Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Communal Singing in Tongues: A biblical practice?

Recently I went with my youth group to a conference for worship musicians at a thriving and famous church in central London. Much of the conference I found enormously refreshing, very beautiful, passionate, Spirit-open, and reflective of God's heart. However there was one area in which I had difficulty...enough to take my youth group to one side and have a chat with them over, the difficulty was the practice of communal singing in tongues.

Let me just take a moment to outline briefly my view of the gift of tongues. Yes I do believe in it, I believe in its continuance, its use, its power, its passion, and its theocentricity. I do feel Christians should actively and longingly pursue this gift in Godliness and expectancy. I even dare here to say it’s a gift which I, myself use to pray to and praise God with. However this gift is not available to everybody and does have some guidelines given in the Bible which I feel rule out the practice of communal singing in tongues.

I believe the conferences reasoning is logical. In Corinthians, praying in the Spirit often refers to praying in 'tongues,' so when they read the verse 'sing in the spirit' they carry the logic through and say, Hey, this must mean tongues too, great. However a closer reading of 1 Corinthians 14 would readily and easily contradict this interpretation.

I do not attempt a full exegesis here (for many reasons, but mainly as its 1:20am), rather I point the reader to the odd verse with the odd thought which should be enough I feel to provide strong evidence for my hypothesis.

v.2 - he who speaks in a tongue speaks to God, not to men. It is a personal and private relational gift used one on one between its speaker and God. Note, Paul contrasts tongues in vv.1-4 with prophecy which is to be used openly in the congregation, suggesting with the contrast, tongues is not in the same way.

vv.5-6 - tongues can be openly used in church but when it is interpreted

vv.7-9 - tongues is worthless in the congregation without interpretation - if everyone is singing in tongues where is the interpretation of each tongue? Is this not the indistinguishable sound Paul speaks of?

v.12 - be eager for spiritual manifestations which -build up the church- Paul has just said that tongues only builds up if it is intelligible, i.e. interpreted. So unless every tongue is going to be interpreted, don't do it.

vv.15-17 - what if an outsider walks in? How can he hear the gospel and say 'Amen' to something he doesn't understand? Surely asking him to just jump on the bandwagon is dangerous and irresponsible.

vv.18-19 - IN CHURCH, Paul would rather speak 5 intelligible words than a thousand in a tongue!

vv.23-25 - Open uninterrupted tongues in Church doesn’t only not edify the church, but it also doesn't bring outsiders to Christ; in fact, quite the opposite!

v.26 Let all be done for building see Paul’s instruction for tongues in building up in vv.1-12

* vv.27-28 - for me this is almost the definitive word against communal singing in tongues...'let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.' There is no way communal singing in tongues obeys this command.

So let’s enjoy the gifts God gives us. I know it’s often a conservative thing to react against charismatism in not actively pursuing these gifts, and it’s often a charismatic thing to react against conservatism by over-interpreting these gifts. But if we seek the active manifestation of the Spirit in our churches and our lives and with that submit to scriptures teaching of these gifts, and then we can truly honor and glorify his name through them. Communal singing in tongues is disobedience to the instructions given the church by Paul in 1 Cor. 14...however perhaps not pursuing the gifts at all is just as disobedient. Let’s seek these gifts in the body of Christ, and seek His instruction in how to glorify His name through them

Open Theism and Romans 9 (1)

Romans 9 for me is becoming increasingly important. I have spent some serious time these last 6-10 months trying to get to the bottom of it working with all the dominant interpretations. I feel stronger about my beliefs on elective grace, even though I think Calvin himself botches Rom.9 by going overboard on that; and I feel stronger against classic Arminian arguments as they seem to undermine the integrity of the passage.

Arminian brothers unfortunately seem to take Rom.9 to pieces, re-interpret all those pieces making them at least incompatible with each other and at most diss-jointed with the epistle to the Romans. When one does take Rom.9 as a whole, he/she either overplays the collective language, or underplays the salvific language...both set Rom.9 out of kilter with the epistles flow.

