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Prevenient Grace— by W. Brian Shelton

It is an odd fact, but nonetheless a fact (as Tom Schreiner has rightly complained), that Arminians have not done a thorough job of articulating what the concept of prevenient grace means, and why it is important. Fortunately, there is now a book by Brian Shelton, which he kindly sent me a copy of, to [Read More...]

Black is the Color of my True Love’s Heart— a Felse Mystery

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Fri, 10/09/2015 - 02:00
The sixth in the series of thirteen murder mysteries is the tale called ‘Black is the Color of my True Love’s Heart’, and apt title for a very interesting novel indeed. The ethos of the novel has to do with the art of folk singing and folk songs or ballads. In America we might think [Read More...]

Am I ordained?

Simon Cozen's Blog - Thu, 10/08/2015 - 21:57
Language Undefined

I was asked this question yesterday, and I wasn’t sure how to answer. I’m speaking at a church on Sunday and it’s one of those places where only people who are ordained can give the benediction. If I’m not ordained, I have to finish the service at the Lord’s prayer. The Japanese churches that we work with recognise me as a pastor, and allow me to give the benediction, but this is a church outside our network. So what should I say?

I think probably I’m not ordained, because what they want is someone who is ordained as a pastor in a denomination. But it didn’t seem to matter which one, and I’m sure that the requirements are different across denominations. If I was ordained in the Universal Life Church, I’d be able to say truthfully yes, and nobody would ask any questions. But I haven’t done that, and it seems like a bit of a fudge anyway.

So in the strict sense I haven’t been ordained as a pastor—no other pastor has put their hand on my head and said “bang, you’re a pastor now”, or whatever it is that happens at ordination. But on the other hand, I have been commissioned as a missionary—after a sufficient period of professional training and personal testing—in a Christian mission agency. Is that materially different to having been ordained as a pastor after a similar training and probationary period? I don’t know. As Bosch pointed out, the distinction between mission agency and denomination is pretty weak. They all do the same stuff: start churches and run them.

t has in recent years become customary to devote an enormous amount of energy to theological discussions about whether missionary societies are legitimate agents of mission. Is mission not rather to be regarded as an expression of the church? Without denying the merit there is in such a discussion I would like to suggest that, within the framework of the paradigm spawned by the Enlightenment, there was not much to choose between the organized church as bearer of mission and the mission societies. The point is that, in Western Protestantism, the church was increasingly fractured into a great variety of denominations which, phenomenologically speaking, were not decisively different from missionary and other religious societies. Denominations, too, were organized on the voluntary principle of like-minded individuals banding together. They were, in a sense, para-church organizations.

Thinking about it more, it would be strange to regard me as not being ordained, when what I am trying (and commissioned) to do here is to plant churches—a network of churches, in fact—and appoint leaders for those churches; that means in any meaningful sense of the word, I can ordain others without having been ordained myself. Surely this is wrong.

I tend to think that if the answer to a simple yes-or-no question is so complicated and unclear, then the problem is with the question itself. The reason for asking the question was that only Special People, who have had something spiritually happen to them, can give a blessing to other people. It is based on the assumption that leading a church is not a role, but a quality, fine, but it also sounds very, very much like magical thinking. Bosch again:

In practice, most denominations in mainline Protestantism today are muddling along with an understanding of the ordained ministry vacillating between the traditional Reformation definition and a view closer to that of Catholicism.

So what did I do? I said no, not because I think the answer to the question is no, but because it’s easier just to say no than to be a smart-arse and reject the premise of the question. The only difference it makes, practically, to me or to anyone else, is that the congregation of some church in Japan won’t get a blessing from God this week. Sorry, guys. Hopefully my sermon will make up for it.

Subject tags: theology

At the Zoo– Part Three

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Thu, 10/08/2015 - 02:59
Some animals are just born comedians. I’m referring to the monkeys and their kin of course. There is this sign that stands at the opening of the gorilla exhibit. It reads as follows…. This one however seems to have ignored all the necessary gorilla etiquette The orangutans and monkeys were doing their usual thing, just [Read More...]

The Intern— Rent a Dad

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 19:03
Sometimes you go to the movies expecting one thing, and something else happens. I went to see ‘The Intern’ expecting it to be a funny piece of enjoyable fluff. Rather like eating cotton candy. You know— empty calories, but nonetheless sweet. And sure enough Nancy Meyer’s latest film has its funny and sweet moments. But [Read More...]

At the Zoo— Part One

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 02:55
One of the older zoos in America is the Brookfield Zoo which first opened in 1934. It is on the west side of Chicago, is well worth the visit, and we took a trip there one hot August day with Ann and Yuliya. Disclaimer— the two wildest and scariest animals I saw on that day [Read More...]

My Favorite Martian

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 19:31
Petra, in Jordan, is called the Rose City, for very good reasons, the rock is a rosy color, and so is the sand. ‘The Martian’, in so far as it was filmed in an actual earthly geographical location, was filmed in the deserts of Jordan, as it was deemed the terrain on earthy most like [Read More...]

The Impressionists at the Art Institute– Part Four

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 02:00
It would be hard to over-estimate the importance of Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), one of the most distinguished of the Impressionists, and one with considerable longevity. The Art Institute has a goodly sampling of his work, though, not some of the most famous of his paintings. Among other things, Renoir had a great gift for [Read More...]

The Impressionists at the Art Institute– Part Three

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 02:32
Alfred Sisley (1839-99) was an interesting Impressionist painter, who sadly did not achieve much recognition or success in his lifetime. Though he had British citizenship, he spent much of his time in France painting. My favorite Sisley painting is this one, done in France… Notice the concentration on depicting the church in varying light, showing [Read More...]

The Impressionists at the Art Institute– Part Two

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 02:26
Obviously, Monet and Renoir are two of the more famous of the Impressionist painters, and perhaps the most familiar to the general public. This post will focus on Monet’s work. The Art Institute has a good collection of his more celebrated works, for example Monet’s famous Haystacks paintings… And who doesn’t love his pastel paintings [Read More...]

If My Life Was Recorded Like the TV Show "24"

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 19:00
The clock in the TV show counts down the seconds...A while back, my house was watching the TV show 24. It’s an action adventure show starring federal agents who are always trying to avert major...

Outward Conference

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 03:37
We are very excited about the 2015 Church Planting Institute (CPI) National Conference November 9-13. The theme is OUTWARD and we’re looking at celebrating God and his mission to the world. In...

Breaking Ground

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 03:36
We were very delighted to have a new set of missionaries come last month. Rob and Chris Wright arrived and they are also joining another new missionary Ian Smith who arrived last year. However, it...

Prayer for October

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 03:33
Pray for energy and health as Elaine struggles through fall allergies. Continue to pray for Lydia Troe’s ministry until Nov 26th. She is working in 3 churches and doing some admin work for CPI....

The Impressionists at the Art Institute— Part One

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 02:45
One of the reasons we went to the Art Institute during our visit to Chicago was to see the new Degas exhibit, which, was clustered with various paintings of the other Impressionists. We will deal with this section of the museum in some detail. Impressionism of course was a study of the effects of light [Read More...]

Online Classes Server

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 23:59

Oat Cookies

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 18:37
I posted a photo of these cookies on Facebook today and a friend asked for the recipe. So I've typed it up here. It's very easy and much loved by my boys. I usually double it. 125g butter ¾ cup*...

What happened here?

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 16:33
A walk in the neighborhood turns up a sobering discovery and a call to action.
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