” Go To Church”… Duane W. H. Arnold PhD

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115 Responses

  1. Josh the Baptist says:

    You had me at U2.

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    I’d always loved the song (especially Cash’s version) but I’d never really read the final verse… astounding.

  3. Josh the Baptist says:

    I must have covered that song 1,000 times, but never really thought about the connection. Good stuff.

    Good article too, Duane. I am always dolling out the Eugene Peterson advice – find the nearest, smallest church and commit to go for 6 months.

    So far, no one has taken me up on it.

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    In terms of the advice, keep giving it. I fear that too many people look at “church” as though they are ordering specialty drinks at Starbuck’s…

  5. Jean says:


    I appreciate your passion for the health of the church.

    Regarding the demographic you mentioned in the beginning of the article (which is not the podcast listener), I would ask for the guy who has been beat up by economic dislocation, how are churches doing with ministering to these folks? The last think someone who is beaten up wants or needs is more beating in the house of God.

    The second group you mentioned, the podcast and internet Christians, that seems to be a different demographic with different issues.

    Keep on speaking to these issues!

  6. Steve says:

    Good article. The picture of that empty church looks like the one I grew up in in. Two misconceptions that need to be dealt with are: 1. The church is not a building. 2. Once folks figure that out, you need to convince them that church is not your living room attached to the TBN channel.

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    #5 Jean

    They are indeed separate issues, but with a connecting thread – going to a church and becoming involved in a community of faith. Many seem to have gone down a path in which church is an “optional extra”…

    By the way, on a recent road trip in Ohio, West Virginia and western PA, I was amazed at the number of boarded up churches. It makes me wonder how many are still able to reach out to these dislocated people…

  8. Duane Arnold says:

    #6 Steve

    Agreed on both counts…

  9. JoelG says:

    “I fear that too many people look at “church” as though they are ordering specialty drinks at Starbuck’s…”

    I think there are legitimate reasons for being discerning about churches. As long as Christ is at the center and what He does for us then anything else is choosing a “flavor” I suppose.

  10. Xenia says:

    This is a WONDERFUL article, Duane.

  11. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks!

  12. Xenia says:

    Here’s what happened this past week:

    I have bronchitis. So what happened at my parish. For starters, everyone noticed my absence and asked my husband where I was. “Oh no!” they said, “We will pray for a speedy recovery.” Fr. George prayed for me, too. There was a parish picnic, which I could not attend. “Take food home to Xenia!” and my husband came home with a plate heaped with picnic food. I missed church yesterday. “Oh no! Xenia is still sick?” Husband was sent home with another plate heaped with food for “poor Xenia.” “Tell Xenia to stay in bed and read books!” [I did.]

    When I come back, they will be solicitous that I maybe should sit for the 2-hour service and I shouldn’t help with the dishes, “Would you like some tea, dear Xenia?” [Russians love the word “dear,” which is very endearing.]

    We do this for everyone. We love each other. This is the assemblage of people Got has put together among whom my family is to work out its salvation. Are some of them irritating? Absolutely, and I am also irritating. Do some have whackadoodle political ideas! Absolutely, and mine are crazy, too. Are some grumpy? Me too. Who cares. We love ’em all.

    “My brother is my salvation.” (Said by some Saint who’s name escapes me at the moment.)

  13. Michael says:


    That’s a wondrous description of life in the Body…and I note that bringing you some food and praying for you took precedent over bring you a tape of the message…

  14. Xenia says:

    I belong to other groups…. charity and natural history, and while they are sorry I am unwell, it is simply not the same as my brothers and sisters at Church caring about me.

  15. Michael says:

    Over the years here, we heard it repeated often that “the church is not a building”… and there is some truth to that.

    However, the church gathers in a building…and the church gathered is part of what it means to be to be in the Christian faith.

    We know there are problems and abuses…but the church gathered is vital for our spiritual health and that of the culture.

  16. Josh the Baptist says:

    That sounds a lot like my church, and is very nice.

    Hope you are feeling better Xenia.

  17. Disillusioned says:

    I’ve tried attending 2 other churches since we left CC, but it just isn’t working.
    My soul has been so tattered by the hypocrisy in action that I don’t want to open myself up again to that level of pain.

