Friday, February 27, 2015

Traveling

SAMSUNG            We have arrived in La Mirada California. SAMSUNG            We have checked in to our hotel and are resting up for the Biola chapel and events tomorrow. It was a smooth flight and a lot of fun to travel with Michael and Samantha and the three grandkids. PIU board member David Mayer was also on the flight with us from Guam to Japan. Southern California is a beautiful 70+ degrees and sunny.

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We flew from Japan to Los Angeles on the new 787. Very nice.

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The kids enjoyed the origami museum in the Tokyo airport…

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and the play room. David Mayer and I outside the play room.

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Now we are enjoying a relaxing day at the hotel

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Old Testament Theology of Judgment (“Nightmare”)

Goldingay2I am continuing to work through Volume 2 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Faith and posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to the blog posts on my Facebook page where you can comment.

Chapter 4 is entitled The Nightmare, which describes the consequences when Israel fails to respond to God in faith. He pictures this as the “nightmare vision” of the prophets – which, sadly, is a stark reality. Yhwh must and will respond to sin (faithlessness) with dire consequences, but the fact that the prophets are even talking about it implies that there is always an opportunity for repentance and restoration. Though Goldingay provides some interaction with “the problem of evil” this is not his main focus. Punishment is not the end goal of God’s wrath; the end goal is repentance, restoration and blessing.

He begins with a discussion of Faithlessness, or the nature of sin. Evil only has meaning when compared to the nature of good. Therefore, evil is whatever God isn’t. Goldingay does not even see sin as a topic – it is a lack or a “no.” Thus, idolatry is worshipping what is not God and sin is “falling short” of God’s character. It is expressed as rebellion, going one’s own way, self-confidence, falsehood, and incorrigibility. It is prevalent through all humanity. Sinners are described as stubborn, deaf and blind, and resistant to Yhwh. This was not God’s fault – what he created to be good was twisted and ruined by “human hearts.”

Evil does not exist in itself, indeed, in this sense neither does goodness. Goodness is what Yhwh is, and evil is what contrasts with that. Evil thus consists in the absence of what God is: compassion, grace, long-temperedness, commitment, truthfulness, forgiveness, and a willingness to punish wrongdoing. 254

The confession that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Is. 64.6) is not a statement about universal human sinfulness nor a declaration that even our best deeds are spoiled by sin. It is... more likely a statement about the way the whole community has become stained, an acknowledgement about the life of the people of God as a whole as it has turned out over the centuries. The church can thus identify with it as its own life over the centuries has also turned away from the potential of its beginnings and been characterized by faithlessness, failure, dissension and violence. 263-264

Yhwh's questions (in Jeremiah 44.7-10) are not designed to elicit answers but to express the mystery of human stupidity and the stupidity of the people who belong to God and the frustration and anguish of God in trying to work with people. 278

Section 2, The Consequences, deals with the effects and God’s responses to human sin. The consequences of sin are described in several pictures in the OT: Defilement, corruption, rejection, abandonment or rebuff by God (as a hurt husband leaves an unfaithful wife), and withdrawal. More directly, God’s actions are described as wrath, darkness, attention to punishment, and blinding. This results in exposure because God has withdrawn protection, shame, war and its devastating effects, wasting away, annihilation, expulsion and exile, pollution, withering away and dissolution and ultimately death.

As the First Testament has a number of images to describe sin itself, so it has a number of images to describe its effects. Sin stains us, makes us disgusting, alienates us from God, leaves us unhealed. It also has a number of ways of describing God's reaction: rejection, rebuff, abandonment, withdrawal, wrath and an active seeking out of Israel to express that wrath. 278

From Yhwh's perspective, the point about prophets is to be means of declaring a divine word when Yhwh wants to utter one, not just when people want to hear one, If they refuse to have prophecy on those terms, they forfeit having it at all. 288

Wrath stands in parallelism with terms such as desolation, destruction, decimation, fire, anguish, breaking up, darkness, captivity and falling from power. It emphasizes the fiery nature of the experience that comes to the people rather then the feelings of the agent of this experience. 289

Yhwh does the pouring, yet they also do it. They confuse themselves and blind themselves by their refusal to look in the direction Yhwh points...He simply brings judgment to fulfillment when he allows humans to bear the consequences of their own actions. Admittedly "allows" may be an understatement. Isaiah portrays Yhwh's action as more active than that. 295

War is one of Yhwh's chief means of bringing this (judgment) about. Modern readers are often troubled by the way the First Testament speaks of Yhwh making war on foreign peoples and commissioning Israel to do so. It may take the edge off this sense of offense (or it may increase it) to recognize that the First Testament gives great prominence to the fact that Yhwh also uses other peoples to make war on Israel, and in addition makes war on Israel in person. 298

As the compassionate one, Yhwh consistently acts as the great life-giver to the whole world, even though most of it looks elsewhere. But when Yhwh's own people behave thus, they may not get away with what the rest of the world gets away with. 310

Section 3 discusses the question, “Can the Nightmare be Forestalled?” Again, the fact that the prophet is announcing judgment implies that the punishment may be stopped, delayed, mitigated or one may be preserved through it, if one repents. Yhwh is very patient but judgment will come. Often judgment is a means of testing to show who is faithful or a means of “shaking the people to their senses.” The response sought is that people would seek, pursue, and turn to God with all their heart as demonstrated by their actions. However, there is always a “perhaps.” The prospect of judgment should always drive God’s faithful people to prayer.

