Archive for the Books Category

Nov 4

What Is a Parable?

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Klyne parables

Here is an instructive definition of what a parable is, from Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent, the same book mentioned in the last post.

The immediate aim of a parable is to be compellingly interesting, and in being interesting it diverts attention and disarms.  A parable’s ultimate aim is to awaken insight, stimulate the conscience, and move to action.  The primary reason Jesus’ parables are stories with intent is, as we will see, that they are prophetic instruments, the tool especially of those who have a message from God.  They do not occur in sections of the Bible focused on Torah or history or in the writings of the early church. They are used by those who are trying to get God’s people to stop, reconsider their ways, and change their behavior.  Biblical parables reveal the kind of God that God is and how God acts, and they show what humanity is and what humanity should and may become.  Parables are not merely informative.  Like prophets before him, Jesus told parables to prompt thinking and stimulate response in relation to God.  Parables usually engage listeners, create reflection, and promote action.  They are pointed and clinching arguments for a too often slow-minded or recalcitrant audience.  They seek to goad people into the action the gospel deserves and the kingdom demands.  One of the major problems of Christian churches, of Western Christianity in particular, is our stultifying passivity.  The parables compel us – for Christ’s sake literally – to do something!  Parables do not seek the “mild morality” about which Kierkegaard lamented but radical cross-bearing, God-imitating response worthy of the name “conversion.”

In most cases then a parable is an expanded analogy used to convince and persuade. As we will see, this is the way ancient Greeks also used the term, and it is sufficiently broad to cover the majority of the ways the Evangelists use the word.  The logic of Jesus’ parables is proportional analogy.  Corresponding to the German terms Sache and Bild, the English terms tenor and vehicle are used to explain how analogy functions.  Tenor refers to the theme being compared, the item for which insight is sought, and vehicle refers to the pictorial image, the parable, the instrument by which insight is conveyed.  An analogy explicitly or implicitly draws one or more points of resemblance.  For example, a disciple is to God (tenor) as a slave is to a master (vehicle) with respect to unsurpassable obligation (point of resemblance).   According to John Sider every parable labeled as a parable in the Gospels involves more than one point of resemblance – the exact opposite of Jülicher.  Analogy by its very nature can easily become “allegorical.” (emphasis original, pp. 8-9)

Nov 4

Characteristics and Interpretation of Parables

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Since Ryan has been preaching through some parables recently, here are two lists that offer helpful guidelines for understanding Jesus’ parables.  Both of these lists are from Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. These are just the headlines of each point, so if you want to read more you can either purchase the book or read some of it online here.

Characteristics of Jesus’ Parables (pp. 17-21)

  1. Jesus’ parables are first of all brief, even terse.
  2. Parables are marked by simplicity and symmetry.
  3. Jesus’ parables focus mostly on humans.
  4. The parables are fictional descriptions taken from everyday life, but they do not necessarily portray everyday events.
  5. Parables are engaging; they were told to create interest…
  6. Since they frequently seek to reorient thought and behavior, in keeping with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere parables often contain elements of reversal.
  7. With their intent to bring about response and elements like reversal, the crucial matter of parables is usually at the end, which functions something like the punch line of a joke.
  8. Parables are told into a context.
  9. Jesus’ parables are theocentric.
  10. Parables frequently allude to OT texts.
  11. Most parables appear in larger collections of parables.

How Should Parables Be Interpreted? (pp. 24-30)

  1. Analyze each parable thoroughly.
  2. Listen to the parable without presupposition as to its form or meaning.
  3. Remember that Jesus’ parables were oral instruments in a largely oral culture.
  4. If we are after the intent of Jesus, we must seek to hear a parable as Jesus’ Palestinian hearers would have heard it.
  5. Note how each parable and its redactional shaping fit with the purpose and plan of each Evangelist.
  6. Determine specifically the function of the story in the teaching of Jesus.
  7. Interpret what is given, not what is omitted.  Any attempt to interpret a parable based on what is not there is almost certainly wrong.
  8. Do not impose real time on parable time. The narrative time of parables is not real time chronology… [For example,] Luke 14:15-24… has a truncated chronology that assumes that the servant has gone out, done as instructed, and returned.
  9. Pay particular attention to the rule of end stress.  …what comes at the end is the clinching indicator of intent.
  10. Note where the teaching of the parables intersects with the teaching of Jesus elsewhere. …it will help prevent errors in interpretation.
  11. Determine the theological intent and significance of the parable.

Oct 29

The Kingdom of God

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Recommended Link,Sermon Follow-Up

Last Sunday, Ryan preached on “Understanding the Kingdom of God” from Luke 13.  This is a really important theme to grasp in order to understand how the flow of the Bible relates to Jesus’ message.  Make sure to listen to it if you missed it.

Along the same lines, Graeme Goldsworthy has written a short article that maps out how the kingdom of God theme runs throughout the whole Old Testament.  If you’re like me and you sometimes struggle to understand how all the various events and writings in the Old Testament fit together, this is a very helpful article.

For a slightly more in-depth treatment of this theme, see God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, by Vaughn Roberts.  This book examines the whole Bible and explains how Jesus’ promise of salvation and bringing the kingdom of God is one story with one purpose and not just a collection of unrelated narratives.

Oct 20

These Books Are Money

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Sermon Follow-Up

these_books_are_moneyAs a follow-up to Ryan’s sermon on money, here are four great books about money and giving.

  • The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn, is a short book that we have available for free at the resource center.  This book is about seeking joy through giving; it is a challenging, but exciting, devotional-type book.  If you read only one book from this list, this is the one I would recommend.
  • Another short and easy read is In God We Trust, by Michael Haykin, also available at the resource center.  This book was written as an evaluation of the current financial crisis, specifically answering the questions, “What is God trying to tell us in the midst of this crisis?” and “How should we respond in a financial crisis?”
  • Slightly longer is Randy Alcorn’s, Money, Possessions, and Eternity.  This book provides a more comprehensive view of money and possessions than either of the previous books, and calls Christians to rethink their perspectives in a biblical light.  This is a great reference book to have around when you’re wondering what the bible teaches about anything from tithing and helping the poor to gambling, debt, and investing.
  • One further resource, which Ryan mentioned during the sermon, is Juliet Schor’s, The Overspent American.  Although this isn’t a Christian book, it still provides a helpful evaluation of consumerism and the mechanics of desire in our marketing-driven culture.

Aug 12

Books on Busyness and Restoring Rest

2009 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Recommended Link,Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, Ryan mentioned the book The Overload Syndrome, by Richard Swenson.  This book is about identifying and combating overactivity, overcommitment, busyness, and stress — all of which have become the norm for the average American. Swenson writes from a Christian perspective and from his expertise in the medical field. His erarlier book on the same topic, Margin, is also very helpful. Also instructive on this topic is Charles Hummel’s now-classic booklet Tyranny of the Urgent. But perhaps less well known is the full-book-length version, Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent. May these books help you to restore a restful schedule!