  18. Xenia says:

    Josh, I have experienced the same love and affection at my old Baptist church.

    Thanks, I’m feeling better. I am at the “coughing my head off” stage.

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    #15 Michael

    Could not agree more!

    #18 Xenia

    Feel better. Loads of prayer going your direction.

  20. Ixtlan says:

    Good article Dr. Duane.

    We are becoming a more secular society. There are less people interested in Christian Spirituality. What I have seen are pastors who preach unity with the church down the street and then sets a course to compete with them; actually, beat them, for market share.

    This is where I have been suspect of the Costco style, big box churches and their satellites assemblies. They seem to be driven by lust for more people in the audience than extending the kingdom. I have spoken with many people about the megachurch phenomena (almost did my dissertation on the subject) who feel that there days are numbered as the millennial’s children will want something with greater authenticity, a trend that is actually picking up steam with more millennials and xers.

  21. Josh the Baptist says:

    Dis – I do understand. Been there myself, but God didn’t leave me there for long.

    You should try just going an old, dead, boring church, and just sit for an hour on Sunday mornings. Don’t try to get involved or anything. Just go sit and force yourself to think the best of the people around you. I bet after a few months you’d realize that God is healing your soul.

  22. Duane Arnold says:

    #17 Disillusioned

    It will take time, but it is worth the effort. You might look for a small situation, like an early morning service with fewer people, or a church slightly outside your tradition in which you don’t have to feel 100% involved. I truly believe though that a community is part of the healing process…

  23. Michael says:


    First, let me be clear that it’s not my intention (nor Duane’s) to guilt you into church.

    I know this article would be a bit controversial,especially on a forum with a a lot of unchurched Christians who have suffered at the hands of others in the Body.

    Our whole concern is that people find a place where they can be a functioning part of the Body and receive all the benefits of the church and then represent us well in the culture.

    Perhaps a liturgical church would be a safe place to start…

  24. Duane Arnold says:

    #20 lxtlan

    Thanks! I agree with your assessment…

  25. JD says:

    If you can’t find a decent church, why not try hosting a bible study in your home? 😉

  26. Xenia says:

    Disillusioned, what kind of churches have you tried?

    I wrote up something like this before, and I am not talking about anyone in particular, just saying *generally* that….

    If you want a pastor with a lot of presence and charisma (not boring), don’t be surprised if he turns out to be a self-centered narcissist.

    If you want a church that has a lot of activities for you and your family, don’t be surprised if you are pressured to volunteer to help support these programs.

    If you want a church that centers almost entirely on the sermon and the sermonizer, don’t be surprised if works of charity are overlooked and most of the effort is spent getting the pastor’s sermons out on his podcast, TV show, and radio program.

    If you want a church that centers on works of charity, don’t be surprised if some basic tenets of the faith get overlooked.

    If you want a church that disciplines the unruly and you rejoice when someone you dislike is kicked out, don’t be surprised if you are next.

    If you want a church that is transparent, don’t be surprised if gossip becomes a problem and everyone is being transparent about your personal business.

    If you want a church that has strong leadership, don’t be surprised if the leadership is domineering and leaves you out of the inner circle.

    If you want a congregation-style church where everyone has a vote, don’t be surprised if strong personalities, not necessarily the most godly, take over your parish and your pastor is brow-beaten into submission.

    If you want a church that caters to a particular demographic (youth, hipsters, etc,), don’t be surprised when they leave you in the dust when you have gotten too old to be cool.

    If you want anonymity, don’t expect cake for your birthday and a plate of food when you’re sick. Don’t complain that no one cares about you. To have a friend you have to be a friend. Don’t be surprised if no one notices when you leave. If your intention at a church is just to be a spectator, you don’t get to complain when you are overlooked.

    My advice: find a small church in your neighborhood, one that agrees with your theology. If the place isn’t a den of thieves (most aren’t) then conform yourself to them and love them. I am pretty sure they will love you back.

  27. Michael says:


    That’s an alternative…but may I suggest that we have elevated “bible study” over other needful things such as corporate prayer and taking the Supper together?

    I think those two things in particular create more real fellowship than another bible study…though that can certainly be part of the mix.

    I can personally testify that one can create sweet fellowship in a home setting…but it can have unique problems as well.