While Yhwh's ultimate purpose for Israel is predetermined, Yhwh's will for the immediate future is never fixed. It is always dependent on the human response. People need never despair. Yhwh is not like a judge declaring a sentence that will be implemented no matter what the guilty person's response. 317

Every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. In order to move Yhwh to relent, what people need to do is have recourse to Yhwh instead of seeking help from other sources, human or divine. 321

Repentance is corporate and outward (Joel 2.12-13). Yhwh is not merely interested in individuals turning away from wrongdoing and doing so inwardly, but wants to see the people as a whole doing this and doing it publicly. 328

Section 4 asks “Is the Nightmare the End?” When the exile happens is it all over? When the wrath of God falls what then? The prophets always have hope because God has “leftovers,” a faithful remnant. Judgment will work to discipline, strengthen and identify this faithful group. It will provide correction and refining so that restoration can happen. As in the exile (70 years), God’s punishment is limited and he will rescue his faithful people and preserve them through the times of judgment and wrath. This was true for Israel and it will be true for the church.

A people who had come to an end would not be able to pray. The calamity that comes on Israel is something like an end because it is an act of retribution for the people's faithlessness. But it is not an end because it is also an act designed to correct and refine a people that Yhwh still intends to work with. 334

Yhwh's action against Israel is indeed designed to be restorative and not merely penal. It encourages "the pain of taking responsibility." 341

It can hardly be the case that the church has taken the Jewish people's place as God's chosen people. Rather, the church is a vast expansion of that chosen people that has Israel as its core. The dynamics of Israel's relationship with God then reappear in the church. 348

PIU Annual Board Meeting Concludes

SAMSUNGThis week our annual PIU Board of Trustees meeting took place. Each year our board members from Guam, the surrounding islands and all over the world meet to evaluate the past year and plan for the future. Last year’s meeting took place in Palau as part of the Gospel Days celebration there. This year’s meeting took place on the campus on Guam. Next year we will meet on Guam again as we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of PIU and 25th anniversary of the campus on Guam. This year’s meeting went very well. The highlight of the meeting was receiving Komber Kumo, institutional member of the Evangelical Church of Chuuk, on to the board as a new trustee. We are thankful that the ECC is again a part of our PIU family. The other highlight was the approval of the “1991” tuition reduction plan – more on that to come! (6 of our 8 board members are pictured here)

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Board Chapel Tuesday allowed the board members and students to get to know each other a little better

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Board members had a chance to introduce themselves and answer questions from the students. Pastors Hiob and Howard faithfully wore the PIU sunglasses we gave them.

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The students prepared and performed some musical numbers

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And we always enjoy some good food and fellowship together

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A post from Jim Sawyer

Our friend Jim Sawyer just made a post on his blog about his recent trip to Guam and to PIU. He shares a little bit about the history of PIU and his association with it. Jim is a good friend and I appreciate his kind words. Take a look at his blog post here. His blog is always interesting. I am subscribed to it – I highly recommend it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading Through the Gospel of John #3 (13-21)

John ChartI am continuing to read through the Gospel of John accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today,edited by John Stott. The 4th volume is entitled The Message of John: Here Is Your King!, by Bruce Milne (as always his quotes are in blue font below). There are two major sections of the Gospel within this reading. In chapters 13-17, Jesus spend his final night with the disciples teaching them about the kingdom will work after the ascension. The main point of the section is the need to stay in intimate contact with Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The final section proclaims Jesus as king, through the Passion events, with the authority to commission and empower his disciples for subsequent ministry. If you would like to discuss the post or make a comment please join the discussion on my Facebook page.

The teaching section of the Gospel is framed by Jesus’ example and instruction that humble love is the only proper motivation for ministry in chapter 13 and his prayer for the unity of the disciples and the church in chapter 17. He explains that he will be going away, but will provide comfort by sending the Holy Spirit to empower ministry. The mission will proceed from an intimate connection with Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus washing of the disciples feet and subsequent teaching showed that love for one another is the mark of real discipleship (both Judas and Peter fall short of this standard). (13.1-38) Jesus, as the Lord and Master washed the feet of the disciples to show that loving sacrificial, service is the mark of the disciple and shows that he has received blessing from Jesus. He predicts recognizes that not all who appear to be disciples really are and those who appear the closest, Judas, can be betrayers. The mark of true disciples is to follow Jesus and love one another and Peter will temporarily fail to keep this standard.

Humility is a universal Christian virtue to be expressed through sincere and costly service of others in Christ’s name. Christian churches and fellowships are possible only where this attitude is expressed. They have no promise of permanence where it is lacking. 13.1-17, 199.

The love of Jesus Christ, in its sheer graciousness, necessarily imparts to its recipient a sense of being uniquely chosen and blessed by it. Rather as the reflection of the setting sun on the surface of the ocean appears to stretch a golden pathway to our feet alone, so the love of Christ as it beams into our lives confers at moments an overwhelming, personal sense of privilege. 13.23-30, 202.

If Jesus in his purpose used the dark forces of chaos convulsing within the cauldron, which was Jerusalem that Passover feast-time, he can still master and harness the darkness which daily threatens our personal lives. In handing all over to him, we need not exclude the darkness in our past or that which threatens us in the present and future. He is still the Lord of the night, who can make darkness the vehicle of his praise. 13.18-30, 204.

Jesus is going to the Father but comforts the disciples by promising to return and bring them into relationship with the Father and a part in its glory and blessings. Jesus is the one with the ability to bring one into the presence of the Father and its attendant blessings. 14.1-14

The way to heaven is Jesus himself. Faith in him shatters the barrier of sin and death, and blasts open the road to the eternal life of the kingdom of God. It is ‘the road that leads to life’ (Mt. 7:14). He is also the truth and the life.The reality and truth of God are incarnated in Jesus Christ, who embodies the indestructible life of the ever-living God. 14.6, 211–212.

