Monday, February 17, 2014

Roger Olson, a valuable theological guide

A good friend brought to my attention the list of "Top Sixty Evangelical Theologians" that was posted on the weekend at the Center for Pastor Theologians blog.

Besides the fact that the title is a bit of a misnomer (several of the persons on the list are not actually theologians - e.g., George Marsden and Mark Noll are historians and make no claim to be theologians), I was dumbstruck at the failure of such a list to mention Roger E. Olson.

I cannot think of anyone who has done more in my lifetime to even-handedly explicate the history of Christian theology. His most recent book, The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (IVP Academic, 2013) is a tour de force that can alone lay the foundation for a reader's understanding of the current Christian theological milieu.

But Olson (who is professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary) has written a number of books that essentially lay out the theological road map from the biblical autographs all the way to today's postmodern theologians. Such a map reminds us that our own theology was not developed in a vacuum.

In fact, I have comprised a reading list of Olson's works that will enlighten readers as to how we got to where we are today. I have chosen five of his books and note that they total 2,371 pages. So, in one year (assuming that one reads daily 6.5 pages) you can be brought fully up-to-speed on today's theological milieu.

From there, a person could venture out into any Christian theological dialogue and feel confident about being able to - at the very least - comprehend the gist of the discussion. As an example, when New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece about then-candidate Barack Obama's appreciation of Reinhold Niebuhr, how many readers had a frame of reference for what such appreciation might mean?

Not having an awareness of what other Christian traditions teach makes many people reflexively mistrustful - and then, sectarian. Now, it is true that there is nothing wrong with asserting that you do not believe what another Christian is espousing - but there is something wrong with shunning (or worse, attacking) someone merely because you are ignorant of how that person's argument works or how it was arrived at.

I think the following five books written by Roger Olson can go a long way towards developing Christians that are faithful to biblical truth and that are respectful participants in dialogue with those who see things differently. He does that, not by staking out some artificial neutrality (Olson, like me, adheres to Arminian theology and has a Pentecostal background), but by painstakingly presenting the views of others honestly.
If one begs off such a project, there is still one more resource that I could suggest: InterVarsity Press has condensed The Story of Christian Theology into 112 pages and called the book, Pocket History of Theology. Starting there may work for some - and would likely whet one's appetite for the more extensive project I have suggested.

Olson also keeps readers informed about current theological discussions because he blogs frequently. His blog can be accessed here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Up-to-date help for commentary buying

The recent release of four sources of information for commentary buyers gets us as current as we will likely ever be given the pace of commentary publication (for example, there are two new series: Hearing the Message of Scripture and The Story of God Bible Commentary).

Tremper Longman III and Donald Carson have updated their commentary surveys (Longman's on the Old Testament is in its fifth edition, while Carson's on the New Testament is in its seventh). As highly-respected scholars they not only give pithy evaluations of the most significant commentaries for each book of the Bible, but Longman provides a list of "Five-Star Commentaries" and Carson has a list of "Best Buys".

The other two recent sources are Denver Seminary's Annotated Old Testament Bibliography (2014) and New Testament Exegesis Bibliography (2014). These lists are updated annually by six of Denver Seminary's professors (Richard Hess, Helene Dallaire, and M. Daniel Carroll R. produce the OT lists, and William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and David Matthewson do the NT). In addition to commentary evaluations, you will find recommendations for other works related to exegesis.

Now, let's say that you don't have time to consult and compare these resources; below you will find my personal recommendations. For the sake of brevity, I have created the list as though a person could own just one commentary per biblical book. An asterisk (*) indicates the author is Pentecostal or Charismatic.

