Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A master's degree retrospective

J. I. Packer strolls through the stacks in the John Richard Allison library.
Friday night is the annual convocation for Regent College in Vancouver. A night for wearied - but academically and spiritually enriched - students to walk for their master's degrees. I am honored to be among those graduating students this year.

My anticipation of Friday night's celebration evokes a variety of memories from my Regent experience. Here are some:
  • Choking back tears as we sang Be My Guide in orientation back in September 2010. They aren't just smart people - the new fifty-something student thought - they really love the Lord!
  • Delight as Carolyn Hindmarsh was careful to incorporate devotional thoughts into our study of New Testament Greek.
  • Gratitude as Phil Long simply smiled patiently at my tongue-tied attempts to pronounce Hebrew words in an oral test.
  • Chuckling at Iain Provan's comments on Daniel 6:10: I think a lot of Christians have read rebellion into Daniel's actions, as though he opened the windows and said, "Hey boys, I'm up here praying, whatta ya think about that?!" (The humor of the remark was enhanced by his dulcet Scottish accent.)
  • The approbation received from J. I. Packer for a paper written about two of his Anglican contemporaries, John R. W. Stott and Michael Harper:  Factually exact - Packer wrote, adding - (as I can testify first-hand).
  • Gratitude that Gerry Schoberg gently corrected me for advancing a wrongheaded argument in the NT Seminar: Jesus and Paul. (My wife is very amused by the fact that this particular wrongheaded argument was first advanced by .... N. T. Wright. I had protested to Gerry, "Wright says ...." to which Gerry responded, "I'm sure he does.")
  • Receiving spiritual healing from the injury caused by some lifelong misunderstandings. The healing came via the reading of John Stackhouse's Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. (Remember the comment above: academically and spiritually enriched.)
  • The button-popping moment when I read Bryan Burton's comment on one of my papers about the doctrine of justification: One of the best engagements with Wright & Piper I have seen with students. (You wouldn't seriously think I could resist printing that, right?)
  • The edifying fellowship that developed in our Soul of Ministry small group. Sherlene, Cindy, Casey, and Jeremy received, strengthened, and informed this old guy  :-)
  • Getting a very high mark (yep, that one!) in the Gospel of Mark from world-class Markan scholar Rikk Watts. Such courses, expertise, and evaluation are the sweetest joy of graduate level education.
  • The beauty of my final 90 minutes at Regent College listening to the Missa Solemnis and appreciating Sven Soderlund's guidance through it (Sven has been such a helpful mentor in so many ways it was only fitting that my final moments at Regent would be enriched by him).
Time to walk  :-)

No syllabi or notes here ... this notebook is reserved for every paper I wrote at Regent College.
[UPDATE 7/9/14]  Shaking hands with Regent College president Rod Wilson after receiving my master's degree at the convocation in May. (Ken McAllister Photography)
[UPDATE 7/9/14] The Chan Centre - the site for Regent College's 44th convocation. (Ken McAllister Photography)

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.

[UPDATE 4/26/14 - Roger has posted a splendid new item, "Theologians I Have Known: Reflections on Their Personalities Part 1" ... UPDATE 5/2/14 - Part 2 can be read 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.

[UPDATE 8/1/14 - We can add a fifth up-to-date source that has just been published: the fourth edition of How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. The book has sold over 900,000 copies and each edition has included commentary recommendations in the back of the book. Of particular interest to me are the NT commentaries that Fee says are "particularly outstanding" (he highlights these commentaries with an asterisk; Stuart does not follow this practice in his OT selections). The NT commentaries that Fee thinks are particularly outstanding are: Raymond E. Brown's two volumes on the Gospel of John in the Anchor Bible series, Peter Davids' commentary on 1 Peter in the New International Commentary on the NT series, and Richard Bauckham's commentary on 2 Peter and Jude which are bound together in the Word Biblical Commentary series. For me, the commentary recommendations (every book of the Bible has recommendations) have been alone worth the price of the book each time it has been issued.]

[UPDATE 8/2/14 - Yet another source published this year is the second edition of Craig Keener's IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. As part of the introduction that precedes his own comments for each NT book, Keener provides commentary recommendations, as well as recommendations of special studies.]

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 H. 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).

from The Lima Recorder (June 19, 1980)
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). 
Judith & Bob Mumford today

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).

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 the late 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).

Mumford and Buckingham in the 1970s.
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 July 2014 - A 10-minute video clip from one of Bob's recent teachings can be seen here.]

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.