Guns, Mass Killings, and an Article that Makes Sense of It

We live on the superficial edges of the debate about what conclusions we should draw for the increasingly common disasters like occurred in Las Vegas. Within  hours of the heartbreaking tragedy the discussion turned to guns. First, may God help the grieving people of that evil act!

Some of us have wondered about inconsistencies that have made their way around the web. Were there more shooters? Is information being held back? My conclusion? Who knows. I’ve heard good arguments both ways. My gut is that some things still don’t exactly add up, but I suspect we’ll never really know. I’m not in a place to get answers, and neither are any who read this. 

I’ve been thinking about this whole gun debate ( I’m for honoring the Second Ammendment, but only own old guns handed down to me–I could shoot an intruder, but couldn’t wage a small war). I am a student of history and know that all the atrocious dictatorships, especially of the Twentieth Century, took the guns away before they brutalized and slaughtered millions. I also know that a gun law could never stop someone who already intends to commit a more heinous crime. If I intended to break the law and mass kill people, would a gun law give me even a momentary pause?

On the other hand, I realize that when something terrible, and even senseless, happens, our first reaction is to do something. Unfortunately, human nature is more satisfied in doing something quickly that doing something helpful. Let’s all take a breath and remember there’s no easy answer or quick solution. Even worse, I assure you our problems are much too deep for the superficial, self-sustaining politicians of our day. 

I also know the citizens of our country are going to dismiss with a roll of their eyes my first solution: we need a major turning to God. We need Jesus Christ. Forgive my pessimism, but I suspect things will have to get worse–much worse–before it’s even considered. 

In the meanwhile, there’s some societal trends worth noting. I came across an article that’s so good I wish I had written it. It’s by a master of political writing, Peggy Noonan. I share it below. Don’t haggle over ever sentence, but interact with what she says. I hear truth in her words.

The article 
God bless!

Matthew (NIGTC) by Nolland

nigtc matt

John Nolland delivered this major, massive commentary on Matthew in the highly-respected New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series. I’ve had his three-volume commentary on Luke in WBC for several years, and had heard that most scholars found this volume on Matthew more energetic and robust than the earlier one on Luke. After my own interaction with this commentary, I fully agree with that assessment. Further, though this is a Greek series, those who do not read Greek will find no problem as most every Greek phrase has its English counterpart nearby. For that reason, a wider range of readers than you might expect can check out this thoroughly scholarly volume.

The bibliographies in this book are gigantic. On the other hand, the Introduction is shorter than I expected. The commentary proper is the perfect length for the important Book of Matthew. If you want to know the author’s viewpoint, he defines it himself in the preface as a “redaction-critical” work that also uses narrative criticism.

He begins the Introduction with a discussion of the authorship of Matthew. Unfortunately, he finds it unlikely that Matthew wrote the book. In the next section, he wrote about the sources of Matthew with a grating certainty that I could not follow at all. In fairness, however, he’s no worse than many other scholars who write the major exegetical commentaries. In a surprising twist for one who doubts the authorship of Matthew as being Matthew, he still finds the book written fairly early, at least before 70 A.D. The Introduction became much more helpful when he wrote about the provenance of Matthew and other structural and unique features of Matthew. He managed to dip back into the unproductive conversation of sources at other points of the introduction, but was much more productive when he discussed the theology of Matthew. What you don’t want to miss his annotated structural outline of Matthew. That was an awesome way to present an outline!

In the commentary proper, each passage has his translation, brief textual notes, a bibliography for just that passage, and clearly marked off commentary of each verse. He is very thorough in what he addresses. While there are plenty of examples of some esoteric features that only appeals to scholars, there’s much productive, interesting, and helpful information to be gleaned from what he has written.

The competition is fierce among major exegetical commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, but this volume cannot be overlooked because of the important contribution it makes to scholarship.

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.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.)- Volume 9: Matthew-Mark

book ebc 9

Volume 9 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (revised edition) covers only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Fortunately, that means that Matthew, one of the most important books of the Bible, gets a great deal of extra space in the series. D.A. Carson, one of the most respected scholars of our day, handles Matthew in this volume. It seems to me that Carson’s Matthew is the most heralded volume in either the old set, or this new revised series of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

Although the rewrite was not substantial, Carson’s Matthew still holds its place among the commentaries on Matthew available today. Carson wrote a substantial Introduction. He begins discussing the criticism of Matthew, or in other words, how critical scholars have debated the book of Matthew. Considering Carson’s reputation in conservative circles, his credence of the opinion of some of the more critical scholars is somewhat surprising. Still, his work is outstanding. He addresses history and theology, as well as the synoptic problem, and again entertains more than I could. In any event, I can hardly imagine a better overview. When he discusses authorship, he is tentatively agreeable to the historic position of Matthew being the author. On subjects like occasion, purpose, and structure, he begs for restraint. His discussion of themes and special problems was well done. While the text of the Introduction was not altered greatly from the original volume, I noticed the footnotes and bibliography were updated a great deal.