GENESIS - Gordon Wenham (chs. 1-15; 16-50)
EXODUS - Victor Hamilton
LEVITICUS - Richard Hess (bundled with commentaries on Genesis and Exodus)
NUMBERS - Gordon Wenham
DEUTERONOMY - Christopher J. H. Wright
JOSHUA - Richard Hess
JUDGES - Daniel Block (bundled with commentary on Ruth)
RUTH - Robert Hubbard
I & II SAMUEL - David Firth
I & II KINGS - Iain Provan
I & II CHRONICLES - Andrew Hill
EZRA & NEHEMIAH - H. G. M. Williamson
ESTHER - Karen Jobes
JOB - Tremper Longman III
PSALMS - John Goldingay
PROVERBS - Bruce Waltke
ECCLESIASTES - Tremper Longman III
SONG OF SOLOMON - Richard Hess
ISAIAH - John Oswalt
JEREMIAH - Michael Brown * (bundled with commentaries on Lamentations and Ezekiel)
EZEKIEL - Daniel Block
DANIEL - Tremper Longman III
HOSEA - JONAH - Douglas Stuart
MICAH - Bruce Waltke
HAGGAI - MALACHI - Andrew Hill

MATTHEW - Grant Osborne
MARK - Richard France
LUKE - David Garland
JOHN - Craig Keener *
ACTS - Craig Keener * (chs. 1-2; 3-14; 15-23)
ROMANS - Thomas Schreiner
I CORINTHIANS - Gordon Fee * (a revision is coming out this year)
GALATIANS - Gordon Fee *
EPHESIANS - Clinton Arnold
PHILIPPIANS - Gordon Fee *
COLOSSIANS - Murray Harris (bundled with commentary on Philemon)
I & II TIMOTHY, TITUS - Gordon Fee *
PHILEMON - Murray Harris (bundled with commentary on Colossians)
HEBREWS - Peter O'Brien
JAMES - Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell
I PETER - Peter Davids *
II PETER - Richard Bauckham (bundled with commentary on Jude)
I, II, III JOHN - I. Howard Marshall
JUDE - Richard Bauckham (bundled with commentary on II Peter)
REVELATION - Gordon Fee *

Other highly useful items:

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (OT 5 vols.)
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (revision due March 2014)*
Commentary on the New Testament by Robert L. Gundry

The process of commentary writing:

On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries

Free IVP commentaries online:

"High-quality, FREE commentaries" (previous blog item)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mumford and Beall: Where are they today?

Bob Mumford © Ministry Today 1990
[UPDATE 9/11/13 - Bethesda Christian Church has announced the passing of James Beall. Read Charisma magazine's obituary for Pastor Beall at this link.]

A  quick scan of the analytics for this blog indicates that readers are frequently led here when they query search engines as to the whereabouts of Charismatic Renewal figures like James Lee Beall and Bob Mumford.

"Is Pastor James Beall still alive?"

"Where does Bob Mumford preach?"

Those questions and ones similar to them are how many of you arrive at Word & Spirit blog. So today we'll give you some answers.

But first, for readers unacquainted with Beall and Mumford, here's some quick background:

Pastor Beall circa 1977
At the height of the Charismatic Renewal in the late 1970s, they were highly sought after speakers. Because Mumford was engaged solely in traveling ministry he was seen at more conferences and events. Beall was involved in pastoral ministry for over 50 years at Bethesda Christian Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan and so did not travel as frequently, but spoke, for instance, at high-profile events like the World Conference on the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem in 1974 (BCC was formerly known as Bethesda Missionary Temple and prior to 1988 was located in Detroit).

Other speakers at the World Conference on the Holy Spirit included: Corrie ten Boom, David du Plessis, J. Rodman Williams, Costa Deir, Kathryn Kuhlman, Charles Farah, Willard Cantelon, Pat Robertson, Arthur Katz, Charles Simpson, Jamie Buckingham and Gen. Ralph Haines.

According to author Peter Althouse, "Latter Rain centre Bethesda Missionary Temple, Detroit, played a role in the development of the Charismatic Movement. James Lee Beall not only succeeded his mother as pastor of the church, but he was a frequent contributor to the widespread Charismatic periodical Logos Journal" p. 51 in Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann (T & T Clark, 2004).

