Come read ancient texts with me

Cultural Annotation Intern

Description

Logos Bible Software is looking for people who know the culture and background of the biblical world and want to use it in an environment focused on creating data-oriented products for professors, teachers, students, and laypeople. As a Cultural Annotation Intern, you will work with the Logos Content Innovation team to help provide a foundation for the next generation of tools to help people understand the ancient world in relation to their study of the Bible.

Responsibilities

Logos has developed an inventory of cultural concepts. With this list of concepts, the intern will:

  • Read ancient texts (Josephus, Philo, Contexts of Scripture, ANET, for example)
  • Identify and understand cultural concepts and practices in ancient texts
  • Label pericopes in ancient texts with concepts from the Logos Cultural Ontology

Requirements

  • Summer relocation to Bellingham
  • Ability to annotate texts based on quick, informed decisions about analysis
  • B.A. or M.A. in biblical studies
  • Desire to stretch your biblical knowledge to the limit, and get paid for it

The ideal candidate

  • Is familiar with Logos Bible Software
  • Has strong familiarity with Ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic culture.

Interested candidates can send a CV/résumé to david.witthoff@logos.com .

The Doughnut Corps (Or, The Vicious Donut Cycle)

No, it’s not a joke about fatty foods or unhealthiness, but a metaphor. I consider some corps “donut corps” because they have a “hole” – they’re missing the middle age group, most often the 20-45 bracket, though I’ve seen some corps that are closer to missing the entire 18-55 bracket. This is troublesome, not only because it makes for an unhealthy church, but because when the older age group passes away, the church is not likely to stand on its own.

In my last post, “Why I Stay in the Salvation Army”, I wrote about a “staircase” concept wherein people are brought up spiritually by others, and also bring up others behind themselves. I really think it’s a great model.  While many corps have some semblance of this working well, the “donut corps” are in trouble. While age is not a necessary indicator of spiritual maturity, it often correlates. There is a disconnect in a church when those on higher steps of the spiritual staircase can’t relate to those below them. It’s more of a cliff in this case, than a step. When we’re missing such a large age bracket in a church, this can set up the “cliff” problem.

The result can be devastating for the youth. Without discipleship or guidance from someone above them in the church, they may flounder their way through their adolescence in the corps, simply attending programs, but not being fundamentally reared in the principles of God. Don’t buy into an industrial-age concept that our programs will produce mature Christians. Without real, personal involvement from someone on a higher step, these kids will often end up falling away from the Army or the church by the time high school ends.

And this perpetuates the cycle! Without those 18-25 year olds staying with the church, they are not in place to bring up those behind them. Those kids in turn flounder through programs and fall away around the same time again. All the while, the older crowd gets older, until the corps is unsustainable.

It’s really not all doom and gloom though. We can reverse this trend if we recognize our tendency in the Army to shy away from bible study, from spiritual formation, from internalizing God’s word. I would love to see a corps for a year just give up a majority of their programs to simply hold Bible studies and prayer meetings. No band, songsters, worship team, scouts, guards, divisional band, home league, men’s fellowship, jr band, etc.

By investing in God’s word and showing our youth its importance, we can lead them to spiritual maturity. Hopefully through this they can take their place on the “staircase” of the church and bring up those that come after them.

Why I Stay in the Salvation Army

I thought that the last question, “Why Young People Leave the Salvation Army”, was an important question, but I want to take the question from a more positive angle: why young people choose to stay, serve, and worship in the Salvation Army. In this case though, I find generalization more difficult, so I’d like to examine a big reason I personally stick with the dear old Army.

As it turns out, this idea is actually based in our Methodist roots, and I first came across it in a book by Brain McLaren called A Generous Orthodoxy. In this book McLaren talks about his experience in a number of different denominations, often pointing out a lot of their positive aspects.

In Methodism, McLaren mentions this important concept by painting a picture for us, of a staircase with people on each step. Each person on each step is holding out a hand and grasping the person above and the person below them. In this way it illustrates the idea that the church contains many people at different levels of spiritual maturity, and we each are lead by someone more mature as we bring up those that are younger in faith than we are.

I loved this concept, and in well functioning corps, you can really see this come to life. This is a huge draw to me because I see this as a reflection of what the church really needs to be in our culture. I think the Salvation Army is very well situated in our culture to continue this concept within our doors.

In McLaren’s book, he observes the later history of Methodism and laments that this “stair” concept eventually broke down in many Methodist churches. In these cases, you had a cliff, with the person on the top unable to relate to draw up those that were behind. Now, I wrote this article to be encouraging to the Salvation Army, but I must say that this is certainly a danger for us as well.

It is a danger to us because people in general have a tendency to homogenize, to make things around them familiar and the same. Put simply, we are comfortable with what is like us. But we need to break out of this! Let there be no such thing as a “respectable corps” that doesn’t make a drunk or a homeless person feel welcome. On the other hand, there must be people on the higher stairs to raise others up. In this way, let’s also do away with anti-intellectualism and any attitudes that spurn discipleship. If all we do is get people saved, it’s like filling the stairs and assuming it’ll work like an escalator.