  28. Duane Arnold says:

    #26 Xenia

    Sage counsel…

  29. filbertz says:

    church is a place to know and be known…

    I understand the reasoning and my wife and I have worked that horse into glue…with little lasting results. The comments about authenticity and vulnerability ring true with me. We risked much to model openness, service, and hospitality and found most unable to receive or reciprocate. This is the collective experience of six local churches we have sought to connect with.


  30. Duane Arnold says:

    #29 filbertz

    As I indicated, “church” can be hard with no easy answers. The best we can do is to open ourselves to others with no certainty of results. There are situations, such as Xenia described, but they are by no means the rule these days. All I can say, is that I think we have to model what we hope to receive or find – which it sounds as though you are trying to do…

  31. Xenia says:

    Talk about church is hard…. most of the services in my parish are given in a language I do not understand. Not everyone in my parish speaks English. There’s older people who only speak Russian, Romanian or Arabic. But the liturgy is easy to learn and the sermons are always in English. The non-English speakers are good at hugs.

  32. Xenia says:

    For about six years we attended an all-English parish of converts up in the Santa Cruz Mtns. This was a glorious church but we could only get there for Sunday morning and we never felt like part of the parish, even though all the people were very kind. So we made the decision (with the English-language parish priest’s blessing) to attend the Russian church here in town which is within walking distance. We can go to everything and despite the cultural differences, we have been made to feel right at home.

  33. Xenia says:

    Here’s something to think about: If you hold to a particular set of distinctives and every church you attend that also holds these distinctives is populated with hypocrites and jerks, maybe there is something about these distinctives that produces these kinds of people.

    Maybe time for a change. Just a thought.

  34. pstrmike says:

    “maybe there is something about these distinctives that produces these kinds of people.”

    Great observation Xenia. You will know them by their fruit.

  35. pstrmike says:

    just went back and read #26

    That was rich, and it fits into what I have observed over the years. People get what they want, and they deserve what they get.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    #35 pstrmike

    “People get what they want, and they deserve what they get.”

    I agree with both you and Xenia, but with a caveat… Sometimes you find what you want, but other forces at play within the church turn it into something that is very different from what you first encountered. Within the evangelical world and many denominations, there is a push to become “market oriented”. I think we’ve all seen examples – change the name, change the logo and marketing materials. Replace the music and change the service style… Suddenly you find yourself in a situation that you no longer recognize. In the most extreme cases (and I’ve seen this in the Episcopal Church) the old pastor (who was orthodox and evangelical) leaves and a new pastor is hired – arriving with his same-sex partner whom no one knew about. Fight and flight now take over… I’ve seen similar in other churches.

  37. Dan from Georgia says:

    Haven’t read all the comments so not sure the direction this comments section is taking, but this is good stuff!. Wife and I tried a church for the first time in a while yesterday, despite my not being ready and not wanting to go. I am glad for the prayers of several of our friends on our need to get back to church, including dusty here who has prayed for us. I hope we have found our church home and a good fit. My take on church yesterday? I liked it! No, I didn’t like everything, and no they didn’t have the kind of ministry I want to find (an arts ministry), but it’s not about me ya know.

    And thanks Duane for not pushing a particular faith expression/tradition!

    (And for those reading that are mad that I said “liked”, “a good fit”, and “tried a church” – I chose those phrases ON PURPOSE, so get over yourselves).

  38. Xenia says:

    Yes, something things can really go sideways. I’ve talked about how my old CC chased away all the people who founded the church, people in their 60’s, by adopting a youth/hipster culture. The words on the bulletin got so small older people couldn’t read them, the music got so loud (and this is a bit ironic) the older people couldn’t tolerate it. Most of them went off and formed another CC in another town where they were still with their old 🙂 friends and sing to gentle guitar strumming.

    My youngest son is a worship leader at a rock and roll oriented mega church in Michigan. (Josh: The Desperation Band seems to have disbanded.) It’s all about cutting edge loud music flashing lights fog machine jumping up and down electronics with dear son leading the whole production. You look at audience photos and everyone is under 30. Dear son is approaching 30 so he’d better have a back up plan, that’s all I have to say.

    Question: Who here wants to attend a church where every body is your age? No grade school kids, no old folks, no middle age people, just young people. Sounds terrible.

