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October 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

Posted for your reading pleasure at Reading Acts. Enjoy!

Early Christianity (not “Christianities”)

Another gem from Larry Hurtado on early Christian diversity:

From our earliest Christian texts (e.g., Paul’s letters and other writings) we have candid references to diversity in the young Jesus-movement, even sharp conflicts and mutual condemnation.  Maybe Eusebius could convince himself that everything was sweet agreement initially and that diversity and division only came later, but that’s not what the earliest sources actually show.

This early Christian diversity, however, was not a number of totally separate communities or forms (hence, my dissatisfaction with “early Christianities”).  As I contend in a recent article, the diverse expressions of early Christianity seem to have been in vibrant contact with one another, sometimes conflicting, at other times seeming to agree to overlook differences, at other times seeking to persuade others of their own views/emphases….

Nevertheless, in that swirling diversity we also see from a very early point strong efforts to establish trans-local and trans-ethnic commonality.  That’s an obvious major aim reflected in Paul’s Gentile Mission, reflected, for example, in his extended effort in the collection for Jerusalem.  And note Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, that Jerusalem leaders and he proclaim a broadly shared message focused on Jesus.  Of course, Paul also refers to “false brethren,” “false apostles,” etc., indicative of the real diversity and division as well.  But the effort to try to form a broadly connected and cooperative trans-local religious movement didn’t start with Eusebius or Constantine.  The impulse was there from very early (however it may have fared from time to time).

September 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

This month’s roundup of the best of biblical studies blogging is hosted by William Brown at his blog, The Biblical Review.

In Defense of the Revised Common Lectionary

I love it when liturgists talk smack!

Someone sent me a blog post, Why I Left the Revised Common Lectionary Behind, in which Rev. Chris Duckwortht argues against RCL and in favour of a new lectionary, recently constructed, “the Narrative Lectionary, a project out of Luther Seminary that offers a 9-month, single-reading lectionary starting with Genesis and moving through to the Epistles and Revelation.”

The top reason for leaving the RCL is that “the RCL presents Old Testament texts only in relation to the Gospel text”. FALSE. About half the year a community can decide to read through the Firsts Testament semi-continuously, just as the RCL reads through the New Testament. Recently, communities spent seven weeks reading through 2 Samuel. Compare that to the Narrative Lectionary: 2 Samuel appears for only one Sunday. Let’s look at the Narrative Lectionary use of the First Testament: the Pentateuch gets five Sundays – 3 reading from Genesis, one from Exodus, one from Deuteronomy. That’s it! The Garden of Eden second creation story, Isaac’s birth, Jacob wrestling, Moses’ call, and the 10 commandments. That doesn’t even cover the stories you would expect in a cardboard children’s bible!!! In RCL, Genesis alone gets something like 26 readings – 14 weeks in a row in Year A. Followed by 7 weeks of Exodus. Need I go on…

My personal opinion: the RCL is far superior to the NL. To paraphrase American Bandstand, it’s got a good beat and it’s easy to preach from.

August 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

The honor of hosting this months’ Biblical Studies Carnival goes to Bob McDonald, who has now posted the best of August’s biblioblogging for your edification.

How Ice Cream Contributes to Christian Theology

The future of ecumenism.

(H/T: Michael F. Bird)

Does Your Pastor Practice Oikonomia?

Over at Internet Monk, Father Ernesto has written a brief introduction to oikonomia, a prominent feature of pastoral care in the Orthodox tradition. It basically boils down to dealing with people as if the goal were not to “fix” them but to bring them to God:

Americans have a strong built in idea that God is a law and order God. There is only one problem. That is not really what God seems to do in Scripture. He does support principles of justice. The prophets constantly rail against injustice. But, God’s purpose is to bring people into his kingdom. And, if a law appears to interfere with bringing someone into the Kingdom of God, then God has no problem in putting that law aside. Thus, the woman caught in adultery is forgiven outside the law because that unexpected forgiveness is precisely what she needs to hear in order to bring her into the Kingdom of God.

It should be noted, however, that although oikonomia can involve lessening the prescribed penance for sin, it could in some circumstances mean a hard-hearted (or headed) sinner might require a more severe penance in order to bring him to his senses. The bottom line is to deal with each personal individually rather than blindly applying the canons:

God understands people and God understands what will best work to give the best possibility that a person will truly come to him and be saved. In the same way, the bishop and his priests and deacons are called not to simply apply the canon, but to so come to know the person involved that when they apply the canon, they will do so in the way that is most likely to preserve that person’s salvation. Thus someone may be ordained much sooner than expected. A discipline for a sin committed by a church member may either be lightened or strengthened. But, at bottom, whatever action is taken must be based on a knowledge of a person and what will most help their journey to salvation.

So, oikonomia involves fulling admitting that rules and structure can be positive—and that there is such a thing as sin—but being willing to address these matters as if there were something more important than written laws and guidelines. It almost sounds like something Jesus would do, doesn’t it? :-)


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