Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 21, 2013

August 21:

* Staying in a Bed & Breakfast in Saint-Adele, Laura Marie talked nonstop to our hosts at breakfast.  One story began, “One time I was tired and grumpy because I didn’t get enough sleep…” and she launched into a long and detailed story.  She also told them, “All day long I think about eating hamburgers.”

* We went to a children’s amusement park called Au Pays Des Merveilles, and Laura Marie wore her Little Red Riding Hood costume.  When the young lady who worked at the park as Little Red Riding Hood saw Laura Marie, she was so happy that she started chattering excitedly in French.  Laura Marie just stared at her and smiled.

* There were some extremely long slides that went down part of a mountain in the amusement park.  Laura Marie went down one, and then called back to Carolyn and me, “Are you guys okay?”

* After she emerged from a long stint in a castle moonbounce, I asked Laura Marie how she liked it.  With a sigh, she said, “It kinda wore me out.”

* We played a game that was like a life-sized board game, where you roll a large die and then walk to the right space.  Once there, you read the directions on that space and do what it says.  Laura Marie landed on one space that said “Kiss Your Parent” (and yes, that’s what it actually said).  She didn’t believe it.  She asked four times, “Is that really what it says?”

* Different characters did performances where they told their stories… in French.  It was very interactive, and the children in the audience frequently said or did something in response to the story.  During the story of Alice in Wonderland, Alice kept asking the kids questions, and they would shout in happy unison, “Oui!”  Afterward Laura Marie asked us, “Why did the kids keep saying, ‘Wheee!’?”

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Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 6:03 am  Comments (1)  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 20, 2013

August 20:

* As we drove from Toronto to Quebec, Laura Marie was in the back seat singing away.  When Carolyn and I turned around to look at her, she said, “You know, guys, I need my privacy singing.”

* Laura Marie and I have a running joke where she talks about Muenster cheese and I pretend to be scared, as though she’s talking about monster cheese.  Apparently she wasn’t in the mood for that today.  Refusing to play along, she said to me, “You make up that, and I don’t make up it.”

* At lunch, Laura Marie had a kids’ coloring page with a word search on it.  Carolyn and I, not thinking that she would have any interest in it, kept finding words.  Finally Laura Marie had had enough, and she said, “Stop finding words!  I’m jealous ‘cause I can’t read!”

* When Carolyn ate her salad quickly, I said, “Mommy’s tearing up that salad!”  She saw there wasn’t much of my buffalo chicken wrap left, so she replied, “Daddy’s tearing up that wrap!”  Just then Laura Marie swatted at a mosquito that flew past, and she said, “Lolly’s tearing up that mosquito!”

Published in: on October 20, 2013 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 19, 2013

August 19:

* Last night I went to sleep wearing a t-shirt with a pocket, and in the same room as a four-year-old.  This morning I woke up with little dolls in my shirt pocket.

* We visited the castle Casa Loma.  Carolyn had told Laura Marie about a spiral staircase there.  Laura Marie kept saying she wanted to see “the twisty stairs.”  They had one of those machines that presses an imprint on a coin.  She saw it and said she wanted to “squish a nickel.”

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 6:30 am  Comments (1)  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 18, 2013

August 18:

* Apparently our Toronto wakeup call has a slight variation.  This morning the day started with two of Laura Marie’s dolls–Snow White and Lambie–squealing in a very high-pitched voice, “Wake up, sleepyheads!”

* At the Toronto Zoo, Laura Marie took one look at the baboons and, without a word, cracked up laughing.  When I asked why she was laughing, she said, “Because they have funny faces… and red butts!”

* As we left the zoo, I said to Laura Marie, “You’re a silly Canadian goose.”  She replied, “I’m not a goose.  And I’m not a silly Canadian!”

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 6:12 am  Comments (1)  

How the West Was REALLY Won–By Bishop Ignatius of Antioch

October 17 is St. Ignatius of Antioch Day!  Below, for your reading pleasure (or perseverance), is a paper I wrote about Ignatius for a seminary class:

 

I.          Apostolic Christianity: Then and Now

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, described in Acts 2, has often been referred to as the birth of the church.  If that remarkable day in the lives of the apostles’ generation marks the birth of the church, then the passing of the apostles can be likened to a grown child leaving home for the first time.  When the last apostles and other eyewitnesses to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ had died, the church found itself in an awkward and vulnerable state.  It no longer had the apostles, but it did not yet have an authoritative canon (outside of the Hebrew Bible), creeds, or even a longstanding tradition of orthodoxy.

How did the fledgling church, born into a hostile environment with persecution from without and false teachers from within, ever survive through the next two millennia?  More specifically, how did the church move from the first century to the twenty-first century with its founding truths and principles still intact?

