I wanted to see what you thought about a potential comment I just wrote on using
logic in Biblical interpretation. I recently revisited and read comments about
discussing Scripture using formal logic and it got me thinking. I'm not entirely
decided on this yet and wanted to get a second opinion on this since I'm still
not 100% sure. And no, I'm not asking you a question knowing or thinking I know
what you're going to say, lol. I don't know what you'll think of this until you
give your answer. Not sure I'll be able to conclude the matter immediately
either. I may need a good bit of time to think this through more. As of right
now, I don't see anything wrong with what I've written below.
Logic is often intertwined with biblical interpretation, as we will explain below. But not in the way we may suppose. However, correctly interpreting all truth with it's aid does not mean we sit back and exegete/interpret a passage based on what seems logical to us while disregarding the context, the languages, and everything else necessary for proper understanding of the text. That is dangerous to the extreme! We must never conclude a particular passage based on what seems right or wrong to us personally, as if the truth depended on our feelings and emotions. Instead, we must study the Word through the Spirit’s power while keeping everything in the context and comparing it with what the Bible has to say about that particular subject elsewhere. Learning how to pick out structures and themes from the text is critical in this process, along with having a good knowledge and understanding of the languages (assuming they are necessary for the interpretation). Textual criticism is another critical component (if required) that would be useful for a more in-depth teacher to have in their arsenal. Additionally, taking advantage of a good Bible teacher is crucial to learning God’s Word. So, where does logic come into all this?
Anytime we come to correct conclusions, we have discovered something logical. God’s truth and He Himself is logical. Logic should never be used for biblical interpretation by itself (though it is possible to conclude some things with it alone), but often acts as a natural aid to proper interpretation. Studying and thinking out an issue correctly through proper exegesis is thinking logically because the methods used brought us to the truth (assuming we have it right). Logic is the only way we can make sense of those methods, especially when dealing with the languages. Therefore, we utilize logic when studying and interpreting the Bible, even if indirectly or in conjunction with proper exegetical methods and the right spiritual approach/attitude. Plus, if we know a truth based on what one passage says, then we know that other passages that discuss the very same issue will line up with that other passage because logic tells us that Scripture cannot contradict itself (even if the two passages seem to disagree with one another). It is not the Bible which gets things wrong. Instead, it is us fallible human beings. How could we make sense of God’s truth without the ability to reason (which all logic entails)? But using logic by itself (without proper interpretive methods and the Spirit’s aid etc.) is extremely dangerous and bound to lead one into a plethora of errors and pitfalls. That may not always be the case, but it will become a recurring pattern. There will be inconsistency.
With the above said, every believer, whether teacher or layperson, uses logic alongside the correct and biblical approach to discern the meaning of a passage. The truth is that we do it all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. We cannot rely on it alone (far from it). But we will use it by nature (because of how God made us) even if we don’t realize it. We don’t have to know we are doing something for it to occur in our minds because what we think of it doesn’t matter. Logic will naturally be used to help figure some things out in the ways we have described above.
However, Bible teachers should do their best not to explain the truth through formal logic but through Scripture alone and the tools necessary to decipher the meaning (depending on what those tools are and if they are required in the first place). Logic (in conjunction with everything else) can help us come to the right conclusions. But it may be tricky and perhaps confusing to use it to explain the meaning of a passage to one’s listeners. Therefore, it is better to avoid using it to show how one came to the correct conclusions.
When it comes to strictly "formal logic" (e.g., A→¬B B /∴¬A), I find that even
worse than math – and just as confusing. Since that is the case for myself, I
rather suspect that this will also be true for most believers with whom you or
other budding pastor-teachers might interact in the future. Introducing this
stuff into your teaching might seem impressive – along the lines of if I were to
dump a great deal of Greek and Hebrew grammar into my teaching – but would it be
Also, as I read your piece, it strikes me that you could replace the word "logic" as you're using it here with "reason" and/or "common sense", and get the same outcome. After all, there is a difference between "logic" and "formal logic" (the latter seeming to me personally to be not very "logical" in many instances). Reducing arguments to math or formal logic formulae seems to me mostly to have the effect of obscuring their weak points with a patina of apparent erudition (which is often only apparent).
Practically speaking, of course we use our brains to figure things out – but empowered by the Holy Spirit and in the context of the truth we have learned already, if we are believers. Placing an over-reliance on external methodologies of any kind (including, e.g., textual criticism), can be a big mistake. We use all the tools at our disposal to seek the truth just as a chef uses all the implements in the kitchen to produce the food, but like the chef we don't put that on display for the diners. When we serve it up, if it is good, the diners will be able to tell (without having to know about all we went through to produce it). After all, "the proof is in the pudding".
I don't disagree with this. In fact, I mentioned at the end of my comment that
it is better for teachers not to use it to explain why they came to the
conclusions they did basically for the reasons you gave even if that wasn't
quite clear. I meant just plain "logic" not "formal logic." My mistake. But
whether formal or normal, If I was listening to someone, I would think to
myself, "please don't!" I strongly agree with you. I do think that regular logic
(not formal) of some kind will be involved indirectly in deciphering the truth
(such as making sense of the tools needed to interpret the passage and whatever
else). That and perhaps a few other things. But that isn't something I believe
we need to explain to our listeners because that would be a very complicated
task. It would be too foggy because we can't remember everything that goes on in
our minds. It just isn't necessary. My point was that logic is still involved to
at least some extent, I don't believe there is any denying that. Of course,
Scripture rightly interpreted will speak for itself, and the Spirit empowers our
studies, but that obviously doesn't take away the fact that we still have to
engage our brains through using logic (not formal) to some extent. Of course I'm
not against using it to explain the truth to anyone at all as if it is a sin
(assuming we could), but like you I don't think we should if we don't have to.
Most people wouldn't benefit from it, although I suspect some learn easier this
way because some individuals are just different and process things differently.
Of course, they would probably be in the minority.
On "Placing an over-reliance on external methodologies", I agree, but although I do believe normal logic is involved to some extent (it will occur naturally even under the Spirit's influence), I also know it isn't a good idea or necessary to explain the truth to our listeners. To be honest, except for maybe a few things here or there, I don't really see how you could. I think you know what I'm saying.
Finally, of course I am aware that relying too much on textual criticism or any other outside methodology can be a big mistake. I agree. But they are still involved to some extent, which is a point you and I both agree on. We use them whenever we have to as the Spirit guides us to do so.
"We use all tools at our disposal to seek the truth . . . " Well said! My thoughts exactly! That is how I see logic when used to help decipher the truth.
Thank you for taking the time to answer this.
Obviously, God gave us our brains as He has given us everything else. Inspiration of scripture gives a good example: the words are the ones God wanted, but He didn't waive the intellect, personality, experience, talent in expression of the prophet the Spirit was inspiring.
We learn to listen to the Spirit, using all of our tools, brains included.
Keeping you in prayer on the job front.
Okay, Sir. I think that the question that I was trying to answer was whether the
Jews who will take the mark of the beast will be treated differently from the
Gentiles who do the same. That is,
1. Will their own baptism of fire happen in the desert of the nations as part of the purging process for the returning Jews?
