Christian discussion on the acceptability of same-sex marriage inevitably goes to the meaning of the word arsenokoitais. Someone asked me about this, again, recently. It is, arguably, the intra-Christian dialogical issue. Because Jesus-followers value highly the biblical text. (Note: everyone has their sacred authoritative texts, even atheists. For Jesus-followers this means the words and ideas of Jesus.)

Note: David Gushee, in Changing Our Mind, has a chapter called "Two Odd Little Words." The two "odd little words" are arsenokoites and malakoi. Note how Gushee spins the discussion by the chapter heading he uses. His conclusion is that these are "two obscure Greek words whose uncertain translation renders use of them for the LGBTQ issue problematic." (p. 74)  (Progressivist Christian Colby Martin, in an act of ad hominem denigration, calls them two "goofy" words. See my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity, p. 163. For a broader discussion see pp. 163 - 168.)

Yes, I read the entire chapter in Gushee. No, I have not changed my mind about these two words. Nor have Michael Brown, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Craig Keener, Richard Hays, D. A. Carson, Andreas Kostenberger, Robert Gagnon, et. al. Precisely because, for four decades of studying the "two odd little words," I remain with these scholars. These two words - like it or not - disaffirm same-sex sexual relationships. Because I believe that, and books like Gushee's are unconvincing to me, I continue to affirm this: marriage is between and man and a woman. It would be inauthentic for me to say otherwise.

See also Greg Johnson, Still Time to Care. Especially chapters 14 and 15, where Johnson goes in-depth on arsenokoitais and malakoi, plus he digs into hermeneutical issues.


We read in 1 Tim. 1:9-11:

9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

The Greek word translated here as "homosexuality" is arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις). In the Christian theological discussion about homosexuality there is debate over the meaning of this word. This sends me running after commentaries and scholarly studies about this term. Here's what four of my most admired New Testament scholars say. But first, a few remarks. (Arguably the most thorough study of arsenokoitais is in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, pp. 387 ff.)

1. My interest is: What does the biblical text say. My interest is not: What would I like the biblical text to say. I'll admit to often discovering things I wish the text did not say because, for example, it severely confronts or challenges me. So be it. This is not always easy. I wrestle with the biblical text every week preparing for Sunday mornings. Note also: My core interest is not what various Bible translations say (KJV, NIV, etc.). No New Testament scholar looks to (in the sense of dependence) on translations of the Bible, but to the original languages, and the socio-cultural, socio-rhetorical context.

2. It's easy to find persons who support what one might like the text to say. I know there are scholars with contrary opinions. What, then, shall I do? My answer: look to scholars I have found credible over the years. I am not always in agreement with them. But when they speak, I am listening.

3. I also read scholars I admire who argue against what I think the text says. (See, e.g., the Gagnon-Via book below.) One must read the counter-arguments to one's position.

4. Remember that most (nearly all) words are polysemous; i.e., they have multiple meanings. For example, 'bear' can mean 1) to carry (a load); 2) to endure; 3) an animal (noun); et. al. That in itself does not make the word 'bear' exceptionally "tricky," or any "trickier" than translating a word like arsenokaitais.

5. I expect this discussion will only interest those who embrace Jesus and follow after him. For all of us in this camp, issues like this are important. And, of course, there's a whole lot more to following after Jesus than this issue. Over the years I have dialogued with many homosexually oriented Jesus-followers who want to know what the text says, more than what do others think it says. That, too, has always been my passion.

6. And... homophobia is a sin. Can we discuss, in love? 

Here we go...

Ben Witherington

"The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man... It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse." (Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198)   

Some want arsenokoitais to mean "pederasty." Witherington thinks that, while it can, in the Pauline context this is not what it means. Remember: words are polysemous, having mutliple context-dependent meanings.

Andreas Kostenberger

Kostenberger has a lengthy section on arsenokoitas in God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones). After summarizing various views on the meaning of arsenokoitas, Kostenberger concludes:
  1. "In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable." Arsenokoitas most likely refers to "the general practice of homosexuality."
  2. "It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone esle in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males "lying or sleeping with males" (Lev. 18:22...). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets  of homosexual behavior." This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.
  3. The argument that Paul's use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts: a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty, the term paiderastes; b) "The attempt to limit Paul's condemnation to pederasty... is contradicted by Paul's reference to the male partners' mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27"; c) "In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.";  d) "Even if (for argument's sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts). Hellenistic Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity."; e) "Not only is Paul's view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture." (See the entire text for much more on this); and f) "Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation." Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of "homosexuality" has changed, thus arsenokoitas should not be translated as "homosexuals."
For "these and many other reasons" Kostenberger concludes that attempts to limit arsenokoitas to "a narrower subset of aberrant homosexual behavior must be judged unconvincing."