Beall and Mumford were both speakers - along with Judson Cornwall - at a memorable Elim camp meeting in Lima, New York in 1980.

Mumford, who early in his career was a teacher at Elim Bible Institute, was in constant demand in the 70s. His popularity waned, though, when he became involved in the Shepherding/Discipleship controversy (some background on the controversy can be accessed in my December 2008 blog item about him).

Pentecostal/Charismatic historian Vinson Synan told author S. David Moore, "I think, had he not gotten into that controversy, he would have been the most outstanding Charismatic speaker of all" pp. 38-39 in The Shepherding Movement (T & T Clark, 2004).

Judith & Bob Mumford today
Mumford was one of the plenary session speakers at the Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches in 1977, an event that Synan assesses to be the high point of the Charismatic Renewal. A report on Mumford's memorable address was covered on this blog in April 2010.

Beall, in addition to his pastoral duties at the Bethesda megachurch, had a radio broadcast that was aired across the nation (that ministry was initially known as America to Your Knees, but later, This Is The Day). Another well-known figure in the Charismatic Renewal was Jamie Buckingham, the widely-read columnist for both the Logos Journal and Charisma magazine. He wrote, "One of my favorite ministers is James Lee Beall, pastor of the Bethesda Missionary Temple in Detroit" p. 178 in Risky Living: Keys to Inner Healing (Bridge Logos Publications, 1976).

Buckingham was known not only for his incisive commentary on the state of the Renewal, but also for the humor woven into that commentary. He once wrote about some criticism he received for his platform appearance (which included tennis shoes), "you look as if you've just ridden into town on a load of turnips," he was told, "Look at Bob Mumford, Morris Sheats, and James Beall. They're strong and masculine - and they wear patent leather shoes" p. 64 in The Truth Will Set You Free: But First it Will Make You Miserable: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Jamie Buckingham (Creation House, 1988).

(Morris Sheats remains active in ministry. His website can be seen here.)

Today, Mumford is 82, and while he is not nearly as active in speaking and writing as he once was, he still teaches seminars with his son Eric a few times a year. Their 2013 schedule can be seen here. Last year, Bob authored a book, Nourishing the Seed: Learning to Please God as Father, for which Eric wrote the foreward. One chapter has an intriguing Mumford-esque heading, "A Pickle in my Crème Brulee." [UPDATE November 2013 - The audio recording of a teaching delivered by Bob on November 1 can be accessed here. The teaching is entitled, "Human as God Intended."]

Beall is 88 and pastor emeritus at Bethesda Christian Church. He handed off the senior pastorate to his daughter, Analee Dunn, in 2004. He has experienced a variety of health challenges in recent years, including a surgery in March of this year. Currently, he is on the mend and able to attend services at Bethesda. [UPDATE July 2013 - Pastor Beall was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia on July 1. In the middle of July, he entered a rehabilitation facility due to difficulty in walking. UPDATE August 23 - Pastor Beall has returned home.] The church, one of America's earliest megachurches, was featured on this blog in September 2009. Beall's last book, Straight Talk About the Holy Spirit, was reviewed on this blog in February 2009.
BEALL FAMILY PHOTO (1996) - Back row, left to right: John Beall (son), Heather Beall (daughter-in-law), Anne Beall (wife), Pastor Beall, Analee Dunn (daughter), James Dunn (son-in-law). Front row, left to right: Courtney Dunn Snede (granddaughter), Anne Beall (granddaughter), Whitney Dunn (granddaughter), James Beall (grandson), Kate Beall (granddaughter).

*      *      *

Two of Mumford and Beall's contemporaries from the Charismatic Renewal, Charles Simpson and Ken Sumrall, are the subjects of the 12-minute video below. Simpson is seen eulogizing Sumrall who passed away on January 11.
Back in the 70s, Simpson was teamed in ministry with Mumford, Ern Baxter, Derek Prince, and Don Basham in Christian Growth Ministries out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. From that ministry came New Wine magazine, one of the prominent journals of the Charismatic Renewal. The complete archives of New Wine can be accessed here. Today, Simpson leads Charles Simpson Ministries, which held its annual leadership conference in April, featuring Bishop Joseph Garlington.

