Learning to Seek First the Kingdom Everywhere

Pond in Back Yard
Pond in Back Yard

I’ve been living in this phrase, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” found in various places in scripture, trying to determine it’s sway and meaning for me personally. Ever since I wrote this post about my idea of what 2013 would look like, I’ve been asking myself the question, how… and where? It’s easier to look at my back yard and see the fog rising off the pond at sunrise and say, there He is, but seeking the kingdom above all else requires looking in those places of darkness where he is the only light that shines, and it’s not nearly as bright as it is above.

Realistically I’ve been walking down this path of making, what seemed like, several small and moderate lifestyle changes, really for years now. Over time of course they are more significant than perhaps they seem in the moment of the decision. In fact, collectively, they clear a path to allow more of God in and less of those things that distract and tend to pull us in the opposite direction. I still love reading about the drastic and dramatic though, like Paul Miller’s story, Paul Miller returns to the internet after a year away, where he took an entire year fast from the Internet only to find his demons (my words) followed him offline. The more I live in this phrase Jesus spoke the more I’m finding what I once thought was dramatic and impossible is now possible, and dramatic only to those who have ears but refuse to hear.

Right now I’m pouring over Jeff Shinabarger’s new book, More or Less, and I can’t wait to do a full review on this book. His book basically tries to answer the question, “What is enough?” For some reason it keeps reminding me of this scene from Wall Street when Bud Fox asks Gordon Gekko “how much is enough?” a question we get confronted with every day. Jeff has taken this to a new level, and is at the same time helping me understand new ways to “seek first the kingdom,” some of which I’m looking forward to sharing when I finish his book.

There is no Frigate Like a Book from the Pen of Emily Dickinson

The more I try to learn and understand how prose and poetry works, the more I realize that I can’t recapture the the years of ignoring virtually all literature from my childhood. It’s like starting in grade school again and working your way up, only now you don’t have time to do so because of bills and life and work and school and family and so on. This part of literature now gets relegated to learning a tiny snippet then when another writer (Lenard Sweet in this case via Viral) points out how important poetry is, then picking it back up again and learning a little more. I’ve done this for almost 5 years now, and I’m not sure I’ve learned a whole lot, but I’ve learned more than if I never picked up poetry at all.

Lenard Sweet in his book Viral spends a great deal on the importance of poetry in one chapter, and then goes on to show how much the Google generation has rejected this form of literature (and mine too for that matter), to replace it with the world of images and graphics. But the more our world, culture, and societies as a whole forget how to write in cursive, the more we should continue to write in cursive ourselves, lest we forget the power of words. Same goes with poetry, and especially in our churches!

If you are a Christian, no matter how much you try, you can’t get away from the fact that God’s way of communicating with us is in words, and the greatest poetry ever written is found in Scripture. It’s no wonder. Poetry, in one form, is a way to say something that can’t be said in words, and much of Scripture is just that, too great for words. There are countless examples, but I like the this reason from the book of John… “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (3.12). The Spiritual world of God uses poetry for a good reason, it helps to explain the unexplainable, something that needs a parable to show its depth.

I love short poems that are easily digestible at this point, it will take me years to work up to appreciating Shakespeare, but here Emily Dickinson explains the power of a book.

There is no Frigate Like a Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul!

~Emily Dickinson

It just conveys so much more meaning to compare the power of a book to a warship of immense power and beauty. Much like a product of my generation, I know my weakness in understanding literature is the image. Being a photographer for so long, the image is what I created through capturing light, not an image in my mind through capturing words read. Trying to relearn how words express their own images, without the need for a graphic is quite hard in the 21st century, I can’t imagine how hard it will be in the 22nd century, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth Book Review Critique

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth Book Review Critique

This review below is a summary of the full review (you can read the full review here or go to my Writing Section under “reviews”) for a book called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This particular book has been on my list to read for quite some time now, but I was finally forced to read it for my current Hermeneutics class. If you don’t want to read the book all the way through cover to cover, there is some good reference information contained in the first few chapters and the appendix, which contains good info about many commentaries.

