The Lord Jesus says to us all,

by JC Ryle

The Lord Jesus says to us all, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you. While you have light believe in the light.” . . . The lesson of the words is generally applicable to the whole professing Church of Christ. Its time for doing good in the world is short and limited. The throne of grace will not always be standing–it will be removed one day, and the throne of judgment will be set up in its place. The door of salvation by faith in Christ will not always be open–it will be shut one day forever, and the number of God’s elect will be completed. The fountain for all sin and uncleanness will not always be accessible; the way to it will one day be barred, and there will remain nothing but the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

These are solemn thoughts; but they are true. They cry aloud to sleeping Churchmen and drowsy congregations, and ought to arouse great searchings of heart. “Can nothing more be done to spread the Gospel at home and abroad? Has every means been tried for extending the knowledge of Christ crucified? Can we lay our hands on our hearts, and say that the Churches have left nothing undone in the matter of missions? Can we look forward to the Second Advent with no feelings of humiliation, and say that the talents of wealth, and influence, and opportunities have not been buried in the ground?” Such questions may well humble us, when we look, on one side, at the state of professing Christendom, and, on the other, at the state of the heathen world. We must confess with shame that the Church is not walking worthy of its light.

The Gospel of John

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A Prayer for the Joy and Freedom of Dancing

One of the things that seems to be missing from so many of us is the enthusiastic joy that ought to be ours in Christ. We so easily fall into the trap of just going through the ritual of life, failing to have that newness and freshness of the Spirit’s revelation of Jesus. This prayer by Scotty Smith (one of the blogs I read regularly because he says so much that I need to hear) that should strike a cord with us all.

     You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Ps. 30:11-12 
     Praise him (God) with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:4-6
     Dear Lord Jesus, has there ever have been a king more into dancing than King David? His victory over Goliath was the inspiration for singing and dancing by many in Israel (1 Sam. 21:11). When the ark was returned to Jerusalem, he danced before the Lord with all his might, and very little modesty (2 Sam. 6:14). It’s obvious he wrote this psalm as a dancer, for other dancers—whose joy at the dedication of the temple was uncontainable.
     But King Jesus, you’re the real Lord of the Dance. Though David didn’t realize it, his work and joy simply prefigured yours. Only you can turn the wails of our sin and brokenness into the dance of hope and joy. By your cross, you’ve removed the filthy garments of unrighteousness that we might be clothed us with the white robe of your own righteousness. Astounding, astonishing, and so very true.
     How can we not sing and make music to you in our hearts? How can we possibly remain silent and still in response to who you are and everything you’ve done for us? O, that we may hear the Father speaking these words to us right now: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31)—beckoning us onto the dance floor of his grace (Luke 15:25).
     Lord Jesus, surely, you indeed greater joy in our hearts than we settle for; in fact, you pray that we would know the full measure of your joy (John 15:11). Forgive us for confusing reverence with reserve—even rigor mortis. Forgive us for equating holiness with lifelessness. Forgive us living like we’re en route to a funeral instead of a wedding—the wedding feast of the Lamb! Forgive us for living more by our temperament tests, Myers-Briggs profiles, and personality types than by the lyric, music, and dance of the gospel.
     One day, King Jesus, we will give thanks to you with all our might. All personal inhibitions, cultural limitations, and sinful prohibitions will be gone. May that coming Day have much greater impact on this day. So very Amen we pray, in your gladsome and grace-filled name.

Debate Review: Greg Bahnsen vs. Gordon Stein

If you have comments remember to go to his site to post them.

Advocates of the presuppositional approach to Christian Apologetics have long hailed the debate between Greg Bahnsen (the late Christian theologian and apologist, noted for his achievements in presuppositional apologetics and development of theonomy–a view of the Law for Christians, pictured left) and Gordon Stein (the late secularist noted for his links to Free Inquiry among other things, pictured below, right) as a stirring triumph of presuppositional apologetics over atheism in a point-by-point debate. Recently, I listened to the debate and thought I would share my impressions here.

