Headed to SNTS and Evangelical Manifesto Fallout July 28

Well, I have been quiet for a while. Not much happening in the comment world, plus I have spent a great deal of time responding to a series of queries on homosexuality tied to the comments on the previous entry which you should check out.

Well, I have been quiet for a while. Not much happening in the comment world, plus I have spent a great deal of time responding to a series of queries on homosexuality tied to the comments on the previous entry which you should check out.

Tomorrow I head for Lund, Sweden and the international NT scholars meetings (SNTS). That will be followed by two more weeks in Israel, and then a set of meetings in Berlin to discuss sharing the gospel and Jewish people. When I return, it will be time for the fall semester.

I have been listening to the radio, especially on some Christian channels and it amazes me how some Christians can distort a message made by other Christians. (I guess I should not be surprised).  One recent presentation tried to argue that "Even some Christians have tried to argue we should no longer make the right to life a key issue." The remark was made next to what the world also says, a kind of guilt by association tinged as it was with remarks about compromise. Another treatment in First Things complained about evangelicals seeking accpetance, which also was not the point. Someone should read Matthew 5:14-16 to see the call of Jesus to believers is to serve in the world in such a manner that God’s reputation is advanced. The point in the Manifesto, which pressed for personal and corporate reflection, was that when we do not keep balance we risk distorting who God is and misrepresenting his concerns to a needy world. Those who wrote the document all know what it is to stand up for the gospel in a world where many virulently oppose it–and have done so in their service for the church. The allusion in both cases was certainly to the Evangelical Manifesto.

Now these are overstatements about the point of the document, which was that there are many key issues tied to the sacred quality of life, including the right to life. The point some object to is the idea that there is not one single overarching, litmus test issue. On the other end of the spectrum, Brian McLaren has launched an effort named something like the Matthew 25 initiative, asking for what seems to be unqualified support for the forces of change. This also reflects a lack of appreciation for the point in the Manifesto that believers need to assess issues one case at a time, not with blanket endorsements. Issues need to be weighed individually and together to get a sense of where we should be going. I suspect that each side in this public debate has places where they have things to contribute and things to be careful about endorsing. So the discussion is not helped by a passionate leaping on to one side or the other, ignoring the questionable features on a given side as the leap is made. Such measured discussion seems to be lacking, and it is what our society needs and what the church should offer.This is especially important in a context where the discussion is so polarized to one side and the other.

In my house we have five who can vote. The other night we were all roaming through a variety of issues. On some we could see where one side had the better of the case, while on others the reverse was true (nor did we all agree on each, but at least there was the honesty to admit the complexity of the choices). I have often wondered where the advocacy groups are whose report card on a given set of candiates might be split, rather than heavily leaning to one side or the other (giving the impression by the lop-sided measure that only a blind person would choose the other side). It is sorting through this kind of complexity that makes for significant debate and for appreciating the complexity of making a theologically and ethically sensitive choice in an election context. Seeing that factor might also enhance our respect for each other as we engage in the debate on many of these issues, leading to a more civil and substantive conversation.

If I may make a recommendation as an example, you might check out the book by M. Daniel Carroll Rodas on Chistians at the Border, a serious look at immigration and what policy choices do to certain families and people groups, many of whom were originally encouraged to come here. It is thoughtful, rooted in discussions of ethics and values from the OT and NT. It serves as an example of the way to have discussion on a key individual issue.



  • Brad Dickey

    Advancing God’s reputation
    Someone should read Matthew 5:14-16 to see the call of Jesus to believers is to serve in the world in such a manner that God’s reputation is advanced.

    Mat 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

    Mat 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

    Mat 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

    Dr. Bock,

    Technically I’m an unschooled (theologically speaking) heretic. But I’m there honestly. I ask, seek and knock. I dig for answers in scripture. I try to reconcile the scripture myself. I think that by asking seeking and knocking, no matter how challenging it can be at times a supernatural Spirit of God will help me find what I am to know.

    I’m picking at myself a bit in fun in how I say what I say. But I don’t claim to have your expertise or years of study. And I want you to know I know that to be the case. BUT, I still feel the comment above is error ridden and I want to address it. I must address it.

    I’m the guy who engages people in talks about God and the church often. Atheists love to chat with me because I give them a fresh view and arguments they’ve not faced before. (their words, not mine.) I understand what they wrote about in unChristian as to why people are turned off from the Church. I’m the one who tries to answer for the Church’s sins in the world, to help people reconcile those issues and unite with God.

    So with respect I say this boldly, and with no reservation, that we should NOT make legislation part of our witness! It’s of the flesh in so much as it causes division. It’s against the tennets of “love your neighbor” as there is no love from me to someone because I pushed through legislation. The fruit is conflict and separation. There is nothing good from that. Saving a life at all costs is not good theology. And the cost to that position is grossly hubris ridden for the evangelicals pushing that agenda.

    We stand against the deaths of children in the womb. We ARE united here.