The commentary on Matthew would just what you’d expect from Carson – detailed, careful, cautious, thoughtful, and with skilled scholarship. He is occasionally harsh, but this is one of the most important commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew available today.

The Gospel of Mark received a more substantial rewrite. The work of the late Walter Wessel, much appreciated by pastors in the old set, was thoroughly updated by scholar Mark Strauss. The Introduction was also updated a great deal, I noticed, when I laid the old and new volumes side by side. The upgrade was a success. The new work covers in its Introduction the place of Mark’s gospel in biblical studies, genre, authorship, origin and destination, date, occasion and purpose, literary features, and ends with a bibliography and outline. The commentary itself was also effectively updated.

The 2-for-1 nature of this volume, along with the fact that the Matthew portion is considered one of the premier commentaries on Matthew, means you can’t go wrong in adding this book to your library. It’s a good deal 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.

The Most Thoughtful Article I’ve Seen On North Korea

This article is important because it illustrates the one thing we are overlooking. At least I was overlooking it. Maybe you were not.

Total war is different than limited war. Let’s just bomb them like we did Iraq won’t bring the happy results it did then. We’ve fought limited wars for so long you’d have to go back to the WWII generation to have any idea.

Whatever we do, and likely there is no perfect option, we must keep this in mind.

Without further ado, here the timely article we all need to consider:

Into the Abyss-the Scenario for the Next Korean War 

The Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.

Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

book introverts

What a wonderful book! As an introvert myself, I’m thrilled to report that introvert Adam McHugh has looked into who we are and explained it perfectly. Only a true introvert could have explained the feelings and perceptions of an introvert with such accuracy. Not only does this book contain what introverts have been waiting a long time to hear, but it’s also a perfect primer for extroverts to understand all of us introverts that they have always been clueless about. As the title suggests, McHugh brings this important discussion into churches. He seeks to guide introverts in “finding our place in an extroverted culture”.

I was hooked by the preface. When he explained that we would have to dig in this subject to the point that it might appear that he was “feeding the impression that we are misanthropic weirdos”, I knew I wanted to hear what he had to say.

He makes a case in the introduction that introverts can thrive in the church. As he will do throughout the entire book, that does not mean that we introverts must deny who we are or act like something we are not. He makes a clear case that local churches today are all geared toward the extroverts. He explains how our culture values extraversion over introversion, though without compelling proof that it should be so. As we said before, he explained so beautifully what life inside an introvert’s head is really like. He clarified how we feel at some social gatherings or settings. He encourages us to quit feeling like we are weird or of less value, and to seek healing from the bad misconceptions that we have lived with.

He explained what introverted spirituality is, and though it’s easily distinguished from the extroverted type, it still has great depth. He explained how we are in community and relationships. We don’t live without community or relationships, but we are different.

Finally the book turns to the subject of leadership and introverts. There is an unsubstantiated belief that only extroverts make good leaders. Fact and history both prove this to be untrue. Some extroverts succeed by being charismatic, dominant, gregarious, or even a superstar, and can even operate a cult of personality. In some cases, the company doesn’t glean anything from the tightness of the followers of these extroverted leaders. In other words, it’s only been about them. He gives wonderful thoughts about how we might lead without yielding the essence of who we are as introverts. He is very practical in how we might be a better leader, as well as thoughts about a subject that most all introverts find difficult: evangelism. He concludes with encouraging us to make sure introverts have a place in our churches.

This book spoke to me. I’m convinced that every Christian introvert ought to read it. Further, it would be quite wonderful if we could talk a few extroverts into reading it with us.

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.

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi–2 OTL volumes

Haggai and Zechariah 1-8

David Petersen first gave us Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. Later, he wrote a follow-up volumes  His two books have been influential and oft-cited volumes for several years now. 

Considered by many as the best critical commentary out there, this book has several features that we of a more conservative persuasion can glean from.

In this volume, Petersen deals first with Haggai and gives it its own Introduction. After some comments about how Haggai relates to the other “Latter Prophets”, he describes the times of the prophet. He really fleshed out that subject well and interacted with several other scholars. In his discussion of the book itself, he reviews the “prose or poetry” debate and went through his beliefs on composition. Though I could not agree with him, he stated his thoughts clearly.  From there he jumped into his commentary itself. It’s quality and design holds up well with the rest of the series.

On page 107, Petersen begins his treatment of Zechariah 1-8. He immediately tells us that he follows “the critical judgment of scholars over the years who have discerned a fundamental division between Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14.” Though there’s conservative scholars who disagree, he sets out and explains well the critical position.

He begins in this case with describing the person of Zechariah. Next, he provides a lengthy section on the book in the same style as he did on Haggai. His viewpoint requires distinguishing what he sees as the different oracles in Zechariah.

Overall, he provides as good a volume as is out there on these Prophets for those who seek a clear critical viewpoint.

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.

Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi 

David Petersen worked another decade before he finished what he began in the earlier Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. Both volumes are in the respected Old Testament Library (OTL) series.

Unlike the earlier volume, he covered both prophets and books in one Introduction. He began by stating that the last 10 chapters of the Old Testament (the chapters he covers) are as difficult as any in the OT. 

He goes into a lengthy discussion of the historical context of these prophets. Though I would disagree on several points, this discussion was fascinating and the most valuable of the entire book. 

Next, he explains why Zechariah had to be chopped up in his view. His arguments don’t hold for this reviewer, but be does write clearly so you can trace his thinking. He is briefer in his discussion of Malachi.

The commentary is in the same style as the earlier volume and for several others in the series for that matter.

This will be my go-to volume if I want to study how the other side of scholarship views these prophets. Again, he writes in a clear words and provides a transparent presentation of what he believes. For what it is, this is an important book.

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.

2 More IVP New Tesament Commentaries

Here’s two commentaries that you might want to check out:

1. Mark (IVPNT) by Ronald Kernaghan

Kernaghan wrote this volume in the respected IVPNT series that’s aimed at pastors, teachers, and small groups. I’d define this book as a solid work.

He adequately covers the basics in his Introduction to Mark. He begins by explaining why many scholars came to believe in the priority of Mark. In discussing authorship he reminds us that Mark has always traditionally been considered the author until more recent times. He reaches conservative conclusions on audience, date, and place of origin. His conclusions on “the gospel as parable ” are a little more sketchy to my mind.

After an outline, he jumps into the commentary proper that makes up the bulk of the book. Again, the word that comes to mind is “solid”. In every passage he opens with a modern history parallel to what he feels the passage is saying. Some fit better than others, but some readers may love that unique approach. All in all, this volume will be appreciated by its target audience.

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.

2. John (IVPNT) by Rodney Whitacre 

Whitacre provides one of the longest and most exceptional commentaries in the respected IVPNT series edited by respected scholar Grant Osborne. If you search, I think you’ll find most reviews will agree with my assessment.

The Introduction begins by his confessing the awesomeness of John’s Gospel. He introduces the two views of authorship which are a single author versus multiple authors. He admits complexity and offers three possible explanations for it.  He finally sees the profundity of John as the better explanation. 

He writes well on chronological and other differences with the Synoptics. He lays out the options on date, location, and purposes with equal aplomb. He makes sense of John’s uniqueness and theology and themes. In his allotted space, Whitacre does a great job in the Introduction.

The commentary is ideal for a mid-length commentary and its target audience. This book is a winner.

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.

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Presidential Bio. Series)

book bully pulpit

You would have thought the design of this book would have caused it to collapse under its own weight. I mean how could a biography of two presidents along with the most influential journalists of the age possibly work? I mean the word that comes to mind is–unfocused! Believe it or not, Doris Kearns Goodwin pulled it off. Count this as one of the really enjoyable presidential biographies out there.

Having Teddy Roosevelt didn’t hurt its chances of holding interest with his colorful life. I’ve read a few books on him and would summarize him as larger-than-life, principled, but egotistical. His zeal was legendary, but his pride was too. Though he was agreeable to Christian moral principles (perhaps more than several that held the office), he was not a man with faith in anyone other than himself.

My biggest surprise was how likable Taft was. A gentleman that was a perfect candidate for best friend. Not really a Christian, but a fine moral, upstanding man is how I would describe him. Over the course of a deep, yet turbulent friendship, Taft was much the better friend to Roosevelt than the other way around. Goodwin did a great job in bringing their relationship alive.

At first I didn’t enjoy the biography space given to key journalists, though I did grow to appreciate it. They really had an impact on that time period–so much so that I wonder if Roosevelt could have risen as far as he did in another epoch.

Goodwin has turned out an enjoyable read here. I feel like I know both men so much better.

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclaimation: 1-2 Timothy and Titus

book pastorals

 This second release in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series by B & H Publishing is a home run. Andreas Kostenberger has produced a conservative, thoughtful, and winning commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. I anticipated a good volume based on what he has written and edited on the highly-debated passages of these books in the past, and if anything, this volume exceeds my expectations. You have to love a book that holds to biblical inerrancy, has a complementarian viewpoint, and does not run off the rails with esoteric or pointless scholarly misconceptions.

His Introduction covers much of the typical information that you would find in any substantial commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, which he prefers to call LTT, or Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Authorship, date, relation between the three letters, and the roles of Timothy and Titus (he sees them as apostolic delegates rather than pastors). He further discusses canonicity, authenticity (which he fully accepts), chronology, and historical context. He has an interesting section on literary analysis and structure as well.

Still, the commentary proper is what I loved. Even better, he always did his best work in the harder passages. Passages on pastoral qualifications, women in ministry, and household code were handled with aplomb. As is an aim of the series, he beautifully draws out theology too. Can you tell I’m really high on this commentary? I couldn’t imagine not using it in any future study in the Pastoral Epistles.

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.