The need for a hermeneutical book such as How to Read the Bible is a testament to the greatness of Scripture itself because “either you understand perfectly everything the author has to say or you do not. If you do, you may have gained information, but you could not have increased your understanding,” and that is what the authors here intended to facilitate.[1]  The strength of How to Read the Bible comes from the overall guide and tone, in general terms, given to the reader, and the methodical details presented in each section or chapter.  This guideline, while far from being a step-by-step process to Biblical understanding, does give the reader general principles to better understanding the Biblical literature, and how the Biblical authors intended their writing to be understood.  This was achieved in a manner that can be easily understood by readers of all levels, and yet provided enough depth to maintain the attention of those readers quite familiar with hermeneutics.

Unfortunately, the book’s weakness, which cannot be understated, comes from the author’s discussion on translations, and their overall choice of the TNIV to underline their text.  Readers today, in 2012, have the benefit of almost a decade of scrutiny towards the TNIV, which the authors did not have when revising How to Read the Bible in 2003.  One would hope their scholarly opinions might have changed somewhat since the publication date.  Any revised edition to the text in the future should include a completely rewritten section on translations, or the authors could leave more of their personal opinions to the side, allowing the reader to decide on their own which translation is best given the information in the book.  This suggestion would follow the author’s own statements when they stress the importance of finding a text where the authors “discuss all the possible meanings, evaluate them, and give reasons for his or her own choice.”[2]  This was attempted, just not executed as well as one would have hoped for.

Overall, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is, and will be, an excellent source for beginning a study in hermeneutics.  The text is not an end all of hermeneutical material, but well worth the investment in time to complete.  Any student, laymen, or individual interested in understanding Scripture to its fullest possibility will benefit from the work of Fee and Stuart.  This review and critique examined the manner in which the authors achieved the task of being obedient to the Biblical texts through teaching a hermeneutical process, and for the most part, the authors accomplished this task admirably.

[1] Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1972.

[2] Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God :: Review

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God Review

Up for a quick book review today is a book called The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, which I finished up a few weeks ago. This small book (176 pages) was published back in September of 2009 by John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, and Mark Driscoll come together with worship pastor Bob Kauflin, counselor Paul Tripp, and literature professor Daniel Taylor to discuss the power that words have, and how our speak can both edify and vilify our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This book came out of the Desiring God National Conference in 2008 with the same name (2008 National Conference Messages), and each author takes a chapter in their own specialized field to discuss the impact of words on our life, specifically that of Scripture. All in all a great, quick, read for those Christians interested in words.

I will admit that from the start I didn’t expect much from this book other than a good collection of a few sermons, but I was quite surprised by its depth of content and overall usefulness in application. The book isn’t broken up like this, but below are three sections or reasons I found quite valuable, and a book I would highly recommend reading.

  • The Power of Words in History
    The Power of Words takes a great look at the history of words, spoken and written, and how people like Luther and others used their power of words to change the church, even if it was crude at times. It was needed. Look at what Luther was fighting, and we can see that mocking and crude speech like this is sometimes called for.

    Luther argued that his theological opponents avoided the Bible: “I cry: Gospel, Gospel, Gospel! Christ, Christ! Then they reply: The fathers! The fathers! Custom, Custom! Statutes, Statutes! But when I say: The fathers, custom, and the statutes have often been in error; matters of this kind must be settled by a stronger and more reliable authority; but Christ cannot be in error—then they are more speechless than fish. (location 1576)

  • The Power of Words in Application
    Along with the historical look at how we use speak The Power of Words takes a practical approach to our speech today. Scripture has so much to say about how we should speak, and when we should refrain from speaking, how devastating the tongue can be, and how we can use it to lift people up when they are down.

    We foolishly assume that our real struggles with sin are in the areas where we are “weak.” We do not well understand the depth of sin until we realize that it has made its home far more subtly where we are “strong,” and in our gifts rather than in our weaknesses and inadequacies.