The answer to that question is multifaceted, but the reason the infant apostolic church not only survived but thrived is in large part due to the life, ministry, and death of Ignatius.  At the cost of his own life, this humble bishop from Antioch in Syria served as a bridge connecting the church’s apostolic past with its post-apostolic future.  Much more than a mere bridge, Ignatius was instrumental in launching the church on a trajectory that would ensure the preservation of orthodoxy for many centuries to come.  The church today owes much of its structure and purity of doctrine to Ignatius of Antioch, who laid down his life to bridge the gap between the apostolic era and the dawning age of the church.

While today’s church wrestles with issues of cultural relevance, the struggle in the early decades and centuries was one of preserving the separateness and truth of Christianity.  As Everett Ferguson writes, the closing of the apostolic age “was a situation that called not so much for keen or original thought as scrupulous fidelity in preserving intact Christian doctrine and practice.”[1]  What was needed was not so much the mere passing of a baton; the opposition was fierce, so it was more like handing off a football so the rest of the team can move the ball down the field toward the goal line.

The generation after the apostles—the generation of Ignatius—took seriously the words of the biblical writer Jude: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”[2]  This compelling call was heeded by a few select men who have been labeled the Apostolic Fathers; this term applies to the men who authored the first orthodox writings of the church in the years immediately following the completion of the New Testament.   They were not apostles themselves, but they were discipled and educated by the apostles.[3]

As Ferguson writes, “In the second century developments occurred that have been formative for most Christian churches ever since.”[4]  Ignatius was right in the middle of those developments, giving him an influence that reaches across the millennia to touch the Christian churches of today.  At the heart of these second-century concerns was a desire to preserve the teaching of the apostles against heretics and legalists that came in many forms.  Apostolic authority was to be found in the Scriptures, but who was to say how the Scriptures should be interpreted?  In the second century, the church gave its answers: the bishops and presbyters were to be the guardians of apostolic (i.e. biblical) doctrine.[5]  This is largely due to the influence of Ignatius, which cannot be overstated.  Michael W. Holmes writes, “Because of the early date of these writings and the distinctiveness of some of his ideas, particularly with regard to the nature and structure of the church, Ignatius’s letters have influenced later theological reflection and continue to be a focus in scholarly discussion of Christian origins.”[6]

Ignatius seemed to recognize in advance an important reality that Bryan Litfin describes when he writes, “It is of vital importance that every Christian believer be found traveling along the same path of historic orthodoxy that the ancient believers first labored to create.”[7]  The Apostolic Fathers battled against “variant interpretations of the Christian faith”[8] that threatened to weaken orthodox Christian doctrine; the danger was that these heresies would become accepted as orthodox Christian doctrine.  Sensing the menace at hand, Ignatius responded by urging a strengthened institutional church structure.  A universal church with clearly established lines of authority would make it more difficult for heretics to breach the fortress of orthodoxy.  Such a church would need to be united.  Ignatius envisioned a church united around a common interpretation of the Scriptures, advanced and guarded by God-ordained bishops.  The term often used to describe the universal church—etched into the historical Christian consciousness by its inclusion in the Apostles Creed—is the “catholic church.”  Ignatius is the first writer known to have used the term in this way.[9]

As Ignatius was led in chains through Asia Minor en route to his martyr’s death, he was visited by representatives of local churches.  Through them, he strengthened and encouraged the churches in those cities.  Traveling toward his execution, however, he saw the importance of committing to writing his ideas about guarding the apostolic tradition.[10]  Thus, he bequeathed to the world a series of letters which carved a channel of orthodoxy through which church doctrine has flowed throughout the centuries.

 

II.        The Bishop of Antioch: Background

Who was this Ignatius?  Nicknamed Theophorus, meaning “God-bearer,”[11] very little is known about his life apart from the letters he wrote in the brief period he was in chains before his death.  Ignatius was a bishop in Antioch—according to tradition, the third in succession after the apostle Peter and Evodius[12]—who was martyred around A.D.110- 115.[13]

In Ignatius’s time, Antioch was the third greatest city of the Roman Empire (behind Rome and Alexandria).  As for its importance to the early years of Christianity, it was perhaps second only to Jerusalem.[14]  The church in Antioch is the one that dispatched Paul and Barnabas to the mission field (Acts 13:1-3).  Acts 11:26 reveals that followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch.

With a devout commitment to protecting biblical Christology, Ignatius battled against the Gnostics and Judaizers in Antioch—the Docetists and legalists.  He was arrested in the reign of Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98-117.[15]  Trajan’s policy toward Christians, made famous in his correspondence with Governor Pliny of Bithynia,[16] was to not seek them out but to persecute them if they were found out.  During this time, Christian leaders were often persecuted as representatives of the church, rather than a wholesale persecution of believers.  Under this policy, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was arrested and condemned to death.

