Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How's it like after one year in a theological college?

"So, how was your first year in a theological college?" asked a friend last month. I was as quiet as 2 a.m. can be. I didn't know what to say or where should I start.

As everyone who know me know that I am better at writing than talking. Since I was asked, so I venture to articulate.

A year of living and learning in a theological college definitely has molded me into a different person. The problem is I don't know what is the difference besides the stuffs that I have learned and read about.

Certainly there are many thoughts have been shaped and sharpened. One can hardly be unaffected by the required reading of certain amount of books and articles coupled with a few research essays.

To be sure, I have a better understanding over the personhood of the Holy Spirit, the relationship between creation and eschatology, the founding history of Trinity Theological College and Singapore Bible College, the theological scene in Singapore in the first half of the twentieth century, and some themes in the New Testament and the Old Testament.

Looking back to previous two semesters, I really appreciate the faculty members, be it resident or guest, in TTC. I had the opportunity to learn from Tony Siew, Roland Chia, Andrew Peh, Maggie Low, Swee Hong, Lucilla, Telford Work, and Simon Chan.

All of them were strict in their requirement and demands. We all understand that they were so in order to bring the best out of the students. And none of them hesitate to help us when we faced with difficulties in our study.

After one year, I also came to see the limitation of a theological college as a place for the cultivation of spiritual formation. For example, there are theological students who are pseudo-humble, with Messiah-complex, plagiarize, commit adultery, exercise misjudgment, etc etc. Similarly, Singapore Bible College has its own story too.

A theological college, monastery, or seminary can fill up its daily schedule with religious activities like morning chapel service, evening vesper, hostel vesper, prayer meetings, Day of Prayer, lunch fellowship, family group, etc. Yet sin will somehow find its way through somewhere into the holy ground.

Not that this is something new. But to experience this scenario in close proximity reaffirms the perception that I already have over all institutions, be it religious or not. As human history has shown, there are anomalies everywhere under the sun. So this is not only an issue with Christian theological institutions but, to reiterate, everywhere under the sun. Remember the days when Enron was still a model company and when Bill Clinton was still the President of U.S.A?

For one thing, I am for spiritual formation but I just don't think I can adapt to the college's schedule. I have not attended a single evening vesper throughout the entire year. And guess what? Last week I was scheduled to lead yesterday's evening vesper! I didn't have any idea what was an evening vesper until yesterday.

I am not someone who has mushy feelings when I attend a service or a mass. I don't feel nearer to God and his Christ through services. Those days are gone. Now, I just don't.

I don't spend hours to pray. I don't have morning devotion on my own. I just don't.

No, I didn't become like this after my enrollment into TTC. I was already like this before that.

The union nature of this college presupposes the need to affirm differences. True to its nature, some of the lecturers keep reiterate this need in the classes. Yet on the other hand, the spiritual formation activities are formed in such a way that pushes for conformity.

It is like if you want to be in the good book of certain authority in the school, you are encouraged to do this and that, which sometimes the 'this' and the 'that' are just not the things that are necessary. They are more like the 'wants' rather than the 'needs'. So far, I have not hesitate to complete all the 'needs' activities, like carrying out my duty as the chairperson of the hostel. As for the 'wants', I take it easy.

I just got to know that some of the lecturers at TTC know about this blog. And the general perception that they have about what I wrote here is that I often present only one side of the argument and hence my thoughts are immature.

Well, what can I say? Hopefully that does not mean I appear as a very narrow-minded person.

Talking about this blog, five hours ago I met a guy who was wondering about Joseph Prince's teaching. He told me that his Anglican pastor emailed to him my posts on Joseph Prince's teaching for his reference. I didn't know if that is a good thing. I don't mind people recommending my writings here to others if they are good. But I wouldn't want others to read my immature thoughts if they are really so.