2. Or will they be consumed together with the Gentiles before the regathering of the Jews so that they are purged from the Jewish population even before they are brought back from exile by the Lord?
3. Or do the baptism of fire and the regathering and purging occur concurrently?
My understanding of the matter so far is #2.
On an earlier matter, I suspect that at least some (I think, all) of the disconnect that I feel from the others on the group might really just be me. This period of figuring out my life and trying to learn to rule myself and become the pastor-teacher that I won't be ashamed to present to the Lord really has me out of sorts. I am quite exhausted with myself and I wonder if that is not what I project on others (that is, that they are exhausted with me too). I think that there is something to my concerns about them because of the whole "smorgasbording" business. We no longer talk about it, but from some of the things they say and do, I wonder if they are actually submitting to one ministry and learning all they can from it. But then, how is it my own place to judge? I've got enough trouble on my hands with my own self. I had just been revelling in the encouragement of having like-minded people and now I'm troubled that I'm more alone again.
Our friend has really been great. We obviously aren't clones of each other, so there are difficult moments from time to time, but we can actually work through things and disagree when we feel we must, so he is an exception. The others seemed to pull away and only respond with what seemed like a "gotcha" to me when they did respond, but I don't know how much of that comes from just my own struggles.
Your student in Jesus
Correct. It's #2 here, not #1 or #3.
On the group, when the idea of a forum was first broached, I was all for prospective pastor-teachers having a place to hash things out without me weighing in. That is good and right and proper and healthy for men who are going to be studying and teaching the Word of God on their own. After all, when YOU stand up before a group to teach (in whatever venue or tech or place or method), it is YOU whom the Lord holds responsible for what you teach. So it better be something you are completely comfortable with – or else don't teach it. Working through questions and "bones" previously put aside with like-minded and like-gifted men is a great boon (it certainly was for me). If, in the end, you wind up teaching exactly what Ichthys teaches, I'm fine with that – as long as it's because you believe what you're teaching is correct, and that you have vetted what you teach in the Spirit to your professional satisfaction.
One thing is sure, however: by working through these things, individually (much of it will have to be on your own) and in consultation with others, the WAY you teach things will likely be somewhat different, because we are all individual personalities with our own unique combination of gifts. We all want to get to the truth, the complete truth, and that is what we are aiming at in all of our work for the Lord. We rejoice with what's good and we put aside what is otherwise, and, eventually, we all hope to be circling in ever closer to the truth entirely. Without hard work, without the proper tools, without the proper preparation, without the help of the prior work of others, and without the Spirit, things can easily go the other way – that is, a vicious outward circle of entropy instead of the virtuous cycle of closing inward on the truth that we desire. That is, sadly, a large part of the history of the Church Age, which started out with the perfect teaching of the apostles (at least in the written Word they were given to produce) but began to stray from any deep understanding of the truth immediately after their passing. It's very easy for any good ministry to morph into a denomination where the "truth" taught is merely traditional and pro forma, and where it has lost the power of the original. That's not what we want. Doing what is right is a very lonely business indeed, even with contact with some good friends who are also struggling to do what is right. But that's the job.
Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2
I'm certainly not going to criticize your application on how to make the
threefold transition you're trying to make, i.e., to breadwinner, husband and
pastor-teacher – along with all of the other responsibilities and struggles you
have. I know that your heart is in the right place, and I also know that the
Lord will help you with all of this.
Best advice I can give you: Keep your priorities straight, make the best decisions you can make, fight the good fight . . . and don't look back.
Your friend in Jesus Christ,
I am so glad that what the Lord gave us is this email relationship. I do believe that face-to-face is better on the whole, but being able to read your words over and over again helps me understand things that I either didn't understand the first time or completely misunderstood the first few times. The Lord knows me well. I am too impatient to think carefully through anything so that it is almost always a great idea to slow me down one way or another and email is excellent for that.
Thank you for the answer you gave me. I have been really troubled by how things have gone with the group for a while, but then we are not all pastor-teachers there, and we are not even exactly a church in the sense of students with their pastor-teachers. The dynamic doesn't seem to work very well for them and therefore it doesn't work so well for me either.
It is a struggle to do all the things I want to do at once given all that I am dealing with at the moment, so I have not moved forward on it.
I am also very happy to see that I have been changing too. I had a lot of trouble for a long time being able to think through and study some things independently without relying on conversations to enable me to see inside my own head, but now I can do both to a good extent, so I won't be needing the forum for that. I do like being able to have consultations with others over things I am working through too, so that is the appeal that this has for me in addition to what sense of camaraderie we can gain from it.
Thank you too for your encouragement. It was tremendously helpful. When I am unsure of myself, I know that it is the Lord from whom we should derive confidence, but the encouragement of those whom we know we can respect spiritually is invaluable too. At least, I constantly find it so.
Also, I was working through some lectures on ancient history in biblical times on Bible Academy's YouTube channel, and I was thrilled to get that. I have struggled to maintain my focus on all that study, so it was very invigorating. I am looking forward to getting back to everything: ancient history, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic too if possible. I also want to read the texts on church history to compare against and deepen my understanding of what I have learned from Dr. Ryan Reeves.
Your student in Jesus
This is great news, my friend! I am praying for you to be able to find some sort
of permanent, regular work as well.
I've never liked things that straddled the fence. For example, I didn't mind being in the USMC, and I didn't mind being out of the USMC (both had their advantages, paycheck for the former, some actual free time with the latter) – but I never wanted to be in the Reserves (showing up one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, and on-call to go to e.g. Iraq at the drop of a hat). In or out. That's always been my approach.
Likewise, I would be happy with a church with a pastor or, in this case, a social group where the individuals are on an equal footing to discuss things (good for prospective pastors – not so sure about others even in their own non-pastor group). So I understand your discomfort with this mixed approach. This is always the way I felt whenever I tried to (or in seminary was forced to) connect with churches where I was not the pastor-teacher but had plenty to say which wasn't being said.
Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.
Thank you for the perspective that you shared with me on the matter I asked about.
Thank you for continuing to keep us in your prayers. I'm very grateful for not just them but also for the privilege to share my walk with you. We continue to pray for you here too.
Your student in Jesus
On the attached discussion, it all seems pretty reasonable to me. The advantage
to coming to basic conclusions of this sort is that we can now forget about
these sorts of things and move on with what is really important (problem
solved). The danger is that such self-help, power of positive thinking,
social-networking, do-gooding philosophies become ends unto themselves. Plenty
of people over here make good livings by engaging in this sort of thing, but
like you I don't think it behooves Christian Bible teachers to do so (though
many do, of course).
On your situation, I certainly understand. I probably mentioned more than once that after I made the decision not to pursue a course of study at seminary which would lead to a career in traditional ministry, switching to a two instead of a three year program (non M.Div. so not "denomination pastor" prep), I spent that whole intervening summer taking long walks around Buena Park mulling over what to do next. I decided in the end to put in an application to UC Irvine for Classics . . . and God worked it out.
Since I have always been a "program person" throughout my life (Boy Scouts, ROTC, USMC, many college programs . . . and even when contemplating the ministry originally), that has always been my preference and the advice I have given – with the caveat, of course, that we all are here to make our own decisions and that WE are the ones who have to live with the consequences.
