Friday, May 28, 2010

One More Thought on 2 Peter

There is one more idea that I wanted to share in the last post, but didn't because I thought it might be a little too long. Here's what I was trying to think through. So let's say that, based on the evidence, I come to a conclusion for myself that the Apostle Peter didn't write 2 Peter. But for reasons listed in the last post, I'm okay with that and my faith is not impacted at all. There is still one more question that I have had trouble dealing with.

On multiple occassions in the text, the author explicity passes himself off as Peter; either directly in the first verse or through inference by talking about being up on the mountain with Jesus, James and John for the tranfiguration. This is a problem for me, if for no other reason than the blatant dishonesty. This would be akin to a student plagairizing material. It just not consistent for God to allow any form of dishonesty to be presented in His Bible.

We're really fishing in the weeds now. I mean, all the evidence points in one direction. While on the other hand, that direction is entirely inconsistent with the nature of God. Well, here's my thought. (Keep in my this is still in the thought phase and I haven't done any research on it at all). I wonder if this book hasn't been created from multiple sources? For example, if someone got their hands on fragments of something Peter wrote, that would explain the direct references like the one to the transfiguration. Likewise, some of the other material may be sourced in much the same way as the Gospels - second or third hand rememberances of things Peter taught and said. I know, this is thin. But, for now, that's the best I've got.

What about you? Am I a heretic for even considering that Peter didn't write the letter? Has this raised questions for you that are uncomfortable? Do you completely agree and think I must be the smartest guy in the world? I'd be interested in hearing opinions.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Back to the Issues of Authorship and Inspiration of 2 Peter

If you’re like me, you would rather try to ignore any evidence that might possibly damage any of the traditions about the Bible – authorship being one of those. The book has 2 Peter has the title for a reason, because Peter wrote it. Honestly, that’s how I’d like to keep it. But there’s another side to the story. I decided a long time ago to place my faith in God and trust Him with my life – with my soul. For me, part of that faith includes placing my trust in the Bible as His inspired Word, the message that He has chosen to leave to me and my family about how to make it through our journey to see Him. If I choose to ignore this “negative” evidence, then I am really demonstrating a lack of faith in God’s Word to stand up against a few skeptical thoughts. His Word is much more powerful than that. If it has the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16) and if it can save my soul once it’s been implanted in my heart (Jas 1:21), then certainly it can handle my questions.

So, let’s just say for the sake of discussion that there is validity to these arguments; and that 2 Peter was probably not written by the Apostle Peter and that it was written at the end of the first century or beginning of the second. Does that influence your feelings about the text? Should it influence your feelings? Does it mean that the text isn’t inspired? Was there a mistake somewhere along the way and someone circumvented God’s will and inserted this letter in when it shouldn’t have been? These are all legitimate questions.

Like I said, I would rather it have been written by Peter. But if it wasn’t, I’m not going to lose any sleep. Somehow the book still made it into the Bible. What we have to remember about the formation of the Bible is that there was never a council or meeting or any group that formally decided what books were in and what books were out. Over the course of hundreds of years this book could have been taken out by people. But for some reason it was left in. It wasn’t because they were ignorant to the issues that we are now aware of. We have records of the Church theologian Origen expressing his doubts that Peter was the author in the 3rd century, and yet the book remained in the canon.

Let’s take a moment to clear up a common misconception. Many people wrongly think that the only inspired people in the first century were the ones who ended up with a letter/book in the New Testament. I don’t think that’s correct. There are clear Biblical statements that there were prophets in the Church in the first century. In fact, it’s my opinion that each Church had at least one. That’s how the Christians received the will of God until it was available in written form. I find it terribly difficult to believe that none of these men who were inspired wrote down some of the oracles they had received from God; or that no one went home after being at the assembly and hearing their prophet speak went home and took some notes on what he was told that day.

There is also real good evidence that suggests that inspiration carried on after the last Apostle had died. If the gift of prophecy was to communicate the Word of God then why would God take that away before everyone had an opportunity to know what His will was? In other words, wouldn’t it make sense that God would keep prophets around until there were was a supply of all the books of the Bible? That probably didn’t happen until later in the 2nd century.

Having said all this, just because 2 Peter may not have been written by Peter, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t written by an inspired author. I believe that it was written by an inspired author and that’s why God has ensured that worthwhile copies of it remained. There are other letters that I would refer to have copies of (like Paul’s other letters to the Corinthians). But God see to it that those be preserved.