Anyway, this is my first week into the third semester and hopefully not the final one as there might be some funding problem that will disable me to continue to the fourth semester. So far, I really enjoy every single class (Eschatology, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, and Mission in a Globalized World) and am looking forward to attend them next week.

30 comments:

Ignatius said...

you wrote: I don't feel nearer to God and Christ through services. Those days are gone. Now, I just don't.

Just wondering... ... is this the way it should be? Aren't service suppose to direct us towards God? Of course, God is omnipresent. So,not really appropriate to say "nearer", but if a service don't help us "feel nearer" to God (focus on God), isn't there something wrong?

"I don't have morning devotion on my own. I just don't."

You read widely. In your view, what do you think is Jesus' Stance on devotion?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Ignatius,

Thank you for the question. I will think about it and write a post later. :-)

luo said...

Sze Zeng
This is an interesting insight into your thinking and your statement about maturity. Can I tell you a true account? Many years ago while studying in London, I met an American whom I believe was a very devout Christian and confident of his belief. He enrolled into a very well known Theological college in US and sometime during his course suffered a breakdown and began to doubt his faith and belief. It seems that during his studies he was encouraged to be more ‘’matured’’ and to challenge all his previous assumptions.
To me he was a pathetic sight. A pseudo-intellect who had no confidence that what he believed was true. In most of our discussions on Christianity he was able to quote this and that authority’s view of various aspects of the bible but on a personal level he himself was unsure of what the bible teaches.
I don’t think that all Christian theologians are necessarily Christians. Some are probably just academicians.
Using the intellect is of course important. As an academician I do research and read widely on various views and opinions with regard my own specialty. As a Christian I also try to read and understand my faith in greater depth. But I also know that at the end of the day a simple living faith in my God is far more important.

achorusofehoes said...

Thanks for writing this and the transparency of your thoughts which I appreciate. The tendency for seminary students is normally to highlight the holiness of theological activity and life in seminary which I find at times annoying.

And about the what you said about some lecturers finding out about your blog and stating that "the general perception that they have about what I wrote here is that I often present only one side of the argument and hence my thoughts are immature," well, might just be their own opinions hehe. In fact we are all biased in our views even if we do present every side of the argument which one can't do on a blog post. From my own experiences working in a church whose leaders found out about my old blog, well lets just say I got a light sense of excommunication from them and that cost me that job. So much for pressing on our opinions.

I hope you will be able to extend your studies though. Good luck on that.

Alex Tang said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Thank you for your reflection about your first year in TTC. Wow. How time flies.

I just got to know that some of the lecturers at TTC know about this blog. And the general perception that they have about what I wrote here is that I often present only one side of the argument and hence my thoughts are immature.

Knowing most of your lecturers, I am not surprised that some will think this way. The PhD development is a confrontation approach (you demolish other people's argument - deconstruct is a word they use so as to prove yours). Those who has undergone the training are able to see flaws in other people's argument easily. Add in a little bit of knowledge, a sense of elitism and egoism...sometimes they can be quite hard to put up with. To them other people's writings are either "immature" or "reductive."

Sze Zeng, don't let these comments throw you off. You have a keen sharp incisive intellectual and you have the courage to speak out. This is a rare combination. Follow your passion. Learn from others and sharpen your mind. Use your TTC years as a means to these end. You will receive praises and derision. If you can, and I paraphrase Kipling, treat these two impostors the same, then you will be okay.

reasonable said...

Ignatius wrote: Aren't service suppose to direct us towards God? ...if a service don't help us "feel nearer" to God (focus on God), isn't there something wrong?

"Services" need not make a person "FEEL" nearer to God.

Sometimes, sweeping the floor, washing the toilet, dropping some coins to the bowls of a beggar and so on can make a person FEEL nearer to God than "church worship services" or "church song-singing services" or "church entertainment services".