The world has changed a lot since I was a young man – not to mention that your country is not the USA. Also, we all have our own gifts, our own responsibilities, our own desires. And God has a plan for each of us that is unique to each of us.
(10) As each one has received a [particular spiritual] gift, [so let us be] ministering it to each other as good stewards of the multi-faceted grace of God. (11) If anyone communicates, let him do so as if he were speaking words directly from God.
1st Peter 4:10-11a
So I can't really give you any further advice. I can remind you, to encourage
you, that the Lord is holding your hand and leading you to just the right place.
He will in fact "work it all for good", because there is no question that you
"love Him" (Rom.8:28).
I am in prayer for you on this and all things daily, my friend.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
p.s., over here, the Methodists have always been "work, work, work and fix-the-worlders".
What is fellowship and how should it look? What happens when it gets secular? What happens when it becomes less and less about Christianity? Are there ground rules or a model?
I know that assembly in the early church had a type of order and everything being in good order. What happens if fellowship becomes a free for all? I never thought about what fellowship would be until now that I have it, I'm not even sure what it is!
Also I'm thinking of only using WhatsApp for video fellowship and having back and forth via email instead. The problem with WhatsApp is that you're "always available" and it is very distracting. On one hand, I want to be available but at the same time I have other commitments. I notice that you look at your emails at roughly the same time everyday (except posting day) so I presume you give yourself a time limit but then again you always get back within one day (which is pretty mindboggling when I come to really think about it!) You also seem to have an incredibly proficient filing system that also boggles me!
So do you say "I'll respond to everyone within 24 hours" or do you set yourself a time and then answer all within that time frame and leave the others until the next time? I wonder how you do it given your full-time job and family commitments too. Your day must be pretty organised and precise!
Sorry if I am trying to steal your trade secrets! But I would really benefit from them! Given my distinct lack of organisation! I guess your military background has really helped you with being self disciplined and having routines.
Thanks for the link.
On this last email, "fellowship" in the way it's used in evangelical circles today has little to do with the Bible. The word in scripture is mostly about our relationship with the Lord, and only about our relationship with other believers in respect of that primary fellowship and our service to the Lord:
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1st John 1:3 NKJV
In other words, we "share in common" (all the words in the NT translated
"fellowship" come from the Greek koin- root meaning "joint/common") a
saving relationship with Christ AND a commitment to following Him . . . and
helping others do likewise. Biblical fellowship is you helping me and me helping
you share the truth – not eating a pizza and watching a ball game together.
Biblical fellowship is "mission orientated" not "fun orientated" (not that there
is anything wrong with the latter).
I think the above answers all of the questions you asked on this; do feel free to re-ask.
In terms of your own ministry, the first thing I would say is to be careful not to "bite off more than you can chew". Making a commitment in ministry terms is a sacred obligation to the Lord. Be careful not to promise things you may not be able to deliver on (cf. Eccl.5:6; Matt.5:34).
I suggest to start with refining what the ministry is, exactly; and how, exactly, you plan to implement it. Seems to me you are still in the discovery phase. Stay flexible as long as you are. Don't start pouring the foundation before you're even sure you've got the right address.
In terms of productivity, consistency is the key. Figure out what you can actually do, then determine to be consistent with that. If you can do more later, do more. But it is very common for people to overestimate their ability, their stamina and their personal dedication, then get frustrated when they fall short of their aspirations and quit altogether.
Keeping you in my prayers for this, my friend!
Yes I agree that I need to really pencil out what it will be and how to deliver it. The rough idea I have is that
• it is a discernment ministry to expose false teaching
• it will specifically deal with the nuts and bolts of how Satan uses cultic techniques to teach and enforce false teaching (usually through repressing the free will of others)
• that the most obvious employment of these 'techniques' is within "Christian" cults but less obviously within abusive marriages and toxic family dynamics (that both marriages and families operate as mini-cults)
• that cults and all abusive relationships use the same bullying, manipulation and coercive control as one another.
So overall it will be to break down the actual techniques Satan uses in these 'cult' environments and to refute all these techniques through scripture. In the future it may lead me into specific cult refutation but at the moment it is the dynamics that I feel led to expose. As they ALL operate in the exact same fashion. They may differ on which false doctrine they chose to calcify around but the mechanics of control are sadly always very predictable and also have the same spiritual and psychological effect on their victims (they are repeatable because the damage they inflict is both highly effective and inevitable).
As one secular writer once put it, these are "relationships of inevitable harm". They are inevitably harmful as Satan has set them up deliberately to be so.
In terms of delivery, I thought about having a website or blog and then to narrate each page of the blog and post it either as a podcast or YouTube video or maybe both? Once I have the MP3 recording made it can either be layered onto visuals to illustrate the main point or I can upload it just as audio either as a downloadable MP3 or to stream as a podcast. I haven't yet looked into how to do downloadable MP3s or podcasts yet but I already know how to do blogs and edit videos. I've done Wordpress before and used video software to edit sound and image together. I can also create new visuals if I need to as I have used Photoshop a lot in the past (Illustrator not so much as that uses vectors - I am a fast learner with computers though)
Blogs are cheap (free) but websites with their own domain name are a trickier business and need money to run. I looked into Go Daddy in the past as Wix site has the "Wix" name on it and I think they own your content.
So yes both working on what I'm doing and how to deliver what I am doing will be two separate jobs - two big jobs!!
So yes plenty of prayer and advice will really, really help me my friend!
First, on the other emails, it's not a great surprise based upon what you
previously discovered and wrote. As to response #2, I think response #1 was
sufficient. The bottom line for all cult/religion adherents (into which category
I would place your Unitarians) is that they do not believe the truth. Therefore
they do not really believe the Bible either, even if they use it and pay it lip
service. The Bible – as you pointed out so deftly in your quotation – is very
clear on this and on every other point of truth. That is why genuine Christians
with a thirst for the truth always seek it out in scripture. Scripture needs to
be studied, exegeted and taught to be fully understood when it comes to many
things, but there is plenty in the Bible which is obvious to even a casual
reader, let alone a growing Christian. The fact that Jesus is the God-man is
certainly one of those basic, bright-shining truths. Only those who have
rejected that truth would be motivated to cast doubt upon it. The first time I
ever heard that bit about the Trinity being "developed" was when I was only a
young pup. I heard it from a very brilliant Classicist – RC background which
meant little to him and an unbeliever by a long shot. Just because scholars say
things doesn't make them true – trust me on that one!
In terms of your own ministry, this sounds like an excellent way to proceed. So this latest experience of yours is not all for naught. You have learned a few things, about interaction, about deception, and about the layers of false teaching out there. I certainly don't recommend getting deeply involved with any of these groups as a prerequisite for understanding and explaining their DNA and methodology, but a little picked up on the side like this can only be for the good. I also think this can give you a better perspective about the dangers of this sort of thing to anyone who is not solidly grounded in the truth and not spiritually mature. Anyone whose foundation is shaky will be well-advised to steer clear – as you will be advising these people you minister to – to steer clear! As you do, always remember to counsel folks not only to avoid the negative but to do the positive things Christ calls on them to do – spiritual growth, progress and production – as essential counterparts to spiritual security. As I always say, a good defense – and in the case of those accessing your ministry a well-informed defense – is only half the battle.