In the end this all comes down to each person’s faith or belief. We’re dealing with texts and evidence that is sourced about 2000 years ago. There is little, if any, information we can prove with certainty. So which ever conclusions you accept, it will be based on faith. Personally, I think the evidence strongly points to the conclusion that Peter did not write this letter. I could take that conclusion and allow it to wreck my faith in God’s Word. That would be an act of faith or belief. Because there is no substantial evidence that the letter wasn’t written by an inspired author. Or, I can choose to remain in my belief that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God; and that since God is ultimately the author of it all, it really makes little difference to me which man’s hand He used to write it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This Is Too Funny!

Authorship, Inspiration and other Challenges with 2 Peter

I want to start by saying that I would be extremely cautious about sharing this information in a Bible class setting. We have to be on guard for each other spiritually. And sometimes there are issues in the Bible that we don't have clear answers for and really don’t have to address. This information fits into that category. Anytime we challenge long-held traditions about the Bible we have to be careful; because, even if it is accurate, it could be damaging to peoples’ faith. Some of this information might fit into that category.

There is some strong internal evidence that suggests that the Apostle Peter did not write 2nd Peter and that it was written well after Peter had been martyred. The evidence points to the conclusion that it is pseudepigrapha – which is just a fancy name for a category of ancient books that have another persons’ name attached to it to give it more authority. You may have heard of the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, etc.

We'll take a moment to point out some of that evidence. But the main idea to consider is whether or not this impacts how we treat the Bible. For example, let’s assume that Peter didn’t write this text, does it mean that 2nd Peter is not inspired? Does it mean that it shouldn’t be in the Bible? These are questions that I want to consider.

Let’s look at some of the evidence:

2 Peter 3:15-16
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
This text speaks of “all his letters,” referring to Paul’s letters. This does not have to be a reference to each of the letters that we have of Paul today. But it does indicate a familiarity with at least a few of Paul’s letters. It is possible that because of his status, Peter could have had copies of Paul’s letters. However, the writer here speaks of them as if the audience was quite familiar with these letters. This is not chronologically feasible. If this letter was written by Peter prior to his death around AD 64-67, it seems doubtful that enough time could not have elapsed for sufficient copies of Paul’s letters to have been made and circulated to this extent.

There is another question raised from this text. What does “the other scriptures” refer to? Is this a reference to the Old Testament? Probably not, because it seems that the letter was written to an audience made up primarily of Gentiles. They wouldn’t really care much about the OT. If it wasn’t the OT, then it must be referring to other NT letters or Gospels. This comment makes it sound as if there was a collection of books that were accepted as authoritative to the point that they were called scripture. This means that they had to have been circulated long enough to have developed this acceptance. This brings up the same issue mentioned before. If Peter did write this in the early to mid 60s, there would not have been enough time for any of the writings to have developed authoritative to that extent.

2 Peter 1:14
Since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
This verse is commonly regarded as an allusion to John 21:18 when Jesus tells Peter that he will die by crucifixion. I think that is probably correct. The problem is that the Gospel of John was probably not written prior to the early 80s. That would mean that 2 Peter would have had to have been written after John was written. It is clear that Peter was martyred by Nero in the mid 60s. That creates a problem with naming Peter as the author.

However, there is a good explanation for this. If Peter is the author then he would not have gotten this information from the Gospel of John but from Jesus himself. So that would not be a problem. This evidence is probably best seen as corroborative.

There are other issues with the Petrine authorship. For example, the writing style between 1st and 2nd Peter is completely different. Also, 2 Peter and Jude have many similarities. So much so that it is probable that one used the other as a reference when writing. If this were the case, there would have to be some time gap between the two. Otherwise, one of the authors would not have had occasion to become familiar with the other letter to the extent that he would use it as a reference. The most common dating for Jude is late 60s to early 70s. If 2 Peter is written in the mid 60s there is not enough of a time gap. We’ve got to remember that the world then was completely different. There was no mail service. Letters had to be hand carried, which usually meant travel by boat or donkey or foot. It took time. Also, we can’t forget that getting a copy of a letter assumed literacy or money. Neither of which was common then. Assuming all this to be the case, either Jude or 2 Peter is dated much later. The evidence points to 2 Peter.

There are many different ways to respond to reading some of this information. You may have been able to reason away each of these evidences. And you may be correct. Or you may accept each of these evidences. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that there is validity to these arguments; and that 2 Peter was probably not written by the Apostle Peter. Does that influence your feelings about the text? Should it influence your feelings? Does it mean that the text isn’t inspired? Was there a mistake somewhere along the way and someone circumvented God’s will and inserted this letter in when it shouldn’t have been? These are all legitimate questions that we’ll address in the next post.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something's Missing?