  39. Duane Arnold says:

    #37 Dan

    Good for you!! I think that is fantastic…

  40. Duane Arnold says:

    #38 Xenia

    You may remember that I wrote at one time about fog machines being the top item of churches’ “wish lists”… Something is very wrong.

  41. JoelG says:

    Try to look at it this way: There is a place in the Kingdom for the Fog Machine Man.

  42. Josh the Baptist says:

    Shame about Desperation, they did some good stuff. You know though, God may just be using this church to keep your son close. He’ll probably mature and see things differently in the next few years, but for now he’s using his gifts to glorify God.

    That has sort of been my trajectory.

  43. John 20:29 says:

    i like Michael’s observation that “church” is a gathering… perhaps, it is a bit revealing that the normal urging is, Go to church… perhaps, we should say, “Come to church?”

    if the gathering is killing your spirit or promoting the soul above the spirit, then leave IMHO
    a healthy spirit = a healthy soul, not the other way around IMHO … again

    there seems to be an impression that those who are not part of a fellowship are touchy, impatient or shallow, letting their humanity overrule their spiritual health… while, just the opposite may be the case

    but that comes from one who is convinced that the normal Christian is composed of 3 parts, each with a purpose: body, soul and spirit

    just sayin… not unpacking 🙂

  44. Duane Arnold says:

    #41 JoelG

    All I can say is, lovely… just lovely…

  45. JoelG says:


  46. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think if people went to church with the attitude to serve rather than be served they would be less disgruntled and would not care if there were hypocrites or jerks there – you would be there to serve their needs and perhaps then they would be less jerks.

    But people go to be served and find out that no one can serve them in the manner to which they are accustomed.

    When I say to serve, I don’t mean striving for leadership or an informal position, I just mean something like being the go to person in your pew..

  47. Xenia says:

    God may just be using this church to keep your son close. He’ll probably mature and see things differently in the next few years, <<<<

    Josh, that is exactly what we think, too.

    Could be A LOT worse.

    He recently had a giant three-barred Orthodox cross tattooed to his chest.

    We don't know what this means.

  48. Josh the Baptist says:

    Kids today and there tattoos. 🙂

  49. JoelG says:

    When it comes to tattoos I’m a rebel… I don’t have any….

    Good point MLD. We can be there to be that kind and attentive brother or sister that someone may need at that particular time.

  50. JoelG says:

    Or you can be a normal person that doesn’t put on airs. A person who is open about their struggles but there to worship Jesus just the same. A person who others can look at and say “you too”?

  51. John 20:29 says:

    #46 – once in awhile MLD posts something spot on – IMHO
    this is on of those times 🙂

  52. Disillusioned says:

    Thanks for all of the input. Also, I loved Desperation Band – your son? I think they wrote Beautiful the Blood, one of my faves.
    Anyway, and to others:
    Thanks for the input. I grew up uber-Catholic. Left the church when I went to college. Always loved Jesus my whole life. Got baptized 3 times. Went to a Lutheran church last Easter, and my old RCC this Easter. Appreciated the scripture and creeds, disliked the priest saying dumb things like if you’re having a trial it means you’re not right with God.

  53. Captain Kevin says:

    Great article, Dr. Duane! Lots of constructive conversation too.

    Xenia, you keep sharing about your church and I may just have to step into an Orthodox Church one of these days.

  54. filbertz says:

    when I go back for longer than a visit, it will likely be quietly, anonymously, and without hopes or expectations…the bar can’t be much lower than that. Still, I fear I will be disappointed and further disillusioned. It is much easier to speak to the non-attender from a position within than it is to speak to attenders from without. I think there is a credibility gap and a lack of common understanding.

  55. John 20:29 says:

    what constitutes a healthy gathering of Believers?
    what is obvious to most who’ve posted here, not every church is a church – that balm in Gilead thing perhaps?
    the best fellowship that i was ever in, people-wise, was a simple group of old timers in whom there was no guile and not much doctrine, but lots of humility, honesty and teachability
    the worst was a medium sized gathering of pastor groupies who mindlessly knew all the buzz words and doctrinal statements, but i doubt that they would have recognized their Savior if He fell on them

  56. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    having documented the rise and fall of Mars Hill, it started out as a Bible study a family had in their home. There’s certainly no guarantee that the simple humble-seeming Bible study where people are real can’t, over the course of twenty years, mutate into something else.