Clearly, the evil one would like to derail your ministry before it ever gets
You did fine in this lengthy discussion you report. You didn't have anything to work with in terms of those you were attempting to minister to, however. These people were clearly out to convert you, not to give a fair hearing to anything you had to say.
That last bit is the concern I have with anyone and everyone contemplating ministry. I came very close to signing on to being a Presbyterian minister when I was in seminary. That would have been a disaster. Blessedly, the Lord convicted me of that and led me to making the most of the seminary experience instead (then He opened another door for me after that).
Who are we helping? Who might be benefitted by and actually want our help? Ichthys didn't start out with lots of people reading the materials and emailing. In fact, there was very little email traffic in the early going – and not so much content either! But every oak tree come from a lone acorn. So you do have to put your mustard seed in the ground and give it all the TLC you can in order for it to grow.
How best to do so? Your previous email where you outlined your intended procedure seemed to me a good way to progress (and still does). Obviously, you will make all manner of adjustments as you bump into real world problems and opportunities.
I know from doing this ministry that there are a lot of people out there who would profit from some of your wise counsel about the real problems with cults and from your insights as to their workings. Have you ever read "Kingdom of the Cults" by Walter Martin? If not, I highly recommend it – not so much for the information (you probably already know most of what's in it) but for the method. Someone recovering from one of the groups he writes about will get a lot of help from seeing him lay things bare – and from seeing you do so as well. I also remember reading some "recovery group" sites on the aspects of various cults these individuals had been involved with. One of them I knew too well myself, and it was enlightening, encouraging and helpful to read what some survivors had to say.
So there is a lot of work to be done. How to do it, how to present it and how to offer it are issues of mechanics which you will have to work out. Not to mention that doing the actual work is time and energy consumptive.
But I wouldn't let this negative experience with the Unitarians stop you. At the very least, it's let you see that you are not interested in battling actual cult members; rather you are interested in helping survivors recover, adherents escape and warning off anyone who is wise enough to want to check things out before they get caught.
Arguing with died in the wool JWs on one's front porch (or your recent Unitarian equivalent) has never been a particularly useful employment of time or energy.
These people can be VERY deceitful.
Keeping you in my prayers, my friend!
I've been reading Isaiah and I must admit I do find it difficult to understand, but in one of the emails this week you put a link to Prophetic Foreshortening. I read through this again and as well as being very helpful, the last paragraph was very encouraging to me:
"Finally, there is also an element of deliberately constructed enigma in such prophecy. God has not chosen to make those scriptures which delineate the future a readily open book on all counts. As with many of the truths of the Word of God, they are accessible only through diligent study and laboriously constructed theology. This state of affairs is not without its benefit either, for it serves to distinguish between those who truly want to know Him and those whose interest is merely ephemeral."
So I'm encouraged that it isn't just me who finds it difficult to understand and
has to work hard at it. Even though this is the case, rather than avoiding the
book, it makes me more determined to study it until I understand it fully. I
don't want to avoid any book of the Bible because every single word in there is
important. I'm very thankful that the Lord has put that determination and desire
in my heart! (Psalm 37:4) And the Biblical Sources for the History of the
Tribulation and Biblical Sources for the End Times in
CT Part 1 are a huge help.
In the last email this week 2nd Corinthians 1:3-7 was mentioned. Those exact verses have been on my mind for a few weeks now for different reasons. So I'm thankful to the Lord that more and more just recently through the emails He has been giving me the exact help and encouragement that I need to learn His Word and also confirming other things to me. Thanks so much Bob, for taking the time to post the emails each week. They're a huge help and encouragement to me.
I think you would be surprised at how far your personal knowledge of the Bible –
important knowledge of the truth which is true – exceeds many if not most
professional pastors, seminary students and even seminary professors. Some of
these may know more about the languages, about church history, about traditional
"theology", about archaeology, about homiletics – but not about the truth. And
in most cases, not even about what's actually in the English Bible either.
That said, we all ought to be learning more and more day by day – and believing it and applying it to our lives. It's a fight to the finish and a race to the end. We can rest on the other side.
(24) Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. (25) And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. (26) So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. (27) I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27
Your perseverance and wonderful attitude are a great encouragement to me, my
friend. Both are very rare, and I know that the Lord honors them.
It's really interesting to hear you say this especially because you know all about seminary etc. and I don't. It does surprise me but maybe I shouldn't be given the fact that we're in Laodicea. I thank the Lord for you and for the truth that I'm learning from you and for how much it has helped me to grow spiritually.
It still amazes me how little of the truth is actually being taught out there. I do understand that the majority of believers don't want the truth but I'm beginning to realise that it's even worse than I thought it was. There really are very few believers who desire to dig deep and search the scriptures - to learn, believe and apply the truth to their lives.
You've actually given me a lot to think about here. But in the meantime I want to continue to study and to grow spiritually - to draw closer and closer to Jesus.
Can't tell you how much your email has encouraged me. Thanks Bob!
In our dear Lord Jesus
There are a lot of lukewarm Christians out there doing "great things" for the Lord (in their estimation), things which have little to do directly with the truth or with contributing to spiritual growth. We know that even a cup of cold water given in the Lord's Name is going to be rewarded (Matt.10:42), so I am guessing that all their work will be rewarded (cf. Rev.2:19); what that level of reward will be, however, and how it will compare to laboring in and loving the Word of God for the benefit of the growth of His Church, well, that is in the Lord's purview to decide. But in terms of making progress in the truth, I'm pretty sure that you (and anyone else giving serious consideration to this ministry) are, if not in the "first wave" of the attack, pretty close to it.
(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Let us then move on from the elementary teachings about Christ and press on to maturity.
(1) Since then we too [just like the believers of chapter 11] have such a large audience of witnesses surrounding us [men and angels], let us put off every hindrance – especially whatever sins habitually affect us – and run with endurance the race set before us, (2) turning our gaze unto Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him endured the shame of the cross, treating it with despite, and took His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
You encourage me too, my friend!
Thanks again for your encouragement and for the Bible verses you shared with me. I read through them very carefully. I was thinking today how loving the Word is loving the Lord. Jesus Christ is the living Word, scripture is the very mind of Christ. How much we want to really know Him and His Will for our lives will show in how much we labour in the Word. How can you have a deep, true love for someone that you don't know very well? The truth of the Word is the only way to get to know Him. Just a few thoughts that were in my mind today.
Hope your week is going well - Friday tomorrow!
Keeping you and your family in my prayers.
That's right! I couldn't have said it better myself. One would think that any Christian would want to know more about the Lord and His truth. How else do we expect to draw closer to Him? It's not done by merely emoting. True, we do have to be proactive about applying the truth we have learned and believed, and that does take dedication, but we can't apply, think about, meditate on what we don't know or believe.
(1) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers, (2) but in the Law (torah, "teaching") of the Lord is his delight, and in His teaching he meditates day and night. (3) He will be like a tree planted where the waters divide, which will yield its fruit in its season, and whose leaf will not wither. He will prosper in whatever he does.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:23-28 NIV
. . . for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?'