Sumrall, like Beall, was a non-denominational leader. He founded Liberty Church in Pensacola, Florida, and a leadership organization, Church Foundational Network. He was 86 years old at his passing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A plan for reading the Greek NT

New Testament scholar Dan Wallace has put together a reading plan that is designed to encourage beginning readers of the Greek New Testament. The plan encompasses the entire NT and is organized into 30 readings, allowing proficient and ambitious readers to cover the NT in a month.

Wallace is professor of NT studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and author of the widely-used intermediate study of Koine Greek, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996). He can be seen talking about the book in a two-minute video below.

Wallace's reading plan begins with texts that can be translated from Koine Greek without much difficulty (e.g., the Johannine corpus and Mark's Gospel) and then progresses through the more complex texts, finishing with the book of Hebrews. The plan goes as follows:

John 1-11
John 12-21
1 John; 2 John; 3 John; Philemon
Mark 1-8
Mark 9-16
Matthew 1-10
Matthew 11-20
Matthew 21-28
Revelation 1-11
Revelation 12-22
1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians
Ephesians; Colossians
Philippians; Romans 1-8
Romans 9-16
1 Corinthians 1-10
1 Corinthians 11-16
Galatians; James
1 Peter; 1 Timothy
2 Timothy; Titus
Jude; 2 Peter
2 Corinthians 1-7
2 Corinthians 8-13
Luke 1-8
Luke 9-16
Luke 17-24
Acts 1-10
Acts 11-19
Acts 20-28
Hebrews 1-7
Hebrews 8-13

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Links and a photo quiz

Who is this? Answer below.
The festschrift for NT scholar Grant Osborne is entitled, On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries. It includes chapters by Don Carson, Doug Moo, Craig Evans, Kevin Vanhoozer and many others. Be prepared though, it's pricey, very pricey ... Nijay Gupta and Constantine Campbell add this year to the growing volume of literature on Colossians ... Gupta also wrote a helpful article in 2010 on the state of research in Colossians ... Cherith Fee Nordling (Gordon Fee's daughter) is among the scholars in this video discussing N. T. Wright's book, Scripture and the Authority of God ... Another scholar's daughter, Sarah Pinnock, joins Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, and others in feting her father, the late Clark Pinnock, in this 83-minute video ... Stumped when you hear deconstruction, postmodernism, and post-colonial criticism spoken about? Perhaps Yale University professor Paul Fry's ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature could be of help. All 26 video lectures are available on the Open Yale Courses website ... Regent College Publishing has released its first eBook, Gordon Fee's The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels. Its Kindle price is less than $4 ... The fifth edition of Tremper Longman's Old Testament Commentary Survey is now available ... A great tandem: the fifth edition of Robert Gundry's book, A Survey of the New Testament and his one-volume Commentary on the New Testament ... Answer to photo quiz: a youthful and unbearded N. T. Wright. He gave a sermon yesterday at Central Presbyterian Church in New York. That sermon, on Galatians 5:13-18 and entitled, Paul and the Puzzle of Freedom, can be accessed here. A transcript of it can be read here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Olson on the sovereignty of God

Roger Olson is an Arminian theologian who regularly engages Calvinists in his books, lectures, and on his blog. Today, his blog reminded me why he is my favorite theologian (a position he inherited upon the passing of Clark Pinnock).

He shared a talk that he gave at the Missio Alliance Gathering in Virginia. Here is the opening:

My office phone rang and I answered it. A stern voice said, "Is this Roger Olson?" to which I confessed. The man introduced himself as a pastor of a Baptist church in the state, implying that he was a constituent of the seminary where I teach. Anyway, I got the message. "I hear you don't believe in God's sovereignty," he declared. I responded, "Oh, really? What do you mean by 'God's sovereignty'?" He said, "You know. God is in control of everything."

