Henry Neufeld

Author's details

Name: Henry Neufeld
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://henrysthreads.com

Latest posts

  1. Threads from Henry's Web: The 5-Minute-a-Day Bible Reading Plan vs. My Dad’s Bible — February 21, 2014
  2. Threads from Henry's Web: On Ecclesiastes and Disagreeing with Authors — February 17, 2014
  3. Threads from Henry's Web: The Authority of the Longer Ending of Mark — February 17, 2014
  4. Threads from Henry's Web: Trajectories, Hermeneutics, Sexual Ethics, and Ecclesiology — February 16, 2014
  5. Threads from Henry's Web: Link: Roger Olson – The Most Pernicious Heresy in American Christianity — February 9, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Threads from Henry's Web: Honoring Those Who Do Not Fight — 2 comments
  2. Threads from Henry's Web: Scot McKnight on Dominion Theology — 1 comment
  3. Threads from Henry's Web: The Scandal of Unprepared Pastors — 1 comment
  4. Threads from Henry's Web: Curiosity on Mars — 1 comment
  5. Threads from Henry's Web: Removing Mormons from the Cult List — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Feb 21 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: The 5-Minute-a-Day Bible Reading Plan vs. My Dad’s Bible

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/21/the-5-minute-a-day-bible-reading-plan-vs-my-dads-bible/

Some time ago I was invited to answer questions from a group of wonderful young people. They were invited to ask me any question they wanted. On about the third question, as they were discussing the background between them, I had my finger in a place in my Bible where I was going to start with my answer. One young man said, pointing at my Bible,”You know, it’s almost frightening the way you have somewhere to turn to in that thing.”

I say that not to boast, but rather to say this. You know what’s really frightening? That this surprised him.

When I try to answer Bible questions, I’m frequently asked just how one can get to know the Bible like I do. What it generally comes down to, however, is that they’d like me to provide them with something along the lines of a 5-minute-a-day plan. Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of Christians who could benefit from five minutes of Bible reading per day. It’s just that five minutes each day won’t get you to the point where you really know your Bible.

Very few of us would spend that little time keeping up with our professional fields, and I note that Bible study is a part of my work. But while claiming that the things in the Bible are of eternal importance, we are often mysteriously uninterested in actually knowing what they are.

Let me start with how I got to know my Bible as well as I do, and let me add that there are plenty of weaknesses in my knowledge of scripture. You see, it’s not my fault. I can’t claim superior spiritual reasons. I grew up with it. It all started with my Dad’s Bible.

My Dad's Bible, one of many that he used over a lifetime. I'd often see him reading and marking them. He used this one toward the end of his life.

My Dad’s Bible, one of many that he used over a lifetime. I’d often see him reading and marking them. He used this one toward the end of his life.

Here are the key points:

  1. I saw my parents study their Bibles regularly, frequently, and for much more than five minutes at a time. It looked natural to me. Parents, if you want your children to read their Bibles, read yours. It will do you (and them) much more good than all the urging you can provide.
  2. I studied and memorized the Bible through church programs and in school. I memorized whole chapters. I read so much of the King James Version that I still tend to use a KJV concordance or do my #BibleGateway lookups in the KJV.
  3. I studied the Bible in college. I went out of my way to do extra reading either of or about the Bible. I took German reading and then did an independent readings course covering Old Testament textual criticism. I studied French and when it was time to write, I wrote about French translations of Hebrew poetry. I did a two quarter hour independent study of just the first chapter of Ezekiel.
  4. I asked myself what was important. If I claimed that God and my relationship with him was even moderately important in my life, I needed to spend time in touch with God through his Word.
  5. I continued reading. I even read for language maintenance while I was out of the church following seminary. When I returned, I was able to restart reading at the rate of a chapter a day in Greek.

Boasting? God forbid that I should boast save in the grace of God that led my parents to instill these habit patterns in me and let me take an honest look at myself as I would be without him!

My point is that if you want to know the Bible, there is no quick plan, no shortcuts, no easy osmosis method. You need to spend time with it. Prayerfully examine your priorities. If you are a parent, consider what you want to teach your children. Do you want them to think that Bible study is important? Study it. Let them see your priorities in action. Do you want them to grow up as praying people? Pray! Don’t be afraid to be spiritual and to talk about spiritual things.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/the-5-minute-a-day-bible-reading-plan-vs-my-dads-bible/

Feb 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: On Ecclesiastes and Disagreeing with Authors

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/17/on-ecclesiastes-and-disagreeing-with-authors/

Ecclesiastes: A Participatory Study GuideNo, not the authors of the biblical text, though that’s an interesting topic. I’m talking about disagreeing with a study guide author, in this case a study guide author I chose both to publish and then to use in my Sunday School class.