We have recently had a "surge" of visitors at our Church lately. (I'm really not sure what a surge is - but it sounded good). Some have come once and not returned. Others have been coming back. And there are a couple who have been coming off and on for a while. I wonder what they are looking for? I've only "shopped" for a Church twice. I didn't like it. I wasn't very good at it.

I wonder, what do people look for when they go shopping for a new Church? I've heard a few things: doctrinally sound, progressive, no musical instruments, a "good" preacher, great singing, good classes for my children, and the list goes on. You may have your own list.

I started thinking more about this and looked through some preacher want-ads. What do Churches look for in a Preacher? A lot of it had to do with education and experience. That's to be expected. But a lot of the other requirements were things like "doctrinally sound," conservative, progress, grace-oriented, dynamic, strong leadership skills, etc. (By the way, do you actually think anyone considers themselves to not be doctrinally sound? People write stuff like that as if a potential preacher would read it and then think, "well, I don't follow God's Word so I may as well not apply?" I have always thought that was such a dumb thing to list.)

You know what I have never heard a Church shopper or a Church that was shopping say, that they were looking for a Church or Preacher that loves Jesus and His Church. In fact, I have never seen a Preacher Want-Ad that says anything about loving Jesus. Nor do I recall ever having heard anyone say they liked a Church because it was clear that they loved Jesus Christ.

Ever wonder why Churches are dying? Wonder no more. At some point, we started to care more about our opinions and preferences than Jesus.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Check Out this Old School Acappella video

This is a video of the original Acappella group singing on the Gaither show. They were amazing. There is a lot of their music on YouTube. It brings back great memories!

A Quick Vent on Politics

I have never used this blog to talk about politics but I am going to break that streak here. I need to vent.


What in the world is wrong with our Congressional leaders?! How can they stand up and applaud another head-of-state that is speaking out against one of our states in our own House?! That is absurd! I can understand differences of opinion and even a little stupidity - but that is unacceptable! No one should be allowed to come into our home and be disrespectful. What one of our states chooses to do is none of his business.

I am usually even keel when it comes to politics - everything runs in cycles and always self-corrects. But this is scary. When I saw our VP and Speak of the House stand behind and applaud the Mexican president, I wanted to throw up  (and punch both of them). No matter where your beliefs are politically we still must all be united. November can't come soon enough!

By the way - it's not migration - it's illegal immigration!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Χριστιανὸν is the greek work that we translate as "Christian." The actual meaning of this Greek word in follower of Christ.

Do you ever feel like you have become desensitized to certain words or actions, or maybe even to watching or hearing certain things? I do, to often. It's easy to do because it's one of the ways that Satan tries to slowly get into our life. But did you ever think that Satan would ever try to desensitize you to the word Christian? Every time we list you're religious preference on a survey or talk about your faith at work or with friends, most of us probably talk in terms of being a Christian. That really doesn't mean as much as it might have at one time. I recently read that as many as 85% of Americans consider themselves to be a "Christian."

Think about it . . . do you think that 85% of Americans actually live as Christians? I doubt it. Do you think that 85% of the people you worship with really live as Christians? Maybe, barely.

Now what if we quit using the term Christian? What if, instead of saying Christian we said, "follower of Christ?" There's been times where it would be a lot harder for me to tell people that I am a follower of Christ - because it there has been times when I obviously wasn't following Him very closely, if at all. What about you?

If we all agreed to quit using the word "Christian" to describe our faith or religious affiliation one of two things would probably happen. (1) People would be much more considerate of whether they actually considered themself a follower of Christ and as a result not classify themselves as such so quickly or (2) people would start to realign their life so that it would look like they were actually following after Jesus more than they are now.

Honestly, old habits are hard to break. So I'll probably continue to refer to myself as a Christian. But I know that I'm going to try a lot harder to live as a follower of Christ.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When Did We Stop?

When did we stop being the Church of the first century? When did we stop trying to be the Church of the first century? Those questions are actually a bit misleading, so let me try again. The Church in the first century included congregations with issues - some with fairly significant issues. So, probably a better question is to ask is, when did we stop trying to restore New Testament Christianity? Was there a point in time when, collectively, we agreed that we had arrived at our goal and then set up camp and stayed put? I don't know about you, but sometimes it feels like that is what we have done.

We worship at different congregations. We worship at different types of congregations - some with very little in common. But the one consistently correspondent trait is that we all think we are being the Church that Jesus established and the Apostles gave their lives to grow. Is that possible, that we can "do Church" so differently yet all be "doing Church" correctly? Some Christians passionately say yes. We can have our differences and no one has the right to judge my preferences. Others passionately say no; and insist that there is only one way and if it's not done that one way then all is lost, and there can be no fellowship.

