Thursday, April 17, 2014

Simon, Who Is Called Peter (Why you should buy my book)

As most of you know, Wipf and Stock Publishers recently published my book Simon, Who Is Called Peter! This is extremely exciting, and if you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely check it out here.

Still not quite sure? Not ready to click the link yet? That's alright, let me tell you a little about it.

Simon, Who Is Called Peter is a heavily researched, extensively footnoted first-person account of Peter's life, from his first meeting with Jesus (recorded in John 1) to his traditional martyrdom in Rome.

Do you like narrative and a good story? Do you want a personal look into the life of the disciple most talked about in the Gospels? Do you want something that treats Peter as a man, instead of an object lesson? You're going to love this book.

Or are you reading the above paragraph and thinking, "Psh, another book that passes off imagination and speculation as a work of scholarship? No thank you!"? You're still going to love this book.  Every incident is footnoted to the appropriate scripture, and I've cited dozens of commentaries and works of Petrine scholarship in order to minimize the need for speculation, ensuring that the book remains biblically and theologically responsible.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to these people, who are actually paid to be really smart about the Bible!

"Moving between contemporaneous episodes in prison and recollections of Peter's place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the first days of the church, Mulligan gives meaningful shape to Peter's life and offers us a novel take on both Peter and Jesus, yet ever faithful and attentive to the biblical witness. This sounds like Peter and would be an excellent companion to students of the New Testament, both lay and academic."
—Matt Jenson, Associate Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

"Human beings are eternal and one of the greatest of those souls was the Apostle Peter. Peter did not start as he ended: a man willing to be martyred for faith. Mackenzie Mulligan has illuminated the life of this Christian hero and reminded us of his full humanity. Mulligan's classical training and bright mind are obvious as he unlocks his material in a manner that is intellectually stimulating, honest to the source documents, and devotional."
—John Mark N. Reynolds, Provost, Professor of Philosophy, Houston Baptist University, Houston, TX

"Never moving outside Scripture's own footprint and reading as a disciple of Jesus himself, Mulligan offers an imaginative retelling of the 'Peter of the Bible.' Rather than a speculative filling-in-the-blanks, he offers a comprehensive portrait of Peter that is delightfully and skillfully woven together with the fabric of the New Testament. In what Jenson aptly categorizes as a form of lectio divina, Mulligan's narrative is a sustained reflection on the text of Scripture."
—Darian R. Lockett, Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

"From encountering Jesus with his brother, Andrew, to suffering for Jesus on a Roman cross, the Apostle Peter recounts his life and experiences as a devoted, but sometimes stumbling, follower of the Lord. . . . Mulligan succeeds in putting together an account that is both faithful to the biblical text and engagingly expressed. What a great resource this will be for a class on Peter or for Bible study groups who want to explore Peter's life."
—Clinton E. Arnold, Dean and Professor of New Testament, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

Right? Riiiiiiggghhhht? Professor of theology? Biblical and theological studies? Provost of Houston Baptist?  Dean of Talbot? Yeah. So come on. Click that link. Or this link, if you want to buy from Amazon. Heck, if you live in Fresno, you could just buy it direct from me. Whichever you choose, let me know in the comments! Oh, and don't forget to review it on Amazon!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Causing someone to stumble?

NOTE: This entire post is written with the assumption of alcohol consumption that is both a) legal (no underage drinking!) and b) responsible/moderated. Drunkenness is out, as is habitual/addictive drinking. Those are obviously prohibited. Alright: read on.

A few months ago, I accidentally discovered something pretty startling: That the whole "Christian Temperance" movement is still alive and kicking, crappy theology and all. If you have a strong stomach for ignorance, grammatically incorrect hostility, and the most horrible logical fallacies around, feel free to search for "Should Christians drink?" on your search engine of choice. Those with comments sections are the most amusing/enraging/saddening (depending on which mood you're in already).

There are lots of arguments against Christian consumption of alcohol, ranging from the awful ("The world does it, so we shouldn't, because SEPARATION!") to the really awful ("We're not supposed to get drunk, so that means we shouldn't drink at all!"), to the absolutely nuts ("Also, the wine in the Bible is non-alcoholic, except for when it isn't, and then it's bad!"). I'm not going to go into those arguments, because rather than requiring dismantling, most of them just fall apart in the face of a stiff breeze.

But there's one that remains, one solid stand-by that never fails: Admit defeat, but claim the protection of the "weaker brother." "And even if it's somehow not a sin, we think it is, so Paul says that you can't do it, or else you'll be causing us to stumble!"

After all other non-arguments have failed, this one stands defiant, proud to claim the title of "weaker brother." So let's talk about that. Let's talk about what it means to cause someone to stumble.

First, the source text: Romans 14:20-23

"Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."

So: How do you cause someone to stumble? What does it mean to do that?

First, it does not mean "Make someone upset on the internet." If someone you don't know is actually going out of their way to despise you and pass judgement on you, you're not causing them to stumble. (although they are putting themselves firmly in Paul's crosshairs throughout the whole of Romans 14).

Secondly, it does not mean "Do something that someone else thinks is sin." We see this illustrated throughout Paul's missionary life. As an easy example, we see him eating with Gentiles, when such was seen as sin by the Judaizers from Jerusalem. In fact, he actually calls Peter out for catering to their immature doctrine (see Galatians 2:11-14).

Finally, it does not even mean "Proclaiming something to be neutral or good, when others believe it to be evil." Otherwise, Paul couldn't even have written Romans 14 without causing people who disagreed with him to stumble!

Here's what it means: Encouraging someone to partake of something that is either a perceived or actual sin. That's it. That's what it means. If someone firmly believes that drinking alcohol is sinful, and you're in their presence, encouraging them to drink, then you are, in fact, causing someone to stumble. Or if you're with a recovering alcoholic and order a drink, then you are causing someone to stumble.Your freedom is a reminder of their captivity, and an invitation to be captive again.

Don't do that. Don't tempt recovering alcoholics, and don't pressure people to do something they see as a sin.

But if you aren't doing that--if all you're doing is pissing off Pharisees with your moderate and self-controlled drinking--then have fun, and think about Jesus doing the same at the wedding in Cana.