Jesus promises that he will send his spirit to enable the disciples to understand the truth, live in an obedient relationship with God, love one another, experience peace and interpret Jesus to the world. He promises to send the Spirit to indwell the disciples so that they will know the truth, to reveal himself to the disciples and put them into relationship with the Father through the sending of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come alongside the disciples so that they will be able to understand Jesus and his work and teach others. 14.15-31

The human spirit, however, reaches beyond these lesser expressions for an inner tranquility of spirit, not abstracted from the world of responsibility and relationships, but nourished and expressed in the midst of it. Such is the peace Jesus offers: MY (my emphasis) peace I give you, in the very face of unspeakable suffering. It is a peace born from a living personal relationship with Jesus, and deepened through a growing surrender of life to his gracious rule.  14.27, 217.

This is the center of the chiasm in 13-17 and the main teaching of the passage. Jesus says that the disciples will be enabled to have intimate, deep connected relationship with Jesus so that they can love Him and each other with the result that they will be friends of Jesus but persecuted by the world. The vine and branches parable pictures discipleship as intimate living contact with Jesus that enables them to persevere in joy and love.Discipleship is, essentially, loving one another as Christ gave the example and enables through relationship with him. Disciples will do the work of Jesus and, like Jesus, will be hated and persecuted by the world. 15.1-25

To seek the glory of God will therefore imply a commitment to mission, and, not least, world mission. As elsewhere in the New Testament, worship and evangelism become one. Further, it is by involvement in mission and becoming ‘fruit-bearers’ that we show ourselves to be authentic disciples (8). ‘True grace is never idle.’ John 15.1-17, 220.

Jesus explained that he must go away so the Spirit, as a link to Jesus, can be sent to enable the disciples to witness about Jesus and convict the world. The Spirit will enable the disciples to testify about Jesus which will result in persecution.He will be the counselor to the disciples and the judge that holds the sinful world to God’s standards. He will provide an intimate connection between the glory and truth of Jesus and the disciples. 15.26-16.15

‘So much popular Western evangelical religiosity is so shallow and selfish. It promises so much and demands so little. It offers success, personal happiness, peace of mind, material prosperity; but it hardly speaks of repentance, sacrifice, self-denial, holy lifestyle and willingness to die for Christ.’ Every reader of this commentary, along with its author, needs to face the question soberly—am I ready to die for Christ? It is not a theoretical question: Jesus has the clear right to ask it of us, and he gives no guarantee that he will not. Following Jesus is not a game.  15.18-16.4, 226.

The ministry of the Spirit is accordingly not a vague impartation of spiritual energy, but the specific ministry of proclaiming, and applying to the disciple community, the triumphant procession of Jesus through death and resurrection to the right hand of the Father. The ministry of the Spirit is the unleashing of the powers of the promised kingdom of God in the world. 16.5-16, 229.

Jesus then comforts the disciples that when he goes back to the Father he will connect them with the Father and give joy in persecution before he comes again.He teaches that his going to the Father will begin a difficult time for the disciples which will end in joy. But, during this time, the disciples will have authority to pray and receive what they need for kingdom work because he is at the right hand of the Father.They can rejoice in difficulty and persecution while Jesus is gone because his position assures that the world system has been defeated. 16.16-33

The enjoyment of his presence is bound up with mission in his name. At this point mission merges imperceptibly into celebration. Those who long for a deeper experience of the presence of Christ may find here the road to that blessing, a new commitment to serve the world in his name. He is the Lord of the mission and is to be found still at the frontiers where his people confront and minister to the wounds of the world. 16.16-22, 234.

The section closes with Jesus praying for the church that they may know God and His glory through Jesus, that disciples would be protected from evil people and systems so that they can be sent into the world and that they  would show God’s glory through their unity and love for one another. Thus, the section is framed by love and unity which should characterize the Spirit-filled, Jesus-connected church. 17.1-26

Our work and witness, in all their variety, are already, in advance, gathered up, healed, renewed and perfected by being gathered into Jesus’ holy response to the call of the Father. Thus the sin in our service—its unworthiness, its unbelief, its many disobediences, all its sordid self-promotion, its lethargy, cowardice and worldly compromise—is overcome. Mission becomes celebration. 17, 238.

Where the Holy Spirit has created the common life of the body of Christ among us, and agreement on the fundamentals of the revelation given through Jesus is present, it is unthinkable to pursue the mission of Jesus in isolation from, and even in competition with, those who are as truly the beloved objects of Jesus’ prayer as we are...The churches are already one in God. We need to allow that supernatural unity to find expression both in the local church and between the churches. 17.20-26, 249.

Evangelism is a community act. It is the proclamation of the church’s relationships as well as its convictions. 250.

The final climactic section of the Gospel describes the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection show that he willingly died and rose again to provide the ultimate sign that he is king and Passover lamb and give eternal life to those who believe and worship Him. 18.1-20.31

Jesus’ Jewish trial shows that he willingly gave his life for the nation as part of God’s plan and with faithfulness to the Father. His arrest shows that he gave his life willingly and provided safety to his disciples.He is brought to Annas’ for trial with the foreboding note that he was prophesied to be giving his life for the nation.Peter’s denials and Jesus’ faithfulness under persecution are intertwined to compare Peter’s faithless denials with Jesus’ faithfulness to his mission and to the truth. 18.1-27

No matter what dark threat hangs over us, it is less than him who fought and mastered it in his Easter victory. For ‘the devils we meet were all foredamned in the Satan Christ ruined. The devil is in the end a bull in a net, a wild beast kicking himself to death.’ John 18.1-7, 255.

In his denial Peter is being brought face to face with himself, his inner evil, and his moral helplessness. In that discovery, however, there is hope. So, when Jesus confronts him with it later, Peter no longer trusts in what he knows, but falls back upon what Jesus knows (21:15–18). The cross which brings Peter to an end of himself is the cross that raises him up to God and his purpose. In that moment of self-disillusionment, Simon, the inadequate man of sand, becomes Peter, the rock who is strong and dependable precisely because he has learned to depend utterly on Christ. 18.12-27, 262.

