Thursday, January 08, 2009


I'm not sure if anyone still checks this, though I do find people clicking on the link to Boston Bible Geeks on an almost daily basis, so at least a few people are still coming to this blog. Anyway, the main reason why I am posting is that Lisa and I now have a family blog, Life with the Pierces, up and running. It's our duty, as soon-to-be parents. Obviously we haven't posted much, because there isn't a ton to say at the moment. But we'll be updating it more regularly as we get closer to the launch date.

I've had a few people ask me about my plans for the blog of danny. I'm not entirely sure. Eventually I may get back to posting thoughts not related to the Bible (which is what BBG is for) and family (LwtP). And since I don't blog about politics, that pretty much leaves sports and a couple other random things. So, perhaps I'll get around to posting on those things, but don't bank on it happening regularly.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

important announcement for blog of danny reader(s)

Hey everyone, you may have noticed that I disappeared for a bit. Or maybe you didn't. Either way, it's largely due to a new project that I'm working on with Brian that is being launched today. That project is called "Boston Bible Geeks." It's a team website/blog that we hope will prove useful to those wanting to learn more about the Bible, theology, missions, etc.

Essentially, it comes down to this. I want to be able to use the internet, specifically a blog/website format, to aid in learning the Bible, and to supplement my teaching at church. That wasn't really being accomplished here, and truth be told, this may not be the best place. So, we switched to wordpress, since there you can have a "pages" feature, which makes it more website like, and still costs us nothing.

Also, neither Brian nor I manage to keep our blogs updated with any kind of consistency, as you've probably noticed. Honestly, it takes both of us to keep up with one normal blogger. We're busy and sometimes it's hard to justify spending so much time on a blog that no one reads. So, we decided to join forces.

As for the blog of danny, I'll keep it up and running for now. I may still post stuff about sports, although Bruce is the only one who reads that stuff and even then he never comments. So check back here, and give me some feedback. I may still be able to salvage this thing.

But for now, we'd really appreciate it if you go and check out Boston Bible Geeks, or "BBG" as we like to call it. My desire is that BBG will be a better place for interaction with those who read our blogs. Thanks so much for reading, hope to see you over at BBG.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

5.5 random things: good reading edition

5.5. This post is dedicated to those who were praying for my wife and me as I was sick and had to miss out of one of our summer mission trips. Thank you so much.

5. As someone who is part of the "charismatic" movement (understanding that the term is defined with difficulty), I found this article from Charisma magazine on the Lakeland "Revival" to be instructive, one that everyone ought to read and think about. I have much I could say, but I'm not sure I will. If you want some follow up, let me know.

4. One of my weekly delights is checking out the "Songs, Hymns and Spiritual Songs" posts from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. These are posted every Monday, and consist of a rundown of the Sunday setlist at the church, with some thoughts given on each song. Here is the setlist from August 10. I highly recommend this blog.

3. In the "I Can't Wait Until This Book Comes Out" category, you'll find Greg Beale's upcoming release, We Become What We Worship. It's a study of the Bible's teachings on idolatry. Looks terrific. In fact, here's the cover, see for yourself.

2. There's been some debate on a couple blogs recently about the TNIV, but I won't link to them largely because they end up in arguments over quasi-related items in the comments section. Instead, I'll link to an article written by Craig Blomberg about the TNIV, one of the best things to read on this subject. I can no longer find the pdf of this article, but if someone has it, I'd love to get it. It's long, but worth the read.

1. Congrats to my good friends, Bruce and Morgan, as they announce that they will be having their second child. These two are dear friends, and their son Elijah is one of my favorite children in the world. I miss them dearly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Review: How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

Thanks to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

It is still a prevalent but hopefully decreasingly common (thanks to the efforts of scholars such as Phillip Jenkins) view that Christianity is a “Western” (American or European) religion. Whereas Jenkins spends most of The Next Christendom showing that Christianity is growing most in Latin America, Africa and Asia, Thomas Oden’s new book, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind, helps show the long history of Christianity within Africa, arriving long before both Islam and the camel. But Oden’s goal isn’t simply to show that Christianity has existed, or even thrived, for centuries in some places within Africa. Such a thesis isn’t remarkable for those who have even a superficial knowledge of church history.

Instead, Oden sets out to show that “Africa played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture” (p9). Historians have been getting it wrong for some time by claiming that the greatest achievements in the early church were from Europe, especially Rome. Oden argues: “Well-meaning European and American historians have a tilted perception of the relation of African and European intellectual history in the third and fourth centuries, and thus at the apex of African influence” (p31).