Jeremiah 30:20b NIV
Keep running your excellent race, my friend!
Yes – Friday and a three day weekend for us.
Praying for you to get some good help on Monday.
Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.
I am taking a class in 1st Peter right now in seminary. They are using your material for the class and there I found your web site. I read that you have a weekly e-mail but was not sure how to get on the list. Please advise.
Love in Christ,
Good to make your acquaintance.
Here's a link to the page where the email responses are posted weekly: Ichthys Emails.
The page also has an RSS feed link if you wanted to subscribe to that, but it's not necessary (n.b., you'll have to have the appropriate extension app loaded onto your browser for this to work). You'll find the email page updated weekly, usually sometime on Saturday for readers to have some godly input on Sundays.
Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.
Thanks for sharing the link. I am blind since birth and use speech software, sometimes it is hard for me to find information.
On your site there is something called Bible academy and it is with Curtis M. Omo. He has many teachings on different Bible books. I was wondering what is the difference between your web site and Brother Curtis? Do you also have Bible studies through different Bible books?
I live in Las Vegas and it is hard to find a solid Bible teaching church, there is a lot of short sermons (20 to 30 minutes) that don’t have a lot of substance. It is refresing to find solid Biblical exposition.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Omo's site, Bible Academy, is excellent. In terms of differences,
doctrinally these are slight. Curt's lessons are mostly not written but oral (he
does use graphics), so this might be an excellent option for you (link
to Bible Academy). Thanks to my friend Chris B., most of the major studies
at Ichthys also now have
MP3 files which you could listen to (read not by me or him but by voice
Do let me know if there is anything else I can help with.
Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.
Thanks for letting me know the difference between your teaching and Brother Curtis. I do like to listen to audio before I sleep such as sermons, but my preferred method during the day is written because I like to reread the text several times. In seminary I was assigned to go through your study on 1st Peter. It is very detailed. I just finished the #14 reading and it gives the seven points about growing our faith. I love your practical application and the detail of your insight. Have you taught on every book of the Bible, where can I find a list of your teaching? This is very good for discipleship material. Seminary education is very expensive in the United States, so I am doing distance education through a Theology school in India. The Bible section is short, I had readings from Ray Steadman on Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and your study on 1st Peter is my last Bible class. Prior to that I studied Exodus and the Gospel of John through Believers Chapel in Dallas, Texas.
Love in Christ,
Thank you for your kind words, my friend!
I know what you mean about seminary. That was the only time in my life I
had to take out a student loan (for the tuition), and it took a deuce long time
to pay it back too. I had a good package (straight A's and high test
scores) going in and was hopeful of gaining a scholarship, but those all went to
the married students. That said, I don't regret it a bit and am very
grateful for my time at Talbot, mostly because of the gentlemen I met who
likewise loved the truth and who were preparing to teach it as I was.
To answer your question, no, I have not gone through all the books of the Bible – far from it! You know about the Peter series, so I'll list here the other major series at Ichthys for you (they do touch on every book of the Bible sooner or later):
The Bible Basics series (in eleven parts), which is essentially a systematic theology at the link.
The Satanic Rebellion series (in five parts), which is a prolegomenon to the study of the Tribulation at the link.
The Coming Tribulation series (in nine parts), which goes through the entire book of Revelation verse by verse and adds in most of the other information in the Bible about the end times at the link.
The Hebrews series (five parts out so far), chapter by chapter and verse by verse and similar in layout to the Peter series.
In addition to the email postings which occur weekly at the link (and you can find years of previous postings listed here at the link), there are a few other things of interest, such as the special "Read your Bible", "Matthew Questions", "Mark Questions", "Luke Questions", "John Questions", "Genesis Question", "Exodus 14", etc. (with some other things at the link "Special Topics").
Because of the abundance of materials, Ichthys can be difficult enough to navigate for those with perfect vision. I would be happy to help you locate whatever you're looking for. There is also an index of topics (at the link) and a list of verses which are originally translated (at the link).
Good evening Brother Bob, hope you are well.
That is amazing, you have so many studies on your web site. I have a question in two parts. My background is in Clinical Mental Health, I finished my master’s in May 2012, but I have always had a heart for the ministry and so started my master’s of divinity program last fall. You have studied the Bible extensively. I’ve been wrestling with a question since I started studying Biblical counseling. Biblical counselors believe that the Bible is totally sufficient for all of life. We can turn to Scriptures such as Psalm 19, 119, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. There are integrationists that like to mix in Scripture with secular theories. In your experience and expertise, do you believe that the Bible is fully sufficient for counseling and speaks to every area of life? Related to that is how do we saturate our minds in such a way that we are fully immersed in the Scriptures? Psalm 1 talks about meditating on the law day and night. Romans 12:2 talks about renewing our minds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 talks about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I have been a Christian for over 20 years, and the majority of those years I have taught the Bible in some form to youth, college, and young adults. With my speech software, I listen to the Bible daily, but I feel like my mind has not progressed that much in thinking Biblically. I know basic Bible doctrines, and the themes of most Bible books, but I was wondering if you have a particular routine or discipline in that really saturates your mind in the Word of God? I have realized that in order to be an effective Biblical counselor, I need to know the Scriptures more. Not only for ministry, but for my relationship with the Lord, to be like David, a man after God’s own heart.
Love in Christ,
Happy to help.
As to your question, the Bible doesn't contemplate believers getting any sort of encouragement / mental health intervention from unbelievers. I also think it is fair to say that the Bible presents the truth and the comfort which God provides directly through that truth and the Holy Spirit's ministry (cf. 2Cor.1:3-7), coupled with the encouragement and aid that the Body of Christ provides for itself, as all-sufficient for any of our needs. That is not to say that there is no place for professional help, especially if we are talking believer to believer help. There is a great deal about spiritual gifts in BB 5: Pneumatology (at the link). Suffice it to say here that there are as many different combinations of spiritual gifts with various shadings and emphases as there are believers. And the Lord, of course, leads us all into the ministries He has for us – if we are willing to grow to maturity and respond to His guidance as to what He wants us to do for Him and His Church.
No doubt some are gifted and drawn by Him into ministries that are designed to help other believers who are having emotional problems. As I often say when I get this question, while I lean towards what I said in the opening here as the first response, I have known brothers and sisters who have been visibly helped by such professional services. I will also say that the more that such services / ministries adhere to the Bible and lean on the Lord and His truth (as opposed to secular theories of psychology and psychiatry), the more valid and useful they seem to me to be. There are plenty of email responses at Ichthys which deal with this question from various angles (here's one link which will lead to many more if you read through the whole thing).
On your second question, your experience is typical of many Christians today who want to grow spiritually but who are "in the wrong place", so to speak. Every Christian should read their Bible and pray on a regular basis, preferably daily. But this is the Body of Christ wherein every part is supposed to help every other part grow (see especially Eph.4:11-16; Col.2:19). The solid "food" which leads to growth is to be provided by pastor-teachers who labor in the Word and "feed my sheep" as Jesus told Peter to do. But there aren't many churches out there in our church era of Laodicea where this is actually happening. That is one reason why Ichthys is on the internet. The simple answer is that to grow closer to the Lord in your thinking, you need to grow spiritually – as we all do – and the way to do that is to listen to / read the truth, believe the truth (a necessary step), and walk in the truth, applying it to your life. As you do this more and more, you will grow more and more, and eventually you will grow closer to the Lord . . . which is what we all want (or should).