Jesus’ Roman trial showed that he truly was the king of the Jews but was rejected by his own people and convicted unjustly by the design of God, not Rome. Pilate recognized Jesus as king of the Jews, though the Jews rejected their king. He condemned Jesus to crucifixion to please the Jews, not because he was guilty of a crime. 18.28-19.16

In Jesus we have a God who enters into our sufferings and shares them with us...When such moments sweep paralysingly across our hearts and we collapse inwardly in a hidden torment of shame and confusion, or when the tapes of yesterday’s humiliations and shames begin to whir in our minds, there is a ‘fellowship of his sufferings’ which is wonderfully releasing and reassuring. He is indeed our ‘fellow sufferer’. He knows and he can share. 19.1-6, 274-275

The crucifixion and death of Jesus portrayed him as the Passover lamb, the innocent sufferer, a loving son and the King of the Jews who gave his life to complete God’s kingdom plan. (19.17-42) There is an interesting chiastic structure to this section…

  • Jesus crucified with a Roman proclamation that he was the king. 19.17-21
    • Jesus portrayed as the righteous sufferer of Psalm 22. 19.18-24
      • Jesus portrayed as a loving, dutiful son.  19.25-27
      • Jesus portrayed as completing the Father’s plan. 19.28-30
    • Jesus portrayed as the Passover lamb who gives his life, but will return as conqueror 19.31-37
  • Jesus buried by prominent people who recognized him as a king. 19.38-42

'As long as a man does not know Christ he does not know the true God, the God hidden in sufferings.’This hiddenness needs to be acknowledged. There are times when we are called to believe, not ‘because of’, but ‘in spite of’. At this point the ‘health and wealth’ gospels of our day stand exposed in their hollowness. To follow Jesus Christ is to take up a cross, and that means there may be moments when life’s circumstances contradict our claims as surely as they did for Jesus at Calvary. 19.16-30, 279.

It is sobering to remind ourselves again that those chiefly responsible for the death of Jesus were profoundly religious men. As Niebuhr observed, ‘religion is not, as is frequently supposed, a fundamentally virtuous human quest for God; it is rather the final battle ground in the struggle between God and human self-esteem.’ 19.31-42, 284.

In truth, Jesus died and was laid away in a tomb. The contradiction of his claim to be Son of God was total. He enters into the full reality of death, not merely walking with us right up to the door only to pull back at the final second, leaving us to walk the dark valley on our own. He comes all the way with us right into the grey, after-death world of funeral parlours and the making of arrangements for the disposing of the body, the world of strained faces, hushed voices and tear-stained eyes. He takes his place within the world of the receding past where death’s destructive power is so real and irreversible; dead … buried … gone. But in the midst of all that, the claim asserts itself; he is the king, even here. 19.31-42, 286–287.

The resurrection is the ultimate sign that Jesus is the Creator God so that people would believe and worship Him. 20.1-31

This failure to recognize the risen Jesus immediately is not surprising. Jesus has not just been resuscitated, like Lazarus. He has passed through death and is now part of a new order in the glory of the Father’s presence... Mary’s problem, in common with all the disciples, was that she did not hold a large enough view of Jesus; she is searching for a corpse instead of seeking a victorious Lord; though it is fair to ask, would we have acted differently? 20.10-18, 291–292.

The challenge is evident. As Jesus is defined by the mission of the Father, so the church is defined by its mission to the world. The same conclusion is arrived at by another route when we recognize that if God is in this sense a missionary God, the summons to be like him assumes a precise focus. The degree to which individuals and churches are committed to mission, both locally and throughout the world, will be a measure of how God-like (or how godly) they are. John 20.19-23, 298.

In the Epilogue, Jesus invites the disciples who betrayed him back into relationship with him and commissions them to follow him into a persecuted ministry of bringing others into a discipleship relationship. 21.1-25 Of course it ends with another chiasm…

  • Jesus provides and eats breakfast with his disciples to demonstrate that he is in fellowship with them and that he will enable their future ministries. 1-14
    • Jesus brings Peter back into relationship with him and commissions him to a difficult ministry of bringing others into fellowship with God.15-19
    • Jesus commands Peter to focus on his own responsibilities not those of others. 20-23
  • John validates that his witness about Jesus is reliable and true and in fact he could have related many more similar stories. 24-25

Following Jesus and loving Jesus mean accepting responsibility for Jesus’ people, a truth which is in need of rehabilitation at the present time. Commitment to Christ involves commitment to the church of Christ. Jesus Christ is not a ‘single’ person in the sense that he comes to us without other attachment. He is a ‘married’ person; he comes to us with a bride, whom he loves and for whom he sacrificed himself (Eph. 5:25). 21.15-17, 318.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Owen February Prayer Letter

Dear Praying Friends,

We just finished taking communion together to conclude our Spring 2015 PIU “President’s Day of Prayer.” In the spring this day normally takes place right before our annual Board of Trustees Meeting. We want to go into that meeting with the board and administration bathed in prayer. IMG_5321But the prayer time included prayer for much more than the board and annual meeting. Mike led a time of worship in music mixed with prayers of adoration, praise, confession and commitment. The students, faculty and staff then gathered around me and prayed for me as a PIU family. We then divided into groups to pray for the school administration. Then the students were asked to gather around a faculty or staff person to pray for them after which the faculty member prayed for the students. Finally we prayed for our communities (Guam, Micronesia and the world) and for PIU’s and our own personal mission to each one. Communion then ended the service with trust in what Christ has done for us and commitment to the mission he has for us.

We are so thankful for your prayers. Even though we may be far away from one another, when we pray, we join each other in a very important ministry. This is why I am happy to share these requests with you so that you can pray along with us.

