Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Wilderness Is Not a Luxury."

So grateful for another beautiful day here in Southside.

Perfect for a bike ride and then some yard work in preparation for our next set of retreatants. 


I never tire of this farm. 


It's so conducive to putting body and soul back together again. 


This was Becky's vision and one I immediately caught.

Life outdoors is the perfect balance to a life indoors writing and teaching. 


"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit" (Edward Abbey). Life is filled with beauty. Notice it. Especially the box of fresh veggies and home-made grape jam your daughter leaves for you on the well house. 😋

Going Through Life Tied Down

"I will rejoice in the Lord! I will joy in the God of my salvation!" Sometimes we lose the intensity of the worship of ancient Israel. We are so staid and proper. We're like Gullivers of old, going through life tied down. 


Somebody or something needs to unclip us. Get outdoors today and feel the thrill of a body in motion, worshiping its Creator. Let's learn how to express our praise to God not only in our sterile intellectualism but physically, praising the Lord with the fullness of our being. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The (Real) Reason I Don't Teach Spoken Koine

Greetings, fellow language nerds. Today I'm going to give you the reason why I don't plan on adopting a conversational approach to teaching Koine Greek. I'm not saying I won't use bits and pieces of this approach in the classroom. But as an overall method of teaching? Highly unlikely.

The real reason I haven't learned to speak Koine Greek myself and haven't used that method to teach Koine Greek to others is a completely personal and selfish one. I would become frustrated out of my gourd not to be able to talk to anybody. Otherwise, I'm 100 percent in favor of acquiring a spoken knowledge of a language. Take German, for instance. It's not only a beautiful language, it's made my life more beautiful because of the experiences I've gotten to have because I speak German, the people that I've met, the places I've been able to visit, etc. The same is true of Spanish. You can speak Spanish almost anywhere in the U.S. But Koine? If you don't use it you're almost certain to lose it.

I recall once having lunch with a friend of mine who is a big proponent of the conversational approach to Koine Greek. He's written books on the subject. I asked him, "Who do you speak Koine with?" His answer was, no one. That would frustrate me TO DEATH. German, on the other hand, is the (or "an") official language in more than one country -- Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland -- all of which I've visited and one of which I lived in.


But Spoken Koine? The idea is nice, but the payoff seems oh so small. Again, this is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt (mit Vorsicht geniessen -- "enjoy with caution"). Keep in mind that we all have different learning styles. What works for me is not necessarily going to work for you. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at the Teaching and Learning Greek page at my New Testament Greek Portal for some resources on the conversational approach to Koine Greek. Read them and then make up your mind for yourself.

My Latest Essay

The latest issue of the Southeastern Theological Review has just appeared. You can read it here.


A (written) standing ovation to Ben Merkle for his editorship and to Adrianne Miles and Matt Mullins who asked to interview me for this issue and who lied to tell me that what I had written was "good." Consider my own contribution to this issue a mere teaser for my next article, "So You Don't Like Robert Alter?", which will appear shortly in JRGPWHNED -- the Journal for Retired Greek Profs Who Have Nothing Better to Do.

Today's Run

The weather today was perfect for a short run. I did some of it on the trail.

And the rest on the roads. 


Each day that I get to run is a gift from God. Each time I put on my running shoes I feel like a champion. I came into this sport completely by accident, but it's changed my life. My blog is an invitation for you to discover the hidden athlete in you too.

What Running (and My Body) Has Taught Me About the Body of Christ

The day had finally come for me to run my first trail ultramarathon. "Dave," I said to myself, "you're 66 years old. Are you sure you want to do this?" As I stood at the starting line, I could only hope I was prepared for the challenge that lay ahead. I wore my stock-in-trade black tank top, dark blue shorts, and Vaseline spread liberally on the unmentionable areas that would otherwise chafe. On my feet were a pair of New Balance 880s that I hoped would carry me 31 miles in under 8 hours.

Success -- or failure -- would be determined by how well my physical body performed that day. The aerobic system was the foundation, but upon it were built joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and other soft tissues that had to function efficiently together. Above all, a massive network of blood vessels would be asked to provide blood in and out of organs, glands, and everything else in my body. If any of these systems failed me, I would have to stop running. Each was important, vital even, for my success that day.

There are so many spiritual lessons. For starters, we have to think of the church as a body with many different parts. And all of them need to be functioning well if the body is to grow and be healthy. I've noticed there's a tendency in certain evangelical circles to exaggerate some gifts and depreciate others. For example, we do not go to church primarily to hear someone speak. We go as a body to encourage one another (1 Cor. 14:26). Each member of the body has a vital role to play. There is a constant danger of assigning to shepherd-teachers an exaggerated importance. Teachers play an absolutely crucial role, but not at the expense of the contributions of the others. In fact, Eph. 4:11-13 makes it clear that the ministry of shepherd-teachers was designed by the risen Christ to be a catalyst that enables others to play their part in the growth of the body. Let me quote this passage from the Good News Bible:

It was he who "gave gifts to mankind"; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature.