Debate Outline

Bahnsen Opening Statement

From the outset, it was clear this debate was going to be different from others I’d listened to or watched. Bahnsen outlined what he means by “God,” outlined a few general points about subjectivism, and then quickly dove into a presuppositional type of argument. He began with an attack on the idea that all existential questions can be answered in the same way:

The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the assumption that all of these are answered in the very same way is not only over simplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factuality or reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case. [All quotes from the transcript linked below. My thanks to “The Domain for Truth” for linking this.]

Bahnsen then mounts an argument which is perhaps the most important innovation of presuppositional apologetics: the attack on neutrality. He notes that Gordon Stein in his writings puts forth a case for examining evidence in order to determine if God exists. He relies upon the laws of logic and seems to think that this avoids logical fallacies. Yet, Bahnsen argues, Stein has just argued in a circle as well. By presupposing the validity of the laws of logic and other forms of reasoning, he has fallen into the trap he has stated he is trying to avoid. As such, Stein’s outlook is not neutral but it is colored by his presuppositions. Bahnsen notes:

In advance, you see, Dr. Stein is committed to disallowing any theistic interpretation of
nature, history or experience. What he seems to overlook is that this is just as much begging the question on his own part as it is on the part of the theists who appeal to such evidence. He has not at all proven by empirical observation and logic his pre commitment to Naturalism. He has assumed it in advance, accepting and rejecting all further factual claims in terms of that controlling and unproved assumption.

Now the theist does the very same thing, don’t get me wrong. When certain empirical
evidences are put forth as likely disproving the existence of God, the theist regiments his
commitments in terms of his presuppositions, as well.

Therefore, what Bahnsen presses is that it is only on the Christian theistic presupposition that things like the laws of logic, the success of empirical sciences, and the like can make sense. He makes the transcendental argument for the existence of God:

we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything.

Gordon Stein Opening Statement

Stein opens by clarifying what he means by “atheist”: “Atheists do not say that they can prove there is no God. Also, an atheist is not someone who denies there is a God. Rather, an atheist says that he has examined the proofs that are offered by the theists, and finds them inadequate.”

Stein then argues that the burden of proof is definitely in the theist’s court. He goes on to address a number of theistic proofs and finds them wanting. In fact, the rest of his opening statement is spent addressing 11 separate arguments for the existence of God, including the major players like the moral, cosmological, and teleological arguments.

Cross Examination 1

In the first cross-examination, Bahnsen asked Stein whether the laws of logic were material or immaterial. Stein finally, quietly, admits that the laws of logic are not material. Yet then Stein turns around and in his own cross examination presses triumphantly a point he thinks will be decisive. He asks Bahnsen, “Is God material or immaterial”; Bahnsen responds, “Immaterial.”; after a brief segway, Stein poses the following question which, by the tone of his voice, he seems to think carries some weight: “Apart from God, can you name me one other thing that is immaterial?” To this question, Bahnsen responds quickly, “The laws of logic.” The crowd erupts. Stein lost that one.

First Rebuttal: Bahnsen

Bahnsen spends most of his rebuttal arguing that the laws of logic are not mere conventions, and that Stein cannot make them such. If Stein does, then, argues Bahnsen, he can’t actually participate in a logical debate, because they could each declare a convention in which they each win the debate.

He goes on to re-stress the transcendental argument and point out that Stein failed to address it. He develops it a bit further by attacking the notion that an atheistic worldview can make sense of logic:

And that’s because in the atheistic world you cannot justify,you cannot account for, laws in general: the laws of thought in particular, laws of nature,cannot account for human life, from the fact that it’s more than electrochemical complexesin depth, and the fact that it’s more than an accident. That is to say, in the atheist conceptionof the world, there’s really no reason to debate; because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, allthese laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature, they’re just,well, if you’re an atheist and materialist, you’d have to say they’re just something that happensinside the brain.

But you see, what happens inside your brain is not what happens inside my brain.

Stein First Rebuttal

Stein argues that laws of logic are indeed conventions, saying:

The laws of logic are also consensuses based on observations. The fact that they can predict something correctly shows they’re on the right track, they’re corresponding to reality in some way.