First, we IMG_5313would ask you to pray for our trip to Biola. Mike, Samantha and family will join Joyce and me at the Biola Alumni Awards Chapel to receive the Clyde Cook Missions Award. We are very thankful for this opportunity to talk about our ministry at PIU to this audience and are praying for some God-appointed contacts in the Biola community. We are also thankful that Joyce’s parents will be receiving the Biola legacy award at the same chapel. We are very thankful for the godly family and educational legacy we have inherited and are trying to build the same kind of thing at PIU.

Second, as we need to ask every spring, we would ask you to pray for our PIU finances. Because we try to make our school financially accessible to all students we rely on the contributions of God’s people to meet our budget. As we hit February the bottom line tells us that we need to raise $50,000-75,000 between now and June 30 to make our budget, pay our bills and take care of our students. Donations can be made to the PIU Rising Tide Fund at http://www.piu.edu/advancement/donation/ or by mail.

IMG_5322Third, we would ask for prayer for the people of Chuuk. There will be an independence vote on March 3rd for the citizens of Chuuk. My main prayer for this is for God’s direction in this and that the church will stay united as they face this potentially divisive issue.

Fourth, please pray for the health of our staff and students. Several are struggling with infections, flus and other maladies. Joyce and I have both battled some minor health issues this semester.

IMG_5316Finally, we begin our spring recruiting effort for new students. For the coming year we will be lowering our tuition to make PIU even more accessible to local students. This is a real step of faith for us as we will need to increase our enrollment on the Guam campus to at least 100 students for the fall 2015 semester. We will be traveling all over Micronesia in March and April to recruit students and will make a big effort to recruit local students on Guam. We are hoping for 30 new local commuter students and enough students from the other islands to fill our dorms. Of course, this is not just about numbers. We would like to have the students that God is bringing to us. Our desire is to train the future leaders for the churches and communities of the Micronesian and Pacific region.

IMG_5325Thank you so much for your prayers. If you want to know more about our ministry or how you can be part of the PIU ministry please send me dowen@piu.edu or Joyce jowen@piu.edu an email or check out my blog at http://guamdaveo.blogspot.com/. We value your prayers. If you are in the Southern California area on February 27th we will be at the Biola University Chapel. I, Dave will be at Woodstock Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday morning March 8th. We’d love to see you.

Blessings,

Dave and Joyce

Pacific Islands University

“Wellness” Chapel at PIU

Wellness Chapel (10)Last Tuesday our chapel speaker was Jo Romaniello, a visiting teacher and counselor from California. Jo is working with us to set up Wellness Chapel (11)a “Counseling in the Church” emphasis within our Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies program in our seminary. The planned start date for this program is Fall of 2016. Jo is currently teaching our Introduction to Counseling course for seminary students. You can read more about what she is doing on her blog here.

Wellness Chapel (8)Her chapel was very interactive. Jo gave us several sets of questions Wellnesschapel (1)and asked us to split up in pairs and think through the questions and discuss them with our partner. I think most everyone found this to be a helpful experience. She then discussed some insights that we could apply from this process and encouraged us to keep talking with one another.

Wellness Chapel (1)Wellness Chapel (2)

We began chapel with a good time of music and worship

Wellness Chapel (5)Wellness Chapel (6)

I especially liked it that faculty and staff were able to sit with individual students and interact in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Old Testament Theology of “Israel”

Goldingay2I am continuing to work through Volume 2 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Faith. I am continuing to post quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to the blog posts on my Facebook page where you can comment.

Chapter 3 focuses on an Old Testament theology of “Israel, mainly focusing on the prophetic books. Goldingay emphasizes that Israel is more a people than a political, ethnic or geographical entity. Yhwh is the God of the whole world but the story of the first Testament is about God and Israel. Yhwh is the God of a people.

The First Testament suggests a number of ways of thinking of Israel. It is a family, a nation, a congregation; it is a son, a servant, a disciple, a rebel; its vocation is to be and to stay in being, to acknowledge and to worship, to pass on the story and to witness; it is chosen, covenanted, critiqued, rejected, restored.  173

The first section of the chapter focuses on the idea of Israel as Yhwh’s Family. Unlike other nations of the ancient world focuses on a people, not leaders, chosen by God, in kinship with one another. Yhwh most often plays the role of father or occasionally, mother. The people are his children. He has begotten them and given birth to them. God chose them based on grace (they were not better than other peoples) and others (like Rahab) are added from outside. If fact all actualize their membership in the family by a faithful confession. There is diversity within the family but they are one people. The family is a safe place to learn and be challenged to grow.

As a family the people of God is not defined by its leadership. It has a hierarchical structure... but the individual members of the family themselves relate to God, and in origin there are no kings and no priests. The being of Israel is not defined by its leadership. Power and authority are diffused rather than centralized. 178

Insight is indeed revealed from heaven as well as acquired by observation on earth and attentiveness to teaching. 181

Secondly Israel is Yhwh’s Covenant People. God placed himself in a relationship with his people that places demands on God himself and on the people to respond. It is a gracious relationship, initiated by God and places God in charge and with the largest demands (promises) placed on Him. Israel’s response should be to “guard themselves” to do what God says. The covenant is fragile because, although God does his part, Israel does not meet their obligations. God’s laws reveal who God is and instruct Israel in what they are to be. The covenant was there to shape the faith and life of Israel.

