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Articles by Kenneth Berding



  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    This post is for people who are praying seriously about the possibility of serving overseas in long-term cross-cultural missions. It may help you assess where you presently stand in terms of “readiness” for such a ministry assignment.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    What are spiritual gifts, really? Andrew Faris posted an interview with me on this question at the "Christians in Context" blog.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    One of the top pop songs of 2012 was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Its catchy tune worked its way into millions of ears and stayed there; it was a classic “ear worm.” Even those of us who don’t listen to pop music were vexed by how difficult it was to get this song out of our thoughts.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I recently discovered something about Nehemiah that I had never noticed before. There are lots of hints in the biblical book that bears his name that Nehemiah was a person who lived with an ongoing awareness of the presence of the Lord, and who highly valued the importance of communion with God.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I just came across a 230 year old letter that is loaded with wisdom, love, zeal, and grace from an experienced "pastor" to a new "pastor."

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Here’s a great electronic resource that you can use to introduce people to Jesus during this Christmas season.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Con Campbell’s new book, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012, 479 pages, $34.99 softcover) is one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time. I predict that scholars and serious students of the Bible will be referring to this book for years to come. The reason is simple: Campbell has meticulously and even-handedly taken one of the Apostle Paul’s central themes, union with Christ, and has painstakingly examined it both through an exegetical and a theological lens.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I just returned from the Evangelical Theological Society annual meetings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I picked up a copy of D. A. Carson’s new little book, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Crossway). On the taxi ride from the airport to the conference, I briefly tried to share the Lord with a taxi driver named Hassan. We were about a minute into the conversation when Hassan commented rather ardently, “We Muslims believe that Jesus is a prophet, and not the son of God.” I explained to him that Christians don’t believe that God had physical relations with Mary that led to her pregnancy, as many Muslims assume and consider blasphemous. The problem for dialogue with Muslims like Hassan is that many Muslims think that is precisely what we Christians mean when we use the expression “Son of God” in reference to Jesus—which, of course, we don’t. So what if you were a Bible translator in a Muslim country and knew that many of your readers would make the same assumption that Hassan did about the expression “Son of God”? Perhaps you should change the words “Son of God” to something else that is proximate in meaning but less offensive. Or maybe you shouldn’t…

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    What is the shortest verse in the New Testament? Did you respond “Jesus wept”? (Buzzer sound) No, that is the third shortest verse in the New Testament.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    A few weeks ago I put up a post with the title: “Something About the Book of Romans that will Really Help You ‘Get’ It.” (Click HERE to read it.) I rounded out that article with a list of questions from Romans to help people see the importance of the ethnic issues going on in the background of the letter to the Romans. Some people expressed surprise that there were so many questions in the book of Romans—it’s not something that they had noticed before. Well, there are a whole lot more questions in Romans than the ones I listed. Questions are one of the ways Paul moves his argument forward. Do you want to see how many questions there are?

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Here’s something that many people I talk to about Paul’s Letter to the Romans don’t seem yet to have grasped. The earliest house churches in Rome would have been primarily Jewish and would have culturally felt Jewish, but in A.D. 49 the Roman Emperor Claudius kicked the Jews out of Rome. Jewish Christians, of course, would have been expelled along with the rest of the Jews. During the five years between Claudius’s edict (A.D. 49) and his death (A.D. 54) when the edict lapsed and Jews started to return, the composition and self-understanding of the house churches in Rome would have shifted considerably. Paul’s letter to the Romans would have arrived in Rome somewhere around A.D. 57, during the period when Jews were still trickling back into Rome. If you can fix in your mind that the expulsion of Jews from Rome had a tremendous impact on the churches in that city, you will understand the message of Romans oh-so-much better!

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Do you remember the “just say no to drugs” campaign waged a number of years ago? (The slogan “just say no” continues to be used in schools across the country.) The assumption of the slogan was that kids could simply say “no” whenever faced with temptation. Is that true? Can we simply say “no” whenever we are tempted?

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    This is my last post (at least in this series) on the Apostolic Fathers. But together with my class, we have come up with a list of thumbnail descriptions to help us remember the various writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Here is our list (in the order we read these writings):