    I’ve been Presbyterian for a while. My conclusion was that a lot of us at MH didn’t realize we were excited about reinventing wheels that other Christians had worked out centuries before us. Some of us bailed on formal church stuff but I’ve found a sturdy contingent of us went back to Reformed churches or the Anglican fold. I’ve tended to stay in touch with that scene more than the groups that foreswore institutional everything. That, paradoxically, was the path that Mark tended toward at his start. He didn’t want Mars Hill to become another dead denomination and now Mars Hill is dead.

  57. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    having documented the rise and fall of Mars Hill, it started out as a Bible study a family had in their home. There’s certainly no guarantee that the simple humble-seeming Bible study where people are real can’t, over the course of twenty years, mutate into something else.

  58. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    sorry about the late night double post. There is some new analysis up looking at the April 6, 2017 interview MD gave to Walsh & Robison, which is curiously 404 at the Life Today website since Throckmorton discussed it. The historical revisionism was so sweeping in that 4-6-17 it took a few weeks to document how it can’t even square with MD’s own long-running accounting of the history of MH, although that, too, is fraught with problems if you have the series of bylaws documents handy.


  59. Duane Arnold says:

    #46 MLD

    “I think if people went to church with the attitude to serve rather than be served they would be less disgruntled…”

    Absolutely agreed. Going along with this, I think there is also a need for people already involved in the church to be less “territorial”, thereby allowing some entry points for newcomers.

    I’ve also wondered if we may be entering into a time in which the Church, overall, is not going to become more “multifaceted” – that is, a creedal core with varied expressions. Very similar to what we see on PP threads week by week. Perhaps we are seeing what “church” could be right here… Just a thought.

  60. Jean says:

    I don’t know whatt these statements mean:

    “Going along with this, I think there is also a need for people already involved in the church to be less “territorial”, thereby allowing some entry points for newcomers.”

    If people are protecting territory or wishing to establish territory or covet territory, etc., then there is a fundamental problem with what church is. It’s really much simpler than territorial conquest. There’s Christ and the Body; there is the called minister(s) and the laity; etc.

    “I’ve also wondered if we may be entering into a time in which the Church, overall, is not going to become more “multifaceted” – that is, a creedal core with varied expressions. Very similar to what we see on PP threads week by week. Perhaps we are seeing what “church” could be right here… Just a thought.”

    What do you mean be “multifaceted…with varied expressions.” I’ve seen that in action, but not beyond having a “traditional” service and a “contemporary” service. I think it’s a defective model, because it promotes “enthusiasm” vs. reverential/catechetical. It promotes factionalism and division. What is preferable IMO is for a church to have a common set of principles around which the fellowship is built.

  61. Duane Arnold says:

    #60 Jean

    “Territorial” – there are some churches that very much have the feeling of “our club”. It’s communicated to newcomers in a very subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) manner. It can be very off putting to people looking for a faith community.

    “Multifaceted” – I’m talking about a variety of churches, not a single church. In a single local church, I agree with you that there needs to be a common set of principles around which the fellowship is formed.

  62. Steve says:

    All these comments are great! I find it interesting that the CC voices aren’t posting on this thread. Maybe they have been silenced by their own convictions or maybe its a strategic effort on their part to be quiet. Either case, they have zero wisdom to offer me in this area.

  63. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know if CC needs to say anything – for the most part their folks do ‘go to church’ and in far greater numbers than my tribe does.

  64. JoelG says:

    Agreed Steve great comments.

    Em exactly!

    “I think it’s a defective model, because it promotes “enthusiasm” vs. reverential/catechetical.”

    Yes! One would think that “enthusiasm” is one of the fruits of the Spirit in some churches.

    Churches are last place on earth there should be “cliques”.

  65. Josh the Baptist says:

    Steve, you may not have noticed, but the tone of this blog has shifted away from welcoming evangelical type voices.

    I’m not saying that is good or bad, just saying that it is, and it only makes sense that CC guys don’t comment much here anymore.