The hierarchical nature of the covenant means that Israel's relationship with Yhwh rests on the immense security of its having come into being because of Yhwh's sovereignty. It does not rest on Yhwh's sentiment nor on the fickleness of Israel's choice of Yhwh. 189

The narratives are not the results of divine communication but of true human witness and reflection and divine sanctification, and they have supreme authority for the community because they tell the true and divinely sanctified story of God's dealings with Israel. It is this story that shares with the words of God and the words of Moses the authority definitively to shape the faith and life of Israel. 192

Section 3 discusses Israel as Yhwh’s Chosen. They are God’s precious and loved instrument to reach out to the whole world. Though they may be rejected for a time, their election guarantees their continued existence as a people. God owns them and treasures them as a valued servant. He loves Israel, which explains the strong feelings of God when he is rejected by Israel for “other lovers.” Israel is especially chosen to be part of God’s kingdom plan to bless the whole world. Goldingay points out that their election is a “gospel plan,” making them unique in the world, to draw others into God’s blessing. Their uniqueness was not meant to exclude foreigners but to draw them in to a confession of Yhwh and access to Him.

To be chosen is to be summoned, separated out, seized, desired, acknowledged, restored, purchased, acquired, grasped and found. It is to be taken as God's bride, to be drafted as God's army, to be adopted as Yhwh's son, to be purchased as Yhwh's servant, to be planted in Yhwh's vineyard, to be acquired as Yhwh's sheep,to be formed as Yhwh's vessel, to be separated as Yhwh's special possession. 194

So election is not the means of leaving out other people but the means of drawing them in...Election is thus a gospel idea. Not only is God's rejection subordinate to God's election with regard to Israel itself; with regard to the world as a whole, God's election of one people does not imply God's rejection of others. 201

Section 4 focuses on Israel as Yhwh’s Kingdom. God promised to make Israel a great nation because “God wants to be involved in the world, and the world is a world of nations. It is therefore logical for God to form a nation through which to reach nations (209). Israel became a landed institution with the benefits and temptations that entailed. When Israel forgot that God owned the land and quit depending on Yhwh they could be dispersed from it. Nevertheless, Yhwh still owned the land and was in covenant with Israel. Yhwh delegated his kingship to human kings by covenant, who failed in their obligations. Eventually, Yhwh himself will need to fulfill this covenant and sit on the throne himself in the New Jerusalem

Yhwh's ownership of the land is an encouragement when Israel's possession of the land seems imperiled. Sometimes Israel experiences invasion and loss of part of the land, and sees this as evidencing Yhwh's rejection. But it can then remind itself of Yhwh's self-determination with regard to ownership and control of the land (Ps 60). 215

It is surprising neither that Israel (or the church) sometimes experiences God's blessing and the signs of God's deliverance, and sometimes walks God's way, not that it sometimes does not. The former is a sign that God is taking it to its destination, to the age to come; the latter is an indication that it is not there yet, that we still live in this age. 221

Section 5 explores the idea of Israel as Yhwh’s Servant. This figure implies that Israel is to act with God’s authority as a witness and example to the world. Israel is subordinate to God but is given status because of the honor of their boss. God restores and empowers Israel so that they can fulfill his commission to be God’s aide to establish his just kingdom on earth. This happens as God “restores” Israel to be his witness (they fail by being “deaf and blind”). God’s use of such a weak witness becomes a witness in itself.

In Yhwh's case. "I am with you" is not a statement made from the security of the CEO's office on the top floor. It means Yhwh is present and active, strengthening, helping, and upholding. The boss does not just leave the servant to get on with it and go off to the beach, especially when opposition hits the fan, When the servant is under attack, the boss stands alongside and acts in a faithful fashion (sedeq). Yhwh is committed to restoring this servant. 223

It is thus through being called to be a witness that Israel hears the good news to which it testifies. There is then a reciprocal relationship between its giving its witness and its enjoying that to which it witnesses. Only because it is called to witness does it enjoy; only through its enjoying does it witness. 228

Israel is also called Yhwh’s Disciple, implying that this “restoration” is an ongoing process in which Yhwh teaches his people. “Yhwh's servant is someone who has a disciple's tongue, someone whose ear Yhwh continually opens (Is 50.4-5). He is someone to whom God's word comes.” (228). Despite Israel’s failings God promises to continue to speak through his spirit inspired prophets. Eventually this was written and became a fixed deposit of God’s Word to Israel. This allowed the Word to be consulted and applied as authoritative revelation.

The oral delivery of prophecies has strengths and limitations. It has the power of the oral word, but also its transience. Because of this transience, we often like things to be put in writing, and Jeremiah's putting his prophecies into writing gives Yhwh's word ongoing tangible existence. 234

The story in Jeremiah 36 points to another significance of putting prophecies into writing. While an oral word is bound to be fulfilled, that is even truer of a written word. 235

Finally, Israel is Yhwh’s Home. Yhwh has chosen to make his earthly home there. It is holy because God has chosen to locate his presence there. Though it does not function this way in the early history of the nation it becomes the capital under David, God’s chosen human king. After David it becomes the recognized place where God speaks and acts, and hears within his temple. Zion is the place of God’s sanctuary, a place of security, served by God’s delegated priests. The ark symbolizes his presence there. Even when God abandons his “daughter” his choice of her implies a future restoration.

The city of God is not a place in heaven or even a place on earth insulated from its pressures, but a place within history and its conflicts where God is at work pulling down opposition. The challenge to the people of God is to believe that this is so and to live in history with confidence, yet without thinking that we are responsible for fixing the world's destiny or for bringing in the kingdom of God. 241-242

Worship is a human instinct (cf. Gen 4) and one that needs to be harnessed to a proper relationship with Yhwh. So Israel is to worship at the place Yhwh chooses...And its sanctuaries are to be built as Yhwh says. 245

Goldingay’s application of this theology to the church…

The church's task is to learn from the First Testament understanding of what it means to be Israel, not on the assumption that it replaces the Jewish people but on the assumption that it has come to share its vocation, and it lives looking forward to the day when the Jewish people comes to recognize Jesus. 252-253

Staff Meeting–Birthday Party

staffmtg (12)staffmtg (16)Occasionally at PIU we go to a staff meeting and a party breaks out. This was certainly the case this past Monday. We had a staff meeting with a very serious agenda: student learning outcomes; preparation for the upcoming annual board meeting; tying planning to strategic goals; etc. but it also was Samantha’s birthday. Joyce made the special triple chocolate cake (my all-time favorite – I missed it on my birthday because we were in Hong Kong) and a special birthday hat for Samantha. It did turn out to be a long meeting but, with the refreshments brought by the student life team we had plenty to eat.