Like the apostle Paul, Ignatius was taken to Rome under guard.  The bishop’s route through Asia Minor (now southern Turkey) was very similar to that taken by the apostle on his third missionary journey.  During this passage, Ignatius wrote seven letters whose contents survive to this day.

In the August heat, the military detachment escorting Ignatius took a break in the city of Smyrna.  While there, he was visited by the city’s bishop, Polycarp.  Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John and would become a martyr himself.  Ignatius also received visitors representing the churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles.  He was paid a visit by another bishop, Onesimus; speculation (however unlikely) has it that this might be the same Onesimus that Paul writes about in his letter to Philemon.

While lingering in Smyrna, Ignatius penned letters to the three churches who had visited him, and wrote a fourth to the church in Rome about his impending arrival.  When the detachment moved Ignatius on to Troas, he wrote three more letters: to the churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Bishop Polycarp in Smyrna.[17]

In describing Ignatius’s seven letters, Holmes describes them as “of extraordinary interest because of the unparalleled light they shed on the history of the church at that time, and because of what they reveal about the remarkable personality of the author.”[18]  The seven letters reveal three primary concerns for Ignatius as he traveled to Rome: First, the battle against false teachers; second, church unity and structure (which he saw as intimately related); and third, his approaching martyrdom.[19]  On the journey to his death, he viewed his impending execution as a powerful confirmation of the truth of his convictions.

Ignatius viewed his death for Christ as a blessed sacrifice.  In writing about his death, he sounds much like the apostle Paul, who wrote in Philippians 1:23, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”  In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Ignatius wrote, “The kingdoms of this world are entirely meaningless.  I am at the point where I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule over the whole earth.  He alone is the one I seek—the one who died for us!”[20]  His all-consuming longing for Christ compelled him to lay down his life for the gospel when he was killed by wild beasts in the Roman Coliseum.

 

III.       Monepiscopacy

A key concept to understanding the major contribution of Ignatius to the church through the ages is his strong advocacy of the monepiscopacy.  He is the first one to promote this church structure in which each city has one bishop who oversees its churches.  In pastoring the city, each bishop is assisted by elders or presbyters.[21]  The team of presbyters is aided by deacons.  This is the threefold ministry[22] of Ignatius, a model which was widely adopted and functioned effectively to preserve orthodox Christianity in the years preceding creeds, councils, and a canonized New Testament.  Bishop, presbyter, and deacon are all biblical offices, but Ignatius adapts them for the post-apostolic era by arranging them in a particular fashion.[23]

It is important to note that “Ignatius provides a theological rationale for the authority and place of the bishop and does not base it, as does his near contemporary Clement of Rome, upon the concept of apostolic succession.”[24]  Unlike the bishops of the Catholic Church of later centuries, bishops in Ignatius’s view drew their authority not from tracing the lineage of their office back to the apostles; instead, their authority rested on their calling from God to serve humbly as His representative in the church.  In his letter to the church in Smyrna, Ignatius wrote, “Wherever the bishop appears, let there be the fullness of the church as wherever Christ Jesus appears, there is the catholic church.”[25]  The lack of the presence of living apostles was no hindrance for Ignatius, as the bishop, presbyters, and deacons provided all the authoritative leadership the church needed.  To the Christians in Magnesia, he wrote that “the bishop leads in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles and of the deacons… who have been entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ.”[26]  In that same letter, Ignatius describes Jesus Christ as “the bishop of all,”[27] giving an insight into his view of the role that he and others held as bishops.

A.        Monepiscopacy: Protector of Biblical Doctrine

One of the most critical reasons for the monepiscopacy is the protection of biblical, orthodox doctrine.  Although persecution from outside the church was a constant peril to Christians in the first through the third centuries, Ignatius saw a potentially more destructive danger inside the church.  As Holmes writes, “To Ignatius the false teachers within posed a greater threat than the pagan society without.”[28]  The bishop of Antioch saw biblical truth as a valuable but delicate treasure that must be protected.  “The gospel,” he wrote to the Philippian church, “contains something excellent: the coming of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, his suffering, and resurrection.”[29]  This “something excellent” was threatened by heresy, and Ignatius saw the monepiscopacy as the best solution to the problem.

For Ignatius, “God-given unity… was one of the distinguishing marks of the true faith.”[30]  The false teaching that kept seeping into the church continually threatened to bring division, which would shatter the precious jewel which had been entrusted to the church.  Ignatius had battled heretics and legalists and knew that more were on the way.  So as he travels to Rome to face the wild beasts in the Colosseum, he warns the church in Smyrna, “I am protecting you in advance from the beasts in human form.”[31]

In Antioch, Ignatius faced fierce opposition from legalists and from heretics, especially the Docetists.  In his letters, Ignatius continually addresses these false teachers.  The Docetists claimed that Jesus only appeared to be human but did not actually have a body of flesh.  The Judaizers insisted that all Christians, even Gentiles, follow Jewish laws and customs such as circumcision.[32]  They overemphasized the flesh.