    We should reach them as we were taught by Jesus. Love our neighbors. How many people in the Church even know their neighbors? How many are involved with children or parents in their neighborhood? We avoid contact with people, period in our culture. We in the Church are not much different. Certainly I am not addressing every solitary believer. But I think you understand why I’m making the observation.

    We should be involved with the children BEFORE they face a the consequences of their behavior. We should be actively developing relationships in our communities. If your Church left its community, would anyone other than the members miss it? Are the churches felt in community? Or do they sit huddled in their holy masses under the steeple of the building they congregate in?

    If we want to stop abortions, we should face our failure at having relationships with those in our communities so we can help them to make better decisions in life. This isn’t about preaching, its about living life. Being examples, mentors, and having relationships that go beyond trying to preach to them. If we’ll just love them, that demonstrable love we study in the message of the Christ will be the catalyst He works with them through. Love them with free abandon and don’t leverage our love to them, as contingent on them coming to church. Let them and God work that out, but be prepared to supply for their needs, even spiritually where we are given opportunity.

    The choice to drive for legislation will cause more separation, not congregation. It will cause more anger than thankfulness. Its us moving against the movement of The Way, and moving to our way. It’s not Loving our neighbor, its loving our moral superiority.

    I beg you to reconsider your position.

    Thank you for hearing me out.

    Be His,


    • bock

      God’s reputation dlb


      Where did I say anything about legislation in the post? I did say we should make our case for the unborn. Whether a specific piece of legislation is the best way to do that or some other means (like moral suasion, as you suggest) I did not say. I do know many who oppose abortion who also seek to take care of mothers who are pregnant or who come for help. So be careful of overgeneralizing. Take such issues one part at a time. There might be bills that are worth supporting. Others may not be wise. But in the end legislation means little if it is not backed up with an understanding for why it is wise to have it. Plus someone needs to give love to the child who is not wanted and has no say.


  • Magnus Nordlund

    The Divinity of Christ in the Gospel of John
    Dr Bock! In Sweden, on one of the bigger swedish Christian blogs, there is a battle about the biblical foundation of the divinity of Christ … My own concerns, however, regards the Ego Eimi expressions.

    Many scholars (i.e. commentaries) seems to be very fond of making big claims of the Ego Eimi-sayings in the gospel of John – i.e. that these sayings alludes to Exodus 3:14 and the equivalent I AM:saying of YHWH… Is that really so?

    i. The “ego eimi” is just in intself a personal pronoun followed by a verb and used in a more prosaic way elsewhere in the gospels for instance by the blind man in Jn 9:9 (ἄλλοι ἔλεγον ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν: ἄλλοι ἔλεγον, Οὐχί, ἀλλὰ ὅμοιος αὐτῷ ἐστιν. ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι). Why do we choose to translate his self-expression with “I am the man” and not as: I Am (which we so often does concerning Jesus statements).

    ii. The LXX-version of Ex. 3:14 has “Ego Eimi” – followed by a substantivized participle ὁ ὤν.
    (Ἑγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν· καὶ εἶπεν Οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ Ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς.).
    This raises a lot of questions for me of why John never uses the particple “The Being” concerning the “I Am sayings” in his Gospel (in order that it would be beyond a shadow of dobut that these sayings refers back to Exodus and making claims of his divinity so to speak).

    iii. There are huge theological implications if the I Am sayings in John only has the prosaic meaning of I am without divine connotations (as the messianic movment often claims today).

    Let me show you two important passages concerning the Ἑγώ εἰμι which involves huge theological implications:
    a. 8:58: εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.

    b. 8:24 εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν: ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.

    How do we know that these – I am sayings – deliberately alludes to the Great “I Am” in Exodus 3:14??

    Sincerely Magnus Nordlund, Sweden.

    • bock

      I am dlb



      To be honest, I have felt for a long time that this issue has been overstated. I do think John 8:58 goes there, since it appeals to a pre-existence for Jesus. Not sure about other texts. They should be discussed one context at a time. They probably mean something like I am who I claim to be. Others are simply positive replies.


  • Magnus Nordlund

    The only-begotten God of p66 and p75
    Dr, Bock! Thanks for your answer regarding the I Am-sayings… I do agree…

    Ive got a final question regarding the translation of John 1:18.
    θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε: μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

    i. μονογενὴς θεὸς. A lot of people among the Messianic Movement in Sweden suggests that this expressions is faulty and could not have been the author’s original; therefore it must have been altered (or perhaps corrected) by later scribes…
    What’s your opinion on this crucial wording? Older bible translation do prefers the “ho monogenes huios”- wording.

    ii. NIV translates the above: No-one har ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is att hte Father’s side, has made him known.

    iii. NRSV: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known.

    Nestle-Aland introduced this reading from p66 and p75 (except for the article before μονογενὴς) … Even though these sources are old, does that mean they are correct?

    Sincerely Magnus Nordlund

    • bock

      only-begotten dlb


      I will have to get back to this to give the detail, but the point of the line is little altered either way. John has already called Jesus the Word and God in John 1:1. Only-begotten here is a way to say Unique. All the translations do well here to give a good sense of the passage.