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I made some “key points” and we had some good discussion

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Brent Brantley (right) came all the way from Kentucky to explain our plan to add a business emphasis to our liberal studies program. Nino (left) leads us through the agenda

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reading: Encountering Scripture, by John Polkinghorne

My Sunday reading the past few weeks has been coming from the book Encountering Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible, by John Polkinghorne. The Rev Dr John Charlton Polkinghorne, is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. The first book of his that I picked up was Theology in the Context of Science, which I found to be fascinating. This book is more of an introductory work into a critical-conservative view (I hate these kinds of labels because they don’t do justice to anyone’s view so take this as a not so helpful generalization, but it is the best shorthand label I could come up with) of a doctrine of scripture. As always if you would like to discuss this, the best place to make comment is on my Facebook page.

He begins by pointing out that the ultimate truth about God is found in Jesus Christ. The Bible is not that ultimate truth, but is the authoritative witness to that truth.

At the heart of Christian faith lies the mysterious and exciting idea that the infinite and invisible God, beyond finite human powers to conceive adequately, has acted to make the divine nature known in the most fitting and accessible manner possible through the life of a first-century Jew in whom humanity and divinity were both truly present.  2.

The Bible is a progressive revelation of the Creator God which culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ. It comes in many forms or genres and the reader must be careful to discern what he/she is reading. We also need to remember that, although all scripture was written for us, none of it was written directly to us.

A central task for the Christian interpreter of Scripture is to discern what in the Bible has lasting truthful authority, rightly commanding the continuing respect of successive generations, and what is simply time-bound cultural expression, demanding no necessary continuing allegiance from us today. 3.

The record of revelation contained in Scripture is one of a developing understanding of the divine will and nature, continuously growing over time but never complete, and quite primitive in its earliest stages. Only slowly and falteringly could progress be made in Israel towards gaining a fuller comprehension of the reality of God. 12.

The Fathers had sought to draw the boundaries within which they believed orthodox Christian thinking needed to be contained if it were to be a true witness, but there has remained a need for further exploration and reflection. Those who believe in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) will not find this surprising. The role of development, within Scripture and after it, depends upon the fact that revelational disclosure is primarily personal rather than propositional, living and not petrified. 19.

Chapter 3 is an exploration of the creation and fall. I would see the stories as going back to a much earlier time than Polkinghorne, but I think that he is correct that modern Christians often misread the genre of Genesis 1-3. I would see the story here as a polemic against ancient pagan polytheism that tied every phenomenon in nature to some kind of personal deity. In many ways the early chapters of Genesis demythologized the ancient near eastern view, using their own types of stories, to teach us that there is one God, who created everything that exists in the universe and is absolutely sovereign over all of it. 

The sad irony of so-called ‘creationism’, based on a fundamentalist biblical literalism, is that in fact it abuses the very text that it seeks to respect, missing the point of what is written by mistaking its genre. For example, Genesis 1 does not give us a quasi-scientific account of a hectic six days of divine activity, but is something altogether deeper and more interesting than that. It is a theological text whose principal purpose is to assert that nothing exists except through the will of God. 22

Surely that image is to be found in the mentally handicapped as well as in the academically brilliant. Its presence is the theological basis for a fundamental belief in the worth of every individual human being. To my mind, it is the love of God bestowed on each individual, and the implicit ability to be aware of the divine presence, that constitute the essence of the imago dei. 24–25.

This declaration of complete human autonomy, the assertion that we can simply ‘do it my way’, is the root meaning of sin. The refusal to acknowledge that we are creatures in need of the grace of our Creator is the source of subsequent human sins, those deeds of selfishness and deceit that mar our lives as the result of believing the false claim to be completely independent of the assistance of divine grace. 29–30.

Scripture is not a dead deposit of unchanging meaning, the repository of assertions that have to be accepted at face value without question, but a living spring from which new truths and insight can be expected to continue to flow. 31.

Chapter 4 deals with the ambiguity of scripture. By this, Polkinghorne is talking about the messiness of relationship. God reveals himself in stories about real people who encountered him. God started with them right where they were at and was often misunderstood. Nevertheless he kept moving toward his goal of full revelation in Jesus.

The Christian God is not simply a compassionate spectator looking down from the invulnerability of heaven onto the strange bitterness of creation but, in the incarnate Christ, is seen as a fellow sufferer in the travail of the world. 34.

Yet another kind of ambiguity appears in the Gospels, an ambiguity not of character but of circumstances. Life is such that there is often no single ideal choice to be made, but all possible actions have an inescapable shadow side of one kind or another. The decision to be made is not the unambiguous choice between black and white, but the much more difficult matter of the selection of the least dark shade of grey. 37.

Chapter 5 focuses on the fact that the Old Testament is the story of God’s revelation of himself within his relationship to Israel. Again, it is a real history, with real culture and language into which God revealed himself. In the Psalms we see the real responses of these people and in the prophets we hear how God spoke to this very real nation through men and women he chose. Again it is God’s word revealed within human relationship and in human words.