  66. JoelG says:

    I realize that Pastors are human like the rest of us, but there was one I had that lectured the congregation how they should during “contemporary” worship. I think he thought everyone was an extrovert like him.

    Put the emphasis on Christ rather than the Christian and let people be themselves. Grrrrr

  67. Steve says:

    Josh, I am an evangelical. Just not of the CC variety.

  68. Duane Arnold says:

    Looking over the tread this morning, I was struck by the “obvious”… we’re having a discussion about the importance (or not) of Christians attending church and the place of pastoral care. That should tell us something about how the “landscape” has changed…

  69. JoelG says:

    I meant to write “how they should ACT” in my last comment. I should’ve taken it up with him rather than spout off on a blog. I am commenting too much.

    Last thought before I stop commenting: Find the “outsiders” in church. Listen to them and love them. They’ve come to see Jesus. Show them.

  70. Duane Arnold says:

    I remember a quote from John Keble – “If all of the Church of England failed, you could still come and find it in my parish church”.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say the same thing for each of our respective traditions…

  71. Michael says:


    The majority of our readers are evangelical.
    You have an open invitation to write anytime you choose.

    What I set out to do years ago was to provide a forum where people could discover and appreciate alternatives to evangelicalism.

    This became even more important to me during the election season.

    What happens is that when some evangelicals can’t be the dominant voice,they choose not to participate at all.

    I would love having more evangelical voices as long as they understand that they represent one group, not the whole of Christendom.

  72. Josh the Baptist says:

    I didn’t say it was bad, just pointing out what I thought was obvious as to why CC guys wouldn’t be responding.

    “You have an open invitation to write anytime you choose.”

    With all sincerity, that offer is a great honor to me. I wish I had the time.

  73. Michael says:


    I was talking with another reader yesterday and we both agreed we’d like to see you more involved…when you get the time.

  74. Kevin H says:

    As the resident evangelical writer on this blog, here are a few of my thoughts on the evangelical issue here at the blog:

    – There are plenty of unhealthy excesses that a connection to evangelicalism that are more than worthy of criticism. I have touched on some of these things in my own writings.

    – Many of these unhealthy things have been long criticized on this blog, both in articles and in the comments.

    – Evangelicals are far from a monolith group, so to broadbrush all or most evangelicals into a particular theological/methodological/political/etc. issue that is being criticized is disingenuous and wrong in most cases.

    – The level to which evangelicals have been broadbrushed or to which an evangelical issue is made out to be worse than it really is in an exaggerated fashion has increased in recent times on this blog. Not so much in the articles, but in the commenting.

    – When these issues are argued about on this blog, I stay out of the fray more times than not because I am not confrontational by nature and on some of the issues I do not have the theological chops to make a worthwhile contribution.

    – These are my own observations and opinions. Others may see things differently.

  75. Steve says:

    I clearly remember Joe Focht at CC philly saying many times: “If you don’t make it anywhere else, this is the last watering hole you will find in Philadelphia.” I used to view that as a badge of honor that I attended a church where they accepted everyone and included anyone that just didn’t fit into a traditional church with all barriers supposedly removed so you now had a chance. I heard this in other CC churches as well. I bought into this meme hook, line and sinker but I never really gave a traditional church a try. I just assumed they were stodgy and cold with lots of obstacles to entry and if they didn’t have over 200 people attending, God must not be there. Ironically, I didn’t find water in the last watering hole in Philadelphia but I did find it in a watering hole that I didn’t expect. If the last watering hole is in CC Philadelphia we are in big trouble. CC Philly may be a watering hole for some folks but it certainly isn’t the last watering hole. This blog has opened me up to a bunch of other traditions that I could try if evangelicalism completely fails me at some point. No individual church or denomination should claim or come across as being the last watering hole.

  76. Josh the Baptist says:

    Thanks Michael. I am always treated with much more respect here than I deserve.

    The time issue basically boils down to Hebrew taking all my spare time. I am apparently a VERY slow learner.

  77. Xenia says:

    I would very much like to hear more from Josh.

  78. Josh the Baptist says:

    Total agreement with Kevin’s assessment.