The Bible insists that all members are ministers. We do not go to church simply to worship God as individuals. We go to church as a body to encourage one another. Each of us has a vital role to play if we are to grow into maturity. Thus, it is not just a special group of people in the church who are the "ministers." The whole people of God has that responsibility.

Start at 5:00. 

As I see it, all too often the problem in our churches is the failure to affirm the full range of spiritual gifts -- to fail to appreciate "God's varied grace" (1 Pet. 4:10). Only when all the gifts are affirmed and operate together, cooperatively, can the church function properly as God intended it to function. 

The day of the ultra came and went. I finished, but barely. Running an ultramarathon gave me a crash course in gratitude, perseverance, humility -- and theology. It is difficult to find a better description of what it takes to complete an ultra than Paul's words in Rom. 12:4-5: "We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body." 

That day all the members of my body worked together. None failed me, thank God. 

It seems like a cliche but it's true: there is a great variety in the gifts God has given his church. And he wants us to use these gifts in service to others. We meet, not primarily to worship God, but to encourage one another so that we might be equipped to worship him better the rest of the week.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Tense of Peripateo ("Walk") in Ancient Greek

Here my administrative assistant and I are working hard on researching the verb peripateo in Greek. 

Dr. Merkle's excellent essay notes that the verb is used without exception in the present imperative in the New Testament. 

I wanted to know if the aorist imperative is used outside of the New Tetsament. We found 31 examples of this! 

Cannot wait to share these examples with my Greek class this afternoon. 

Thank you, Hayden, for your help today! 

Monday, September 27, 2021

A. T. Robertson on Cases

This afternon I'm reading Roberston on the 8 case system. Here is his view in a nutshell:

It partly depends on whether one is to apply the term 'case' to the ending or to the relationship expressed by the ending.

Thus, if onoma can be vocative, nominative, or accusative, why can't onomati be dative, locative or instrumental? He has a point!

Much to disucss in tomorrow's Greek class. 

Kierkegaard on Heresy

"The established church is far more dangerous to Christianity than any heresy or schism. We play at Christianity. We use all the orthodox Christian terminology -- but everything, everything withour character .... There is something frightful in the fact that the most dangerous thing of all, playing at Christianity, is never included in the list of heresies or schisms" (Provocations, p. 227). 

I. Howard Marshall on Worship

"It is true that Christian meetings can be described from the outside as occasions for worshiping God and also that elements of service to God took place in them, but the remarkable fact is that Christian meetings are not said to take place specifically to worship God and the language of worship is not used as a means of referring to them or describing them. To sum up what goes on in a Christian meeting as being specially for the purpose of 'worship' is without New Testament precedent. 'Worship' is not an umbrella-term for what goes on when Christians gather together" ("How Far Did the Early Christians Worship God?" Churchman 99 [1985] p. 220). 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ethiopians Sweep Berlin!

Stop the presses! Guye Adola and Gotytom Gebreslase win the Berlin Marathon! His time was 2:05:45, hers was 2:20:09. Ijig betam turuno!!!!

This was Gebreslase's first ever marathon and she wins the crazy thing! 


So exciting to see the world's major marathons making a comeback.

Thank You, GCCC!

Thank you, Greensboro Chinese Christian Church, for inviting me to speak today at the conclusion of your missions month. 


This was my fourth visit to this congregation.


My message was entitled "Myths and Mistakes About the Great Commission." Here I am with the church leadership. 


And with shepherd-teacher Steve and their missions coordinator. 


Steve took Greek with me years ago and still hasn't recovered. Over Thai food we talked for 2 hours about the amazing work the Lord is doing in China, Taiwan, and locally. According to Jesus, loving God and serving people is the substance of living. Otherwise you build a flimsy house of cards. So nice to be with a congregation that "gets it."

Xiexie ni! Love you guys! 

P.S. Enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Denny's in Greensboro before the service. Spanish was spoken mostly. Loved it! I asked my server if she would like a copy of Becky's book in Spanish. She said yes. I know she will enjoy it. 

There Is No Peace More Delightful

My HVAC is not working so I'm glad I have fireplaces. Last night I enjoyed my first fire of the fall/winter season. Lovely. 

"There is no peace more delightful than one's own fireplace." Cicero.

The only thing missing is a puppy at the foot of the hearth.

It's Time to Marginalize Academics!

