Christmas Message for After Christmas

Although Christmas is over,  here is an after Christmas message I preached on December 27 at my home church in NJ on Isaiah 9.


The Church’s Response to Same Sex Marraige

Came across this article that echo’s what I have been saying about the church’s response to same sex marriages for awhile. Canadian Cary Nieuwhof’s five points are spot on. In his blog post he cautiously offers advice to his American counterparts on how the church should respond to same sex marriage, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. (Same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for 10 years). See his blog post here: “His Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian.”

His second point, “It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values,” is especially poignant for Christians to consider. I have been saying the same thing since the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney in 1997. Then I said it was unrealistic to expect “Mickey” to hold Christian values and practices since “he” was not a believer.

I wonder if “we” are upset over the loss of being the nation’s “conscience.” No longer are Christians able to insist that people act sort of “Christian” under the force of law. Now it seems that people will only have an opportunity to act Christian if they are truly saved. I get the sense from reading the NT that the early believers had to live and speak from a truly minority position as well. They did it with love, not comprising the truth and within that position the church flourished. Maybe modern Christians need to take a page from their “playbook.”

The Pastor and Theologian in One Person

While in not so many words, Douglas Webster offers an advertisement for Baptist Bible Seminary’s PhD program in his recent review article of a new book: The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson. In his review, “Calling All Augustines” Christianity Today (July/August 2015 see article here) he notes that the authors call for a return of the pastor theologian. They rightly see the need for the academic and pastor to be combined in one man and he in the local pastorate. In our PhD program (see here) we are designed to do just that. All of our professors have extensive pastoral or missionary experience, are currently involved in their local church and all possess terminal academic degrees within their fields from DTS, TEDS and BBS. A number of our graduates and current PhD students are fulfilling this book’s vision. I am thinking of Dave in Canada; John in California; Jay in Delaware and Mike in New Jersey just to name a few. These men are pursing this degree to simply be a better pastor for their flock. These men are not “passive conveyors of insights from theologians” but are men who combine academic rigor at the highest level with a pastor’s heart. Webster concludes his article by recognizing the need for more men such as these. I agree completely. Local churches should be looking for such men as these and supporting their pastor who wants to pursue such a course.

IVP New Commentary on the Song of Songs

IVP has just released volume 19 The Song of Songs by Iain M. Duguid for their new edition of their Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. This volume is intended to replace the fine volume by G. Lloyd Carr. While I have not read the entire volume as of yet, I can offer a few observations.   While both introductions are approximately the same length, Duguid’s volume is 15 pages shorter on the commentary side. The commentary section is divided between three divisions: Context, Comment and Meaning. Since it is a newer volume, the author does interact with Exum’s and Hess’ newer commentaries as well as older ones such as Pope and Longman. However, he did not include Dan Estes’ commentary on the Song in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Duguid argues against Solomonic authorship and leans to a date after the exile as the most likely (23). His approach to the Song is a literal one plus something else. While he states that he rejects the fanciful allegorical reading, and believes the “natural” interpretation to be the correct one, he wants to “go further than this and bridge the two interpretations” (37). So throughout the volume this “bridge” is evident in his regular mentioning of Jesus Christ. His understanding of Luke 24:44-45 as the evidence that “every part of the old Testament speaks to us of the suffering of Christ and the glories that will follow” (51) allows him to construct this “bridge” with materials that are non-existent in the Song. Although he does not want to be seen as championing the allegorical approach, he wants to hold to “two broad categories, which we may call the ‘spiritual’ approach and the ‘natural’ approach” (28). This is unfortunate. While I look forward to reading the commentary section itself, I do hope Carr’s volume stays in print.

Fatal Flaws of Cahn

Below is the introduction for a book review I was asked to do for Baptist Bulletin.  It is a review on messianic Jew, Jonathan Cahn’s two books.  To read the entire review you can sign up for free access here at Baptist Bulletin site.

Descent into Exegetical Darkness

By Mark McGinniss

If there is one quality believers need desperately in today’s cultural climate, it is Biblical discernment. This astuteness is especially needed when a Messianic Jew takes an Old Testament verse or two and incorrectly exegetes those texts. Then based on his faulty hermeneutic, he writes books announcing that these ancient Old Testament texts written specifically to Israel suddenly and mysteriously predict woe and divine judgment on the United States. Such is the sad case with Jonathan Cahn’s two books.