It seems that we are at an impass. We can continue to throw rocks at each other. What I mean is, we can continue to call each other names like, liberal or legalist; and we can continue to refuse fellowship with one another. Or, we can commit to one other to seek the Truth of God's Word and only God's Word; and thereby find a common ground where we can live in harmony. Because, make no mistake, we are at an impass and something has got to give. We are losing souls because we can't agree on whose opinion we are going to honor.

So what did the First Century Church look like? Well, that's a question that I am hardly qualified to answer and couldn't attempt in a short amount of time. But there's some things that we can't know because the Bible just doesn't tell us. But there are many things that we can know. For example, we can know that the Apostles thought it was wrong for women to take a leading role in public worship. We can also know that the New Testament Christians didn't use instruments in worship. It's not because there were no instruments available. For some reason they purposefully excluded them. Probably because the teaching they were receiving from the Apostles and their local prophets was telling them only to sing. That's all the New Testament gives us. So that's what we have to go on.

There's other things we can know for sure. The Apostles and prophets never mentioned how God desires the singing to be led. Nor did they mention when, where and how often they must meet on the first day of the week. Nor did they talk about translations of the scrolls (i.e. scriptures, doesn't that sound silly. I can't believe we argue about that one). They also didn't give any direction on how we are supposed to dress when we assemble together for worship and Bible study. The list could go on. Throughout the course of the past few generations we have developed customs and preferences based primarily on practical necessity and culture. And now we stand here today insisting that our customs and preferences be honored or else.

Like I said before, when did we stop trying to restore New Testament Christianity? When did my opinion become more important than God's Word? When did I stop deeply searching for the Truth of God's revelation and begin accepting man's interpretation of it? Family, I could very well be completely mistaken. If I am please correct me. I love God too much to disappoint Him, especially when I could easily be corrected. And I don't want to stand before Him having taught people incorrectly. It is past time for us to kick Satan out of the Church, bring Jesus back in and get about the business of being followers of Christ and growers of the Kingdom. What do you think? Is it time for another Restoration Movement?

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's YOUR Hermeneutic? Read this to find out!

I was recently asked this question: what's your hermenuetic? I know why I was asked - to find out if I thought like they thought. But I wasn't real sure how to answer that; and i'm really still not sure. Hermeneutic, now that's a fancy college word. Hang on a sec, I'm going to look it up on . . . Okay here's the definition: a method or principle of interpretation. Let me ask myself that same question a different way: how do you interpret the Bible? That's easier to understand. Let me ask you the question: how do you interpret the Bible? As a kid, I heard my Grandfather teach Command, Example and Necessary Inference (CENI). If you're affliated with the Restoration Movement then I'm sure you know more about this then I do.

I want to try something a little different. Let's play Jeopardy with this. Hermeneutics for $300 Alec. The answer is . . . CENI. Ding. What is,"Why do I do what I do in 'Church'?" Did I get the $300 bucks? Isn't that essentially what the question is? Not all, but most everyone I know seem to accept this method of interpretation. The Necessary Inference part seems a little shaky and I think the three of them together discount the historical context of the text. But let's not digress. So, we seek to answer questions like why do I worship on Sunday? Why do we sing praises to God when we assemble? Why do share in the Lord's Supper when we do, and other questions like that by using the CENI methodology. I don't know about you, but like I said, that seems to work pretty well.

But there is a PROBLEM with this method and here it is - what do you do with questions that can't be answered by CENI? What about questions like, do we have to meet together twice on Sunday? Do we have to meet together for announcements and an invitation on Wednesday nights (instead of only having Bible class)? Do we have to meet at the building for formal Bible study on Wednesday nights? Can we meet in homes on Tuesday nights? What translation of the Bible should I/we use? How should we organize and conduct our worship assembly? These are questions that people have decided fellowship on. Let me be more clear, some Christians refuse to acknoweldge other Churches and Christians because they don't answer these questions the same way as they do. That's awful and not scriptural - but again - I'll try not to digress. So how do we answer questions that our method for answering questions can't answer? For example, they were living out the contents of the NT. So Jesus, Paul, Peter or any other inspired person never said a word about which translation to use. In fact, there wasn't even consensus on which version of the Old Testamen to use - the Hebrew or the LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew). In fact, Paul actually used both depending on which one helped him to make his particular point better. So how in the world can we be dogmatic about which translation to use today??? The inspired authors used more than one translation of their Bible and they never said anything about it because it wasn't important to them. Because of that, we shouldn't be making an issue of it today.

