June 24, 2011

Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir

Eugene Peterson is really a pastor-poet. He is deeply reflective on his vocation and upon God, and these traits all come out in this beautifully crafted memoir. Peterson recounts his "intently haphazard" journey to becoming a pastor, as he discovered his own vocation, and further, discovered what it means to live out that vocation in the modern church. Woven together with his vocational journey are experiences as a church planter and pastor in Maryland for almost thirty years, and some of the people and situations he encountered in those years.

As I would expect from Peterson, his insight runs deep. Foundational to his own development is his discovery of reading the Bible as a conversation:

I was no longer reading words--I was listening to voices. . . . I was learning to listen carefully. (85)
Central to Peterson's story, and probably the key theme of the book, is his developing understanding of the role of a pastor amid the "religious clutter" of congregational life, struggling to understand and live it as a vocation instead of a job. He writes of "discovering my workplace fundamentally as God's workplace" (104), with a "primary responsibility . . . not to the people I serve but to the God I serve" (165). And Peterson's account of learning to live this way puts flesh on these thoughts and aspirations, as he frequently encounters the challenge to get beyond "godtalk" and religious, depersonalized language to "acquiring fluency in the vocabulary and syntax in the 'land of the living'" (242). He also includes many stories and experiences from his years of congregational ministry, including reflections on his own "badlands" years of dryness and dormancy. He also describes his transition away from pastoring to teaching, as well as his writing of the Message.

The Pastor is an eminently pleasing read, and at the same time deeply challenging. Peterson's keen insight is matched by his use of words. I am not a pastor, but I still greatly benefited from his reflection specifically on that vocation, as his fundamental insights really do apply to all followers of Jesus, if sometimes in slightly different ways. And I gained a deeper appreciation for what it means to live as the gathered people of God with lives entwined as we listen to God and are attentive to what he is doing among and around us. I highly recommend the great book. Take and read!

June 16, 2011

Deductive vs. Inductive

I've been looking over books on hermeneutics and biblical interpretation, always looking for a good book to shore up my own exegetical methods. And as I was surveying the new edition of Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics, I got to thinking about the basic difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. Which further got me reflecting on my own seeming inability to ever keep these two concepts straight. So I went to wikipedia for a little info (always with a critical eye, of course), and read this enlightening statement at the end of the article on deductive reasoning, under the heading Uses in Popular Culture:

The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is described as using deductive reasoning to solve his mysteries, however this is an error on the part of the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock's methods can more properly be described as a form of inductive reasoning.

It was like a light dawned. I loved Sherlock Holmes mysteries growing up, and, knowing Doyle described his methods as "deductive," it has always served, whether subconsciously or consciously, as one of my prime examples of deduction. But in fact, it's not. No wonder I was perpetually confused. Elementary, my dear Doyle!

June 14, 2011

New Eerdmans Catalog Out

Eerdmans announced on their Facebook page today that their new catalog is out. After a quick perusal, I'm sad to say that there are no forthcoming commentaries in any of their three major series (NIGTC, NICOT/NICNT, or Pillar). There is a new Philippians commentary out from Ben Witherington which interests me, but I was holding out hope that maybe the new volume on Galatians reportedly to be written by David deSilva or some other new commentary offering would be in order. They have released a number of great new commentaries recently, so maybe I was just being greedy in hoping for more. Regardless, there are also a few interesting books on offer, including one by David Bently Hart on American conservatism that looks intriguing. I look forward to digging more slowly through their fall offerings.

June 02, 2011

Gordon Fee on Spirit-gifting and women

Michael Gorman links to an article about Gordon Fee in Charisma magazine. I have long been impressed by Fee's thorough and insightful exegesis, as well as his very good work on hermeneutics, so I read this article with interest. And he has written some of my favorite books, Pauls Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the New Testament), God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, and Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study. Fee is an egalitarian, and he speaks about his convictions in some very insightful terms:

But he is adamant: God does gift women for ministry.

“It’s a given,” he says. “The real question is, Which comes first, gender or gifting? What [opponents of women in ministry] are trying to tell me is that gender comes above gifting. How can that be? The Spirit gives the gifting. If a woman stands and prophesies by the Spirit, and men are present, does the Spirit not speak to them? Come on! How dumb can you get?”

His advocacy, Fee says, is on behalf of the Holy Spirit rather than women. “The Spirit is gifting women,” he says, “but many evangelicals are not prepared to adjust because of the ‘box’ they’re in.

Some food for thought, at least.