Oddly, Stein continues to act as though Bahsnen’s argument was a variety of cosmological argument. He argues that before we can ask “what caused the universe” we must ask whether the universe is actually caused. He then tries to address the argument more explicitly, saying that it is “nonsense” and that various cultures do indeed have different logic. His most direct argument against the trasncendental argument is that “If matter has properties that it behaves than we have order in the universe, and we have a logical, rational universe without God.”

Debate Segment Two

Stein Opening 2

Stein argues that the problem of evil is an evidential argument against the existence of God. He states that it raises the probability that there is no God. He asserts that there is no physical evidence for God. Stein then argues that God has not provided evidence for his existence, but that He should do so. Finally, he turns to the problem of religious diversity, asking why God would allow other religions if there is only one God.

Bahnsen Opening 2

Bahnsen argues that Stein placing the laws of logic into a matter of consensus undermines their usefulness and in fact  defeats the purpose of rational inquiry and debate. He argues further that Stein’s definition of laws of logic within pragmatic terms doesn’t come close to the extent of the laws of logic.

Stein Rebuttal

Stein argues that bahnsen hasn’t actually done anything to explain the laws of logic. He argues that simply saying they are the thoughts of God doesn’t mean anything, and that it does nothing to explain them. He therefore argues that Bahnsen fails to provide an adequate explanation for the facts of the universe.

Bahnsen Rebuttal

Bahnsen presses the point that Stein’s entire system is based upon presuppositions which he cannot justify. Induction is undermined in an atheistic worldview because there is no reason to believe that things will continue to happen as they do currently happen. He briefly addresses the problem of evil by saying that within an atheistic universe there simply is no evil, so it makes no sense from Stein’s perspective to press that issue.

Closing Statement: Stein

Stein’s closing statement seems to be more of a rebuttal than anything. He argues that there can be evil defined in an atheistic universe as that which decreases the happiness in people. Yet even this, he says, “We don’t know”–we don’t know that there is evil in an atheistic universe, rather it is a consensus and pragmatically useful.

He argues that we can know about induction because of statistical probability: it is highly improbable that the future will be different from the past because it has been similar in activity to the past for as long as we know.

Closing Statement: Bahnsen

Bahnsen finally presses the transcendental one last time. He argues that while Stein has called it hogwash and useless, he hasn’t actually  responded to it. Bahnsen states that once more the atheistic worldview can’t make sense of itself. For example, saying the future will be like the past due to probability begs the question: there is nothing in the atheistic worldview to say that probability can help determine what the future will be like. It might work pragmatically, but it fails to give any explanation. Finally, Bahnsen argues that you cannot be a rational, empirical human being an an atheistic universe.

Analysis of the Debate

It is abundantly clear throughout this debate that the presuppositionalist takes a very different approach to debate and apologetics than those from other methods. One can see this immediately when Gordon Stein delivers his opening statement, which was presumably prepared beforehand, and goes to answer common theistic arguments like the cosmological and teleological argument. But Bahnsen never once used either of these arguments, and took an entirely different approach. I think this initially caught Stein off guard and that impression remained throughout the debate.

Stein’s responses to Bahnsen were extremely inadequate. This became very clear in their debate over induction and empiricism. For example, although Stein held that he could say the future will be like the past based upon probability, he had no way to say that the world was not spontaneously created 5 minutes ago with implanted memories and the notion that the future will be like the past. Bahnsen didn’t make this argument, but it seems like it would line up with his reasoning. Of course, he would grant that the theist has to presuppose that God exists in order to make sense of induction, but that was exactly his point: without God, nothing can be rational.

I found it really interesting that Stein kept insisting that the laws of logic are mere social conventions. He kept pressing that some cultures do not hold that they are true as defined. But of course, cultural disagreement about a concept doesn’t undermine the truth value of a concept. If, for example, there were a culture that insisted that 2+2=5, that wouldn’t somehow mean that 2+2=4 is a logical convention, it would mean the culture who insisted the sum was 5 would be wrong. Similarly, the laws of logic may be disagreed upon by some, but to deny them is to undermine all rationality.