I decided to play with him a little. "Oh, so you believe God caused the holocaust and every other evil event in human history? That God is the author of sin and evil?" There was a long pause. Then he said, "Well, no."

"Then do you believe in God's sovereignty?" I asked. He mumbled something about just wanting to "make sure" and hung up.

You can read the rest of the talk at Roger's blog here.

Not only does this blog share Olson's Arminian view, but his Pentecostal background as well.

Last year in Pneuma he wrote of his "Pentecostal experiences that included speaking in tongues beginning at age fourteen, laughing in the Spirit at age seventeen, and being slain in the Spirit at a Kathryn Kuhlman crusade at age twenty-one." Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies volume 34, number 3, page 323.

He is currently the Foy Valentine professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University's George W. Truett Seminary.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Synan: Pope Francis open to charismatics

Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan was interviewed on the CBN News Channel last Friday and said Pope Francis is "very open to the Charismatic Renewal" and that he (Synan) would not even be surprised if the pontiff had the operation of the gifts of the Spirit in his own life.

Synan, who is one of the most trusted authorities on Pentecostal and Charismatic history, met Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio back in 2005 at the International Charismatic Consultation in Buenos Aires.

"I would say he is a born-again Christian, as we Protestants say," Synan told CNN News Channel.

A four-minute video clip of the interview can be seen below.

[UPDATE 3/20/13] Lee Grady wrote today in his column: "Last week in this column I shared a dream in which I saw a tsunami crashing into the Vatican and turning the Catholic system upside down. When the new pope was elected, an Argentinean newspaper called him 'Tsunami Bergoglio' because they expect him to reform the stuffy, prideful, bureaucratic Vatican and challenge Catholics to return to a humble focus on Christ.

"We need the same drastic reforms on our side of the evangelical/Catholic divide. We need Pentecostal and charismatic leaders who shun the palace, reject lavish excess and get back to the basics of true gospel ministry." The entire column, entitled, "No More Pentecostal Popemobiles," can be read here.

[UPDATE 3/21/13] Charisma News is reporting today what evangelist Luis Palau told a prayer breakfast in Ft. Lauderdale:

"Known as the 'evangelical pope,' Francis has invited Palau to lay hands on him in prayer. Palau says, 'Whenever we pray together, he says, Lay your hands on me and pray for me, that God will keep me as servant. He is respectful of all sides of Christianity.'"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wright and Stendahl on glossolalia

New Testament scholars N. T. Wright and the late Krister Stendahl both have writings that address glossolalia (the NT Greek word that most translations render, tongues).

Wright, one of the few NT scholars that is able to gain traction in bookstores other than those devoted to bibles, writes,

"'Tongues' refers to the gift of speech which, through making sounds, and using apparent or even actual languages, somehow bypasses the speaker's conscious mind. Such speech is experienced as a stream of praise in which, though the speaker may not be able to articulate precisely what is being said (a point to which Paul will draw attention later on), a sense of love for God, of adoration and gratitude, wells up and overflows. It is like a private language of love." - in Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (Westminster John Knox Press), pp. 181-182.

Stendahl, who was a professor at Harvard Divinity School, wrote,

"It seems to me that the witness of  the New Testament texts as to the phenomenon called glossolalia is quite clear and quite simple - and quite up to date. The various texts carry with them a certain critique of the situation today. The history of our main traditions is one of fragmentation and impoverishment within the Christian community. As I read Paul it seems clear to me that if the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and all the 'proper' Christians, including the Catholics, did not consciously or unconsciously suppress such phenomena as glossolalia, and if other denominations did not especially encourage them, then the gifts of the Spirit - including glossolalia - would belong to the common register of Christian experience." - in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles: And Other Essays (Fortress Press), p. 121.