Everything at Ichthys is, I certainly hope, helpful for the above. The Peter series is an excellent place to start. I would recommend supplementing it with the Basics series (they don't have to be read in order) and also checking in every week for the weekly email postings.
Do feel free to write me any time, my friend.
It's my pleasure, Bob!
I've just recently listened to a lady's testimony on YouTube. She was a Calvinist for 17 years and said she listened to John MacArthur's teaching and learnt a lot from him. Then another lady started to gently question her about her beliefs in the five points of Calvinism - TULIP. They had quite a few discussions about it and she was open, willing to listen and seeking the truth. She spent a long time on her own in the Word carefully going through everything and realised that her beliefs in Calvinism didn't line up with Scripture. Through careful study of the Bible she learnt the truth.
I also listened to John MacArthur talking about how he came to his beliefs in Calvinism and he briefly said something about this lady too. He said,
"I think I always believed the doctrines of grace. Obviously I was very young in my twenties. I don't know that I had a refined understanding, I don't know that I would have been able to give a full or defense of every doctrine of grace but I was always a believer in them and when I was in seminary toward the end of my seminary days I started reading the Puritans. So this would have been when I graduated from seminary in 1964. This would have been five years before I came to Grace Community Church. So it was from the last year or so in seminary in the intervening few years that I was really kind of boning up on reformed theology so by the time I landed here I was convinced. And one of the things that I wanted to do and this was kind of an underlying commitment in my heart was to exposit the entire new testament. I thought not only would that be the greatest thing I could do in my life to provide for the congregation the whole new testament explained and applied but I also thought that I could test my theology. If my theology, if the convictions that I held theologically were true, they would stand the test of exposition. So your theology goes into the fire in every text and it has to survive the fire of every text. You know, I was looking at the internet the other day and some wistful girl said how she became a Calvinist and left Calvinism. Well the sophomoric comment like that from somebody who should keep her thoughts to herself because she has no idea what she's talking about is to be measured against someone who for fifty years has taken every text of the Bible and put doctrine into that text and see if it survives and I can say that it has. So it's a stronger conviction and in no sense is there any part of my understanding of the doctrines of grace that has been weakened. Everything has been intensified and strengthened in all these years of study."
I think I just wanted to say how great it was to see a housewife and mother,
another sister in Christ, being so humble and open to the fact that what she had
believed for 17 years might actually be wrong. And the fact that she followed
the Bereans positive example in Acts 17. It didn't matter how famous the pastor
is, she investigated the teaching, she searched the Word of God, she put it
first and learnt the truth.
Keeping everything in prayer for you, Bob.
I agree with you! A pretty condescending set of remarks, if you ask me. But that
does square with pretty much everything I've ever heard from this person and his
ministry. I too think it's wonderful when someone goes to the Bible and realizes
that some false teaching is wrong. On the other hand, one of the things that is
so vexing about Laodicea is the large number of otherwise moderately well
prepared "teachers" who have spent a career defending doctrinal positions and
using scripture to do so rather than the other way around: the scripture is
supposed to speak to us – and it will, in the Spirit, if we let it and Him do
so. But using the words without letting them into one's heart has always been a
recipe for spiritual disaster. That, after all, is how we got Roman Catholicism
(from which, ironically, original Calvinism escaped).
Operation face to face hasn't started yet. I'm waiting until I get truly into
new content creation again (and have that consistency developed) before
undertaking that next step.
I would greatly appreciate your prayers in finally getting there, though! I thought I'd be there by now, but something always keeps coming up. It's rather exhausting.
I really want to get back to being focused on content, but I'm trying to set things up for the long-term in the future (doing things "right" from the beginning so I won't be digging myself into a hole I'll want to get out of later), and so I'm getting everything completely ready before I turn my focus back there. And then the in-person study will materialize too, hopefully, once I have that consistency back.
I just want to get there and finally start actually producing as priority #1. It's been many years in the making. But I feel like obstacle after obstacle keeps getting thrown in my way here near the end. I've been burnt out more than usual the last little bit as I try to muscle my way through the very last of the configuration/setup matters that I've been focused on for months now, but the goalposts seem to keep moving back.
I think it is good that you are getting things organized first. I didn't get to
the point of being able to offer something every week at Ichthys right away. It
took many years. When it comes to teaching the Word face to face, that requires
an awful lot of preparation for every session, even if a person is otherwise
well-prepared to teach generally and has some material in stock. It's not
something one can "wing". My old mentor used to say that he "took a test" every
time he got up to teach. This is not easy to do. One can easily see why pastors
at "normal" churches stick to sermons. Those take preparation as well, but not
nearly what it takes to teach the Word of God substantively. Even one sermon a
week can tax a man who has all the other responsibilities of a "typical church"
to shoulder – they are many (even though, obviously, WE know that there is a
much better way). One of my seminary professors told us one time that when he
was pastoring one week things got the better of him and he didn't get around to
preparing a sermon. He got up there and told his congregation how that "the Lord
had put it on his heart to read the book of Ephesians [? not sure really this
was the one] to them that morning". Afterwards, his chief elder said: "That was
interesting and different. Don't try it again." For you, if you manage to get a
group coming on Sundays (or whenever), they will have expectations and it would
be good not to ever have to let them down (in terms of what they really need,
that is, not in terms of what they might otherwise want, of course). That is
hard enough to do if a man has his time entirely liberated. Working a full time
job would make it very difficult, I would think. A couple of dry runs might not
be a terrible idea.
So I'm ok to leave out your name with my translation of the 1 Peter 3:18-21
passage? I'm assuming you reread it? Is it too similar to yours that you would
want me to cite you? I did write that in my own words because that is what I
read in the context (although your interpretation did help me to come to that
conclusion). As I said earlier, I would have written differently if I had
disagreed with you, but we agree, so...
No worries, I don't quote you that much and try to avoid doing that as much as possible. I try to keep that to a minimum.
Had a good Thanksgiving and I hope you did as well. The job is also going well. I hope to advance in it in the not too distant future. Better pay, same or less hours on average. Just a matter of time, since they want to see me move up.
Apologies for the second email professor (I just thought of this not long after sending my first email), but I just wanted to ask you a quick question regarding James 3:1 and Luke 12:47-48 (involves a discussion I'm having with someone). When it says teachers will receive a stricter judgement, does this mean they will lose more rewards than non-teachers who messed up just as much? Is that part of the answer in addition to receiving a "harsher spoken judgement?" I know that the harsher spoken judgment is part of the answer, but does it complete the whole picture? Simply put, does this mean that Luke 12:47-48 is teaching that the man who "did not know" and messed up will lose fewer rewards than the one who knew more but messed up? It seems obvious enough that this isn't teaching literal "beatings" that believers will receive at the Bema seat, so what was James referring to with this metaphor?