One of the famous heretics of the New Testament is Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch.  He founded the Nicolaitans that Jesus scathingly rebukes in Revelation 2:6,14-15.  The Nicolaitans practiced loose moral standards; they were more concerned about merging Christianity with pagan culture—so as to draw more followers—than they were with following the teachings of Christ and His apostles.[33]  As forerunners of Gnosticism, the Nicolaitans left a strong heretical presence in Antioch, the city that God had called Ignatius to shepherd.

On the other extreme were the Judaizers.  As Litfin explains, “Ignatius realized it was vitally important for the early church to distance itself from legalism…  Since Christianity developed out of Judaism, there was always a tendency to fall back upon the law for salvation.  Ignatius stood guard against this temptation in Antioch.”[34]  To teach that salvation comes through the law is to undermine the heart of the gospel of grace, so Ignatius fought vigorously against legalism in the church.

To combat false teaching, Ignatius sought to strengthen the role of the bishop.  He saw the monepiscopacy as the best way for the church to stand firm against the constant threat of false teachers.  Litfin goes so far as to claim, “The monepiscopacy was such an effective strategy for safeguarding doctrine that the whole ancient church organized itself in this fashion.”[35]  Ignatius followed Paul in urging church leaders to lead the fight against false teaching.  Paul writes of “overseers”[36] in Titus 1:9-11:

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.  For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.  They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Ignatius saw this charge as his job description and battle cry, and he held to it all the way to his death.

The reason the bishop could be so effective as a guardian of truth is that he could serve as a trusted, legitimate source of doctrinal authority for converts new and old alike.  In a time when many false teachers sought to impose their doctrines on the biblical doctrine of the apostolic church, there needed to be one point person in each city who could speak with authority.  That person, for Ignatius, was the bishop.  He was the one charged by God with keeping the church united by preserving and teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ and all its implications as taught by the apostles.

B.        Monepiscopacy: Protector of Church Unity

Church unity and pure doctrine were inseparable for Ignatius.  The monepiscopacy served both purposes well.  In his letters, he advocates the bishop not only as the guardian of truth, but also as the protector of unity.  From the first days of the church, there had existed a plurality of leadership in local congregations.  Such was the church structure in key cities such as Jerusalem, Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, Crete, and Rome, and possibly Alexandria.[37]  Ignatius did not displace a plurality of leadership; rather, he organized them.  In the face of divisiveness in churches with no clear authoritative leader, Ignatius structured the leadership and encouraged—in fact, insisted—that Christians obey their leaders.  In his writings, the bishop represents God, the presbyters represent the apostles, and the deacons symbolize the servant character of Christ.[38]  Ignatius is the earliest Christian leader to promote the implementation of this threefold ministry in each local congregation.[39]

Unity among Christians, and specifically obedience to leadership, represented to Ignatius the loving harmony in the Godhead.  In John 17:21, Jesus prays “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Such was to be the nature of the relationships between bishops, presbyters, deacons, and the people of the churches they served and led.

Examples of Ignatius’s emphasis on the essentiality of the monepiscopacy for the protection of church unity abound in his letters:

So let us be diligent not to oppose the bishop that we may be subject to God.[40]

Be subject to your bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ in the flesh is to the Father and the apostles to Christ, the Father, and the Spirit.  The result is that your unity will be both physical and spiritual.[41]

When you are submissive to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you seem to me to be living not in accord with human custom but in accord with Jesus Christ who died for us.[42]

Wherever the bishop appears, let there be the fullness of the church as wherever Christ Jesus appears, there is the catholic church.[43]

Pay attention to the bishop that God may do the same to you.[44]

The importance of the bishop as the authoritative leader and protector of church unity is a striking feature of Ignatius’s letters.  Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than when he writes to the church in Ephesus: “Everyone that the steward sends to look after his own stewardship we should receive as being like him who sent him.  So it is clear with respect to the bishop that we should view him as the Lord himself.”[45]

 

IV.       Martyrdom

Ignatius willingly died to leverage everything he had, even his very life, so that apostolic Christianity might prevail over its fraudulent competitors.  On the situation in the church during the time of Bishop Ignatius, Litfin writes, “The very future of the Christian religion was at stake—and Ignatius viewed the truth as something worth dying for.”[46]

In fact, the God-bearer bishop of Antioch went so far as to write to the church in Rome asking them not to interfere with his martyrdom.  He wrote to them: “Do not prevent me from being poured out to God as a libation… singing to the Father in Christ Jesus since God counted the bishop of Syria to be found worthy of being sent from east to west.  It is good that I should be like the sun setting from this world so that I may rise to God.”[47]

Had the Roman Christians succeeded in getting Ignatius released, it may have sparked rumors that he had denied the faith since apostasy was usually the only grounds for sparing a condemned Christian.[48]  So if the Christians in Rome had secured his freedom, they might have saved his life but Ignatius would have seen it as losing his life.  Since the word “martyr” comes from the Greek word for “witness,” Litfin’s statement is fitting that “Ignatius of Antioch bolstered the true teaching of Christianity against his opponents by laying down his life as a witness for the name of Jesus.”[49]

History loses contact with Ignatius when he leaves Troas for Philippi.  According to Irenaeus, who was not in Rome at the time but did arrive soon afterward, Ignatius was in fact killed by lions as he had anticipated.[50]  Like Peter and Paul before him, he died a martyr’s death in Rome.