However, if one sees the exegetical hoops Arminians jump through (with all due respect, I have many friends who hold the view); it is nothing compared to an Open Theist position. Rom.9 gives the reader an unquestioning look at God's characteristics as are reflected in creation, redemption, and salvation history. It shows God's sovereignty, his wrath, his power, his hardening, his justice, his utter mercy, and above all is glory as shown through his mercy. Rom.9 gives a taste of how God's characteristics dynamically interact, even in extremes such as wrath and mercy, and Rom.9 uphold completely God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. This is a passage Open Theists need to spend serious time on in order to convince their readers of their theology. - However. - They don't.

For my dissertation I have read two dominant books by C. Pinnock (Most moved mover, and the openness of God), one by G. Boyd (God of the possible), and one by Sanders (The God who risks), several journal articles, and spoke to several advocators of the theology. Not one of the books gives an exegesis or interpretation of Rom.9 in defence of their view! Not one. No-one even mentions in my reading, vv.22-23. Surely this is a highly accountable and answerable passage? Why do Open Theists seem not to believe so? In taking to Open Theist friends about Rom.9, the way they have tackled it is by slipping back into Arminian arguments which when pushed are found to be incompatible with their Open Theist convictions.

I know this post turned into a bit of a rant, and I apologise for any offence caused. What I hope it does is encourage those who know of literature to bring it to my attention, and to provoke a detailed defence of Open Theism with Rom.9 from its advocators. I continue to find Open Theism dangerous for Christians, and feel stronger still for the immensity of God in all things as he reveals himself lovingly to be in Rom.9. Praise God.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Practical Christian Thoughts on Good Sleep

This is a pilot of a post to come which will (God willing) be a lot more clear and in depth. As an ex-insomniac I have spent a lot of time reading theories and studies of getting a good nights sleep, in fact during my a level psychology I took some extra-credit work looking at sleep patterns. As a theology student, I find a restful sleep vital to reduce stress and increase motivation and productivity. This post is to give some of the best advice, tips, and thoughts from that accumulated reading in hope they might help someone else.
So, in no particular order:

1. More sleep does not equal better rest, in fact restful sleep is built primarily on a consistent sleep pattern...i.e. its better for your body to shut down and wake up at the same time every night and morning than to have the occasional lie in or extra hour. Our brain patterns respond to zygotes, (better known as an internal clock) which function in patterns and cycles, the more efficiently this is regulated, the more productive our sleep.

2. How does one achieve a helpful sleep pattern? There are two main schools of thought, one is to simply sleep when your body tells you, i.e., when it’s tired; the other is to sleep and wake at exactly the same time each night. I feel however that an effective sleep pattern is built on a hybrid of these two theories: One should settle down to sleep in the evening when ones body is ready, (within some set boundaries...see below) and wake up at a regulated time in the morning.

3. Zygotes can be confusing, particularly when beginning a regulative pattern. Your liver starts to construct enzymes a few of hours after sun down which your body needs to be in a ready state for in order for this to lets say your body really needs to be asleep by 11.00 (in the current UK climate and season).

4. You need to shut your mind down before your body. I.e. you should really stop working on that essay an hour before you settle down to sleep. That goes for thought-provoking TV and novels too. This should also help with our evening quiet times...don't use the time right before sleeping to have a deep Bible study, exercise a different part of your brain (and soul!) by taking a verse you know well, or a psalm and just reflect on and pray through that.

5. Think a lot about your sleeping area. What do you use your bed for? If you have difficulty sleeping then you should only use you bed when you sleep. Get your body used to the sensation of recognizing its surroundings as 'bed' to be immediately equated with 'sleep.' To make this work you should be expected to fall asleep within five minutes of lying down, if your not falling straight asleep get up, do something else, then settle back down...don't let your body get used to lying in bed and not sleeping (this one is mainly for the person who has difficulty sleeping).

5b. Linked to 5a, don't use your bed for pondering the day behind and ahead if you want to sleep, f your tired then your defenses are not up and pondering can quickly lead to sin. Prayer and submissive reflection is a more reasonable cognitive exercise when wanting to sleep.

6. Light is very important, if you put a flashlight to a chickens head it will wake up immediately because its skull is exceptionally thin and it has receptors and nerves around its brain and sinuses to wake it up. It’s the same with us, the thin skin around our eyes is very sensitive to light, make your room as dark as possible while preparing for sleep, and while sleeping.

