Friday, September 07, 2012

I've Moved

No, I haven’t moved away from Karlstad, MN, but I have moved my blog from to (apparently the plain old “wadholm” link was already reserved for someone else) .  WordPress offers a far more user-friendly interface for both bloggers and commenters.  As I already blog at two other wordpress blogs, I figured this was the logical move (thanks Brian Fulthorp for the push to just make the move :-) ).  So make sure to change your RSS and email feeds to my new location…or not (if you are done following my blogging adventures and this is your chance for a clean break).

So long blogger...its been a fun (?) 7 years with you.

Leviticus: A Literary Structure

What follows is a brief literary outline of the Book of Leviticus as I understand it:

A. Sacrifices/Offerings (ch.1-7)
    B. Priestly Ordination (ch.8-10)
        C. Clean/Unclean in daily life (ch.11-15)
             D. Day of Atonement (ch.16) [1]
        C'. Holiness in daily life (ch.17-20)
    B'. Holy Orders (ch.21-22)
A'. Holy Observances (ch.23-25)

Conclusion: Blessings-Curses and Dedication (ch.26-27) [2]

I think the book offers a chiastic literary structure that demonstrates a literary unity overall and that places the Day of Atonement at the center.[3] Many refer to this book as being about “holiness”[4] (which it is), but holiness toward what end? 

Toward the blessing of Yahweh's presence with His people. As I stated in my earlier post, I believe that the intimate presence of Yahweh in relationship with His people is the point of Leviticus. Holiness is the means by which this is accomplished, but the aim is nearness in relationship. This is further clarified by the last two chapters which delineate the associated blessings-curses with faithfulness to Yahweh and the voluntary dedication of persons and properties to Yahweh. While all that precedes is commanded of Israel in their relationship with Yahweh, the final chapter speaks to what is voluntary in that relationship. The promised blessing in that relations was: I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Lev. 26:11-12 NIV)

[1] Leviticus 16 as the literary “center” of the book is also argued by Joel N. Lohr, “The Book of Leviticus” in A Theological Introduction to the Pentateuch: Interpreting the Torah as Christian Scripture (Eds., Richard S. Briggs and Joel N. Lohr; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 87; and cited in that volume is the work of Wilfried Warning, Literary Artistry in Leviticus, Biblical Interpretation Series 35 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 178.
[2] Admittedly, many scholars consider chapter 27 to be a sort of appendix. I have included it as part of the conclusion because of its voluntary nature for a people who have already covenanted relationship with their God, Yahweh.
[3] For several alternate and more complex chiastic proposals that do not describe the whole book, see Nobuyoshi Kiuchi, “Leviticus, Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Eds., T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 524.
[4] Critical scholars even go so far as to refer to chapters 17-26 as a so-called “Holiness Code” which was codified at some other time than the book it has been included in and only later attached because of the emphasis throughout the whole work on “holiness."  One of the commentaries I am using is notably called "Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus" by Allen P. Ross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2002).  It is because "holiness" is considered the watchword of this book of Scripture (which certainly seems pertinent), but I believe my point remains: holiness to what end?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Heart of Leviticus

The enigmatic book of Leviticus is not a first choice for the Church to read or study, yet I've been taking my congregation through it (verse-by-verse...believe it or not) for our Wednesday Bible study.  Last night we covered its theological center (or heart) which can be found in chapter 16.  Lev. 16 concerns itself with the holiest day in Judaism: the Day of Atonement (in our day referred to as Yom Kippur).  As we discussed this amazing chapter last night, we conversed about the point of this fasting day for atonement in light of everything leading up to this chapter (the sacrifices, the ordination of priests and a high priest, what is "clean/unclean and holy/common").

So what is the point?  The point can be found in a commonly used term in the sixteenth chapter (Lev.16:7, 16, 17, 20, 23, 33; and many other places elsewhere in the Torah): the tent of meeting (Heb. אֹהֶל מוֹעֵֽד).  This "tent of meeting" (or "tabernacle") was intended for one purpose: to be the place where Yahweh, the God of Israel, met with Israel.  The presence of Yahweh was always the point.  This is emphatically stated in the first verse of chapter sixteen which reads: "The LORD said to Moses: 'Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.'" (NIV)  Yahweh made a way for His presence to remain and for the revelation of His presence in the midst of His people (without them simply being destroyed by the need to be "clean" and "holy").

We quickly become lost in the regulations about purity and sacrifices.  We tend to think that such matters were primarily (or even only) concerned with sin.  Not so.  That was not so.  The point was presence and relationship.  Yahweh longs for relationship and makes a way back for a people of His choosing who will do what is necessary to live in His presence.

This is also the point of the gospel.  The point is not about overcoming sins or being forgiven of sins.  That is only initiatory to being received into God's having God with us (e.g., Immanuel) and even in us.  God desires a people to Himself (Rev.21:3) and has made the way to have such immediacy even in the face of His absolute otherness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. (Heb.10:19-23 NET)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sacramental Pentecostals?