For Ignatius, death was a victory that confirmed the superiority of apostolic Christianity over the false teachings of the Judaizers and Gnostics.  As he wrote to the church in Rome before his death in their city, “Let it all come upon me: fire and cross, fierceness of beasts, being cut up, torn apart, breaking of bones, beating of members, grinding of the whole body, torments of the devil.  Only this remains: I desire to reach Jesus Christ.”[51]

 

V.        Conclusion

Ignatius determined to make his life and death a victorious shout[52] for apostolic Christianity.  On the way to his martyr’s death, he wrote passionately to extol the tremendous value of the monepiscopacy and the threefold ministry in the church.  By the middle of the second century, this was indeed the structure of most churches.  By the end of the century, the position of bishop was generally strong enough to serve the purposes of protecting unity, guarding biblical doctrine, and speaking as an authoritative voice heard over the noise of the Judaizers and Gnostics.[53]  Today the church still benefits from its inheritance of orthodoxy that was safeguarded by the martyrdom of Ignatius.  His death accomplished the purpose he hoped for when he humbly wrote, “As scum of the earth I sanctify myself… for the church famous for ages.”[54]

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Eusebius and Paul L. Maier. Eusebius: The Church History. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: Vol. 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Holmes, Michael W. The Apostolic Fathers in English. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.

Howell, Kenneth J. Ignatius of Antioch & Polycarp of Smyrna. Zanesville: CHResources, 2009.

Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians.

_______. Letter to the Magnesians.

_______. Letter to the Philadelphians.

_______. Letter to the Philippians.

_______. Letter to Polycarp.

_______. Letter to the Smyrneans.

_______. Letter to the Trallians.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles, eds. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown.  Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

Litfin, Bryan M. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language: Updated 2nd Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Walsh, Michael. Ed. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.


[1] Everett Ferguson. Church History: Vol. 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation, 62.

[2] Jude 3.

[3] Ferguson. Church History, 50.

[4] Ibid., 106.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Michael W. Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers in English, 87.

[7] Bryan M. Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, 29.

[8] Ferguson. Church History, 57.

[9] Bruce L. Shelley. Church History in Plain Language, 28.

[10] Eusebius. The Church History, 109.

[11] Ferguson. Church History, 56.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Usually one of these two dates is given. For example, Eusebius gives a date of 110, while Litfin suggests 115.

[14] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 34.

[15] Ferguson, 55.

[16] Eusebius. Church History, 117.

[17] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 43-44.

[18] Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers in English, 87.

[19] Ibid, 88.

[20] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 51.

[21] Ibid. 42.

[22] Shelley. Church History in Plain Language, 70.

[23] Litfin. 42.

[24] Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers in English, 89.

[25] Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrneans 8.2.

[26] Ibid. Letter to the Magnesians 6.1.

[27] Ibid. 3.1.

[28] Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers in English, 88.

[29] Ignatius. Letter to the Philippians 9.2.

[30] Holmes, 88.

[31] Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrneans 4.1.

[32] Ferguson. Church History, 56.

[33] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 39.

[34] Ibid. 38.

[35] Ibid. 43.

[36] Titus 1:7.

[37] Ferguson. Church History, 107.

[38] Ferguson. Church History, 56.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians 5.3.

[41] Ibid. 13.2.

[42] Ibid. Letter to the Trallians 2.1.

[43] Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrneans 8.2.

[44] Ibid. Letter to Polycarp 6.1.

[45] Ibid. Letter to the Ephesians 6.7.

[46] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 36.

[47] Ignatius. Letter to the Romans 2.2.

[48] Holmes. The Apostolic Fathers in English, 89.

[49] Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers, 44.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ignatius. Letter to the Romans 5.3.

[52] Litfin. 44.

[53] Ferguson. Church History, 107-08.

[54] Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians 8.1.

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 17, 2013

August 17:

* On this day we discovered that our daily wakeup call throughout the duration of our vacation was going to be a certain four-year-old girl standing next to our bed yelling, “Wake up, sleepyheads!”

* While eating at Rainforest Café in Niagara Falls, I noticed that Laura Marie’s attention was fixed on something nearby.  So I asked what she was doing.  She said very matter-of-factly, and none too quietly, “I’m staring at the lady.” Um, oh—I guess I did ask.