One class member was surprised—not shocked, annoyed, or disturbed, but just surprised—that I would make those choices.

More on that in a moment. What is it that I disagree on? Well, it is fairly simple and quite broad: authors, date, and the translation of the Hebrew word hebel. Those are the subjects we’ve covered in the first two chapters. I consider Solomonic authorship unlikely. It sounds to me more like someone later writing in a way that will suggest to his readers hearing this later literature in the light of the life and times of King Solomon. Incidentally, while I haven’t studied it that much, this could be a textual relationship, and the methods taught in chapter 2 could be used to discover whether there is, in fact, such a relationship, or if it’s just a relationship of ideas, or none at all. On hebel, I tend to read it more negatively than does the author of the study guide.

This recalls to my mind some of the best times I had in college and graduate school. I would get together with a group of fellow students, sometimes with one of our professors, and we’d hash out issues. The goal wasn’t to find people you agreed with. That was pointless. The goal was to find brilliant people who thought differently than you did. Then you’d argue out the details and you’d all learn new things. The only time disagreement was a problem was when someone couldn’t be reasonably gracious about it. Vigorous disagreement and a spirited defense of one’s ideas was good. We tried not to get personal, and generally succeeded.

What I told my class was that agreeing with me wasn’t even a consideration in choosing what book to publish. If it slipped in, it could just as well be a negative as a positive.

These first two chapters of the Ecclesiastes study guide are brilliant, in my view, because they present views that will be controversial in many quarters, and they do so thoroughly, but in a way that a serious non-specialist can read and understand. You don’t just learn what the author’s opinion is and the names of some people who oppose it. You learn why he made those choices. The introduction to intertextuality is also excellent and gets Bible students to think of things that we often neglect. Just how do two texts/passages relate? Which might have influence the other? That involves sequence and availability. Which was written first? Is it likely that the earlier work was available to the later writer? What characteristics would show that two texts were related?

People from all parts of the theological and spiritual spectrum have an unfortunate tendency to read things they find agreeable. I’m hoping that through both teaching and publishing, I can get them to look at things that are very different. This is not simply to get an idea of the spectrum of ideas. It’s also so that people learn why. In the 21st century it is unrealistic for pastors to assume people won’t get exposed to these other viewpoints. Yet there are still pastors who think they can somehow protect their congregations from discovering this fact.

Bible students all too frequently simply accept what their study Bibles, their pastors, or some Bible teacher says as to authorship, dating, relationships between texts, and interpretation. They don’t understand why those things happen. This guide is attempting to teach people how to examine the nuts and bolts of the process, how to make such determinations for themselves.

I was reminded of the conversation in class during the sermon. My pastor was preaching from Matthew 5, including the portions that discuss divorce, lust, and adultery. I happened to agree with what he drew from the text, but I noticed that it would be nearly impossible for people in the congregation to rebuild his logic. It’s likely a bit much to expect a pastor to get any of that “other stuff” across in a 20-25 minute homily, but I think it is unfortunate that for many congregants, that one discussion will be all that they learn about that passage. They will go home with an interpretation (assuming they remember it), but will be unable to defend it, and would be unable to reproduce it or apply the same principles to another text.

I truly don’t look for authors who agree with me. I look for authors who will educate, because education in turn empowers people to take action.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/on-ecclesiastes-and-disagreeing-with-authors/

Feb 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: The Authority of the Longer Ending of Mark

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/17/the-authority-of-the-longer-ending-of-mark/

Here’s an interesting post on the longer ending of Mark and snake handling. (HT: Dave Black Online, Why Four Gospels?)

There’s obviously a serious question about hermeneutics lurking in the discussion, but what I would like to see discussed is just what text of Mark is authoritative. We tend to assume that what we want is the most original text. What did Mark write?

But we count as scripture what was recognized by the church councils as scripture. (I ignore here whatever reasons they may have had for their choice.) The Gospel of Mary or the Gospel of Peter are not authoritative, but Mark is. What text of Mark were the church fathers looking at when they made it canonical? Does that matter?