REgardless of how one FEEL, it may be different from the invisible intangible reality. When one does not feel near to God, in reality one might be very near to God. When one feels near to God, in reality one might be far from God. Always remember the surprise experienced by those who think they are close to the Lord on the day they are told by their Lord that they were being rejected by their Lord (Matt. 7.21-23).

reasonable said...

In Simon Chan's Spiritual Theology, he mentioned the diversity of Christian spiritual practices and that we should not impose one form of spiritual practices on all Christians because different personalities would find different spiritual practices helpful.

To each his own.

reasonable said...

"... what do you think is Jesus' Stance on devotion?"

If Jesus were walking around us in the same way he was walking around Israel 2000 years ago, then, depending on who Jesus is speaking to, and depending on what context, you may hear him speaking surprising statements along the line that "your devotion is idolatry" or "better spend one hour in Geylang Lor 16 (red light area) than for you to lock yourself in your devotion room for 3 hours". Of course such statements may be offensive to some religious Christians just as it was offensive to the pious Jews back then.

So dun put Christian spirituality in a box. Dun turn a certain para-church's emphasis on "quiet-time" into the paradigm of Christian spirituality.

reasonable said...

Luo: But I also know that at the end of the day a simple living faith in my God is far more important.

Good for you and your God, but it is not suitable for some other serious Christians.

For some other Christians, complexity better suit them (in the sense of appreciating the complexity of life and faith).

For every anecdotal account of someone studying theology ended up in living a life that is different from what you perceived as the proper way, there is an opposite anecdotal account of someone diving deep into complexity and growing deeper into a life with God.

Indeed, if one is serious about honoring God in academic work, it is good for one to challenge his and others' assumptions. Let evidence leads one to where it leads. Do not look only for data to confirm one's wishes and desires (e.g. one's wish and desire that Christianity is true). Look actively also for data that runs counter to one's desires/wishes.

Of course I am not saying everyone need to pursue this - I am referring to those who are serious about Christian academics (and any kind of academics).

Even if a Christian through his honest hard work in studying and thinking (add prayer if u wish), came to the point to be convinced that Christianity is not true, God probably would honour that and at the Eschaton, I would argue that God accepts such a person with a relatively honest, good and unselfish character. At the same time, God would reject some/many who spend all their life in church, even though they may be founders, leaders, miracle-healers, exocists and so on in the churches. Again, Matt. 7.21-23.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi luo,

Thank you for sharing about your about your friend's story.

I can't be sure if I can concur that a theologian is a Christian or not. But yes, not all theologians profess the conventional shared theology.

Continue to pursue your faith be it intellectually and otherwise :-)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

Time certainly flies. We have known each other for three or four years which initially started virtually :-)

Thank you for sharing your point about praise and derision. That makes sense of the ambivalence of human experience.

You know what? I have been advised by the acting Dean of Students, the Dean of Studies, and also the hostel's Warden on my blog. I dont know whether do they think the same as other lecturers that the blog is one-sided and somehow seems immature (because the one who told me about this was not one of them), but I am certain that these three lecturers instructed me out of concern rather than any other reasons.

Thank you again for the Kipling's wisdom :-)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Thank you for your comments. What you wrote resonate much with what I think.

By the way, I dont think I can advise you on the Greek word that you are investigating. Though I know of one word, but I am not good with the language so I think it's better for me not to make comment about it. I think you should ask Tony Siew about it :-)

reasonable said...

No worries, I have found two examples of Greek words that meet my criteria liao loh... of course the more the better, hehe... But this is enought for my purpose

Steven Sim said...

Cheers to your survival in the next year!

Coming a full circle from uni, I come to live between the tension of my former uni room-mate's "Life's short, cut the crap" and seeing the grey in the midst of the black-and-white of life.

Steven Sim

Ignatius said...

reasonable: In Simon Chan's Spiritual Theology, he mentioned the diversity of Christian spiritual practices and that we should not impose one form of spiritual practices on all Christians because different personalities would find different spiritual practices helpful.