* We headed south a little to a park that had a really beautiful garden.  The whole time we were there, she pretended she was Alice and was in Wonderland.  Although I’m not sure she was really pretending.  She got pretty upset if we had a momentary mental lapse and called her anything other than “Alice.”

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 6:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 16, 2013

August 16:

* We thought Laura Marie might sleep late after getting to bed late.  But nope—we awoke with her standing right next to our bed, shouting, “Wake up, sleepyheads!”

* During breakfast, Carolyn poured syrup on Laura Marie’s waffle.  Laura Marie remarked, “How sweet of you!”

* As we rode the Maid of the Mist within an admittedly intimidating proximity to Niagara Falls, Laura Marie coolly observed, “It’s probably not a good idea to go under the water falls.”  She has the gift of understatement.

* During lunch, we were all quietly eating when Laura Marie suddenly said to Carolyn, “You are silly and dangerous.”

* After we got some ice cream and started walking along the falls, Laura Marie found a small green patch of earth in the middle of the vast crowds.  At her suggestion, we sat there and enjoyed our ice cream.  Several minutes later she said cheerfully, “So how do you like this meadow that I found?”

* At dinner, I asked Laura Marie why she had chosen Rolo ice cream earlier in the day.  She answered, “Because it caught my eye.”

* I told Laura Marie, “You’re an amusing person.”  She asked what “amusing” meant and I explained it.  A few minutes later she said to Carolyn, “Mommy, you’re a confusing person.”

* And my all-time favorite: As I was getting her ready for bed that night, she said, “You’re the world’s best daddy.”  I don’t think I’ll ever recover from that.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 6:39 am  Comments (4)  

Laura Marie Takes Canada: August 15, 2013

In August we took a family vacation to Canada.  I was refreshingly without Internet access during that time so I didn’t post any Laura Marieisms.  But I did keep track of them!  Since today’s date corresponds with the date we left, I thought over the next few days I’d share some of Laura Marie’s thoughts from our trip.  Here are some of my favorites from August 15:

* As we were packing up the morning we left, she asked, “Why do people need to go on vacation?”

* Carolyn and I were talking in the car, and Laura Marie piped up from the backseat, “What are you dudes talking about?”

* A short time later, Carolyn was trying to get her attention and Laura Marie said, “Just a minute, honey.”

* When Carolyn and I were discussing cow milk versus goat milk (which, for the record, I’ve never had), Laura Marie asked, “Why do you guys talk about so silly stuff?”

Published in: on October 15, 2013 at 11:36 am  Comments (2)  

Overcoming Negative Thinking

           Thinking negatively is way too easy.  It takes no effort at all.  However, it will also destroy you.  Some people are naturally positive, but it seems that most—myself included—have more of a negative bent.  Given this reality, it’s so important to be intentional about redirecting our thoughts.  Otherwise we’ll find ourselves mad at the world and not even know why; meanwhile, our stress and anxiety will devour us.  So I thought I’d share some steps that I’m taking to win this ongoing battle against negative thinking:

* Spend more time with positive people.  Recently I had appointments on back-to-back days with people who are very encouraging, positive, and hopeful.  Unfortunately that’s a very rare experience for me.  In this case, it set a positive spin on my whole week!  Get these people in your life, and make it a priority to spend time with them.  (By the way, you can also make it a priority to be this kind of positive person in someone else’s life!  Trust me—there’s a definite shortage out there.  Oh wait, that was negative.  Sorry.)

* Spend less time with negative people.  This is the other side of the more-time-with-positive-people coin.  There are enough voices in my head beating me down with criticism and doubt—the last thing I need is to be surrounded by people who make it their personal mission to verbalize the same discouraging and defeating thoughts.  (Once again—make sure that you are not the negative force in someone else’s life!)

* Don’t hang out with gossips and critics.  This one seems so obvious I almost left it off the list, but it’s so important that it deserves mention.  If you have coworkers, friends, or neighbors who constantly tear down other people, get the heck out of Dodge.  These conversations spiral out of control until verbal poop has splattered over everyone you know.  Flee!  By the way, sometimes a thorough negative rap session can instill an artificial sense of bonding.  Don’t be deceived—these people are not your friends.  The moment you leave the room, your name is venomously spewed from their lips.