  • The Power of Words in Music
    The last section was the most unexpected section, but also contains the most valuable affirmation of music and its importance in our earthly Christian walk. I really didn’t expect a section on music that talked about words and speech, but this section took the book from being a good book to being a great book. If you are at all involved in the music life of the church (and technically we all are), this section should be a must read. Three great points (of many) that were made on the power of music today were stated by Bob Kauflin saying:
  1. There’s certainly a place for expressing our subjective responses to God in song, but the greater portion of our lyrical diet should be the objective truths we’re responding to: God’s Word, his character, and his works, especially his work of sending his Son to be our atoning sacrifice.
  2. We conclude that a certain beat, volume, chord progression, instrument, or vocal style is evil in and of itself. But unless those aspects are spelled out in Scripture we should be cautious about assigning a moral value to them.
  3. An increasing number of churches have adopted the practice of offering different services for different musical tastes. While that decision can be well intentioned, I believe the long-term effect is to separate families and generations and to imply that we gather together around our musical preferences, not Jesus Christ.

Overall, The Power of Words is one of those books that is such a quick and easy read that even if you have a slight interest in how words and speech affect our walk with Christ, you should pick up this book. Each author or contributor adds to the value of this book, and even though you might not agree with everything they stand for personally they have put together a great collective word on the power God placed in the written and spoken word.

Martin Luther's Table Talk on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

A good bit of seminary work is reading the classics from Calvin and Luther going back all the way to Augustine. There is a good reason, they have a huge amount of collective knowledge we can all still learn from today and apply to our own ministry. Table Talk is the classic text written by Martin Luther that launches into “a relentless attack on the ethics and consciences” of Christian religious practices (the Church of Rome or the Catholic Church as we know it today).[1] The text is broken up into 45 “Of” treatise with a final conclusion on the Treatise on Indulgences.

Luther’s language, and the translation from German to English, still retains the form of his day, making it a little harder to understand in the 21st century, but the points are still clear.  His arguments are more or less similar to the differences between the Catholic faith and Protestants that still exist today.

Starting in chapter CCCLVI and going through chapter CCCLXV, Luther takes a look at number fourteen on his list, “Of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” which deals with how the Roman Church was using the Lord’s Supper sacrament in the late 15th and early 16th century, but recognizes its ordination at the council of Constance as well.[2]  Three points to take away from this section are (1) the altering of the sacrament by raising it, (2) the substance of the bread and wine, and (3) the ex opera operato and the effectiveness of the sacrament.

As was fitting within the culture of his day, he held no punches when explaining his views on the subject.  “The ignorant wretches are not able to distinguish between the cup and fasting… one has God’s express word and command, the other consists in our will and choice.”[3]  Luther starts his argument with a lengthy explanation of how the papists have justified their actions in altering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  He then proceeds through a step-by-step process of pointing out their errors, calling it an abominable idolatry by raising the “sacrament on high to show people.”[4] Luther says this practice should be “utterly rejected,” and he calls on churches to abolish this idolatrous practice, some of which did follow his recommendation.

The next point is one Luther does not spend much time discussing, although it becomes one of the biggest points of contention between the Roman Church and Protestants, and still is today. The argument, which argues the actual substance of the bread and the wine, and whether it does contain the actual flesh and blood of Christ himself, is still discussed today.  Luther in section CCCLXII almost alludes to this practice, but it is clear that he is referring to the substance of the sacrament, “which is spiritually received by faith… not doubting that Christ’s body and blood were given and shed for us.”[5]

The final point to look at within this section of Table Talk is the ex opera operato, which the Catholic Church said pertained to the efficacy of the sacrament.  This Latin phrase that means “from the work done” pertains to the work done by Christ, the sinful nature of those priests who give the sacrament, and whether the sacrament is effective or not depending on who is giving the sacrament.  Luther’s point was they “do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it,” therefore they don’t actually have the sacrament at all, and they are not justified because of ex opera operato.

[1] Martin Luther, Table Talk of Martin Luther, 1st, trans. William Hazlitt (Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), ix.
[2] Ibid, 225.
[3] Ibid, 225.
[4] Ibid, 227.
[5] Ibid, 228.

A Review and Critique of The Four Views on Hell

I just finished off another book. Every time I’m able to finish a book I think it’s a really amazing thing to me, still. Below is part of a review I did on this particular book called The Four Views on Hell (Amazon). Even though I had to read the book for a seminary class it was still worth the read, though perhaps not quite as closely as I had to read it.