“This is what the book is about: to state the African seedbed hypothesis in a measured way and begin to sort out the facts that support it” (p31). In doing so, Oden hopes to swing the pendulum back to appreciating Africa’s vital role in shaping Christianity as we know it.

In “Part One: The African Seedbed of Western Christianity” (chapters 1-5) Oden lays out the foundation of the rest of the book. Topics covered include the need to recover ancient texts and excavate ancient Christian sites in Africa (chapter one) and “Seven Ways Africa Shaped the Christian Mind” (chapter 2). He also argues for his definition of “African”, rejecting the idea that skin color should be the determining factor, but rather “if a text was written in Africa it will be treated as African” (p69). The same goes for the theologians/monastics/bishops he surveys. If they were from Africa (whether North African or Sub-Saharan), he counts them as African.

Oden wants his reader to understand that he is not trying to overstate his case, or to discount non-African contributions to the formation of Christianity. His desire is “ecumenical” (which he’ll admit is a bad word in some circles). His desire is to include Africa and Africans into the conversation, allowing their voice to be heard, not create an insular spirit among African believers. “If Africans were saying that they want their sources to come from Africa alone and not from anywhere else, then that would be deficient in the catholic spirit. But this is not the direction of African expectations. They seek a fair hearing for valid arguments based on evidence” (p93).

I’ll admit that this section of the book became a bit repetitive at points. Barely a page goes by without the reader being reminded that Christianity has long existed in Africa, that Africans were dealing with theological and pastoral issues before Europeans made them famous and so on. All valid points, to be sure, and indeed this is the very thesis of the book; but the repetition could have been avoided and trimmed this section a bit more.

In “Part Two: African Orthodox Recovery”, Oden points out why the retrieval of early African Christianity is important. “It is precisely from the ancient African sources that global Christianity can relearn that the church guided by the Spirit is never irretrievably fallen away from the truth” (p103). Rediscovering early African Christianity can also be instructive for the various forms of emerging African Christians. “They now have the benefit of learning about conflict resolution from their ancient African mentors. From that history they learn that not every difference of opinion is demonic and not every union is of God” (p107). As African Christianity grows, “The brilliant instruction and guidance of early African Christian texts and witnesses stand ready to nourish this regrounding” (p109).

For example, Oden notes that many of the early martyrs in the church were Africans, such as Perpetua and Felicitas in Carthage (modern day Tunisia). These African martyrs helped propel the church throughout the world. Also, the early African martyrs can prove inspirational to modern African Christian suffering persecution. “The meaning of the struggle of the early African martyrs begs to be understood in modern Africa” (p120).

Oden ends this section of the book with a biographical note of his growing interest in African Christianity, as well as an impassioned plea for others, particularly Africans, to pick up his vision of voicing the strength of early African Christianity. He confesses he’d love to do more, but admits his life “may be shortened by congestive heart disease” (p141, though we pray this is not true). He actually has helped set up a consortium called the Center for Early African Christianity (website:, to help facilitate this study.

Herein lies the true goal of the book, to spur on the next generation of African scholars to take up the challenge of studying early African Christianity. Oden makes many assertions throughout this book, but admittedly offers only a small amount of evidence to support his claims. What he does offer is provocative and enough to admit that he is probably correct. But much more needs to be done. For instance, it is one thing to show that African church leaders dealt with a certain issue a century before the Europeans did, it's another thing to show the European church leaders relied on the Africans in forming their decisions. This book is a challenge, a shot across the bow of young historians. If Oden is correct, that Africa did in fact play a more decisive role in the formation of Christianity than just about everyone realizes, then the Church will profit from the investigation he calls for.

This is a tremendous book and is worthy of being read by anyone who enjoys church history, or even African history. Thomas Oden has served the Church over the last few decades by editing the Ancient Christian Commentary Series (through IVP) and reminding us of the necessity of remembering our roots in the early church. This book continues his service to us all, may his vision be realized soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Old Testament Theology: Book Review, Part I

Thanks to Chris at Zondervan for the review copy of this book.

Bruce Waltke’s book, An Old Testament Theology, is a massive undertaking, not just for the author, but also for the reader. Reading it is a commitment of time and energy, physical (at least when you’re sick like I am right now), mental and spiritual. But it’s a rewarding experience, as you feel like you understand the Old Testament, and God as revealed in the Old Testament, even better.

Because of its size and quality, I’ve opted to review and interact with this book over a longer period of time than the normal book review. I’ll actually skip most of what he has to say about methodology, not because it’s unimportant or boring (it is neither of those things), but quite frankly, something has to get cut.