I think it would relate (in a distant way) to the question of whether a gospel retains its authority if one thinks it was authored by someone other than the traditional one. If the church fathers canonized a gospel they believe to have been written by Mark, and then it turns out he didn’t write it, should their decision be reviewed?

I ask these questions because we often try to dodge doctrinal difficulties through textual criticism. I think that is not always (or often) the right approach. It has its value, but creates its own difficulties.

Worth thinking on, I think.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/the-authority-of-the-longer-ending-of-mark/

Feb 16 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Trajectories, Hermeneutics, Sexual Ethics, and Ecclesiology

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/16/trajectories-hermeneutics-sexual-ethics-and-ecclesiology/

Reading Chris Seitz on the Biblical Crisis in the Homosexuality Debates (by Alastair Roberts) reminded me of three things I already believed:

  1. It is very dangerous to try to develop hermeneutics while wrapped up in a debate on a particular topic.
  2. The best test of one’s hermeneutics is to change the subject. Does it still work?
  3. Debate often tends to obscure the middle ground.

Despite the pretentious title, I mean this to be a short post. I also would like to note that I have not read Chris Seitz; I have only read Alastair Roberts’ comments. But his comments are not particularly wild or annoying, compared to other things I have read.

You need to read Alastair’s entire post, but here’s a key line:

The flirting of many evangelicals with forms of trajectory hermeneutics is just one example of the way in which the creedal understanding of the relationship between the testaments has become compromised.

I’ve written before about trajectories, and clearly I believe that there are trajectories in scripture and that we need to pay attention to them. This is part of my belief that we often develop doctrines of inspiration (and a resulting hermeneutic) that ignore the human portion of the communication. I don’t refer here to the prophet, but rather to those who receive God’s communication. The accuracy of communication cannot be stated without noting how accurately a message is received. But that is another topic which I discuss further in my book on the subject.

What I’m interested in here is the suggestion that the debates about sexual ethics in general, and about homosexuality in particular, have done violence to hermeneutics that had not already been done.

So I change the subject. What hermeneutic produces the liturgy and organizational structure of the Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican communion as a whole? How do we get from the New Testament to the cathedral, from the home meeting where everyone participated to church architecture with a raised platform and a privileged few leaders? Might I even go so far as to ask what trajectory permitted these changes?

I note that one departure from scripture, in sexual ethics, is regarded as sufficient to prevent certain levels of fellowship between the United Methodist Church, of which I am a member, and the Episcopal Church or the United Church of Christ. The other, in ecclesiology seems less important to those in positions of authority.

But of course that question is grossly unfair, because I could ask the same thing about the organizational structures and liturgy of the United Methodist Church. Well, as long as everyone is sinning in the same way …

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a theology professor about a colleague who was teaching religion somewhere in the Bible belt. This colleague noted that there was a great deal of tension about his moderately liberal academic views regarding scripture as he taught. He was teaching a general course in basic Christianity, however, and eventually they came to sexual ethics. Suddenly the students reversed positions. The professor took the idea of sexual purity seriously, with sexual relations only permissible within marriage. Suddenly the conservative students thought their “liberal” professor was way too conservative.

Which reminds me of another thing I’ve observed about the human side of doctrine. There are clean sins and dirty sins. Clean sins are the ones I commit. Dirty sins are the ones you commit.

I wouldn’t want to speak for God, but I’m suspecting God’s view might be different.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/trajectories-hermeneutics-sexual-ethics-and-ecclesiology/

Feb 09 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Link: Roger Olson – The Most Pernicious Heresy in American Christianity

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/09/link-roger-olson-the-most-pernicious-heresy-in-american-christianity/

This is very much worth reading.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/link-roger-olson-the-most-pernicious-heresy-in-american-christianity/

Feb 09 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Ecclesiastes Lesson 1

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/02/09/ecclesiastes-lesson-1/

I thought I’d write just a few reflections on our class today.

  1. In general the class was less interested in authorship than either I or the author of the study guide were. We had folks using the Wesley study Bible and the CEB Study Bible, both of which brush past the authorship issue. While I find Solomonic authorship unlikely, Russell Meek makes a very clear set of arguments in favor of his view that Solomon is the author.
  2. How important is authorship in general for interpretation? I think that as we continue, I will be thinking and observing just how much our views of authorship impact the way we read the book.
  3. In general, the class wonders why Ecclesiastes is included in the canon. This is a standard question I’ve heard many times. I even admit to haven’t questioned this myself.
  4. This is going to be fun! :-)


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/02/ecclesiastes-lesson-1/

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