* Block posts by negative Facebook friends from showing up in your feed.  There are some folks I love dearly but who constantly post negative stuff on Facebook.  Some of them post quite frequently, which means I have a steady stream of negativity flowing across my screen.  I’m not talking about those who periodically vent frustration about an experience at the doctor’s office or crack a cynical joke.  I’m talking about those who, when you see their name show up on your news feed, you know they’re griping about a certain political party, lamenting the outrageous signs of decay in our world, or whining about how they need a drink to solve all their problems.  (Not that none of those things are not valid [except for the last one!]; but if negative thinking is a struggle for you, these FB posters will trip you up constantly.  And yes, I realize I used a triple negative in that last sentence.  But this is a post about being negative, after all.)  You don’t have to unfriend these people and blow up your real-life relationships with them.  Just go to your personal page, click on “Friends,” find the negative posters on your list, hold your cursor over the checked Friend icon, and when the box pops up, make sure that “Show in News Feed” is not checked.  Avoid negative posters, and refuse to be one.  IMPORTANT CONFESSIONAL NOTE: Yes, I am totally guilty of often being this person.  Certain things set me off, and I use Facebook as an outlet to vent.  However, from this point, I’m asking you to please do me a favor: If you catch me being a negative FB poster, please call me out on it—publicly!

* Identify recurring situations in which you fall prey to negative thinking, and intentionally fill your mind with something positive during those times.  Periods of silence are good—we have too few of them.  However, they can also turn against us if being left alone to our thoughts becomes an opportunity to stew.  I’ve identified some of these situations in my own life so this is how I handle them: In the morning when I’m alone in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for my daughter, I crank up some uplifting praise and worship music.  When I’m in the shower, I pray and memorize Bible verses.  When I’m driving, I listen to sermons by my favorite preachers.  Identify the times you tend to wallow in negative thinking, and fill those silent periods with something positive instead.

* Spend as little time as you possibly can watching, reading, and listening to the news.  NEWS stands for Negative Energy Worldwide Simulcast.  Their primary aim is not to provide you with important information.  Rather, they want to get you riled up so you’ll continue to tune in and their advertisers will fill their bank accounts.  If that sounds cynical to you, just go check the website for one of the major news outlets.  I’d be shocked if you didn’t see something there about a toddler who was murdered in grisly fashion, parents who were arrested for finding innovative ways to abuse their children, the latest outrageous example of government waste or corruption, and a report on some dictator who slaughtered half a million of his own countrymen—complete with photos of mounds of body bags.  Don’t spend too much time in the news.  And please, for the sake of everything you hold dear, NEVER NEVER NEVER read the comments people post in response to these articles!  You will instantly lose any hope for the future of the human race.

* When confronted with something that really gets under your skin, address it immediately.  There have been times when I received a voicemail or text message that immediately set off a heated argument in my mind.  I would try to focus on reading or spending time with my family or whatever I had been doing, but found myself so distracted that I was present physically but not mentally or emotionally.  As a result, my agitated thoughts consumed me for hours.  However, I’ve discovered a simple solution: Instead of harboring those thoughts, go ahead and take the time to respond appropriately.  If it’s an email that’s set you off, then go ahead and send out a thought-out reply that is gracious but direct.  If you need to make a phone call, send a message online, or whatever medium you might use, take care of it right away.  When I have done so, I then found it much easier to put the matter out of mind and focus on doing what I needed to be doing.

* Ask God for help.  Seems so obvious, but I often forget this most helpful step.  When was the last time you asked God to help you combat negative thinking?

* Read things that are uplifting.  If you’re ticked off about the government shutdown, that book about conspiracy theories regarding the JFK assassination might have to wait ‘til another time.  A biography about someone whose life has made a valuable difference, or a novel that gets you lost in another world, or—best of all—the Bible or a devotional book might be the way to go.

* Pray for people that bug the crap out of you.  No, I don’t mean pray that they’ll get struck by lightning.  And don’t pray that fake prayer that God will save that person’s soul, meanwhile relishing in your assurance that God agrees with your assessment that such a scoundrel is beyond the reaches of divine grace, but you have self-righteously done your duty to pray for your enemies.  Uh, not that I’ve ever done that.  At least not today.  I don’t think.  Instead, pray that God would change that person’s heart, and change your heart toward that person.  Who knows, your worst critic might become your strongest supporter.  Or at least they might get off your back.

* Get over yourself.  Try to see life from a broader perspective.  Often we turn negative because of an affront—real or imagined—to ourselves.  Maybe things aren’t done the way we just know they should be done.  Maybe we’re offended because someone made a comment and we’re pretty sure their tone carried a deeper, sinister meaning.  Or maybe things simply aren’t going our way.  When we focus too much on ourselves, negative thinking will overtake us because the universe is not being ruled according to our personal preferences and desires, and our opinions have not been codified as law.  It will help tremendously if we learn to open our eyes to see from the perspective of the other several billion individuals with whom we share a planet.

* Practice thankfulness.  To employ a couple clichés, an attitude of gratitude trumps stinkin’ thinkin’.  When I take inventory of all my blessings, it’s really, really hard to stay negative for too long.  One reason we often wallow in negativity is because we don’t feel appreciated.  But when was the last time you expressed genuine appreciation, both to God and to other people?  Gratefulness drives away negativity like a Mother’s Cantina entrée drives away hunger.

