The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon by Arthur Patzia

Have you ever been asked by someone “How did the New Testament get put together?” or “how did they choose the books for the New Testament?” What would you say if someone did ask you? While such questions can be red herrings, for some people the origin and process of HOW the New Testament came together and when it was regarded as ‘scripture’ or God’s word, is very important. Sadly, many Christians either do not know HOW the books of the New Testament came together, or what they do know is incorrect. It is vital for Christians to know and understand how this process happened, not just in order to answer questions, or to tackle the increasing attacks upon the reliability of the New Testament, but more importantly, so that our faith can be strong in knowing the New Testament as God’s word.

Arthur Patzia has done a wonderful job in “The Making Of The New Testament’. Despite being a reasonable 280 plus pages, he has packed a lot information into this book, covering everything from the making of the Gospels to what they used to write with, and what they wrote on!

While this does have the feel of a theological ‘text book’, don’t let that put you off. This book is for both the theological student and the Church layperson. It provides you with a wealth of information and understanding about the practical aspect of the gathering of the New Testament and it will be both interesting and immensely beneficial to read. A perfect introductory text!

Highly recommended.

The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion by Elmer John Thiessen

The title of this book alone is fascinating – “The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion.” What on earth could he mean by the Ethics of Evangelism? Well, evangelism, or Proselytizing, while seen as a staple diet of Christian life, is becoming frowned upon in our society. People see the whole process of evangelism or proselytizing as “enforcing your view upon them” and thus seen as both arrogant and offensive.

 

Thiessen’s book, which is a substantial study, argues that proselytizing (whether religious or otherwise) is not inherently wrong and can even be a good thing; an expression of care and concern for others. The core issue for Thiessen is HOW one proselytizes – whether in the religious or secular context. For Thiessen to proselytize is to lead someone to a change of belief, behavior, identity, and to a sense of belonging.  Thiessen compares moral proselytizing with immoral proselytizing. The heart of this discussion revolves around 15 criteria to distinguish between the two; Dignity, care, physical coercion, psychological coercion, social coercion, inducement, rationality, truthfulness, humility, tolerance, motivation, identity, cultural sensitivity, results and golden rule.

 

Does our proselytizing / evangelism involve any coercion, physical, psychological or social? Do we speak truth? Do we uphold the dignity of the person we are speaking to? What is our motivation? Are we sensitive to the cultural aspects of the person we speak to? And perhaps the biggest thing to recognize, especially for Christians, is the golden rule – do we operate under the assumption that the other  person has the right to proselytize as well.

 

This is a fascinating and valuable book for Christians but especially for those who are evangelists. While Thiessen is clear in his writing this book requires and deserves energy and time because of its depth. It is not a ‘quick’ read, but one to be taken slowly and purposefully. To do so will reap great benefit.

 

Highly recommended.

 

Justice…. God’s way

In our summer Adult ed we are about to embark on a study of Tim Keller’s books Generous Justice. On Sunday, we introduced the book and talked about justice.

So, it must have been by God’s providence that for the first time in maybe three years I happened to pick up my copy of Oswald Chambers devotional and today’s reading happened to be on justice. What he writes is quite stunning:

The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, Do not be bothered with whether you are being justly dealt with or not. To look for justice is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and to indulge in the discontent of self-pity – Why should I be treated like this? If we are devoted to Jesus Christ we have nothing to do with what we meet, whether it is just or unjust. Jesus says – Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance. The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.

Only A Trinitarian God Can Save…

Why is it important to believe God is Trinitarian? Because ONLY THE Trinitarian God is able to save. Unless you have a Trinitarian God, there can be no salvation; without a Trinitarian God there is no atonement for sins. How could God take our sins upon him and remain pure, even when he has not sinned. How could the judgment of the Father be upon the Son and our sins if our God was not three persons but one God? How could we be filled with the Holy Spirit and be adopted as his sons and daughters unless God was trinity? How could God have been born as a human being, emptying himself of his divinity, and still remain sovereign over the universe? How could God know what love is and how to love if he has spent eternity alone before creating the world? Only a God who has been in a perfect eternal relationship in the trinity can know and then create in his image beings who can love.

God has to be Trinitarian to be the God who loves us and who has rescued us from sin. No other God is able to save.

This is why our proclamation, our witness of God is in aTrinitarian pattern:

The Father Sends the Son to the earth; then the father and the Son send the Holy Spirit; and now, here in Matthew, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send the CHURCH into the world to make disciples in the Trinitarian formula, in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.

Keeping Man’s Rules or God’s Rules…

I sometimes use the Northumbria Communities Celtic Daily Prayer. The following is the daily reading for June 21st…

Once the rule was made in Scete that they should fast for the entire week before Easter. During this week, however, some brothers came from Egypt to see Abba Moses and he made a modest meal for them.

Seeing the smoke, the neighbors said to the priests of the church at that place: ‘Look, Moses has broken the Rule and is cooking food at his place.’

Then the priests said… ‘When he comes out we will talk to him.’

When the Sabbath came the priests, who knew Abba Moses’ great way of life, said to him in public: ‘Oh, Abba Moses, you did break the commandment made by the people – but you have firmly kept the commandment of God!’

Great story!

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch by Kate Williams

This is another great summer read. Kate Williams has written an enjoyable and very fascinating account of how Queen Victoria came to the throne of England. Williams begins with George III and details the intense, sometimes tragic and largely dysfunctional lives of the royal family.

By the time Victoria ascended to the throne the royal family was on the verge of irrelevance. The Monarchy was in disarray and mostly unloved by the people. One example is that when George IV died he had so neglected his position that some 50,000 official and government papers needed signing! Victoria brought a breathe of fresh air into the Royal Family, despite her own severely dysfunctional family.

Williams has done a fine, fine job. A fascinating, fun and very interesting read!