The Doctrine of Hell is something rarely taught anymore in our churches, and it’s an important part of the Christian faith, and our story as fallen beings. There is much more of the prosperity gospel preached today than the reality of a real place of separation from God, an eternal punishment, for those who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. For those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, will be saved.

If you would like to read the entire review, you can read Book Critique of Four Views on Hell by Walvoord in a pdf form.  Below is the summary of that review.  The book does take a good look at four different views of Hell, basically, the Traditional View (Orthodox or Literally View), Annihilationism, Purgatory, and Universalism.

In this review of Four Views on Hell, each argument was presented and evaluated. The reader was given an argument on Hell where one could quickly see the demarcation lines between each view. However, all four authors stop somewhat short from making a full apologetic case for their particular view in question. They all agree that historically, the Traditional or Literal View is the orthodox view, and then “they all acknowledge it has fallen out of favor” as of late.[21] “Today a number of evangelical churchmen embrace variations of [these views] in terms such as ‘[B]iblical Universalism’, ‘qualified Universalism’, and ‘conditional immortality’” as the alternative to the Literal View and the eternal separation from God.[22]

The underlying issue as to why the Literal view is no longer favored is loosely addressed throughout the book, but has an overall tone in line with our pluralistic society saying no just God of grace and mercy can possibly send anyone to an eternal punishment, no matter the sin. “How can we project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness [Who] tortures people without end,” which is what the Literal view teaches?[23] With this as the general tone of each view, a better examination of the views would be to treat them within the culture setting of today as: The Doctrine of Hell, Annihilationism, Purgatory, and Universalism.

The doctrines that most closely follow Scripture are not always going to be in line with secular society, or liberal theology, but looking at these four views of Hell is beneficial to the reader no matter what theological base they align with today. Of the four views, Crockett’s argument for a less literal view of Hell was well thought out and presented, and makes Hell more palatable to the modern day reader, but Walvoor’s Literal View is still the most orthodox, and most closely aligned with the teaching of Scripture, and therefore, the best alternative of the four.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, 1st Edition, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema and Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 50.
[2] John Walvoord, Zachary Hayes and Clark Pinnock, Four Views on Hell, EPub Edition, ed. Stanley N. Gundry and William Crockett (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 7.
[3] Dr. John Walvoord, About Dr. John Walvoord, http://www.walvoord.com/about-dr-john-walvoord (accessed February 15, 2012).
[4] William V. Crockett, Amazon.com Author Page William V. Crockett, Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/William-V.-Crockett/e/B00653NJTU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[5] Zachary J. Hayes, About Zachary J. Hayes, http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Authors/Author.htm?ContributorID=HayesZ&QueryStringSite=Zondervan (accessed February 15, 2012).
[6] Bob Allen, Controversial theologian Clark Pinnock dies, August 18, 2010, http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5451/53/ (accessed February 15, 2012).
[13] Rev Jeff Wright, “Book Review: Four Views on Hell,” Jeff Wright: Exalt Christ, April 03, 2010, http://jeffwright.exaltchrist.com/?p=690 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[18] J. R. Root, “Universalism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2001, 2nd ed, 1234.
[20] Eric Stoddart and Gwilym Pryce, “Observed Aversion to Raising Hell in Pastoral Care: The Conflict Between Doctrine and Practice,” Journal of Empirical Theology (Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden) 18, no. 2 (January 2005): 133.
[21] Cris D. Putnam, “Book Critique: Four Views On Hell,” Logos Apologia, March 14, 2011, http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1725 (accessed February 15, 2012).
[22] R. P. Lightner, “Hell,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2001, 2nd ed., 547-548.

The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds Book Review

Below is a short review of a book I just finished called The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds. It can be read for free here, or on Amazon over here, or even on audiobook over here. If you want the real real short version then pick up this book and read it, it is fantastic, and only takes about 3-4 hours to read.