Waltke has divided his book into “blocks” of OT literature: “Primary History”, dealing with the Pentateuch and Historical Narratives, and “Other Writings”, with the Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom Literature falling into this category. Oddly enough, he opts to leave Song of Songs out of his analysis in this book. This strikes me as a bit arbitrary, though I realize that it is not a theologically heavy book. But granting that, doesn’t it say something about who God is, even if indirectly?

For Waltke, the theological center of the OT is the “irruption (breaking-in) of the Kingship of God.” The continuing story of how God (Waltke uniquely refers to God as “I AM” throughout the book) brings His kingdom to earth is the story that drives the Old Testament, and continues right on into the New Testament (“All the previous irruptions of the kingdom of God were but a shadow of its appearing in Jesus Christ”, p145). “To put it another way, the Bible is about God bringing glory upon himself by restoring Paradise after humanity lost it through a loss of faith in God that led to rebellion against his rule” (p144).

I found it refreshing, though, that he doesn’t try to cram all theological statements from each book into this category. “To systematize, however, all the biblical materials to the procrustean bed of this message, would falsify their intention. The proposed center accommodates the whole, but the whole is not systematically structured according to it. A cross-section approach to develop that message through various stages in Israel’s history would not do justice to the rich biblical material” (p144). The idea is that the kingdom of God is the central theme of the OT, but the goal is to show the message of each book, even the parts that don’t fit under this theme perfectly.

Chapter 6, entitled “The Bible’s Center: An Overview”, is worth slowly reading and digesting. Honestly, it’d be great for anyone looking for a relatively short overview of the Old Testament teachings on the kingdom of God (it comprises pages 143-169 of the book). One of the strengths of this chapter is showing how narratives are linked by related concepts. For instance, in the history of Israel, we see how God creates a people, giving them the law, providing them with the land and a king to rule over them. However, Israel rebels, which causes God to punish their sin by forcing them into exile, yet leaves them with the hope of restoration.

We see the same pattern in the Garden of Eden. “God also creates a people (Adam and Eve), gives them a garden as the land to sustain and refresh them, hands down the law not to eat the forbidden fruit, and makes them kings to keep his garden. But they rebel against God and disobey him, and as a result, they are banished from the garden, exiled from their home. Yet in the punishment comes a promise and a hope; a ‘seed of the woman’ will triumph over the Serpent on humanity’s behalf” (p150, all italics are original).

Thus, in the Garden story and in Israel’s history, we see the need for the irruption of God’s kingdom (man’s sin has marred creation, Israel’s sin has left them in exile) and receive a glimpse of how the irruption of God’s kingdom will happen (through the “Seed”, through the King or “son of David”).

So, I’ll be posting thoughts as I go through the book and show how Waltke develops this theme of the irruption of God’s kingdom throughout his book. My intention is that the nature of the posts will vary. Sometimes I’ll simply report what he says that I find particularly helpful or interesting. Other times, I may interact with what he says, perhaps even daring to disagree on occasion. I hope you’ll find learning from Waltke vicariously through me to be a rewarding experience, and may you even be encouraged to purchase the book for yourself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bruce Waltke & OT Theology

I have always had an interest in Bruce Waltke, the famed OT scholar. I was first introduced to him (not literally) in undergrad by one of my OT professors who studied under Waltke at Dallas Seminary back in the 1970's. There were three things that stuck out to me then, that have been reinforced since, which separate Waltke from so many other Bible scholars.

Waltke is wicked smart.

First, we read an article written back in the 1960's about the "colophones" of the Psalms (the little notations "Written for the director of music. Of David", etc). He argued that our current understanding of how these colophones were used is incorrect. Have you ever noticed that in Habakkuk 3 the "For the director of music" notation comes at the end of the psalm rather than at the beginning (as in our book of Psalms)? Well, Waltke argues that Psalms should be understand that way as well (and pulls in outside sources like Egyptian poetry to buttress his position). This was one of my earliest introductions to evangelical scholarship, thus it has stuck in my mind ever since.

He also coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, a monster book we used in Intermediate Hebrew. It weighs in at almost 800 pages, and is bigger (dimensionally) than your standard book. It was also surprisingly easy to use for such a difficult subject.

Waltke also holds two doctorates, one in the OT (Dallas Seminary) and one in the NT (Harvard).

These three things stood out in my mind as showing that this man is incredibly intelligent (which is a nice non-Bostonian way of saying "wicked smart").

Waltke is a student of Scripture.

Waltke once taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, which is (arguably) the bastion of dispensational academics in America (probably the world). However, at some point (and I'm not entirely sure when) he underwent a change of theology, leaving behind dispensationalism. Depending on what side you stand on this issue (and I'm on the non-dispensational side), you may or may not like this. But what it said (and still says) to me is that he is a scholar who doesn't mind reexamining his position. Considering how many of us (scholars or laypeople) cement our feet in place and refuse to rethink our current theology, I find this aspect of Waltke's scholarship refreshing.

