The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne

book spiral

This massive book lives up to its subtitle of “a comprehensive introduction to Biblical interpretation”. It’s the fullest volume I have seen on the subject and it brings the word encyclopedic to mind. There’s no way that you could find any subject in the field of hermeneutics not mentioned in this book. Its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness as it may be simply to prolix for some people. Still, Grant Osborne has had as much direction in the scholarly world for hermeneutics study as anyone in the last 30 years. Additionally, this busy scholar has written a few important commentaries along the way.

His conception of hermeneutics as a spiral form from text to context has become the preeminent academic theory of biblical interpretation today. In this book, he breaks down the hermeneutical spiral in great detail. In his lengthy introduction, he explains the issues of interpretation, the difficulty of acquiring meaning, how to view the Scriptures, the place of the reader in interpretation, and how the goal of hermeneutics is expository preaching.

Part 1 is on general hermeneutics and covers five chapters. He takes in turn context, grammar, semantics, syntax, and historical and cultural backgrounds. In each case, he describes the range of things that has been believed in the subjects and strongly argues for his own perspective. Again, the detail is incredible and covers main issues as well as esoteric ones.

Part 2 covers genre analysis, or what we might call special cases in hermeneutics, in nine chapters. In my opinion, he shined even more in this part. The special sections of the Bible can be difficult in biblical interpretation and he gives much food for thought in every category. Even where I could not agree with him, I found him both exhaustive and interesting.

Part 3 is special. He calls it applied hermeneutics and he covers biblical theology, systematic theology, homiletics– contextualization, and homiletics– the sermon. This section continues past where most hermeneutics books end. In making the natural progression to homiletics, he provides almost a second book on that needed subject for preachers all within the same covers of this book. There’s two appendices at the end on some fairly-narrow scholarly issues too.

There’s no doubt that this is a five-star book. The only question is if it’s too much for some readers. For those who want THE book on hermeneutics, this is it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (3rd Ed.)

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William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard, Jr. have teamed to give us one of the best hermeneutics textbooks that is in print today. It’s been popular with students since it was first written in 1993 and this third edition ensures its use for years to come. It has an attractive hardback cover to complement its substantial contents. I’ve perused several of these volumes on biblical interpretation that’s on the market today, and find this book to be one of the top choices.

Coming in at over 600 pages, this book deserves the label of in-depth. It might be a little tough to those who have never studied hermeneutics before, but those who have will love this volume. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s well-written, accessible, but covers a lot of information.

Chapter 1 on the need for interpretation drew a nice portrait of why hermeneutics are so important in studying the Bible. Without proper hermeneutics, the Bible gets to mean what anyone wants it to mean. When that happens, it means nothing. The next three chapters on history, literary and social-scientific approaches, and the canon and translations were not as interesting to me as what followed. In fact, some of the social scientific approaches gave credence to groups whose voice is off-base in interpreting the Bible. If those things are your interest, you will find those chapters well done.

Chapters 5 and 6 serve to allow the reader to see his or herself in the process of interpretation. Chapters 7 through 10 are the heart of the book. Those chapters cover the nuts and bolts of hermeneutics. There are a few things discussed the strike me as splitting the hair a little too fine, yet every hermeneutics textbook will discuss these things today. You will appreciate the choice writing that illuminates some rather technical information. There’s good help for interpreting different parts of the Bible and in both Testaments.

After chapter 11 delved into what we gain from proper interpretation, chapter 12 discussed the immensely important subject of application. Without application, interpretation is a hollow exercise. The authors did a good job in giving hints at how to make application after interpretation is done.

I’ve had the chance to study this subject in great detail, and I picked up a few key points in this book that I really appreciate. I don’t see how you can go wrong getting this book and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Minister’s Obstacles–An Awesome Reprint

book turnbull

I’m excited to see this superb book reprinted. I found an old copy of this book early in my ministry and it made quite an impact on me. It’s crazy that it went out of print. It’s truly one of the great titles on the ministry that has been written. In fact, when I started a series a few years ago on the best books for ministry, I recommended this book. (Read me earlier review here).

The story behind this reprint is touching. Marty Moon fell in love with this book and was saddened to realize that preachers today did not have it available to glean from. He also wanted to give a gift to his pastor, Bill Lytell of Gospel Baptist Church, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as pastor. On March 5, 2017 Pastor Lytell was presented with a copy of this book reprinted in his honor. Clearly, Mr. Moon saw in Pastor Lytell the great traits exemplified in this book.

