Sunday, November 27, 2005

Paying attention to the Therefores

One of the things I've learned when reading scripture is to pay attention the therefores (or as Bible Teacher Bob Mumford puts it "Whenever you see a therefore, check to see what it's there for"), particularly when they occur in Jesus' teaching. Especially interesting are what I call the 'practical therefores'. These take the form "This is true, therefore your practical response to it should be this". In some translations the 'therefore' is expressed more as 'because of this' or 'for this reason' or similar. In the New Testament, at least, there are several Greek expressions that can be translated as 'therefore', and some translations will try to distinguish them by using different wording. But the idea is still there: Because this is true, you should do this as a result.

When you see this, you're got an opportunity to

  1. See what God's logic is in this situation, and

  2. Contrast it with typical human logic in this situation

For example, let's look at Mat 9:37,38(NASV):

Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
The situation Jesus is talking about is familiar to a lot of people: there's a lot of work to be done, and not enough people working on it. I'm sure anyone who has had even a minor leadership position in the church has found themselves in this position. Our usual reaction ranges from pestering friends and acquaintances to get involved, to organizing recruiting campaigns, to blistering preaching that tries to induce guilt into those who aren't yet involved. Somewhat like Martha, we may find ourselves trying to pull into our work people who aren't called into the same work we are doing.

Jesus' logical response to this situation will seem simplistic to some: Pray. But I'm convinced from what follows that He is being quite practical.

First, note the emphasis on who is in charge. It's mentioned twice in one sentence ('Lord of the harvest', and 'His harvest'), which strikes me as a deliberate emphasis. In the face of temptations to regard the work as our own (or to feel like the burden is entirely on us), we're to remember that it belongs to God and He is in charge.

Second, the Greek word here translated 'send out' implies forcefull action. It is used, for example, for expelling an invading army from a city. In this context, I'd be tempted to translate it 'shove out'. I can't think of anything that would be more indicative of a practical knowledge of how these things work. If, in a 'lots of work, few workers' situation you've ever found yourself wanting to grab some people and shove them out into the field, know that the Lord knows exactly how you feel. Some people simply have to be forced to do the work. It's just that He reserves the right to do the shoving, and to choose who gets shoved, for Himself.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


<Sigh> After years of internal grousing that I seemed to have some worthwhile insights, but no real outlet for them, I finally figured out that blogging might actually provide one. You'd think a programmer would have figured that out sooner.

So, I set up a blog on here, and five and a half months later, we have......well, essentially nothing. One post about my score on the Theological Worldview Quiz and one unfinished post on miscommunication. This is not looking impressive.

I guess part of my problem is a combination of time and my writing style. I'm not the kind of writer who zips something off the top of the head in 5 minutes - I'm more the brooding over every word type who grinds things out slowly but (hopefully) precisely. Worse, I tend to be verbose. Hence, if I'm going to sit down and write a post, I want to feel that I've got a fair block of time to work with. Unfortunately, fair blocks of time have been in short supply for the past few months, what with a late project at work chewing up all spare time. Happily, that project is no longer chewing up time, and spare fair blocks of time are popping up again.

A bit of introduction is probably in order. As you can see from the profile, I'm a computer programmer (been at it for almost 30 years) whose college degree sports a Bible major. Basically, I started at Asbury College with a mindset that pretty much equated a Bible major with General Studies. Half-way through college, I discovered computers, and essentially felt that I'd found what I was made for. As Asbury didn't have a Computer Science major at the time, but did have a minor, I ended up finishing with a BA in Bible, with a Computer Science minor (and following it up with a good bit of self-teaching in CS). The result is a technical type with at least enough theological education to be dangerous.

I've got most of the influences you'd probably expect from a conservative/evangelical Christian with a technical bent. The writings of C. S. Lewis ranks high in the list, along with Francis Schaeffer and G. K. Chesterton. The programming background is also an influence. As a programmer, I'm used to dealing with systems for which I have only partial information, which gives me a different outlook on a Systematic Theology approach (which, from my viewpoint, sometimes has the weakness of assuming that we already have all of the necessary information to see a system in its fullness). But one of my major influences is that I tend to be heavily communications/listening oriented. Listening for what a person is trying to say, even if the way they express it would normally suggest something different to you, even if their background and assumptions are different than (or even contrary to) yours, is something that ranks pretty high in my set of values. As is probably typical for someone with that kind of emphasis, I've developed an ear for those little clues that indicate that miscommunication is likely to be occurring. And somewhere along the line, I've learned to apply those skills when approaching Scripture. You might say I tend to approach Scripture first as a listener, and secondarily as a studier. I've found that it makes a difference, and hope to be posting some of the insights that come from that difference here.

As a listener, I'll welcome feedback on what I post (for one thing, it'll give me another chance to listen). I typically need feedback to develop new insights. With my skillsets, I sometimes have people say I ought to be a teacher (e.g., teaching in Sunday School/Bible Study group or the like), but I've found that if I sit down and try to plan out a lesson, I don't do too well. Sit me down as a participant in a Bible Study group, though, let me listen to the rest of the group and I have no problems adding to the discussion. I seem to need the interaction to figure out where the knowledge or communication holes are in a group, at which point I can help fill in those holes. Part of the reason I'm doing this blog is to try to help get past that need, but the feedback will still be welcome.