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Here’s a chapter written by an unknown early Christian to an unbeliever named Diognetus that is well-worth the three minutes it will take you to read it. This evangelist and apologist refers to Christians as “a new race or way of life” (Diogn. ch. 1). In chapter 5 he unpacks the distinctiveness of Christians.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    We had quite a lively conversation in my Apostolic Fathers class the other evening after reading The Epistle of Barnabas. (BTW, it was not written by the biblical Barnabas; and the attribution to Barnabas may not even be original, so you don’t need to assume that this author is “pretending” to be Barnabas). “Barnabas” was committed to the interpretive procedure known as allegorical interpretation.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I’m still teaching my summer class on the Apostolic Fathers. We just had a discussion in class about the Shepherd of Hermas. Hermas claims to have had lots of visions and appearances of angels (one in the form of a shepherd—thus the name of the work) who tell him what to do and what messages he should deliver to others.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    A lot of critical-leaning biblical scholars dispute Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Letters: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. Recently there has been a bit of movement toward greater acceptance of the possibility of Paul’s authorship among those more critically inclined, though there is still a long way to go. One argument supporting the Pauline authorship of these letters is a discovery I made a number of years ago while studying Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians. Polycarp inadvertently tells us in his little letter that he believes that the Apostle Paul is the author of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy (and if that is true, probably also of Titus). Why does this matter? Because Polycarp wrote around A.D. 120 (some recent scholars say around 110), and was in a position to know a lot about the apostolic age that we don’t know. Up until this discovery, the earliest known author to both quote from the Pastoral Letters and to connect them to Paul as author was Irenaeus writing around A.D. 180. This discovery moves down the external attestation for the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters by 60 years.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I have recently been convicted about the content of my praying. This has come about especially through meditating on the prayers of the Apostle Paul. What were the subjects that he thought worthwhile to focus on when he prayed? How do his prayer burdens compare to my own (sometimes insipid and paltry) prayers? I just got another challenge in this area today reading once again through 1 Clement in preparation for the Apostolic Fathers class I’m teaching right now. 1 Clement is a lengthy letter written by the church in Rome to the church in Corinth (probably by the hand of either a secretary or a church leader named “Clement”) at the end of the first century. Included at the tail end of this letter is a deep, passionate, and wide-ranging prayer (including prayer for governmental leaders during a period of persecution). If you have ever benefitted from praying in concert with devout Christians of earlier centuries (and you won’t find any document earlier than 1 Clement outside of the Bible), you may find some real spiritual benefit in praying this prayer.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Ignatius of Antioch was the passionate leader of the church in Antioch just after the apostolic period. He wrote five letters to churches in Asia Minor, one to the church in Rome, and one to Polycarp of Smyrna during a forced marched by ten soldiers (“leopards” he calls them) in the direction of Rome to be thrown to wild beasts because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Right now I’m teaching a summer readings course on the Apostolic Fathers. Ten students are reading with me such documents as 1 Clement, the Letters of Ignatius, Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, the Didache, the (so-called) Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, To Diognetus, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, 2 Clement, and the fragments of Papias. These are the earliest Christian documents written just after the apostolic age and span the years from around A.D. 95 up until about A.D. 165. Though they are referred to as the “apostolic fathers,” they are really our earliest “post-apostolic fathers.” But how should we assess their value? Here are three options:

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    "Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a for, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me." Ever since I read Jim Elliot's journal as a young college student and discovered this quote...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I recently led a seminar for students at Biola who are studying to become church worship leaders entitled: “Hidden Agendas in Worship Leading.” I had them break into groups and discuss what sorts of hidden motivations sometimes lie under the surface in the process of planning and implementing times of worship. When we came back together we drew up a list on the white board. Here are some of the elements that made it onto that list...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    As a follow-up to my previous post on Romans 7, following are seven reasons I think that an autobiographical reading of Romans 7:14-25 is the most straightforward reading of the passage. When I wrote the previous post, I did not intend to offer a full account of the passage. Nor do I here. But for those who want to know a bit of why I hold that Romans 7:14-25 is Paul’s own struggle with sin as a mature believer, that is, as representative of Christians who are sensitive to any sinful shortcomings in their own lives (please see my former post) I will here offer seven reasons that have helped persuade me that Paul is writing about himself in this passage. I am reticent to put my thoughts down in writing because I know that people I respect (including some at The Good Book Blog) will view and weigh these arguments differently than I, but it seems, as Paul writes elsewhere, “you [readers] drove me to it.”

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    If you could ask a dozen New Testament scholars to list the five most difficult passages in the New Testament, most would include Romans 7:14-25 on their list. That same group would likely disagree with one another on what interpretive framework is most helpful for interpreting that passage. (Even among those who blog at the Good Book Blog, I know for a fact that there is a diversity of opinion on how best to address this passage). Does Romans 7:14-25 describe Paul’s own struggle with sin as a believer? Does it describe the struggle with sin of someone who has not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that is, an unbeliever? Perhaps it is the struggle of a pious old covenant Jew who loves the law of God but struggles to fulfill it? Or maybe it isn’t personal at all; maybe it is a grand analogy of the change from the old covenant to the new covenant?

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    This past Christmas we purchased a cell phone for our 13 year old daughter (Ela), and added her to our family plan—including texting. (We blocked internet access.) Five years ago when we acquired phones for our two older daughters (now 22 and 20), texting was a small part of the culture; now it has permeated our culture. Because of this, we decided to write up a contract for our junior high daughter outlining our expectations for cell phone use—and texting in particular. Our daughter is quite responsible, and we’re confident that she will function well under these guidelines. But we thought it would be wiser to express our expectations up front than to attempt to “make it up” as we go. I share this “contract” with you in case you are a parent trying to figure out how to negotiate cell phone use—and texting in particular—with a middle-school-aged daughter. Feel free to use it, change it, send it, or ignore it. (This contract can also be used with a son if you make a few adjustments.)