Since then, I ran across a quote (which I can no longer find) from the early 1990's where Watlke said something to the effect of "I don't think I really understood the OT until I began to read it narratively." It amazed me that someone who was a widely respected scholar (and not just by evangelicals), who had helped teach the Bible to thousands of students from the 50's on, could think he hadn't really understood the Bible.

All this to say, Waltke is a scholar who is constantly learning. It seems that his role as a student of Scripture has never ceased, no matter what "heights" in the scholarly world he has reached. Again, this attitude is a trait all-too-uncommon in the Church today (no, not just in the academy).

Waltke loves the Lord.

My professor once told us that when Waltke was teaching at Dallas, the beginning of the class period would be packed with people not enrolled in the class who would come just to hear Waltke pray. Now, I know of very few people I would go out of my way to hear pray. This says a lot about who Waltke is and the respect he commands, not just as a scholar, but as someone who loves the Lord.

These 3 things conspire together and cause me to admire not just the scholarship, but the humility and service of Bruce Waltke. And so, it's with excitement that I have been reading his new book, An Old Testament Theology. I'll be posting thoughts over the next couple months as a multi-part review/interaction. I do this in part because I get more out of the book because of it, but also because I know that some of my readers may never pick up a 1000 page book on OT Theology. Waltke wrote this book for the Church, so I'd like for everyone to glean from it's teachings. As Waltke says on page 19, "After all, this people has more at stake in understanding the Bible's message than anybody else- they are the ones committed to live out fully the implications of that message to the point of dying for its truth."

why am I here?

You might be thinking after reading the title of this post that I'll be discussing the deeper thoughts on life that we are all prone to have on occasion. Alas, such is not the case. Some of you may have remembered that I said I wouldn't be around much this summer because I had 2 mission trips and a vacation planned.

Well, we got back from Peru last week. Then I got sick. 104 degree temperature. Fainted. Went to the hospital. Stayed at the hospital. Pneumonia. Stupid doctor said I can't go on my second mission trip, the one my wife and I were supposed to lead.

So, my team is on the other side of the world, without me. I'm home, resting, reading and preparing for the coming year at church. It also means that I'll be posting more regularly, so stayed tuned (oooh, the suspense!).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Resurrection of the Body: Part V of V

Check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

This final post deals with some of the "so what?" questions that come up in my mind as we talk about the resurrection of the body. Many people can't figure out why it matters, so I hope to deal a little bit with that.

Some qualifying thoughts…

1. In this whole discussion of future benefits of Christ’s resurrection, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are present benefits as well. Since Christ has defeated sin, we can be free from sin today. Romans 6 carries out this thought. Paul hints at this in 1 Cor 15:17.

2. None of this is to deny the temporal nature of “the way things are.” We are told time and time again not to cling to the temporary pleasures of today.

What does it matter?

1. Because the Bible says so. This may appear flippant, but it really isn’t. If the Bible says that we will be resurrected, then we ought (at the very least) assume that it is important. This is especially true when we consider that this is the very completion of our salvation!

2. True reversal of what happened in the Garden of Eden. This is clearly seen in Revelation 22. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there by any curse” (22:2-3). God’s plan is to reverse the curse that was levied against Adam and Eve in the Garden. The imagery of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21-22 intentionally echoes the Garden- and is even better!

3. God is not settling for plan B. By affirming that God’s original proclamation of creation as “good” and His desire to restore creation, we affirm that God is not simply a troubleshooter who had His plan thrown off track by those pesky humans. True, humans have marred creation with their rebellion. But even man’s worst rebellion has not ruined the inherent goodness in creation and its original worth to which God will restore it.

4. Helps reclaim eschatology in the Church. Much of the discussion on eschatology in American Christianity is dominated by talk about dates, tribulation, the Anti-Christ, the rapture, etc, that the hope that permeates the NT can be lost. Throughout the NT, Christ’s 2nd coming is seen as something to be longed for and a motivator for action. While most would agree, they still seem to get stuck on details the NT gives little information about and miss the victory that comes at the end. I find it heartbreaking the discussion of the “end times” tends to lead to confusion, fear or apathy (or some combination of these)- yet none of these were ever the intention of the NT authors!

5. There is comfort in knowing where we are going. It is interesting to note that where we go when we die is not where we will live forever. Where we go when we die is an intermediate state. Granted, it seems to be a wonderful place in the presence of God (Phil 1:23, 2 Cor 5:8). But that should make us long for what is beyond even that. If dying and going to heaven right now is better than this life, then how much better will living in a re-created world be!