Here's another one. None of the apostles ever mentioned how we should conduct our singing? A song leader, a praise team, spontaneous singing or something else? Maybe Paul was a baritone and liked to lead singing when he preached? Maybe there was only one scroll of the Psalms in Berea, so one guy had to sing by himself until all the other new, non-Jewish Christians learned the words, or had some translated into Latin or Greek? Ever consider that? So why do some people call other Christians sinners for having a praise team? Well, because it becomes a performance. I know I've heard that too. In fact, I used to think that until I started seeing song leaders who liked to put on a show by themselves - that kind of wiped out that argument.

There are so many questions that can't be answered with our traditional method of interpretation. That's why the Restoration Movement accepted the phrase "Speak where to Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." So why did we quit following that saying? Here's the question one more time for you to answer. Why do we do what we do - if the Bible doesn't say anything about it? Well, there are two primary methods of interpretation that are usually applied. First, let's just do what we've always done. That's easy and upsets the fewest amount of people. Second, this is what I think and what I like, so we're going to do this because I'm in charge (i.e. i've got the money, been here the longest or am the most power or obnoxious Elder). Does that sound Christ-like?

Okay, I promise this will be the last time I ask the question: why do YOU do what YOU do when it comes to living out the written revelation of God? It's time to start restoring New Testament Christianity - AGAIN.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unforgivable - Matthew 12:31-32

In this text Jesus makes the statement that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This passage is scary, tough and brings up so many questions. It seems like Jesus is saying that there is a sin that I can commit for which I can’t receive forgiveness. Is it possible that as a Christian that I can commit a sin that Jesus’ blood does not cover? What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? How can I be sure that I have never done that, even accidentally? These are legitimate questions that many Christians have struggled with. Let’s try to answer them together.

As we study God’s Word we have to be careful not just to take a text that we read and try to apply it without considering why it was said, why it was written, whom it was said or written to and what was going on in the verses surrounding it. If we don’t answer these questions then we are being irresponsible with the text and risk misunderstanding the message that God wishes for us to have. Having said that, here’s what was going on in this passage. Jesus had just healed a blind and mute demoniac (v22). This caused many people in the crowd to question if this was indeed the “Son of David” (v23). In other words, they were asking if this could possibly be the Messiah that was referred to in the Old Testament (2 Sam 7:16; Isa 9:6-7).

This upset the Pharisees. No way could the Messiah be some poor guy from Nazareth. To them, the Messiah was going to come from Bethlehem and be a great king who would lead them out from under the Roman rule. To them, there was no way this was Jesus; and to even consider that it might be was unacceptable. Knowing this, we can understand their response to the crowd (v24). But before we look at their response, understand that it was common for some people to have the ability to perform exorcisms like Jesus had (v27). They were not attacking Jesus for performing the miracle. Back to their response; when they heard what the crowd was thinking, they became enraged and said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (v24). In other words, they accused Jesus of using the power of Satan to perform His miracle.

This is the context of Jesus’ response to them. He first argued against them from a logical point of view (v25-26). In these verses Jesus made the point that Satan wouldn’t allow his power to be used to cast his own demons out of people – that would be self-defeating and just doesn’t make sense. It’s like an army fighting against itself. Then after a couple of other comments He concludes His argument by saying, “Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven” (v31).

Understanding what was going on makes this verse fairly easy to understand. It’s obvious that the sin Jesus was referring to was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In order for Jesus to have said it in this manner, someone must have just committed this sin. That would have to be the comments made by the Pharisees; because that’s what Jesus was responding to. So whatever they said must have been blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Look back at what they said; “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (v24). By saying this, they were trying to attack Jesus but He took it as an attack against the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is what gave Him is ability to perform the miracles. In other words, according to Jesus, they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. That was the specific sin that Jesus was upset about and that is what he was referring to as blasphemy against the Spirit.

Is that a sin that you or I can commit today? Some argue that since Jesus or the Holy Spirit are not working in that manner today that we are not able to say that the work coming from them is from Satan. While others contend that because the Holy Spirit is still active in other ways that we can still attribute that work to the power of Satan. I’ll let you this final question for yourself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Proverbs 31:10 says "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels."

Yesterday we all had the opportunity to thank our wives for being such great Moms. Our family did what many families do. We went to worship together and then go out and celebrate by letting Mom choose the restaurant; and because they are such wonderful Moms they were thankful and grateful. We had a great time together and then today was pretty much back to normal.

Of course, every day can't be a celebration - at least not for my family because we'd go broke :-) But I have been beating myself up a little lately because too often it takes a special day to remind to honor my Godly wife and mother of my children. Like the virtuous woman, her worth is far above any jewel on earth. Sometimes though, I don't tell her enough.

We can always say thank you and I love you more often; and it can be even more meaningful if we sometimes say it without words. May God bless your family.