    (Thanks Xenia 🙂 )

  79. Michael says:


    Well said…which is why you’re the resident evangelical writer… 🙂

  80. Duane Arnold says:

    #74 Kevin H

    I REALLY appreciate you comment and opinion at #74. Part of the issue, as has been discussed before, is what constitutes an “evangelical” these days. I think there are a good number of us who can only be described as “hybrids” at this point in our journeys. I’m an Anglican (leaning to the Anglo-Catholic side of things) but intrinsically I am still an evangelical in many ways. I see this in others as well. Perhaps the problem is that we think that somewhere out there is the prototypical evangelical. We’re not sure we ever really come across this person, but we’re certain that they exist….

    It is way too easy to set up a “straw man” to attack. For myself, if I have ever ventured into that territory, I would ask your pardon and forgiveness.

  81. Josh the Baptist says:

    Exactly Duane.

    And I really don’t self-identify as evangelical. I’m Baptist.

  82. Duane Arnold says:

    #81 Josh

    And a a good representative of your tradition… which is why we want to hear more from you!

    Now, get back to your vowel points!

  83. Kevin H says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys. Glad to see I’m not alone in my observations and opinions.

  84. Josh the Baptist says:


    Duane – I was looking at a few Phd programs, just thinking about the future if I ever finish this degree…

    They all have a requirement for German. Is that typical with theological Phd’s?!?!

  85. Kevin H says:

    Josh, it’s probably meant to keep out all those evangelicals who are too dumb and lazy to learn the language. 😉

  86. Josh the Baptist says:

    Kev – I’ve already admitted I’m up to my elbows in Hebrew. Greek is only slightly better. If I have to learn to sprekken the deustch, I may just tap out. 🙂

  87. Duane Arnold says:

    #83 Josh

    Reading knowledge, Yes. It used to be (when I was but a young man) French, German, Greek, Hebrew. Some, working on Early Church topics, would add Latin. Of course, imagine my surprise when I discovered Patristic Greek was remarkably different from Koine! Then, because my studies led into a certain direction with papyri, I had to pick up a smattering (and I do mean a smattering) of Coptic and Syriac.

    Most places now look to the Biblical languages, at least one modern language, and then anything required for your particular area of research… The modern languages do not have anything to do with fluency.

    Does this help?

  88. Duane Arnold says:

    #83 Josh

    I should add, German is often required because so much was done in Biblical studies and patristics by the Prussian Academy and remains untranslated.

  89. Josh the Baptist says:

    Geez Louise. Ugghhhh….well, I’ll just wait to see where the Lord leads after all this. Thanks for the info!

  90. Duane Arnold says:

    #89 Josh

    If it is any comfort, I’ve forgotten most of my German and Hebrew. I keep my French up by visiting France and my Greek by using my Gr. NT…

  91. Josh the Baptist says:

    You’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know? Yeah, very comforting! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  92. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Duane, when I was considering NT studies and asked William Lane what languages I’d need to know for doctoral work he said the base line would be biblical Hebrew, biblical Greek, Aramaic, German, French, and Latin. These were, he said, the non-negotiable ones but that compared to OT scholars NT scholars had it easy. 🙂 He also said the reading part was the thing, not necessarily having to speak them all. I was scared off from considering doctoral studies at that point and couldn’t scrounge up funding for even an MDiv level because I didn’t want to tie myself to a denomination at that stage in my life.

  93. Duane Arnold says:


    Yes, it is a fairly steep learning curve. As I said, so much Prussian Academy material has not bee translated and then the French began publishing critical texts in Sources Chrétiennes, where you have to have the language for the notes, introductions and apparatus. As they have now published over 600 volumes with critical texts it is impossible to access the material without the language.

    There is much that I could say about the cost of theological education, but I don’t want to use that sort of language on Michaels blog!!!

  94. Josh the Baptist says:

    Sorry to hijack the thread – Yeah, I’m seeing some that say German, French OR Latin. That’s cool. I could pick up one of those in the next year or so…I guess. Actually took French my whole school life. I’m sure I could pick that back up without too much trouble.

    How would any of you use original languages in church ministry?