Can attending worship at sunday service be cosidered one form of spiritual practices? Aren't we commanded to do so?

Remember the author of Hebrews told his audience, “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

reasonable said...

Ignatius asked: Can attending worship at sunday service be cosidered one form of spiritual practices? Aren't we commanded to do so?

Ignatius, please show me where in the NT are we commanded to do what you call "attending worship at sunday service".

Sze Zeng said...

Hi achorusofechoes,

Thank you for telling the bit about the encounter you faced from blogging. I hope that I will be able to continue too. If God willing :-)

Ignatius said...

reasonable wrote: Ignatius, please show me where in the NT are we commanded to do what you call "attending worship at sunday service".

In the Old Testament, God stated, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Of the 10 commandments listed in Exodus 20:1-17, 9 of them were restated in the New Testament. (see Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9) The one that was not reaffirmed was the one about the Sabbath. Instead, Jesus said that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8).

Within the New Testament, we see the seventh day Sabbath is no longer a requirement.

"One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God," (Rom. 14:5-6).

Though we find no specific command within the New Testament to assemble for worship on any particular day nor should we expect to find such an instruction since there is a certain freedom in Christ, His blood having released us from Old Covenant penalties/prohibitions.Nevertheless, we do find a strong precedent for assembling for worship on what soon became known as 'The Lord's Day' - Sunday : the day of the resurrection, the day of the disciples meeting and seeking after Christ - with the risen Christ's revealing of Himself to them, the day of Pentecost, the day on which Paul can be found preaching to other Christians (rather than to Jews), the day on which Paul requested the Corinthians to make a collection for Christians affected by the famine in Judea (1 Corinthians 16: 1-3), the day on which John wrote that he found himself, 'In the Spirit' (Rev 1:10).

(cont'd below)

Ignatius said...

(contd from above)

There seem to be evidence in the NT that Christians met on Sunday! (Acts 20:7 1 Cor 16:1-2 and Revelation 1:10, for instance).

In John 20: 19-22, we find in the account what can justly be referred to as the first Sunday evening worship service!

"And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight," (Acts 20:7).

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come," (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

A source that I found has this: Notice here that Paul is directing the churches to meet on the first day of each week and put money aside. It would seem that this is tithing. So, the instructed time for the church to meet is Sunday, the first day of the week and it is that day the Galatians were to set money aside collections. Is this an official worship day set up by the church? You decide. Does this verse apply to Christians today? It most certainly does.

"I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea," (Revelation 1:10-11).
The New Bible Dictionary says regarding the term, ‘The Lord’s Day’ in Rev. 1:10: "This is the first extant occurrence in Christian literature of "te kuriake hemera." The adjectival construction suggests that it was a formal designation of the church’s worship day. As such it certainly appears early in the 2nd century" (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, 1. 67).

In many churches today, the term "The Lord’s Day" is used to designate Sunday, the same as it was in the second century.

we have the freedom (Rom. 14:1-12) to worship on the day that we believe we should. And, no one should judge us in regard to the day we keep. We are free in Christ and not under law, (Rom. 6:14).

Sunday is the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. The Jewish people who had rejected Jesus continued to worship on Saturday, the Sabbath. But it was the Christians who celebrated Jesus' resurrection and this was most probably the driving force to gather on the first day of the week.

"Sunday is the day upon which we all hold our communion and assembly" (Justin Martyr, First Christian Apology)

I think I should have asked: Can woshipping God (such as through attending worship service) be cosidered one form of spiritual practices? Aren't we commanded to worship God?

Another angle from which to ask my question: As Christians, aren't we suppose to meet regularly for worship? (Hebrews 10:25)

I have been too quick to put in the word "Sunday".Hope my previous question doesn't make me sound like a "Sun"Day Adventists!!

reasonable said...

Your two long posts, despite being loaded with much information, could not show any evidence of any command in the NT for us to do what you called "attending worship at sunday service".