Cahn’s new book, The Mystery of Shemitah, is an expansion of the 17th chapter of his best seller, The Harbinger (2011). Both books have a common thread. Cahn believes Isaiah 9:10 is not only a mystery that tells of Israel’s response to the Assyrian threat during the prophet’s time, but is actually a secret prophecy foretelling the events that occurred in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 (Harbinger, 46). Cahn believes the fallen bricks mentioned in Isaiah 9:10 are the rubble of New York’s Twin Towers. This serves as the first harbinger of God’s impending judgment because of America’s sin. The terror attacks, according to Cahn’s calculation, occur in a year of Shemitah, 2001 (Shemitah, 130). Thus, the two books are interrelated: The Harbinger tells of the mystery of one Old Testament verse as applied to the U.S., and The Mystery of Shemitah gives the timing of these catastrophic events and more to come. Both books suffer from the same five fatal flaws.

The Rabbis and Sexuality

While researching for article on virginity, I came across a book, Tasting the Dish: Rabbinic Rhetorics of Sexuality, by Michael L. Satlow (1995). While it was not much of a help for my topic, it did provide an interesting insight as to how Rabbi Eliezer worked out the implications of Exodus 21:10.  This verse records the obligation for a husband not to deprive a wife of her conjugal rights.  The rabbi’s concern was how to apply this verse for men of various occupations that would take them away from their wives for extended periods of time. Satlow quotes the rabbi’s understanding from Mishnah Ketub 5:6 : “the conah [obligation] which is stated in the Torah: Tayalin (day students) every day. Workers, twice a week. Donkey drivers, once a week. Camel drivers, once every thirty days. Sailors, once every six months” (268). The variation in amounts of sexual intercourse is determined by when the man is home. A sailor is away from home longer than a day student so his obligation to keep Ex 21:10 is only twice a year. A student’s obligation was everyday (outside of her mensuration week) because he was home every night! It seems that the Mishnah and the rabbis took seriously a husband’s responsibility to meet the sexual needs of his wife. Satlow concludes, “Thus, the tannaitic sources declare that a wife has a right to sex, the amount which depends on the husband’s occupation” (Ibid.).

Daniel Boyarin certainly has read the Mishnah incorrectly when he concludes, “It (the Mishnah) thus masks almost entirely its own oppressiveness of women, and the way men are securing their own sexual needs here.” “On the History of the Early Phallus,” in Gender and Differences in the Middle Ages, eds. Sharon Farmer, and Carol Braun Pasternack (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 33.

DL Moody and Scranton

A few months ago I finished reading a biography of D. L. Moody. It was published in 1900 by his son, William R. Moody. Besides enjoying reliving the life of a great evangelist, what made the book fascinating was that between its pages were newspaper clippings. One envelope contained what looks to be an original obituary from December 22, 1899 the day of Moody’s death with the headline: “Dwight L. Moody is Dead: Great Evangelist Expires at Northfield, Mass.” Other articles were of his Northfield Conference, pictures of the evangelist and his work.

There were a number of quotable anecdotes as well:

One day a man arose who said that he had been five years on the Mount of Transfiguration. Mr. Moody cast a quick glance upon the speaker and flashed into his face a sharp question:

“How many souls did you lead to Christ last year?”

“Well, I don’t know,” was the astonished reply.

“Have you saved any?” persisted Mr. Moody.

“I don’t know that I have,” answered the man with a depressed air.

“Well,” said Mr. Moody, “we don’t need that kind of mountain top experience. When a man gets up so high that he cannot reach down and save poor sinners, there is something wrong” (367).

“’Some ministers think it is undignified to advertise their services,’ he said on one occasion. “It is a good deal more undignified to preach to empty pews, I think” (426).

An interesting area historical fact: Moody always had a keen interest in the YMCA and promoted it vigorously. While conducting meetings in various cities of eastern PA, Moody recognized the need for a YMCA building in Scranton to reach the young men of the city with the gospel. He took it upon himself at a convention in Scranton to suggest raising $75,000.00 (in 1885 dollars)! He secured $60,000.00 in less than four days and in less than six weeks had raised the entire amount (478-81).