E.M. Bounds was a man of prayer. Prayer to Bounds was said to be such “a physical reality” that the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing,” was taken as literally as humanly possible. Prayer was said to be as important to Bounds as breathing, and he lived his life accordingly.[1] Bounds had much to pray for as a “Civil War Chaplin and then POW” in Saint Louis, MO before the Civil War ended.[2] As a result of his lifetime of work, The Necessity of Prayer survives to the present day providing spiritual guidance in prayer “for a lifetime of water-drawing.”[3]

Critique and Interaction

The Necessity of Prayer was compiled from Bounds’ manuscripts after his death and is broken up into fourteen short chapters. Within the fourteen chapters are ten discourses about prayer, and how it pertains to faith, trust, desire, fervency, importunity, character, obedience, vigilance, the Word of God, and the House of God. Each chapter has a short introduction quote given by a leader in prayer or from an anonymous, but relevant, source.

Bounds does not start out with spiritual milk, gradually introducing the subject (1 Corinthians 3:2), but rather the author starts immediately with meat, and an in-depth look at prayer and faith. Within the opening chapters on faith Bounds relies heavily on Scripture showing how God’s word is the foundation of prayer. Example after example is given, showing how he drew conclusions, even when it came to those with a lack of faith and prayer such as Asa.[4] Bounds then moves into examples from Elijah, Daniel, and Christ himself, all of who prayed repeatedly, trusting that the Father had heard their requests.[5] As Bounds moves through the different sections he weaves a pattern, which fuses prayer, God’s Word, and each of his ten points until he proves that “prayer should enter into and underlie everything that is undertaken.”[6]  For Bounds this is not just a concept to be studied, this was played out in practical instruction. He admonishes those in ministry who want to be successful to spend twice as long in prayer as they do in the study of Scripture.[7]


E.M. Bounds’ The Necessity of Prayer is a foundation for prayer, and one that should be a priority for any Christian wishing to understand the practicalities of prayer. This publication is written is such a way that any lay-person can read, understand, and glean its wisdom, and any scholar can continue to gain insight for years to come. Bounds relies so heavily on Scripture that his conclusions are less about a personal opinion on prayer and more about understanding the will of God for His people through prayer. There are few modern pastors who seemed to have been more focused on understanding prayer, and as a result, Bounds has given God’s people a call to prayer. “No man loves the Bible, who does not love to pray. No man loves to pray, who does not delight in the law of the Lord.”[8] Bounds uses Jesus in Luke 4:16 to prove this, and then concludes “no two things are more essential to a spirit-filled life than Bible-reading and secret prayer,” and neglecting these two things gives the “Evil One” a great advantage.[9]

[1] E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008), ii.
[2] David Smithers, “The Life of E. M. Bounds, What Others Say About E.M. Bounds: Prayer Makes History,” Jehova.net, http://jehova.net/bounds/bounds-biography.htm.
[3] Bounds, ii.
[4] Ibid, 33.
[5] Ibid, 37.
[6] Ibid, 78-79.
[7] Ibid, 80.
[8] Ibid, 75.
[9] Ibid.

Ministering to the Church At the Expense of the Family

This is an old topic, but one that never goes away, for good reason. Below is basically an excerpt from an assignment in one of my evangelism classes on Servant-Leadership and innovations in the Church, and also serves as a very short review of the book InnovateChurch by Jonathan Falwell. In a three part discussion on leadership, this was topic number one, learning how to minister to the church, but not at the expense of your family.

There are four non-negotiable commitments presented by Jonathan Falwell in InnovateChurch that pastors (and I would add church staff) need to make to themselves, and to God, for effective leadership in the church. As an administrative staff member I will admit, the one I found most difficult to keep is number two: I will not minister to my church at the expense of my family. On the surface, this probably sounds like an easy one to keep, and when I entered into ministry work in 2008 I was committed to this very statement right from the start.

In fact, if your ministry is to be more successful, however that is quantified, it must start with managing your household well. (1 Tim 3.5) There are a few basic things that have kept me focused on the proper balance, or margin if you will. It doesn’t always work in ministry as something, or someone, can always quickly pull you right back in with an “important” issue, or something that needs to be completed right away if you are not diligent.

