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Is the Old Testament Really Dying?

Christianity Today invited me review Brent Strawn’s The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment.

Here is my review (titled, “Man shall not live on the New Testament alone”).

I sure hope the Old Testament isn’t dying, because that might mean I’m out of a job.  I love the Old Testament, as did Jesus and Paul.  If you love the Old Testament, check out Strawn’s book.

Here’s my prescription for health: “When we make a commitment to regularly read, teach, preach, and sing the Old Testament, we’re doing more than nursing a dying language back to health. We’re also connecting personally to a living God.”

Going to Liberia (April 2017)

Dave Boy on ShouldersDespite the malaria, it was one of the highlights of my life.

In the summer of 1985, I went on a summer mission project to Nigeria.  We taught in churches, worked in fields, and enjoyed amazing Nigerian hospitality (my favorite, though, was giving rides to kids on my shoulders).  We served among the Tangale people in Bauchi state, in the NW region of the country, near where Boko Haram holds power today.

While my wife Shannon has made three trips to Africa in the past fifteen years, I’ve stayed home with the boys.  I’ve loved hearing her stories and supporting her efforts, but I’ve missed seeing first hand what God is doing and serving alongside her.  But now that we are empty-nesters, I will be able to join her this April on her next trip to Monrovia, Liberia.  Shannon will be traveling for 3 weeks (she is also visiting Guinea Bissau); I’ll be gone for two (April 5-19).

We have been invited to serve alongside staff from LIFES (Liberian International Fellowship of Evangelical Students).  There are currently 1400 students involved in LIFES and only two full time staff.  Liberia is the fifth poorest country of the world and is still recovering from a fourteen year civil war (1989-2003) and the recent Ebola epidemic (2013-2016).

Moses, one of the staff, has asked us to be flexible, but we know for sure that we’ll be the main speakers for the LIFES Easter student conference: “Knowing Christ and Making Christ Known,” focusing on the book of Philippians and John 1-4.  We will have other opportunities to speak in churches, and work with students and local pastors doing training in Bible study skills. Most pastors in Liberia do not have access to seminary training, so I’m hoping my presence will be a blessing to them.

In order to allow their limited financial resources to remain in the country, I am hoping to raise $2500 to cover my expenses.  If you’d like to contribute, you can go directly to the website: https://donate.intervarsity.org/support/shannon_lamb.  Funds need to go through Shannon’s IV account because my account is still in process.  If you would like to receive email prayer requests please send me your address (dlamb@biblical.edu).

If you’re the praying sort, we’d appreciate prayers
for health (I have reflux which is easier to control at home,
for safe travel,
for God to move powerfully, and
for great partnerships with Liberian staff and pastors.

LIFES Flyer Image April 2017

Sinai and the Saints

IVP has just come out with a new book which could be very helpful to people trying to figure out how to understand the laws of the Old Testament, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community by James M. Todd III.

IVP asked me to give an endorsement, and the first half of it ended up on the back cover.  So, I thought I’d include my full endorsement here, for any one who’s interested.

“Many readers of the Old Testament struggle to understand all those random, bizarre, strict, and oppressive laws.  What’s a Christian to do?  Start by reading James Todd’s Sinai and the Saints.  Todd offers his readers engaging stories, provocative insights, and a compelling interpretation that offers a way forward, one that makes sense of the Law, and helps people understand it in light of Jesus and the rest of Scripture.”

Here are the other endorsements that appeared on the back cover:

“The failure to understand the relationships of the old covenant to the new is probably one of the most important areas where Christians need good help–and they will receive good help here.”  – Peter Gentry, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Anyone grappling with how to approach the laws of Exodus to Deuteronomy from a Christian perspective will find this book an invaluable introduction.” – T. Desmond Alexander, Union Theological College.

I hope you can check it out.

 

Kierkegaard: A Single Life

As we were driving down the highway recently as a family, I informed my college-age sons that a recent album (Reflektor) released by one of their favorite bands (Arcade Fire) was inspired by Soren Kierkegaard’s work, The Present Age. In his interview with Rolling Stone, band front man Win Butler speaks of how relevant Kierkegaard’s writing is today, “It sounds like he’s talking about modern times…He’s talking about the press and alienation, and you kind of read it and you’re like, “Dude, you have no idea how insane it’s gonna get.”  This quote comes from Stephen Backhouse’s new biography of the Danish Christian/existentialist/philosopher entitled Kierkegaard: A Single Life.(p. 205).

I had to read Kierkegaard as a freshman in college in my Western Civilization class (I think it was Fear and Trembling-but it’s been 36 years), and while I found some of his ideas compelling, most of it went over my head.  But over the past few decades, I’ve come across his writings in various places, perhaps most recently in Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer (see my blog and Backhouse’ discussion, p. 197), so when I saw this new biography from Zondervan, I happy picked it up.

I was not disappointed.  Backhouse is a Kierkegaardian scholar who can write for a more popular, non-specialist audience, moving easily between anecdotes of a man who life was largely tragic and encapsulations of his profound writings and philosophy.

While it took awhile for his writings to gain traction in broader circles, his impact goes way beyond Arcade Fire and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to include Franz Kafka, Karl Barth, Charles Williams (friend of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers), Thomas Merton, Albert Camus, Richard Wright, FDR, and Martin Luther King Jr (although the often-cited link between Kierkegaard and Frederick Nietzsche seems rather tenuous).  Backhouse’s final chapter detailing these influences makes fascinating reading.

Soren Kierkegaard’s goal to “reintroduce Christianity into Christendom” seem tragically appropriate today.  Here’s a journal entry, “A modern clergyman [is] an active, adroit, quick person who knows how to introduce a little Christianity very mildly, attractively, and in beautiful language, etc.–but as mildly as possible.  In the New Testament Christianity is the deepest wound that can be dealt to a man, designed to collide with everything on the most appalling scale–and now the clergyman is perfectly trained to introduce Christianity in such a way that it means nothing…How disgusting!” (p. 171-172).

Kierkegaard’s views profoundly challenge me as a seminary professor in my occupation of training “clergymen.”  God help us reintroduce Christianity into Christendom.