There is no magical spiritual escalator! Maturity takes discipleship and spiritual formation – it requires taking people by the hand.

I love this concept, and it’s one of the reasons I love being a part of the Salvation Army, because I don’t think we’ve lost this. In most corps that you enter, you will find people of various ages, economic status, spiritual maturity, wisdom, etc. I stay with the Army because it’s a place where I can always find a spot on the staircase.

Response: Why Young People Leave the Salvation Army

I thought I might also take a stab at the question the Central Territory Youth Department put out a few weeks ago. You can find the original articles in part one and part two. The question that is raised is: “Why are young people leaving the Salvation Army?”

I’d like to tackle this without too many generalities, so I’ll try to take this from a personal perspective: “Why would I, David Witthoff, ever leave the Salvation Army?” Sounds weird to even say it. But of course, the thought has crossed my mind on occasion. I don’t anticipate the following list will have much order anyways, so here we go:

1. I certainly agree with Matt Aho’s observation of the power distribution in the Salvation Army. I’ve felt on many occasions the total lack of authority or ability to change or improve various facets of our programs, corps, events, culture, etc. I’ve said this before, but we say we believe in a priesthood of all believers, but it sure seems in practice that “some are more priestly than others.”

If I might apply some concepts from my previous post, “The Idiot-Preacher,” this deficit of power from the soldiers and members of the church is an aspect of “stupidifying,” as the author Crawford writes. By giving most of the decision making power to a certain “class,” the cognitive effort required to maintain a church community, even the creative opportunity to build a community center and church  in it’s own way, is vacated from the minds of the laypeople. If that’s not the scandal of the Salvationist mind, I’m not sure what is.

All that to say, it’s terribly disheartening to perform many roles and fulfill functions, and only rarely be able to innovate.

2. I think young people leave when there aren’t a lot of young people left. I like the Army, and I plan to stick with it, but having been at two corps now where I was the only, or one of a few between 20-50 years old, it can be incredibly disheartening. I find also that when the officers in these corps are unwise, they often overburden and burnout the few 20-30 somethings they have left (not my experience, thankfully).

3. Unfulfilled expectations will be my last point. Growing up my group heard time and again how we were going to be the “next generation” of Salvation Army leaders. Opportunity and open doors seemed promised, but, similarly to point #1, we didn’t go to Training en masse, and so many of us can’t be part of the next generation of leaders.  So please, just disciple kids, don’t try and make them all leaders.

In summary, I end with a warning-quote from author Clay Shirky: “…if you pretend to offer an outlet for [intrinsic] motivations, while slotting people into a scripted experience, they may well revolt.”

Just remember that young adults are pretty flakey, so “revolt” in their case is probably just saying “meh” and walking out the door.

The Idiot-Preacher

I’ve just finished reading a book, “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew Crawford. In this book, he expounds on the meaning and value of physical and manual work. He holds a PhD in the arts, and writes about working in white collar jobs, but he eventually returns to what often sounds like a first love: motorcycle repair. While there are a lot of aspects to this book, I’d like to focus on one part, and see how it might apply to work in the church. Realize going into this that Crawford’s goal is not the best kind of work in monetary terms, but what is most fulfilling.

On getting his first job writing abstracts for scholarly articles and journals, he writes:

“As I was shown to my cubicle by these same people, I felt a real sense of being honored. They had made a place for me. It seemed more than spacious enough. It was my desk, where I would think my thoughts, and no longer as a private amusement tending toward alienation. Rather, these thoughts would be my unique contribution to a common enterprise, in a real company with hundreds of employees. The regularity of the cubicles made me feel I had found a place in the order of things; I felt enlarged by the largeness of it. I would wear a tie.”

I can totally relate to loving ties. They are wonderful.

However:

“but the feel of the job changed as I settled into it…”

“…By my eleventh month at the company, my quota was up to twenty eight articles [to write an abstract for] per day (this was the normal, scheduled acceleration). Whereas Charlie Chaplin’s efforts to conform himself to the accelerating pace of the machine in Modern Times took the form of a brilliantly comic ballet, mine were rather mopey and anxious. More than anything, I felt sleepy. This exhaustion was surely tied to the fact I felt trapped in a contradiction.”

Basically, he can’t put intelligent, creative work into reading and writing, while also delivering on his quota. This continues a concept he developed earlier, the upward suck of cognitive effort from jobs into the business hierarchy (or its elimination all together). With the cognitive effort removed, he becomes a kind of functionary in his position, only fulfilling a prescribed ritual to achieve an end.