7. Your sleep consists of a cycle which, when simplified, consists of non rapid eye movement times (NREM) and rapid eye movement times (REM). During peak NREM, your body is in deep sleep, here you are most difficult to rouse, and here your body does most work. Some poor sleepers have a disorder where they sleep for hours with little rest, and often feel drained when awake. This is often due to small periods of NREM, so little chance for the body to do its vital work. This is often corrected by getting into a gradual pattern of consistent sleep habits giving your body time to correct itself. During REM, you are the closest to awake, this engages your mind and schema memories, and hence you dream. This time is used to prepare your body for the next period of NREM. Those who suffer from consistent waking up often suffer because they find it difficult to regulate REM...this can be linked to stress, bad diet, or other physiological illness. If linked to stress (v-common), then perhaps a long soak in a hot bath with some lavender oil an hour or so before sleeping is a goo idea.

7b. Because of the above cycles (each lasting between 35-55 minutes roughly) need consistency to work effectively and both NREM and REM are vital to productive rest, then it is important to be as much in control as your sleeping area as possible to avoid unwanted unnecessary interruptions. This might involve locking the door, turning the phone off, having an alarm clock without the spine-chilling immediate shriek, etc.

8. A good diet, particularly a good intake of vitamin C, protein, iron, and amino acids are invaluable. vitamin C and iron allow your body the resources it needs to rest without feeding elsewhere, whereas protein and amino acids allow NREM times to be more effective for the bodies maintenance work.

9. Note, tiredness or drowsiness during the day is not usually linked to lack of sleep. More likely it is linked to boredom, stress, etc. Lack of sleep is generally shown through an inability to keep ones eyes open.

10. be respectful to your body via sleep. Enjoy God's gift of sleep, it is invaluable to the maintenance of our bodies and subsequently our general health, outlook, motivation, and discipline. A good sleep can be a practical step to Godliness. Do respect it. Read proverbs 6 for a healthy view of sleep. Pray for effective sleep, and enjoy it. Do not underestimate the importance of a good nights sleep. Remember, sleep is -not- a type of consciousness, it is an action which the body needs to perform. So like every deed of the body, seek to be in control of it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Acts 10-11 and the Baptist debate (with particular emphasis on how 'all' is applied)

I recently posted some brief thoughts on household texts in the New Testament as they are used in the Baptism debate. I think it fair of me to bring out a little further my exegetical thoughts around the texts and will endeavour to do so in following posts beginning here with Acts 10 and 11.
Luke, (as a paedobaptist might point out) seems to continually stress the entirety or all-ness of the households; All the household, the whole household, the entire household, etc., possibly indicating the increased likelihood of infants.

Acts 10 is no exception: all the household were baptised. However a careful look of Acts 10-11 will show us other important all's. First we have a prophetic word given in 11:14, ‘He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ [emphasis mine] And Second back in 10:44, 46, ‘While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word...they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.’ [emphasis mine]

To point out that Luke keeps insisting on the entirety or all-ness of the household to include non-professing children, the following logic must be applied:

- All heard the message by which they would be saved
- All received the Holy Spirit + spoke in tongues
- All were baptised
 ...therefore
- Infants heard the message by which they would be saved
- Infants received the Holy Spirit + spoke in tongues
- Infants were baptised

To keep the logic that all means infants must also mean three things:
1. Infants heard so presumably understood (by the spirit) the message of Salvation
2. Infants received the Holy Spirit
3. This manifested itself in the infant by speaking in tongues

It appears from this that a paedobaptist position that uses the texts this way can remain consistent if one accepts the regenerative faith of the infant pre-Baptism.
Perhaps Luke has a different purpose for these household texts than is often appealed to by the paedobaptist brother or sister - namely the coming of Gentiles (God-fears in this instance) into the covenant.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Piper on N.T. Wright

'Jesus and Justification: Two Topics and Two Books Written
Which brings me to the labor side of the sabbatical. I was able to finish writing the main body of two books. One is called What Jesus Demands from the World, which will be published by Crossway Books in late September (Lord willing). It is a 365-page book on the commands of Jesus, in an attempt to obey Matthew 28:19, “Teach them to observe everything I commanded you.” Not just to know everything, but to observe (obey!) everything. How do you handle the Gospels in such a way that the teaching results in obedience? That was my goal. The other book is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of God’s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wright’s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript.'