In Romans 8, we see that Paul finds comfort during present sufferings in the fact that is “glory that will be revealed in us” (v18). But, note that the glory he is referring to is the redemption of our bodies- not simply dying and going to heaven right away (as true as that is). How different this is from the consolation we often give to others in suffering!

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we see that Paul comforts those who have lost loved ones- not by informing them that “they’re in heaven now”, but by reminding them that someday, Jesus is coming back and all His people will be reunited forever. This is, essentially, 1 Corinthians 15 in miniature. Yet, we consistently comfort those who mourn with thoughts about them being in heaven, which is comfort, to be sure. But, we are comforting them with something less than what God has planned!

6. There is value to the created order. In much of Greek philosophy the created order was something to be looked down upon. There was a higher spiritual existence that fair exceeded what we see here on earth. When one dies, their souls are transported to some disembodied existence where they remain forever. However, in the Bible, God values what He has created. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising since He declared it all “good” when He first created it. Apparently, He values it enough that He was to see it completely redeemed.

This has some practical implications. First, in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul deals with the Corinthians who thought that the physical body was meaningless, therefore one has the right to do what they want with it (good Greeks that they were). Paul counters by pointing out that God is “for the body” and intends to raise us as He rose Christ from the dead (v14). Since God places such value on the body, so ought we.

Second, by analogy, we can make the same connection to creation as a whole in Romans 8. If God cares enough about the created order to redeem it fully, then we ought to care enough about it to honor it now, just as we should with our own bodies.

7. We share what belongs to Christ. This is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated aspects in modern Christianity. Those who are in Christ are “co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Christians have an inheritance with Christ (because of Christ). This is seen here in resurrection. Christ has won victory over death, and shares that victory with His people- that is, they are raised from the dead just as He was.

There are other places with similar ideas. For instance, in Daniel 7 the Son of Man receives an eternal kingdom and is worshipped by the nations. In that same chapter, the saints also receive the kingdom- but are not worshipped. In Ephesians 1, Paul says that Christ was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies. In chapter 2, Paul says Christ’s people are also seated in the heavenlies- but not at the right hand of the Father. The examples of Daniel 7 and Ephesians 1 show us that Christ shares in His victory, although there are certainly limits. In the same way, Christ shares His resurrection with His people.

In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul says that he wants to participate with Christ in His sufferings and “somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” In the next chapter, Paul talks about how Christians “eagerly await” Christ’s return when He “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3:20-21). This echoes what Paul says in Romans 8:17- “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Christ shares His glorious resurrection with His people. That is what it means to be “in Christ.”

8. Treats death for what it really is- an enemy. There are hints in the church of the popular notion that death is just the beginning of a new journey (see Gandalf in LOTR). While our life as Christians certainly doesn’t end at death, the Bible itself treats death as an enemy that must be defeated. Death is not a part of God’s original plan for creation, it was the consequence of human sin. We know this by nature as well; death doesn’t simply feel like a new beginning. It hurts. It should; it’s a consequence of rebellion against God.

9. The resurrection points to the total view of the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God” is the primary focus of Jesus’ preaching. Contrary to much of popular Christian opinion, this kingdom is not simply a matter of collected souls for some disembodied existence. Rather, it is His kingdom here on earth. This kingdom is inaugurated in Jesus, and is carried out through the Church. This kingdom involves feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc. In understanding that God’s people will be resurrected in (imperishable) bodily form, we see that this is the final “installment” of the kingdom.

Part of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom was His healings; these 2 things cannot be separated. In God’s kingdom, sickness & demon possession are seen for what they are- not a part of God’s original plan. In Jesus, these problems begin to reverse. As Jurgen Moltmann stresses, the kingdom of God- when it has fully arrived- is the restoration of the natural (original) order of things: “Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ thing in a world that is unnatural, demonized, and wounded” (The Way of Jesus: Christology in Messianic Dimensions p99). These miracles point to what is to come- Moltmann says “But in the framework of hope for the coming of God and his kingdom, Jesus’ healings become inextinguishable reminders of this future” (In the End, the Beginning: The Life of Hope p65). Resurrection is ultimate healing- it fully restores what has been destroyed.

10. Avoids an “incomplete redemption.” The common view of “life after death” understands redemption as souls going to heaven. However, God’s plan of redemption is far more complete than that. He has not only given people souls, but bodies. Those bodies are affected by sin just as the soul is. God’s plan is not to discard what has been marred by sin, but to redeem it and set it free.