Overall, I have to say I was shocked by how this debate turned out. I have long been investigating presuppositional apologetics and continually wondered how it would work in an applied situation. It seems to me that to insist on a presupposition in order to debate would not work, but Bahnsen masterfully used the transcendental argument to reduce Stein to having to argue that logic is merely a social convention while ironically using logic himself to attack theism.

It seems to me that this debate showed what I have suspected for some time: presuppositional apologetics is extremely powerful, when used correctly. Now I’m not about to become a full-blown presuppositionalist here. My point is that it is another approach Christians can use in their witnessing to those who do not believe. I envision a synthesis of presuppositional apologetics with evidentialism. Some may say this is impossible, that they are anathema to each other, but I do not think so. They can be used in tandem: the presuppositional approach to question the worldview of others, while the evidentialist approach can be used to support the notion that the Christian worldview provides the best explanation for the data we have.

Links

Listen to the debate yourself. Get it here. The transcript I used was also from this page. Thanks to the author for such a great resource.

I’ve been researching and writing about presuppositional apologetics. For other posts about presuppositional apologetics, check out the category.

I highly recommend starting with the introduction to the most important thinker in the area, Cornelius Van Til.

Choosing Hats– A phenomenal site which updates fairly regularly with posts from a presuppositional approach (the author uses the term “covenental apologetics”). The best place to start is with the post series and the “Intro to Covenental Apologetics” posts.

The Domain for Truth– Another great presuppositionalist web site. I highly recommend browsing the topics here.

SDG.

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Every authentic move of the Spirit

by Jeff Smith

Every authentic move of the Spirit will always have as its primary focus the person of Jesus Christ.

The practice of stillness

Something that I am not sure I am ready for, but most likely need – even in my “retired” state. It is proposed by Michael Hyatt at his Intentional Leadership blog.


Person Sitting Quietly on the Edge of a Dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean, Image #7706240
According to the popular StrengthsFinder assessment, my top strength is “Achiever.” The report that summarized my test results says,

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

This strength has served me well, but it also has a dark side.

It means I have a difficult time turning off my mind and just being still. I seem to be more of a human doing than a human being.

Recently, my wife Gail recommended that I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. She said, “You won’t agree with everything in this book, but I think it will really challenge you—especially the first chapter.”

Intrigued, I decided to read the book on my recent vacation.

The first chapter is entitled, “Nothing.” In summarizing the chapter, Beck says, “to begin the Joy Diet, you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.”

I was so challenged by this chapter, that I haven’t gotten beyond it. I have now read it four times. I have also practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row.

Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.

What Is Stillness?

Beck’s premise is that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” By doing nothing, she means literally doing nothing.

  • This is not prayer (at least not in the sense of talking to God)
  • It is not problem-solving.
  • It is not planning.

Doing nothing is being still, quieting your mind (and the cacophony of voices), and simply being.

All the ancient wisdom literature points to the importance of this practice. Psalm 46:10 is representative: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Why You Need Stillness

I doubt you need convinced that you need some measure of what I am describing in your life. As I have shared about this topic with others, they inevitably say, “Oh, I soneed that in my life! How do I start?”

Nevertheless, here are three of my own reasons for practicing the discipline of stillness:

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

How to Practice Stillness

This is not something I have enough experience with to write. In fact, I feel pretentious for even attempting it.

But perhaps that is the value I can add to the conversation. I am not so experienced that I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner.

So in that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions for how you can practice stillness in your own journey and reclaim some interior margin.

  1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.
  2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat on the dock by the lake. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study and shut the door. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Set a timer. I am following Beck’s admonition to set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.
  4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. Beck says that if you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water. I also play a recording I have of the ocean.
  5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. Beck offers several techniques for practicing “nonjudgmental observation,” a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.
  6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the onlytime you have.
  7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness. For me, I go back to a time I stood on the balcony of a monastery in Greece, looking out on the Aegean Sea. I wrote about it here.

Perhaps the most important thing is just to start. It’s easy to blow the discipline of stillness off as something you don’t have time for. Don’t. The busier you are the more important it is.