Your pastor would likely be blessed by a copy too.

Click here to find on Amazon.

Ministry Mantras by Briggs and Hyatt

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J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt present a discussion and encouragement for ministry that uses key statements as the angle to get us to have clear focus on ministry. While it might strike you as only slogans that appeal to our distracted generation, or even clichés that sound cute, the book does manage to push us in ministry.

Some of the mantras were just a reminder of what we should know, but others were quite profound. The one “Leadership is purposefully choosing whom you will disappoint”, especially when it was demonstrated that Jesus practised this in His ministry, is an example.

The mantras are categorized as either leadership, vision, motivation,ministry, pastoral care, leadership development, opportunities, success, spirituality, expectations, community, formation, conflict, outreach, and stewardship, though there is clearly overlap. Some you have heard, but many you have not.

Only occasionally did they give the impression that if your ministry doesn’t look like theirs it’s substandard. Overall, I enjoyed reading this volume. To my mind, you could either read this straight through as a regular book like I did, or you might read one mantra a day to spread out the challenge. Either way, it is a solid effort.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid

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I think I have found what I will use as my premier resource for evangelism in church and personal ministry. This volume by Alvin Reid is at once a passionate call for evangelism and a practical guide to several aspects of it. A Foreward by Thom Rainer and an Afterword by Roy Fish tells you type of book this one is going to be. It did not disappoint.

I loved Part 1 that was nine chapters on why evangelism is so essentially Biblical. It was so well done and accurate. It had the flavor and fervor of the old writers of evangelism, yet it was fully up-to-date.

Part 2 was five chapters on a subject that is missing in many modern works on evangelism–spiritual resourses. Some works present evangelism in such a mechanical way that methods, they suggest, guarantee results. Reid explains the role of the Spirit and the need of real spirituality on our parts. He also explained the nedd of and use of a personal testimony.

The rest of the book is good counsel on how to carry out evangelism and how to be missional. There may have been a sentence or a quote here and there that I disagreed with, but this book is nothing short of a home run!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Choosing A Sermon Subject

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Do you ever have that sinking feeling as Sunday draws ever closer that comes when you can’t decide what to preach on? I have had some tell me that this problem is the hardest they face in the pastorate. If they preach three times a week, that pressure can be strong. What can be done about it?

Some grow to believe that there must be something wrong with them since ideas don’t come easily at a rate of three a week. Some just change pastorates often so they can just use the same sermons. While there is a place for the use of an old sermon, it ought not be simply because I can’t think of a new one. Some wonder if they just aren’t close enough to the Lord anymore!

Could the problem be more the whole approach than a lack of creativity? Could the normal method be doomed from the start? The normal method is first I chose a subject or idea, then I select a text to highlight my subject or idea. From there I may chose to go the topical route. That presents quite a problem in a long pastorate. Just how many good topical sermons can one person come up with on a specific subject?

I heard one famous preacher once claim he really only had 20 topics he preached on and he just rotated them. He had quite a following. His sermons varied from topical to loosely textual. I suspect that would not be effective for most of us.

The problem is that we would likely try to make a connection with our “found” text and our topic. After we make that connection to our satisfaction, we likely will fall into the same old platitudes we said the last time we preached on the subject. Imagine the topic is prayer–you’ll just start saying we need to pray more with no new reason from last time. If you’re not careful, you’ll even use the same illustrations. (We’re talking about the preacher’s problem today, but maybe the discussion should be on the congregation’s problem!)

Even if we went the textual or expository route, which is far preferable, we have to find the text that really matches our subject. What will we do if we start deeply studying and finally figure out that our text in its context is not really talking about our subject? Sunday will be even closer! That seems living on the edge.

So what do I suggest? You would never guess it from my misleading blog title. Give up choosing a sermon subject! Just choose a text! See where it takes you and just preach it.

I keep a sermon seed plot that is nothing but a list of texts that jumped off the page at me. In reading or studying you will be all across the Bible, so there will be many opportunities. You may be reading books and the author mentions a text in passing, and there’s another one for the seed plot. I probably never have less than thirty of these in my seed plot, so it’s just a quick prayer of “Which one, Lord?”, and I am on my way. No agonizing over a subject for me. I may not even know my subject till I’ve studied for a few hours.

You may ask, How does that allow for trying to address perceived needs in the congregation? Of course, a text may come because I am thinking about a perceived need, but not necessarily. This is hard for me to prove, but I have often been amazed at how the text addressed these needs. As for me, I believe I would be far less likely to address needs were I to try to pick that first. I’ll offer the flimsy evidence that I have on occasion thought a text would address issues only to find a careful study of the passage led me somewhere else and was far better than where I thought I was going.

