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Articles by Kenneth Berding



  • 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...

  • Biola Magazine

    Kenneth Berding — 

    One of my professors in college was really old. I can hear everyone asking: “How old was he?” (No, his social security number wasn’t 7 ....) Let’s...

  • 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.)

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” How many (hundreds of!) times have you heard that line rolled out? The good part about the alleged saying is that we do need to communicate that we truly believe the gospel through what we do. People need to see the gospel as well as hear it. If you have any doubts about this, please refer to my post from a few days ago on “justice and mercy” ministries. But there are two problems with the way this quote is normally used. First, it is often used by people who are oriented toward social concern but who are less comfortable with verbally proclaiming the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in him alone. Such hesitancy to share the gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian. Second, Francis of Assisi apparently never said it.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Over the past five months the Overseers (translate: “Elders” or “Pastors”) at Whittier Hills Baptist Church have been thinking and praying about ministries of compassion and justice and the relationship of such activities to gospel proclamation. We have recently completed a position paper in which we collectively lay out what we believe the Bible teaches on this topic. We also address a few practical issues in the paper. We will be using this document in the future to help guide ministry decisions as we interact with those who are poor, oppressed, and marginalized. I’m linking you to our paper with the permission and encouragement of our leadership team. We hope that this paper will be a help to other churches, ministries, and individuals to think carefully and biblically through this important--and sometime controversial--topic. You are free to use this paper (or sections of it) in any way you consider appropriate in your respective areas of ministry.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    One of my professors in college was really old. I can hear everyone asking: “How old was he?” (No, his social security number wasn’t 7…). Let’s put it this way: he was the founder of the college at which I was studying (Multnomah in Portland, Oregon), and the school was celebrating the half century mark of its founding while I was there! In fact, Dr. John Mitchell was over the age of 90 when he taught the two classes I took from him. He continued to teach well into his mid-90s. Not surprisingly, he was getting forgetful about some things by the time I had him as a teacher, but what he definitely was not forgetting were the Bible verses he had memorized. His ability to recall Bible verses was astounding. I do not know this for a fact, but I would guess that he had all of the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament committed to memory. All of his students were profoundly impacted by his immersion in the Scriptures.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Years ago when Trudi and I lived in the Middle East I wrote a poem using the structure of “The Night Before Christmas.” I share it with you at this Christmas season.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    What does Paul intend when he instructs that an overseer must be a husband of one wife in 1 Timothy 3:2 (cf. Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:12)? Here is a quick walk-through this somewhat complicated expression.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    Henrietta: Pastor Bob said he’d be here before midnight. Mildred: My watch says it’s before midnight. Henrietta: So Pastor Bob is here. Right? Mildred: Right.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I was living with my family on the north edge of New York City on September 11, 2001. The entire nation was stunned and outraged by the attacks on the Twin Towers. The shock reverberated across the nation. The effect on those living in New York was something else altogether.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Kenneth Berding — 

    I’m thankful and excited to be able to announce the publication of a new (short) book called Walking in the Spirit (published by Crossway). I am deeply concerned that we learn to live lives empowered by the Holy Spirit—that we learn to “walk” in the reality of his presence and power. This non-academic book is written especially for people who know that the Holy Spirit is important, but who aren’t quite sure what to do about it. Walking in the Spirit includes study questions for individuals and groups at the end of each chapter. Here is a link to the first section of the book if you’d like to read a little: http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Spirit-Kenneth-Berding/dp/1433524104/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314577370&sr=8-1#reader_1433524104