You need this in your life more than you know. Even if you can only set aside five minutes a day, do it. And if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

Response to a contrary poster

This response is belated, so references to the original re-posted blog is in order. It  was about memorization of Scripture at

https://llamapacker.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-delightful-results-of-memorizing-the-bible/

This post is actually a response to a response that was sent in for approval relative to a re-post that I did a few days ago.

Below this paragraph are the remarks from a lady who calls herself “mrs. neutron’s garage”. I initially did not approve it for several reasons. (1) My blog is basically a reposting of blogs and articles that I think are of value for believers to read and consider. (2) I think it is most appropriate that when readers disagree or want to become part of an on-going discussion, they should go to the original poster, give them credit and enter intio discussion with him/her and their discussions. That benefits all and recognizes the work of the author. We posted the link that would take such readers to the origianl – in this case to http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/. (3) Because my posts are mean to encourage or challenge believers, when a writer who seems to want to criticize, be argumentative or belittle the thoughts and not take it to the original source, my policy is to generally ignore.

I find it somewhat amusing that unbelievers read many Christian blogs with the sole purpose of “correcting” or contradicting and “enlightening” those whom they consider people who have no common sense and are not as perceptive as they.

The original remarks.

“The exact same technique was highly successful for Chinese citizens.  They memorized all of Chairman Mao’s words from what came to be known as “The Little Red Book” and the cult of Mao grew and grew.

The desire to not have to think for yourself, to be lorded over by another, is and always has been an impediment to any real human progress.  Scripture didn’t lift man out of filth, disease, suffering and a brutish early death.  Science did.  But, since science is the antithesis of supernaturalism you must reject it and vacation at the “Creation Museum” instead of “The Smithsonian”.

I am fully aware that the comfort of imaginary things is NOT imaginary comfort, but, if we all lived in a world of supernatural magic we would still be putting bells around the neck of lepers and thinking the sun revolves around the earth.    We don’t, no thanks to scripture, and we are ALL better for it.”

Right after I disapproved the comment, I re-thought the action and had planned on having a friend read it and offer what he thought of the comments. The next day I received another response from “mrs. neutron’s garage”. It read “You know, if you will not permit comments that disagree with your point of view you should honestly state that.  The Bible is rather clear about treating others the way you would want to be treated, so, NEVER complain if someone takes it upon themselves to censor you or your opinions.  It would be the very definition of hypocrisy.

You disappoint me

Mrs. N.”

Well, Mrs. N. I am sorry to disappoint you. I didn’t intend to. I just usually find that time is better spent writing and talking with those who are open to learn, listen, and honestly consider. Those who want to promote a contradictory point of view are free to – on their own site or with the author directly. I recently found a blog that also talked about this issue. They commented there are atheists who just don’t believe in God – and are cordial, believing if we ignorant types want to, no big deal to them. Then there are the “hate-theists” who believe they are called to share their enlightenment and superior wisdom to the duped and ignorant masses. The first group listens and considers and seem sincere in their unbelief, but the later are generally not open and are often quite hostile, no matter what is said.

Here is a post response from my friend who offers it cordially.

There are more responses to this post than some could tolerate, mostly because of what is a clear, not-so-subtle hostility to Christian faith generally and Scripture memorization specifically.  What I mean is that I had to truncate a reply because the post is infused with so much!

First, sealing one’s faith more deeply by memorizing Scripture is not only an act of obedience by faithful Christians, it is a freely chosen act.  This can hardly be said of Mao’s victims, which is what they were, victims.  They “freely” chose to do as they were told at the point of a gun.  The writer’s comparison falls apart on that note.

Second, when it comes to a so-called “desire to not have to think for yourself,” the writer errs by assuming those she criticizes aren’t in fact thinking for themselves, something one must do in order to freely choose, say, to memorize Scripture absent of coercion or threat of violence.  Further, it is suggested by the post-er that if one is “thinking for himself” that he will think just like the post-er, hardly the “independence” demanded (“Think like me; otherwise, you’re not an ‘independent’ thinker”?).  Self refutation such as this is an earmark of thought and remarks not offered carefully.