  1. It is important to make our priorities line up properly, as stated in InnovateChurch
  2. God should be first, our family second, and our ministry third.[1] Saying or writing this isn’t good enough. This actually has to be lived out, and as such, will be proof of its importance in our lives.  How are we making God our first priority? How are we managing our household well, and where do we need to change or improve what we are doing day by day.

  3. We have to learn how to manage our time well
  4. This means learning how to say no without feeling guilty about saying no, even if it is something important. Often times in church ministry, everything is of the utmost importance, mainly because it is most important to the person asking. We cannot get into the habit of allowing our schedule or calendar to control our life in idol-like fashion.

  5. We have to learn how to focus on a few things we do well, and let the others go

This means learning how to delegate without looking back. Learning how to give tasks away is hard, especially if they will not be done as well as if we did them ourselves. This includes learning how to enlist volunteers, and building teams of people who can accomplish what we can’t simply because we can’t work 24 hours a day. Rarely is one person only gifted with the ability to do only one task, but God has gifted us with the ability to do a few things very well. This strikes in the face of our multi-tasking 21st century culture, but delegating allows us to focus on those things we can do very well, or are at least our highest priority.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means of course. I do know that when I have built in margin, giving time to my family, I am more productive, and better focused as a staff member. Sometimes that means the most important place I can be, especially in the evening, is in that chair next to Deborah (and Ebby) in our living room.

[1] Jonathan Falwell, ed., Innovate Church, ed. Jonathan Falwell (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 14.

Longest Book Title Ever?

This is quite possibly the longest book title ever.

“The book, An Humble Attempt to Promote an Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People thro’s the World, in Extraordinary Prayer, for the Revival of Religion, and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture Promise and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time, [was] completed by September 1747” by Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards was such a prolific writer and he often had very long titles.  So what’s in a title? Is it important?  The 21st century title has to be short, packed full of keywords able to be searched by Google and Amazon, which can be easily found in the digital world of media overload.  What is your favorite long title?

An Old Argument: Academic Theologian vs Discipleship and Bonhoeffer

We Christians seems to be in many pendulum debates amongst each other that have no clear resolution, but this is one of them I hear more than others at times. Those who are deeply involved in discipleship speak about the evils of seminary or staying in a continued state of theological study. Those in higher education (seminary specially) talk about how we are raising a generation or two now that know nothing about their own faith. To me, Jesus is the ultimate example. He was a discipling theologian. He could go toe to toe with the smartest theological minds of his time (see Luke 20:19-40), and he could raise up the “lowly” of his day to become incredible disciples for Christ (see a fisherman named John and a few others).

To me, it has never been an either-or. It has always been both, even if I stink more at one than the other (or quite possibly at both), I think the true follower has to look at the example Christ gives us where both knowledge and discipleship are equally important in the Christians life. We live in an interesting time in history due to the technological advances we have, and this is perhaps widening the gap between theology and discipleship. It has never been easier to be able to get into higher education if you are called to do so, although the work isn’t any easier once you get in there. You also no longer really need that piece of paper that says you know what you are talking about (CT on Why People Aren’t Going to Seminary), to be a good leader or pastor, just ask Perry Noble, and you certainly don’t need a seminary degree to be great at discipleship.

I say all this, because last night I was trudging through the Bonhoeffer biography late last night, and came across Bonhoeffer’s statements on this very subject from way back in the 1940’s. In Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, he said:

Bonhoeffer had in mind a kind of monastic community, where one aimed to live in the way Jesus commanded his followers to live in his Sermon on the Mount, where one lived not merely as a theological student, but as a disciple of Christ. (Read more at location 5056)

Bonhoeffer saw that a large part of the problem was Lutheran theological education, which produced not disciples of Christ, but out-of-touch theologians and clerics whose ability to live the Christian life—and to help others live that life—was not much in evidence. (Read more at location 5065)

I called it a pendulum debate because throughout time it has swung back and forth with the landscape of history. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has a great chart of church history and the rate of seminarians to discipleship, but just common sense tells you it swings back and forth. I don’t know that much about Bonhoeffer yet, but the more I learn about him, the more I understand that he, in at least some respects, got it right. Most couldn’t argue that he wasn’t a great theologian, but he was also a man devoted to discipleship.