I'm no fan of anti-intellectualism. But come on now, how in the world we did ever get to the point where we have divorced academics from just living out our Christianity? It's time to marginalize academics. Not my words. The words of one of the world's greatest Christian theologians, Alister McGrath (Enigma of the Cross, p. 174):

Mission and theology are so clearly interrelated that they cannot be permitted to become divorced in the manner which academic theologians have become accustomed.... Theology must come down to earth, to serve the church and its mission in the world -- and if it will not come down to earth, it must be brought down to earth by so marginalizing academic theology within the life of the church that it ceases to have relevance to that church, in order that a theological orientation towards the pastoral and missionary needs of the church may develop in its wake.

When students ask me where our missions building is located on campus, instead of referring them to the missions center next door I will say with a twinkle in my eye, "Oh, it's right here, where the New Testament and Old Testament professors have their offices." No, missions is not in that building on our seminary campuses; it's everywhere on that campus, or should be

The lesson? It's at least threefold:

  1. Remember that words are cheap but deeds are costly. 
  2. Remember that the thousands (or millions) of words we have uttered in sermons or published in books are useless -- in fact, less than useless, a positive impediment -- if they are not backed up by simple deeds of courtesy. 
  3. Remember that the purpose of the inspired Scripture is always a supremely practical one -- that the servant of God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

This is not a new program to promote. (My, how we love our programs!) It's just a lifestyle -- cleaning out shut-ins' gutters, raking their leaves, sawing their fallen limbs after an ice storm, gently but firmly defending the faith in our homes and in the public square, loving our unsaved friends and neighbors enough to gently confront them with their lostness, etc. We must do everything possible, through love and good works, to show them the love and goodness of God and help them see that proper human relationships are possible only through a proper relationship with Christ.

It is, then, no longer possible (if it ever was) to assume that theology and biblical studies (or church history, or Greek and Hebrew, etc.) can operate apart from service to the world. The more we understand the Scriptures, the more we will understand our responsibility to submit our lives and fortunes to its radical teachings. Instead of doing theology for theology's sake, we will choose to bear witness to the gospel in both word and deed, by both life and lip. We will, perhaps, even do less pontificating from our ivory towers high up in cyberspace and descend to the balcony and maybe even to the ground floor.

Good riddance, academic theology!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Virginia 10 Miler 2021 Race Report

This is a post about gratitude. It's about perseverance. It's about the beauty of God's creation. It's about living life to its fullest. It's about a 69-year old man and how he chases down his dreams. And, yeah, it's also about a race. 

I know everyone is different, and while I am a procrastinator when it comes to taxes and house cleaning, I never not feel like running a race. Today's 10 miler was through the streets of one of the Southland's great cities, Lynchburg, VA. We ran it in perfect weather. It was a mere 45 degrees when I left the farm at 5:15 this morning. It was an optimum 55 degrees when the race started at 8:00. When I crossed the finish line the temp had crawled all the way up to 65. As I said, perfect. Here are pics along the course:

Here you're looking at a bunch of VERY happy runners who are so glad to be able to run the Virginia 10 Miler again after a hiatus last year. 

And here is a picture of us nearing the starting line. Could it possibly be I deserve to be among such a dedicated group of people? 

After the singing of the National Anthem, off we went. 

Here I am finding my pace and then settling in for the long haul.

Mile 1.

Mile 2.

Mile 3.

I stopped for water at every other aid station -- where I was reminded of just how much we runners owe the 400 volunteers who staffed today's event. Thank you.

Mile 4.

The old train is still chugging along.

Mile 5.

Mile 6.

Mile 7.

Mile 7.5.

Mile 8.

Mile 9. The last mile is all uphill.

The home stretch (still uphill).

And the finish line.

And thus my ninth 10 Miler came to an end. But let me clarify something. A race is much more than a starting line and a finish line. There's something much richer about it. Howard Thurman once said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." In Christ, we are alive. But we also live when we face down the challenges he brings our way and overcome them through his grace. I am overwhelmingly grateful to God for the strength to get up out of bed this morning, let alone complete a 10 mile race. 


Photo courtesy: Enmotive.

I will always treasure the memories of this race as I shared the suffering and the glory with all my fellow runners. It was an honor to reach the finish line with these amazing people. 

You know, life is all about attitude. Everyone has challenges. It's not about the adversity, it's about how you handle it. If I had to make up a scorecard of people who were facing adversities and handled them like a champion, my wife Becky would undoubtedly be at the top. Honey, I ran this race for you. Thank you for 37 years of faithfulness and inspiration.

10 minute PR!


I close with the words of Amelia Earhart: "The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity."

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Dumbbell Run in Place

Today I added a new dumbbell exercise to my workout at the Y. This exercise is promoted as being for toning for bodybuilders, but I think it's perfect for runners as long as you use light weights. I think it's called the Dumbbell Run in Place. (I can hear the jokes now.) All you do is grab some weights and swing your arms.

I like this workout. It is challenging but not too strenuous. Plus, it's a good warm up for doing farm chores!