Third, as far as Scripture not lifting man “out of filth, disease, suffering, and a brutish death,” <~~(an allusion here to the famous Leviathan quote by Thomas Hobbes, which isn’t quite “independent thinking” by the post-er), none of those things have been finally achieved.  So, asserting science has somehow accomplished that, well, how many examples should I list proving otherwise?

As far as filth and such goes, it has been a commitment to moral law inherent to a Judeo-Christian ethic that has propelled the scientific advances of the world’s greatest scientist’s for which mankind ought to express gratitude.  Their biblical world views (or, at least theistic or deistic views) informed their scientific endeavors.  A wonder and appreciation for a supernatural source of what they observed compelled their search for scientific and, dare I say, philosophical truths.

The respondent here seems to believe in science as savior; this is the defeated religion of “scientism” whose basis is wholly Darwinian.  It is typically hostile to Christian faith and plants arbitrary flags on hills of antisupernaruralism without ever having really examined or weighed evidence.  Scientism purports to be the guardian of what is allowed “in the club” of what qualifies as science; so, things like Intelligent Design Theory are arbitrarily dismissed or mocked or denigrated as, GASP! “religious,” when such is not the case necessarily.

One has to wonder at the “independent” thought of the respondent when towing the overused mantra of scientism’s naturalistic themes, which are laced throughout the hostile post. Repeating (or echoing) themes that Darwin, scientism, Hobbes, and The Humanist Manifesto II are known for hardly qualifies as either independent or original thought.

Dialog during the meeting of the church

by Alan Knox

 The Assembling of the Church 7/28/12 6:00 AM Alan Knox edification gathering Comments

About five years ago, I wrote a post called “Dialog during the meeting of the church.” At that time, I was just beginning to study and explore what the New Testament authors wrote about the church as the believers gathered together. The more I studied, the more I recognized that what they described looks completely different than the way believers typically gather together today. For example, even their methods of teaching were different, relying primarily on dialog instead of monologue. This post begins to explore some of these descriptions and the questions raised by those passages.

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Dialog during the meeting of the church

Many times, when considering the concept of speaking or teaching within the context of the meeting of the church, believers focus on the exhortation of Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word!” We have our modern definitions of preaching – too many to mention here – and our modern methods of preaching – again, too many to mention. But, I’ve read very few studies from a scriptural perspective into how believers actually spoke to one another or taught one another when the church gathered together.

There are two Greek verbs that are usually translated “preach” in English translations of the New Testament:κηρύσσω (kerusso) which means “to announce or proclaim aloud” and εὐαγγελίζομαι (euangelizomai) which means “to bring or announce good news”. Interestingly, in spite of the fact that these verbs and the nouns associated with them are used many times in the New Testament, there are very few occurrences (if any) where the specified audience consists of believers.

So, what verbs are used in Scripture to indicate the type of speech that occurs when believers meet together? Well, primarily, the biblical authors simply use the verbs that mean “to speak” or “to say”: λέγω (lego), λαλέω(laleo), etc. These verbs indicate that verbal communication was happening, but they do not reveal much about the method of communication.

However, there is another very interesting verb that is also used often in the context of believers speaking to one another when the church meets, and that is the verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai). This verb means something like “to converse, discuss, argue, esp. of instructional discourse that frequently includes exchange of opinions”.

In Acts 19:8, Paul “reasoned” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the Jews in the synagogues, but in Acts 19:9, after he left the synagogue, he continued “reasoning” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the disciples who followed him to the hall of Tyrannus.

In Acts 20:7-10, Paul “talked” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the believers in Troas on the first day of the week. This is the time when Paul continued speaking until midnight and the young man fell out of the window. But, what we don’t generally see from our English translation is that Paul’s “speech” could also be called a “discussion”.

There are other instances in the NT where the verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) is used to describe Paul or another believer “discussing” or “arguing” with nonbelievers. In these instances, the verb is almost always translated “reason”, “argue”, or “discuss”.

I wonder what would happen today if those who teach and speak to believers when the church meets used methods of discussion and dialog instead of the normal monologue method…