* Finally, have someone hold you accountable.  In other words, talk with someone close to you and give them permission to call you out when you start hauling butt down the highway of negativity.  And when they pull you over on that road and issue you a citation, don’t get defensive.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t get huffy.  Instead, thank them and make a U-turn toward the land of positive thinking.

That’s all I’ve got.  Any other suggestions for approaches you’ve used to fight against negative thinking?

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm  Comments (2)  
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What’s Up With All These Bible Translations?

            When I die, I want Aaron Neville’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” played at my funeral.  At least at the beginning, that is.  To close the service, I much prefer the same song, but the Dropkick Murphys version.  Same song, completely different feel.  Neville’s take on the timeless tune is haunting, soulful, serene, and highly unusual.  Dropkick Murphys offer an equally unique version: bagpipes carry the song through the first verse, and then are joined by pounding electric guitars and drums.  It’s the same song, but one moves you to tears while the other helps you get your groove on.  So which one is more faithful to the original hymn penned by the former slave trader John Newton several centuries ago?

            In a similar way, there have been literally hundreds of English translations of the Bible since it first appeared in the English language in 1537.  They offer many different flavors.  Like the various versions of “Amazing Grace,” some Bible translations will leave you inspired, others will make you laugh, and others will leave you simply shaking your head.  You can find the English Bible written in the high English of past centuries, constructed in short sentences with small words for children, technical prose for scholars, wildly imaginative paraphrases, and even—seriously—in Ebonics.  But since the Bible was originally composed in mostly Hebrew and Greek (with some Aramaic in the mix), how do we know which translation we should use?  One of the most important factors to consider is the distinction between formally equivalent (or literal) translations and functionally equivalent (or dynamic) translations.

            An English translation of the Bible that is formally equivalent is one that attempts to translate each Hebrew or Greek word into its English equivalent.  Sometimes referred to as a “literal” approach, such a “word-for-word” translation places priority on preserving the divine inspiration behind each word.  An English translation of the Bible that is functionally or dynamically equivalent is one that attempts to translate each Hebrew or Greek phrase into a corresponding English phrase.  It prioritizes capturing the thought behind each original phrase.  Such a “thought-for-thought” translation is especially useful for helping the English reader to understand Hebrew and Greek idioms and figures of speech.

            In choosing a Bible translation, there are several criteria to consider depending on the reader’s purpose.  If the reader is doing a careful study of the words or is seeking insight into a biblical writing’s structure, then using a formally equivalent translation is recommended.  If the reader is primarily concerned with understanding the ideas in each sentence, then a dynamically equivalent translation may be preferred.  To read a fresh perspective, a paraphrase may be helpful.  Other considerations may include the age of the reader.  For younger Bible readers, a translation with shorter sentences may be helpful.  In preaching, a formally equivalent translation is better for expository teaching through a book of the Bible.  For topical messages, a dynamically equivalent translation might be better for congregational comprehension.

            For those who do not work with the Hebrew and Greek biblical texts, using multiple translations—especially a formal equivalent and a functional equivalent—may be extremely helpful.  A more literal translation helps the English reader see the author’s structure and identify more precisely the original words used in composition.  A more dynamic translation will help the English reader to understand phrases that do not translate literally and may seem like nonsense.  Both approaches to translation have strengths and weaknesses.  By using both types of translations, the English reader of Scripture can utilize the strengths of both while minimizing the weaknesses of each.  I have personally found it very helpful to use a parallel Bible where I can quickly compare different translations.

            For a new believer, I would recommend the New Living Translation (NLT).  The most important aspect of Scripture reading for a new believer is gaining a basic comprehension of what the Bible says.  A dynamically equivalent translation such as the NLT is easier for a beginner to understand.  Once he has read through the NLT and established that foundation of familiarity with the message of God’s Word, then I would recommend a more word-for-word translation such as the English Standard Version (ESV) or New American Standard Bible (NASB) for more in-depth study.

            Personally, my favorite translation is something that has been in flux for a decade.  The only ones I have read from beginning to end are the New International Version (NIV), NLT, and New King James Version (NKJV).  The NIV is the one I have used the most (by far), but its 2011 changes render much of the wording awkwardly so I probably will not be using it much in the future.  For the past few months I have relied heavily on the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)—jokingly known as the Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible.  What appeals to me the most about the HCSB is its purported middle ground between formal equivalence and functional equivalence.  I also like the way it retains God’s personal name, “Yahweh,” instead of changing it to “the LORD.”  More recently I have been using the ESV and would like to make it the next translation I read from cover to cover.  I like its highly-touted accuracy, its consistency in translating the same word the same way (when used in the same way), and its preservation of important theological terms.  The ESV is the primary translation I will use in my preaching, study, and personal devotions for the foreseeable future.

            What about you?  Which translation(s) do you prefer, and why?

Published in: on October 4, 2013 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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