No worries. No need to cite me on the translation.
On the other question, a beating is not the same as losing a reward for doing something right. In my reading of scripture, we never lose any reward for doing something right, not even for giving a cup of cold water to a fellow believer (Matt.10:42) – as long as we don't fall away from the faith entirely (2Jn.1:8).
At the judgment seat of Christ no doubt there will be some uncomfortable moments for us all, not because of the sins we've committed (for which Christ died) but for the things which are worthless which will be burned up. That is why Paul says in the context of the bema, "since we know what it is to fear the Lord . . ." (2Cor.5:10-11). Because of the nature of the "job", this may well be more of an issue for many pastors who did not do the job of teaching the Word as well as they were responsible to do – or who never really did it at all.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:17 KJV
We who teach and pastor will have to "give an account" to the Lord about those
who were under our care; there will be "grief" for those who didn't respond as
they should – but also no doubt "grief" on our part if in any case we didn't
teach what we should. But there is no indication of any loss of reward in either
case for anything either party did do which accorded with what Christ wanted us
Also, the "greater judgment" mentioned by James is not necessarily confined to eternity: pastor-teachers who don't do what they should do – or are doing things they shouldn't – ought to expect a larger measure of discipline than would be accorded those to whom such a responsibility has not been given. In all such things, when the Lord disciplines, He generally adds to the discomfort rather than taking away blessings, at least for those whose deviation is not chronic and/or terminal (David is a good example of that).
I'm praying for you on the job front.
Thanks. Of course I understand our judgment will be for rewards and not to
determine our eternal destiny. But it has always been my understanding that we
will have to give an answer for every sin we committed. Is that true? As in,
"why did you do this and why did you do that?" Or is it going to be a case where
God shows us everything we've done wrong and that's it? I always understood the
judgment to be for both rewards (including all non-rewardable deeds burnt up)
and giving an answer for every sin we committed, but I'm not sure. I mean, I
know teachers have to live an exceptionally disciplined life in regard to sin
since they are role models to those they teach. Wouldn't this mean they will
receive a harsher verbal pronouncement against them not just for teaching false
things, but by how they lived their lives in regard to sin? How will all our
personal sins work with and relate to our evaluation at the judgment seat?
Finally, this may sound like a strange question, but since the beast and false prophet are thrown alive into the lake of fire right before the millennium, does this mean they won't be present at the great white throne judgment? As in, once they are in the Lake of Fire, they won't ever be brought back out for evaluation?
To take your second question first, that is correct. Once in the lake of fire,
that is where one stays. To use an analogy, in law there is a thing called
"summary judgment" where in cases which are so open-and-shut the judge dispenses
with the trial and renders judgment on behalf of one party or the other once
he/she's heard enough. That is the case here. There is no need for the Lord to
demonstrate the justice of condemning these two (nor of the devil, for that
matter), since the cases are so entirely egregious.
In terms of what happens at the judgment seat of Christ, the first thing to note is that in this as with many other matters of eschatology we are not told as much as we should like. We do know, however, that in terms of the last judgment of unbelievers, these are all judged not according to their sins (because Christ stood judgment for all of these) but "according to their works", that is, what they have done which is ostensibly "good" to human lights (Rev.20:12-13). This means that the Lord will demonstrate that none of their works was sufficient to save them so that their rejection of His work on the cross results in their condemnation; I also expect a complete exposure of their motivations in everything since all is prophesied to be laid bare in the end (Heb.4:13; see the link). Similarly, we believers are judged according to our works as well.
Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
1st Corinthians 3:13 NKJV
The word for work/works is the same above as in Revelation 20:12-13 (i.e., ergon/erga). Similarly:
For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing [done],whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
2nd Corinthians 5:10 NKJV
Christ already died for our sins. They have been forgiven. So they are not part of the judgment. But whatever "we have done" will be judged as to whether it was "done" with the right motivations and in the Spirit or not. The former will be rewarded; the latter will be burned up. But as to sins . . .
"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins."
Isaiah 43:25 NKJV
"For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Jeremiah 31:34b NKJV (cf. Heb.8:12; 10:17)
In terms of sins affecting things negatively, of course they do, but that will
all "come out in the wash": you can't be walking in sin and effectively
pastoring, e.g. Anything negative we do negatively affects our attempts to do
what Christ wants us to do. But we pastor-teachers have also had our sins
forgiven – and forgotten. And that is a true blessing. All the more reason to
double-down on doing what we should be doing and casting out of our lives
whatever hinders us from ministering to the Church of Jesus Christ as He would
have us to do.
Haha okay. I think that’s your very polite way of saying that half of my reasoning isn't great, hence the scare quotes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended or anything. I understand why you reserve your opinions. That’s something I’ve been working on too.
Since 10 days ago, I’ve decided to stop with the job and spend the summer getting into a good routine. I’ve basically implemented a 6-month plan, incorporating exercise, healthy eating, and intentional study. I know I need to exercise “self-control in all things” and build up my endurance; I think that will include being intentional about my rest as well, because every athlete needs it (1 Cor. 9:24-25). How I do the next few months will help me determine if I should apply to seminary for the fall. I don’t think I’ll exactly be ready at that point, but it might be better than waiting another year or going in the spring, which wouldn’t be as enjoyable or easy I’d think.
Sounds like you are making good progress with your decisions.
There is the argument that "there's no time like the present". And, after all, seminary is supposed to be FOR preparation. If you are aggressively reading Ichthys, you'll already be far ahead of your professors theologically (IMHO). What you can get from them is 1) historical theology; 2) church history; 3) Greek and Hebrew (to a degree; seminary Greek and Hebrew are lacking compared to secular rivals); 4) practice in biblical interpretation (even if they are wrong and you are right about any given topic, it'll give you a chance to cut your teeth); and last but not least 5) making the acquaintance of some other men who are dedicating their lives to serving the Lord, benefitting from their perspective and – no doubt – benefitting them by sharing your own.
Two other notes: 1) don't wait until the last minute to apply; classes may already be filling up; 2) year-classes start in the fall, so it would be much better for you to start then as well; otherwise you'll be the odd man out when you show up in the spring.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I hope you're doing well.
I have been thinking a lot about my plans recently, and so I wanted to ask you about your graduate degrees. I think I do plan on doing seminary within the next few years, but thinking even beyond that, I'm thinking about maybe pursuing a degree in history, aside from reading history in my free time. It's obvious that historical context in the ancient world is essential for interpreting scripture, but even beyond that, I'm fascinated in church history and what the Bible has done to change cultures and societies.
So, I'm curious to know what made you pursue your classics degrees. I assume it was at least partially to supplement your ministry goals? Was it solely for your work? How has it helped you grow?
Please let me know. I'm interested in understanding.