This doesn’t only refer to preaching through a Bible book or a series. In my ministry, I have settled into not doing a series on Sunday morning. We may be anywhere in the Bible at that service. By the way, this is how Spurgeon did most of his services.

This method has other advantages. Remember our discussing how our topical preaching may fall into triteness? If you preach topically on prayer, for example, you will run out of things to say quickly. But the Bible is full of passages on prayer that approaches the subject freshly and creatively in every case. What you can do, then, is tap your preaching into the Bible’s natural creativity. You’ll never have to be dull or trite again! Plus you won’t waste all that time just trying to pick a subject any more. Happy preaching!

The Foolishness Of Preaching Podcast–Encouraging Bible Preaching!

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I hope you have heard of Ryan Hayden’s new podcast–The Foolishness of Preaching. Ryan did a lot of blogging in the past and chose to try a new avenue to champion the cause of expository preaching. He believes, as I do, that the dearth of preaching the Bible is the cause of many of the problems we have today. We have too much in pulpits of what man says–we need to hear what God says!

Ryan takes preachers who love expository preaching and interviews them on philosophy of preaching and ministry, study methods, favorite books, and then personal elements of the preacher. Ryan is quite the interviewer and puts a lot of time in this weekly project. This is a positive, wonderful attempt to help the cause of preaching.

Check out his website for the podcast to sign up on iTunes or other devices here:

The Foolishness of Preaching

I was honored to be one of the ones interviewed and it came out this week and you can find it here:

Reagan Episode

Maybe it will be an OK episode. I have a face that only audio could love!

In any event, I am honored that Ryan would put me on his fine podcast.

Sola Scriptura–Is The Bible Our Only Guide? (IBTR #73)

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Sola Scriptura–By Scripture alone! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? To that I give a hearty Amen! In Baptist churches that I have been around we have worded the same idea a little differently–The Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. To my ear that has a nice ring as well. Sign me up–It’s what I believe.

Sometimes what we profess to believe is not what we actually believe. That is called hypocrisy. But that does not exhaust our error. Sometimes what we think we believe is not what we actually practice. That is misunderstanding that requires we face it so our heads can catch up to what we thought our hearts championed.

Early in this series I wrote on “We Preach The Word Of God! Really?” and went hard after something I feel passionate about: Biblical (Expository) Preaching. As I argued there, despite our claims, there is a dearth of it in the Independent Baptist world.

Strangely enough, I had an unusual experience preaching last Sunday. I preached on “He Added No More” from Deuteronomy 5:22. It was an exciting passage to study and preach. It was Moses recounting the giving of the 10 Commandments 38 years after the event happened in Exodus 20. The phrase is key because had it only meant “He was finished talking” it would not have even needed to be said. Whether it be the 10 Commandments, the Law of God, the plan of salvation, or the Bible itself, He gave all we need. It is complete and permanent. He gave it and “He added no more”.

A lovely couple was visiting from out-of-town and as they were leaving they were complimenting how much they enjoyed that Scripture. The lady told me that she had spent her life in Independent Baptist churches and it had been her experience that the sermons so often added more. So much, in fact, that she could not find what she heard in Scripture! The Lord may have added no more, but the preacher sure did in many experiences she had apparently had.

I need not rehash that refrain so common from my lips. Yes, we who preach God’s Word must hold the high standard of preaching God’s actual Word. Oops, there I go again!

But it does suggest another issue as well. Whether the preacher we are listening to actually sticks to the text or not, we are still responsible to the text. Sola Scriptura is not lived by proxy. The Bible is not only the final authority in matters of faith and practice for a congregation, but for me individually.

What does that mean? I can not turn over my understanding of God’s Word to someone else. If it works like it is supposed to, your pastor can be a great aid to digging out God’s Word. But if he fails, you are not off the hook. You are responsible.

It goes farther. You can not allow some man to make all the decisions for your life for you; not while you hold that wonderful Bible in your hand and have the Almighty God waiting to be sought by you so as to guide you.

There are some preachers who are a shame to the ministry, and others who are an embarrassment to those who love the Bible, but they do not absolve me from letting the Bible be my guide. This is the other side of the truth we must all remember.

Find all articles in the series here.

I Can’t Believe I’m 45!