  95. Duane Arnold says:

    #94 Josh

    Other than academic research or preparation of sermons, Bible studies, etc., the only time I used it was lecturing in Paris…

  96. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    I wish I’d picked up German and Latin just for musical studies. Augustine’s treatise on music hasn’t exactly been in a translation that’s stayed in print and very little of the Bullinger I’ve wanted to read ever got translated to begin with (which isn’t saying I don’t want to read Bullinger). 🙁

  97. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree on original languages / church ministry. Therefore, would you advise someone who had no academic aspirations, but was called to pastoral ministry to seek an Mdiv without language requirements?

  98. Josh the Baptist says:

    Let me rephrase my 97 – How important, then, would you say learning the original languages are to pastoral ministry?

  99. Jean says:

    “I wish I’d picked up German and Latin just for musical studies.”

    I was just listening to Bach’s contatas for Jubilate Sunday (3rd Sunday in Easter) and missed not knowing German.

  100. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jean – I do know enough German to translate that one for you:

    “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, He calls me friend.”

  101. Michael says:


    Don’t worry about the thread.
    I’m very pleased to see these conversations about learning taking place and I can speak for everyone when I say how proud we are about what you’re doing.

  102. Duane Arnold says:

    #98 Josh

    For Biblical studies they are important. You will always feel that you are missing something in the text that you are wishing to present. My personal opinion is that Greek is more important than Hebrew for pastoral ministry – though others may disagree. I know that there are loads of tools out there, but the ability to actually read the text in the original is of benefit.

    The best advice I was given was to use the Greek text of the Gospel of John for my personal devotions every morning – three or four verses at a time – parse and make notes, conjugate the irregular verbs you come across. Then make your own translation without reference to your familiar English text. It will give you a sense of the nuance of the text… and you will use what you’ve learned with your congregation, but in a very natural way. You will not have to say, “The Greek actually says…” (I hate when people do that from a pulpit. It sounds so pompous!) You can simply talk about the meaning simply because you have a better understanding of the text…

    Does that help?

  103. Jean says:


    Very nice. What are you translating in #100?

  104. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Being able to work in the German language is important to Lutheran theologians – most of Lutheran work has not been translated into English. Luther’s Works alone are about 70 volumes in English — of I think 150 volumes in German.

    Dr. Michael P. Middendorf (who sat for a year in my class – he teaches at Concordia Irvine) wrote the book ‘The “I” in the Storm: A Study of Romans 7’ as his doctorate thesis. The point I bring up is that half his footnotes explaining the Greek are in German. I am a footnote reader, I read every footnote — that was frustrating.


  105. Josh the Baptist says:

    Sorry Jean, it was a joke that missed the mark, apparently. Those are lyrics to one of the more vapid praise choruses that is sung over and over and over and over. I was jokingly saying that it was Bach’s contata.

  106. Josh the Baptist says:

    #102 helps tremendously, thanks! The question was not necessarily for me, as I’m already too far down that road, but I like the tip about translating a few verses of John per day in devotion.

    Thanks Michael! Just following a call.

    MLD, why did he write the notes in German? Or was he just referencing German works?

  107. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    First I probably over stated the ‘half the footnotes’ – but I don’t know unless he was trying to impress those who oversee his dissertation. It could have been a nod to the large German language presence in Lutheran work.

  108. Josh the Baptist says:

    Smart people drive me crazy. Why can’t we all just speak Southern Hick?

  109. Jean says:

    Chad Bird makes his case for why we go to church:

    Read the short article after this quote:

    “Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.

    Our life with Christ is communal, not personal or private or individual. When the Scriptures speak of believers, they are part of a community, a fellowship of other believers.

    Christianity is about a church relationship with Jesus.”


  110. Duane Arnold says:

    #109 Jean

    Great article! And he’s right on it… Many thanks for the link.

  111. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Very good again from Chad Bird. After 25 yrs in the ‘ersonal relationship’ environment, one of the most notable changes these past 11 yrs is not being questioned or challenged about my personal relationship with Jesus.

  112. Josh the Baptist says:

    That is a good, though provoking article. I disagree with the basic premise (that we should not seek a personal relationship with Christ), but agree with the conclusion, that Christianity is to be lived out in community.

  113. Duane Arnold says:

    Bonhoeffer – “Life Together”… He had it first.

  114. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    However Depeche Mode may take exception to the Chad Bird article 😉

  115. Josh the Baptist says:

    The Stray CATS may want to eat Chad BIRD.

    Sorry. None of my jokes are working.

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