I'm delighted to announce that Chris Green (newly dubbed "Dr." for the completion of his PhD) has just published his (long awaited and anticipated in my opinion) dissertation: Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord's Supper: Foretasting the Kingdom (CPT 2012).  This is a continuing trend among Pentecostals to view the Lord's Supper in more sacramental terms.  His dissertation is not the first move in this direction (by any stretch), but is another helpful volume clarifying that Pentecostal tradition and practice is already sacramental in many ways (see Dan Tomberlin's Pentecostal Sacraments: Encountering God at the Altar, Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care 2010). 

One of the reasons I bring this all up is because I received an update in my blog feeder that Renovatus (a well-known church in Charlotte, NC) just announced their move to a weekly Lord's Supper as part of their move toward a greater sense of community.  Pastor Jonathan Martin had some tremendous thoughts in this regard and in relation specifically to being Pentecostal and sacramental.  It marks a turn toward the table as offering "the real presence" (something the Reformer's -- aside from those called "radical reformers"-- held strongly to). 

This may seem a strange move for Pentecostals, but in actuality our doctrine and practice of the gifts of the Spirit are themselves offer a sacramental perspective (particularly as we affirm something akin to "the real presence").  I do know of other Pentecostal works (including Assemblies) which share in communion every week as a part of their corporate worship experience.  It seems quite fascinating that we act like we MUST sing X number of songs, have announcements, etc. every week, but don't practice the Eucharist that often because we usually say we don't want it to become less meaningful.  Is that what we think we've done with our singing?  Why don't we sing choruses and hymns just once a month?  Or the reading of Scripture?  When it is all said and done, this is just the kind of thing that the church needs as a reminder to confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and mission.  This is why I regularly equate the Lord's Table with our modernist "altar call".  I believe it is the call to the saints to embrace the life of Christ even as we work and live toward His coming again.  There is something which our Lord works in our presence as we participate in His life.

What are your thoughts on the sacramental nature of the Lord's Supper? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Mark of the Beast Revealed!

We live in a time where there is extreme fascination with things found in the book of the Revelation (though this has really always been the case). You know…that book at the end of your Bible with all of those psychedelic visions of creatures doing bizarre things, angels trumpeting or pouring out destruction on the earth. This is a book that has held the attention of generations, but as many have bought into the notion that the Mayan’s were onto something about the end of the world in 2012, the thirst for seeking out such concerns has only grown.

What is the point of this last book of the Bible anyways? Does it reveal who the Antichrist is? Is it to guarantee we don’t receive some micro-chip implantation as the “mark of the beast”? Or perhaps to give us a timeline to Armageddon? All of these things have been proposed ad nauseum with charts, graphs and research to demonstrate the authority of their interpretation of the meaning of the Revelation. But is this really the point?

The answer is simple: No! The point of the Revelation is to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact the actual name of this final book is not “Revelations” (as if to be about revelations of all sorts of things), but “The Revelation”. The fuller name is even “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. This book is about the one who knows and holds his own and will both reward and punish according to their faithfulness to him (Rev.2-3).

This book is about God’s final justice demonstrated in the reaction of the world to the revelation of Jesus. This world will not bend the knee to Jesus willfully, but reject him to the last (though multitudes from every people group will indeed place their trust and obedience in him). This world will offer its own “christ” and its own kingdom, but at the last these will all be destroyed. It is, in the end, about the glory of Jesus the Christ as sovereign over every power and authority, including death and the grave. And about those who overcome all opposition to faithfully give testimony to Jesus as Lord and Savior. He is the one who gives life (and is life) and he is the light of the world. He is the only one worthy of praise and glory and honor. And he is coming soon. Even so…come quickly Lord Jesus!

[This was an article I had published in the North Star News - Thursday, August 23, 2012]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pentecost In North West Minnesota

I was given the following brief account (written by Mrs. Anna Vagle in 1958) of some of the occurrences in 1905-6 in north-western Minnesota when the "winds of the Spirit" began to blow with "Pentecostal power".  It is a marvelous thing to read what God has done in the past...and it makes me long to see what more God will do in the present.  While not every phenomenon is to be treated equally it is still a wonderful piece of Pentecostal history that I thought should be shared with a wider audience.  And so I'm posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Seattle Here I Come

I received word today that my paper proposal has been accepted for the annual Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting in Seattle in March 21-23, 2013 hosted by Seattle Pacific University.  I truly enjoy these meetings -- the papers, the discussions, the friendships.

If anyone is interested, my paper is titled "Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response."  In this paper, I interact primarily with the homiletical proposals of Doug Pagitt (pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, MN) who is a leading voice in the Emergent Church and has written Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Zondervan 2005).  From my perspective, I appropriate what I believe is right about Pagitt's approach and lay out how I believe Pentecostal preaching actually engages the criticisms he raises against "speaching" (Pagitt's term for contemporary models of preaching). 

So, I'm looking forward to another eventful time at SPS this coming year!