I really can’t. That is only old in comparison to your own age–some seniors might think I am still a kid. Other young ones might think it is pretty much over for me. In my mind I don’t feel old, but the other day at a thrift store the cashier asked me if I wanted the senior discount. I tried to console myself that she was either senile or blind. When I thought about how she was holding down a job and didn’t wear glasses I decided to think of something else.

While visiting my parents last week, I looked at a lot of pictures. To look at them and then walk by a mirror was a jolt. Then for a Facebook birthday card my daughter Briley did a 4-picture collage with current pictures of me and one where I was holding her as a baby. All I can say is I am glad that I am preacher and my hobbies are reading and blogging and such things. Can you imagine my diminishing prospects if I were a movie star? Besides feeling a little sorry for my wife Alicia, I think, though, that I won’t lose too much sleep over this part of being 45.

I used to play a game. When I was 20, I would say to myself that I was half way to 40. Now…I don’t want to play that game anymore. On a more serious note, I have had four relatives die when they were 45. My mother, Patricia Reagan, is the oldest of 5 children and she lost her brother when he was 45, then a few years later, her sister died at 45. It is hard for me to believe I am now the age that they were. Then there was a cousin and his wife on my Dad’s side who died at 45. I have been reminding myself that I am a Christian and I am not superstitious.

But there is value in the thoughts that accompany accumulating birthdays. I actually enjoyed reading every birthday wish on Facebook, and the day being about me–two great bookstores as we drove back from Tennessee. More than that, I am thankful to have lived this long, to have been a husband, father, and pastor, and to know the growing joys of being God’s child. I have watched my children all get saved and even had the distinct pleasure of baptizing each of them.

45 even has value over 1-44. You might say that I better watch out for a mid-life crisis, but I really believe my beloved Alicia’s paralysis already provided that for me. I felt like a deck of cards in a card sharks hands getting shuffled all around. That is how it felt, but of course, I was always in the loving hands of my Heavenly Father who loved me too much not to do surgery on many ugly things in my heart. I imagine there is more that needs done, but I don’t want to think of that today either.

Age brings some wisdom. Warped thinking gets exposed when the years stretch a little for perspective. I don’t think the same about myself or my life as I once did. Before I was more infected with the common but misplaced thinking that life was a quest to be great; that success was reaching pinnacles, being noticed, shining a little more than those around me, or gathering at least some measure of fame.

I have had the tiniest little experience with it. My blog, so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, made me more well known than before. I have had plenty of strangers write me or come up to meet me. While I might enjoy it, the little bit of popularity has not made me a better person. I love to help others, and that is worthwhile, but the enlarged presence does nothing for your soul. Then, there is my wife whose disability, and our tagging along in her adventures, really puts us out there. Finally, my children (I love them so much) are gifted musically. People love to hear them and so do I. [I pray I can teach them that having musical talent does not make them one iota better than others who hit a sour note every time they try]. Isn’t it funny that two of the things I mentioned aren’t really about me? The first one that is me would not be so had not one of the main series on my blog been controversial in some circles. Such is fame–fickle, fleeting, and faulty.

Does any of that bother me? Not at all! I have learned what Psalm 75:6 means: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.” That is to say that God chooses. Why is God not unfair when He promotes one and not another? Because it is not the point of life. It makes no difference. It is not a reward for the value of your life’s work. It is put together by a plan that is for God’s designs. Your privilege is to get to be involved in His purposes, whatever they may be. I pity those who strain and manipulate to rustle fame. Even if you get it, that is but to get to the end of the rainbow and find a leprechaun snickering at you who turns out to be Lucifer himself.

The real success in life is in what God has put right in front of you. The best work cannot be quantified and rewarded. To invest in our children or those we minister to will bring no accolades today, but carry real value. I accomplish more if I go the extra mile in sermon preparation till I really discover what God is saying and lay aside the clever things I am thinking. The audience will never know, but my Lord will. There are plenty of other examples, but I believe you can finish this paragraph as well as I can.

So for all the talk out there about doing something big in the ministry, I am no longer interested. That can too quickly disintegrate into making a name for myself using God’s name in a Madison Avenue-type approach. My goal for how ever many years I get past 45 is to be big in His plans. Big or small, it is about Him. That fills all the self-worth needs I could ever have as I fully believe that life is only about that day my time is over here and I finally look upon His face.

So I really am not worried about being 45. Whether I see 105, or never see 46, I have today to be a willing participant in the eternal saga of His Kindgom. Far from being just satisfied with that thought, I say what could possibly be better?