If God chose to reveal the divine nature through a particular relationship with a chosen nation, then gaining knowledge of the actual history of that people must be of considerable importance. Scripture is more than a symbolic story-book. 41

The prophets do not foretell but they forthtell. They have not been given a cinematic preview of the details of future history, but they have been afforded insight into the way that history is moving which enables them to warn of the consequences of disobedience to God and to offer promises of deliverance to those who will commit themselves to following the divine will. 48–49. (I would not say it this strongly. There is foretelling, but the prophets are PRIMARILY about forthtelling)

In the section on the Gospels one can clearly see Polkinghorne’s scientific mind coming out. It seems to me that he take a “critical realist” position. We can’t prove that the Gospels are true but we can be reasonably sure based on the evidence that we have.

People sometimes say that scientists doubt everything. To adopt such a stance would in fact be disastrous, for it would induce a kind of intellectual paralysis. The rational strategy is to commit oneself to what one considers to be well-motivated belief, while being aware that sometimes it may need revision in the light of further evidence and insight. 53

I think that we have good reason to believe that the evangelists were seeking to tell a reliable story of what happened, expressed within the historical conventions of their time. One sign of this is that they record sayings of Jesus which must have been problematic for them, but which had to be included in a truthful account. 57

It is understandable that the early Church sought to connect its knowledge of Christ with what it read in the Hebrew scriptures, but my impression is that it is the actual life of Jesus that shapes the evangelists’ use of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the story being forced to conform to this oddly eclectic selection of Old Testament texts. 63

John’s Gospel insists that miraculous acts are to be understood as ‘signs’, that is, they are windows through which one can look more deeply into the reality of what God was doing in Christ. They are not to be treated as if they were simply a series of stories of wonder-working. To be theologically credible, miracles must be revelatory events, not capricious conjuring tricks. 66

The next section deals with the central event of Christianity: the cross and resurrection. Again, Polkinghorne places these solidly in the historical realm. To me, the only thing that could explain the beginning of the church would be the miracle of the resurrection.

If Jesus was indeed raised from the dead to a life of unending glory, then the centurion was right, the transformation of the frightened disciples into fearless proclaimers of the Lordship of Jesus is explained, and we can understand why the story of Jesus has continued so powerfully down to the present day. 72

But the most powerful argument for the authenticity of the empty tomb is that it is the women who are the witnesses. In the ancient world women were not regarded as being reliable witnesses in a court of law and anyone simply making up a tale would make sure it was men who played the key role in it. 77

Those who are committed to an unrevisable belief in the absolute uniformity of nature will be driven to invoke the category of legend as the only way to interpret the gospel stories. However, to take this stance is to approach the scripture with a mind already closed to what it has to say. The whole of the New Testament is predicated upon the understanding that there is something unique about Jesus. 77–78.

For the Christian believer, the Resurrection makes sense because it represents a triple vindication. It is the vindication of Jesus, for his life had a character that meant that it should not have ended in rejection and failure. It is a vindication of God, who was not found after all to have abandoned the one who had wholly committed himself to doing his Father’s will. It is a vindication of a deep-seated human intuition that in the end the last word does not lie with death and futility, but we live in a world that is a meaningful cosmos and not ultimately a meaningless chaos. 78.

In the section on the Pauline literature he rightly notes that Paul is probably our earliest written witness to the life and teachings of Jesus. He sees development in the theological understanding of Paul as he comes to terms, in the fire of practical ministry, with what he knows about what Jesus said and did and what he sees happening in the church. He also notes that Paul also sometimes indulged in creative use of the Old Testament texts – that is he did not always use grammatical-historical exegesis.

The Pauline witness is absolutely clear, both about the presence of human and divine attributes in Jesus and about the reconciliation (atonement) he has effected between a righteous God and sinful humanity, but in neither case are we given, in Paul or elsewhere in the New Testament, a detailed theological theory of how these things can be. Experience was everything; theorizing could wait. 84.

The early Church, while respectful of Scripture and wishing to make clear its belief that Jesus fulfilled the expectations and hopes of Hebrew prophecy, felt able to use that Scripture in a manner that was free from a slavish dependence on original use and meaning. It allowed itself to manipulate what had been written in order to conform what was being said to what it had learned by its actual experience of the new life that had been given to it in Christ. There is no warrant in the New Testament for a narrow fundamentalist literalism in our approach to Scripture. 86.

In the last couple chapters of the book Polkinghorne discusses the general epistles and brings the book to a close with a discussion of three passages that he considers to be very profound. He sees these passages as evidence that scripture can create insights that go far beyond the knowledge in the culture and time which they were written. The first of these is the prologue of the Gospel of John (1.1-18)

In its rational transparency and rational beauty, the universe that physics explores could well be described as a world shot through with signs of mind and so it does not seem unnatural to a physicist like myself to believe that it was through the Word that all things came into being. 97.

The fusion of the ideas of enabling order and unfolding dynamic process, suggested by the double linguistic reference of John’s use of Word, is highly consonant with science’s understanding of cosmic history...It took ten billion years for life to appear in our universe, but the cosmos was pregnant with the possibility of life from the very beginning, because its laws took the specific form that was a necessary precondition for life to be able eventually to emerge. 97–98.

The second passage is the Christological hymn in Colossians 1.15-20.

Redemption is proclaimed to be cosmic in scope. Here is a clear statement that the whole of creation matters to its Creator. The universe is not just there to be the backdrop to the human drama taking place after an overture lasting 13.7 billion years. All creatures have value, and all creatures must have an appropriate destiny of fulfilment. 100.

The final passage he looks at is Romans 8.19-23 which describes the “groaning” of creation in the face of its “futility” and longing for redemption. This is where the message of the Bible truly counters the message of naturalism that all is ultimately meaningless. As Polkinghorne concludes…

The last word does not lie with death and futility, but with God. It is the Christian hope and belief that the divine faithfulness will not allow anything of good eventually to be lost, but God will give to all creatures an appropriate destiny beyond their deaths, as the old creation is ultimately transformed in Christ into the new creation. Christians believe that this process has, in fact, already begun in the seed event of the resurrection of Jesus. 102.