History is great. I love studying it. I do notice however that as an academic
discipline today it is slipping and becoming more political and less focused on
truth about the past (e.g., getting trendy with focus on social issues of the
near-present to the exclusion of "real history"). So I would counsel you to be
very careful about where you go. Have a look not only at their catalog but also
at their actual listings of courses offered. If you don't see anything that
looks valuable actually being offered, pass that place up. Also, it's important
to investigate the faculty; see if there are professors who have expertise in
what interests you; read a few of their articles. Don't go in blind assuming
that because it is a history M.A. program all things are possible (that is never
In terms of church history, I'd be surprised if you found many places that offer advanced study on this unless they are seminaries or connected with a religious school. Also the near universal social and secular focus today has hit places like those very hard as well. Same approach as above is recommended for vetting in any case. Church history is interesting but one has to remember that it is the "news-makers" who got the ink then just as today – which means "church history" is the history of the church-visible as seen by the secular world, so that this will always necessarily be at a far remove from the actual history of the real Church of Jesus Christ – if you know what I mean. Neither Curt nor I nor any of our seminary buddies nor our mentor and his church nor any offshoots would likely even rate a mention in a detailed, multi-volume tome about, e.g., "The History of the Christian Church in the U.S. in the 20th and early 21st Centuries".
In terms of ancient history, and this includes early church history, you can't do anything serious without Greek and Latin since all of the primary documents were in those languages until at least the early middle ages (even then, they still dominate). At Harvard, it used to be that Classics and ancient history were the same department, and no one could do graduate work without the languages.
That is how I got interested in Classics, namely, because of the languages. I had a history degree, but no Greek or Hebrew, so when I got out of the USMC, I took a second BA to get cracking with those languages. Advanced study in Classics (with a history focus) was very helpful to all I've been doing. The Greek taught at seminary was barely sufficient for detailed exegesis, so I've never regretted all the years I spent studying it secularly.
Here are some links where this is discussed at Ichthys (do feel free to write me back about any of this):
Should I go to Seminary or not?
Ministry and Preparation for Ministry [and see the other 16 installments of this series listed on "previous postings"]
Okay, those are good things to think about. I think pursuing a degree like that is still a ways off. I've also thought about just making history a serious hobby, like part of my daily routine. I think for many things, I have to see how much I can do independently. Maybe I don't need to go to seminary if I read enough and put in serious study. I could also see myself learning the languages on my own if I decide to pursue that. There's a lot to think about, but as I grow more I'm confident that the Lord will make my path clearer.
Also, I'm sure you get a ton of recommendations for things, but this book I'm listening to on Audible called The Book That Made Your World is all about how the Bible formed the West, and I think it's excellent. This Indian philosopher compares Christian thought in the West with Hinduism/Buddhism in the East, especially India. One fascinating thing he argues is that it was really the Bible that made the West great and not ancient Greek democracy, because for example, the US really is a democratic republic, not a direct democracy. After all, the legacy of Ancient Greece is Alexander the Great, a tyrant. The founders were deists, I believe, but still started the country based on biblical principles. No offense taken if you don't have the time, but just wanted to throw that out there.
I hope you're powering through on the Hebrews series. Hopefully work is not too stressful right now.
In our Lord,
I'm making progress! Hope to have chapter two out soon [note:
chapter 4 now posted at the
In terms of history, of course you can read it on your own. That also has the advantage of being able to focus on what you find important without a lot of extraneous work involving things that don't interest you.
Seminary, as you will see from the prior links, was valuable to me on account of the friendships I made and also on account of the alternative viewpoints and methodologies (and general approaches to Christianity) I encountered. Didn't do much for my language ability, however.
But if you had the chance to study Greek and Hebrew formally even if not to obtain a degree, that would be a great thing to do, in my opinion. It's very limiting to try and do that on one's own (like trying to learn how to box without ever having an opponent).
Thanks for the rec'.
Keeping you in my daily prayers, my friend.
Yes, that's true. I'll have to do some more research on it.
When it comes to seminary, yes, I would primarily be there for Bible study, history, and systematic theology. I'm not really convinced that I should necessarily be there for language and preaching classes. As you said, I can learn the languages in other ways. At DTS, for example, it's a four-year degree with the languages and the preaching classes, but it's a two-year degree for just the Bible Exposition and Systematic Theology core, which is the exact same in the four-year degree. So, these are things to think about.
With regard to the languages, I have a couple of questions: which types of Greek and Hebrew should I try to learn? I know very little about them, so would I start with ancient Greek and Hebrew or should I learn modern day Greek? I assume the former. Or should I start with really hard classical Greek because then it will make biblical greek very easy? Any answers to these are appreciated.
That is how I ended up utilizing my time at Talbot as well: a two year degree
that concentrated on Hebrew, Aramaic, theology, exegesis, and church history (no
preaching or evangelism or counseling or missions etc.).
Ancient Greek is ancient Greek – except that seminaries (or other institutions) which split "Koine" or "Biblical" Greek off from Classical – that approach will never yield good results. Kind of like speaking no English and wanting to read Shakespeare so ONLY reading Shakespeare – it would give you a warped view of English (and diminish your understanding of Shakespeare as a result). Modern Greek is of little use in learning ancient Greek (though ancient Greek does give a person a "leg up" in learning Modern Greek). Biblical Hebrew / ancient Hebrew is what you want. Modern Hebrew is more useful for studying the Hebrew of the Bible than Modern Greek is for the NT, because the language was "resurrected" in the 20th century and so is a lot closer to its biblical exemplar. However, MH was "invented" by people whose main languages were European and therefore resembles in its syntax French, German and English much more than it does BH. Modern Hebrew is pronounced the same as BH, so that is a help, whereas Modern Greek has a totally different pronunciation from the ancient, and one that can be confusing for those trying to learn ancient.
For Greek, see: So-called Koine Greek
For Hebrew, see: Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VIII
Prayers for you for guidance and success in your seminary endeavors (please keep me in the loop).
(13) Until I come, devote yourself to [public] reading [of the scriptures], to encouragement [through the Word], to the teaching [of the Word]. (14) Do not neglect the [spiritual] gift [of pastor-teacher] which belongs to you and which was given to you [by the Spirit], [and which was proclaimed] through prophecy [and recognized] by the laying on of the hands of the elders. (15) Be diligent in these things (i.e., studying and teaching the Word). Make them your primary concern so that your spiritual progress may be evident to all. (16) Apply them (i.e., the truths you learn) to yourself and to your teaching. Stick [faithfully] to them. For in so doing you will bring yourself and those who heed you safely home.
1st Timothy 4:13-16
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth.
2nd Timothy 2:15 NIV
But as for you – model yourself on my teaching, my methodology, my plan of action, my faith, my endurance, my love, my perseverance . . .
2nd Timothy 3:10
Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2
(7) In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness (8) and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 NIV
(10) As each one has received a [particular spiritual] gift, [so let us be] ministering it to each other as good stewards of the multi-faceted grace of God. (11) If anyone communicates, let him do so as if he were speaking words directly from God.
1st Peter 4:10-11a
And never forget, we are running this race in hopes of a good reward.
(1) So I urge the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, even one who shares [with you] in the glory which is about to be revealed, (2) pastor the flock of God under your charge, overseeing them not out of compulsion but willingly in response to God, not eager for shameful material gain, but out of genuine enthusiasm, (3) not lording it over the charges [entrusted to you], but as genuine examples to your flock. (4) And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will carry off in victory the crown of glory which will never fade.
1st Peter 5:1-4 (cf. Heb.13:17)