Richard Hays

In The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, Pauline New Testament scholar Hays writes:

Arsenokoitai "is not found in any extant Greek text earlier than First Corinthians. Some scholars have suggested that its meaning is uncertain, but Robin Scroggs has shown that the word is a translation of the Hebrew mishkav zakur ("lying with a male"), derived directly from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and used in rabbinic texts to refer to homosexual intercourse. The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) of Leviticus 20:13 reads, "Whoever lies with a man as with a woman [meta arsenos koiten gynaikos], "they have both done an abomination." This is almost certainly the idiom from which the noun arsenokoitai was coined."

See also Hays's article "Homosexuality: Rebellion Against God." Hays tells the story of a homosexually oriented Jesus-follower named Gary. Gary was dying of AIDS and visited Hays while he was still able to travel. They discussed together, and Hays writes:

"[Gary] had read hopefully through the standard bibliography of the burgeoning movement advocating the acceptance of homosexuality in the church. In the end, he came away disappointed, believing that these authors, despite their good intentions, had imposed a wishful interpretation on the biblical passages. However much he wanted to believe that the Bible did not condemn homosexuality, he would not violate his own stubborn intellectual integrity by pretending to find their arguments persuasive.
The more we talked, the more we found our perspectives interlocking. Both of us had serious misgivings about the mounting pressure for the church to recognize homosexuality as a legitimate Christian lifestyle. As a New Testament scholar, I was concerned about certain questionable exegetical and theological strategies of the gay apologists. As a homosexual Christian, Gary believed that their writings did justice neither to the biblical texts nor to his own sobering experience of the gay community that he had moved in and out of for 20 years."

Note: I think Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality is an important text in the broader discussion. 

Craig Keener

"Scholars have disputed the meaning of the term translated "homosexuals," but it seems to mean those who engage in homosexual acts, which were a common feature of Greek male life in antiquity." (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 464) 

Michael Brown

Brown's chapter on these "two odd little words" is in his book Can You Be Gay and Christian? Brown did his PhD in ancient and Semitic languages at New York University. (Note: I did my PhD in philosophical theology at Northwestern University. My dissertation was on the semantics of metaphorical language as referential to religious experience.)

See Bennett's A War of Loves, Appendix 1.

Robert Gagnon

An important text to read, for any who are interested, is Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by NT scholars Robert Gagnon and Dan Via. Note that while Via takes the pro-gay marriage stance he agrees with Gagnon that if one simply took the biblical texts one could not arrive at that conclusion.

One result of reading this book is that I picked up Gagnon's massive study The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.  

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book. It's important to see these lest we think that Gagnon is just some uneducated spin-meister trying to force his own opinion down our throats.

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book:

"...In its learnedness, [Gagnon's] book in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored...." -- Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)

"...the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position....expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly." -- I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)

"...the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological...perspectives on same-sex relations....a tour de force." -- Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)

"Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony....fair and compassionate...a major resource...." -- Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate....I recommend this book wholeheartedly." -- C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate." -- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)

"I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church's...response to homosexuality." -- Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)

"I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior." -- Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)

"No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book." -- John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)

"This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,...indispensable even for those who disagree with the author." -- James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University (From the Back Cover) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


I'm re-posting this for my seminary students in NYC.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Science Cannot Bridge the Gulf Between 'Is' and 'Ought'

                                                        (Monroe County Fairgrounds)

I'm enjoying reading The Morality Wars: The Ongoing Debate Over Human Goodness . It's a collection of metaethical essays by atheists, ambivalents, and theists.

I just read Stephen Weinberg's contribution. He's an atheist, and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. I found it interesting that he holds to a variation of Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA"; viz., that science and religion are "Non-Overrlapping Majisteria." I used to teach Gould's theory in my philosophy of religion classes.  (See here.)

I'm with Weinberg's thesis that science tells us nothing about morality. Weinberg accepts (contrary to Sam Harris) Hume's famous fact/value distinction, and that to think one can derive 'ought' (morality) from 'is' (science) is to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Weinberg writes:

"Science cannot give us any help in discovering the principles on which we ought to base our actions. It seems to me, as it did to David Hume, that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the “is” and the “ought.” Science does have a morality of its own—a commitment to honesty, an aversion to wishful thinking—but it cannot without circularity justify itself." (The Morality Wars (p. 74). Fortress Academic. Kindle Edition. )

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Technology and Spiritual Formation - Bibliography (in process)

(The Lutheran Home, in Monroe, MI)

I post this for any who think spiritual formation into Christlikeness is important, and wonder how technological advances will affect this.

This morning I am reading Eric Larson's book. (See below.)

Somewhere in me a book about this relationship is brewing.

Here are books I have read and studied to help me better understand the relationship between technology, culture, and Christian spiritual formation. 

A note: Linda and I watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix. Helpful. Well done. Concerning. Frightening.

David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning

William Davies, The Happiness Industry