Furthermore he connects this functionary work to the concept of the classical idiot. The classical idiot is one void of concern for external realities. He is the self-absorbed man. When we remove human intelligence and creativity from our work for the sake of production or efficiency, we lose much more than creativity or innovation. We lose ownership and pride in the work, because it’s more a function of the role than of the worker’s (cognitive) ability.  It also leads to false assumptions about one’s ability. I imagine it’s somewhat like a man who buys and sets up a dresser from IKEA and claims he “built” it himself, rather than he simply assembled it from pre-cut materials and picture-comic instructions. It’s idiotic in the sense that there’s nothing of himself in the work.

So what does this all mean for ministry? Church work isn’t craftsmanship after all.

Perhaps not, but the concept of “Soulcraft” that the author titles his work is surprisingly useful for describing church work. The work of a pastor in many ways could be described as soulcraft: working to see people shaped into more mature, stable Christians that honor God by their lives. It’s especially poignant for Salvationist because so much of our work is the rehabilitation of particularly broken people. But when we remove human aspects of our work – any cognitive, intellectual, creative, social aspects – we lose touch with the humanity of our work.  We become idiot-pastors, trapped with fulfilling the role and checking the right boxes. That is not the work. The work is people, is soulcraft.

Let’s take the pre-packaged sermon as an example. The pre-packaged sermon is 1) efficient 2) easier 3) “approved” 4) safe 5) done 6) effective (supposedly). But this is in essence what Crawford is lamenting. There’s no ownership, no investment, no sacrifice, no social-contractual relationship between the writer, the preacher, and the hearer. I’d guess that pastors do not want to use pre-written materials, but because of time constraints they often do. This is the worst kind of time-saving device. The very last place automation should overtake is the creative, soul-crafting tools (preaching/teaching) that we use to form and develop others in the faith. Automate and idiocratize every other part of the job if you have to, but when you teach, actualize yourself in your work and in your words. Let it be sermoncraft for soulcraft.

The Mistranslation of 1 Thess. 5:23 and its Incorporation into Salvation Army Doctrine: A Call for Restatement

             And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            -KJV

 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            -NKJV

 

The scripture above shows the contrast from the KJV and the updated NKJV. The obvious difference is the preposition “unto” in the KJV, and “at” in the NKJV.  In this work I want to examine the grammar of the passage and show why the translation of “unto” or “until” is incorrect, and why “at” is the proper understanding of the Greek text. First, a review of a few of the translations is appropriate. The KJV contains “unto;” the NLT, “until.” The NASB, ESV, NRSV, NKVJ, NIV (and TNIV), and NCV all show “at” or “when.”[1] This evidence is indicative to some extant since the KJV is an older translation. While the NLT is a modern translation, it is certainly in the minority among its contemporaries. While a good translation, the NLT is periphrastic as well, which may account for the difference in translation.

The preposition in questions in this verse is ἐν, and there are a number of translation options that the standard Greek lexicon, BDAG, gives. On this preposition it also remarks:

 

“The uses of this prep. are so many and various, and oft. so easily confused, that a strictly systematic treatment is impossible. It must suffice to list the main categories, which will help establish the usage in individual cases.”[2]

 

Of the numerous categories listed, none contain “until.” BDAG does give “when” as a possible translation.  A simple analogy in English can explain how this preposition works. In the sentence “John caught the ball before the runner made it to home base,” the main verb is “caught.” The preposition “before” gives more description, specifically about time. It tells us that the ball was caught before something else happened. This other thing is the runner making it to home base. We could also say “John caught the ball at the moment the runner made it to home base.” This is almost the same, but the preposition “at” in this case brings the temporal sense forward, to the moment described in the phrase that follows. In our passage, ἐν is a similar preposition, and it appears that there is no support for translating this preposition in a way that makes the verbs of the verse (sanctifying wholly, preserving) occur before the dative noun that follows the preposition. This dative noun translates as “the coming of Jesus.”

Now turning to Salvation Army doctrine, I find it curious that in the citing of 1 Thess 5:23 the HOD uses the KJV. It seems obvious that using another English translation was not chosen since it would make this reference of sanctification future, and not present. And this brings me to the point of this work. The Salvation Army has historically been a Holiness church, emphasizing the holy life and entire sanctification in this present life. When the Army was founded and the doctrines formed, it seems likely that the wording of the KJV became the wording of our doctrine number 10. But as I have shown here, 1 Thess 5:23 should not be used in reference to sanctification in this present life. The use in 1 Thess 5:23 refers to the final result of the process of sanctification which we will experience in the presence of Jesus Christ. Based on the grammatical and syntactical evidence, it cannot refer to the present life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Doctrine 10 is wrong, but it does mean that this verse is does not support what Doctrine 10 claims.  In light of this, I’d be all for a restatement of our doctrine of holiness.

 

 


[1] The NCV has “when the Lord Jesus Christ returns,” which supports the future, though without the preposition “at.”

[2] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2000) (326)..