Your two long posts seem to me to be an effort to try to hide the fact of your original mistake. Or to try to avoid admitting your original mistake.

Giving loads of info does not erase the original mistake, unless your loads of info can give evidence that there was a command for us to do what you call "attending worship at sunday service".


Perhaps you should just say "sorry, I implied wrongly. There was no such command" before you proceed to introduce your new claims and new statements.

In principle, worship CAN exist without engaging in such group activities.

--------------

on another matter:

In your long posts, you said things like "In the OT, God said..."

How do you know it is God who said that? Some unknown OT writer claiming that God said something does not mean that God said something, just like when some Tan Ah Gao tells u God told him to buy some 4D does not mean he was correct.

Some unknown guy wrote about the Sabbath in the OT, just as some unknown OT guys also wrote about God commanding Israelites to commit mass murder. Whether or not God in reality said those things or gave those commands is another matter.

Some unknown guys wrote in the OT about the conquest of the Promised Land. Whether or not that really took place in the way OT described it is another matter.


Shalom & Metta to u

reasonable said...

Ignatius asked: Another angle from which to ask my question: As Christians, aren't we suppose to meet regularly for worship? (Hebrews 10:25)

Where in Hebrews 10.25 does it say that we are to meet regularly FOR WORSHIP?

Please quote the part of the sentence in Heb. 10.25 that says we are to meet regularly FOR WORSHIP.

reasonable said...

Ignatius asked: Can woshipping God (such as through attending worship service) be cosidered one form of spiritual practices? Aren't we commanded to worship God?

Nobody here is saying that worshiping God is one form of Christian Spirituality. So please read very carefully.

But worship is not equivalent to Sunday (or whatever day) group song-singing service.

Sunday service is merely one form of worship.


Worship manifests itself in many external activities. Group song-singing sessions are merely one form of worship and one form of Christian spirituality.

Even without any of such external activities, one can still worship his God (or Gods/Boddhisattas/etc for non-Christians).

--------

BTW, I digress here: in an Anglican marriage ceremony, there is this part about one worship his/her spouse/spouse-to-be. Same word "worship" but different nuance.

Ignatius said...

1) reasonable: Your two long posts seem to me to be an effort to try to hide the fact of your original mistake. Or to try to avoid admitting your original mistake.

I wrote: I have been too quick to put in the word "Sunday".

Can't you see that I am implying there was an oversight on my part.

oversight= an omission or mistake, esp one made through failure to notice something.

It seems you wanted very much for me to admit my original mistake.
Biblical truth is more important than my 'face'(面子). ok, if it makes you happy, I admit there was a mistake made.

2) reasonable: Your two long posts, despite being loaded with much information, could not show any evidence of any command in the NT for us to do what you called "attending worship at sunday service".

Please read carefully. I stressed: Though we find no specific command within the New Testament to assemble for worship on any particular day nor should we expect to find such an instruction since there is a certain freedom in Christ, [...]Nevertheless, we do find a strong precedent for assembling for worship on what soon became known as 'The Lord's Day' - Sunday.

Maybe, I should rephrase to make it clearer: not "attending worship", but "assembling for worship".

If you don't think sunday is a good day, maybe you would like to point out why?
btw, I didn't say we can only choose Sunday. Please read carefully.

3) reasonable: In your long posts, you said things like "In the OT, God said..." How do you know it is God who said that?

I am not sure, but You seem very sure. Maybe, you would like to explain explain??

4) Where in Hebrews 10.25 does it say that we are to meet regularly FOR WORSHIP?

Isn't the verse Hebrews 10:25 quite clear?
Hebrews 10:25 (New International Version): Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I thought that was clear enough, so there was no further elaboration given! Since you can't see how Hebrews 10.25 is linked to meeting regularly FOR WORSHIP, I shall quote the comment made by Dr George Guthrie on this verse (from his commentary on Hebrews, pg. 345 NIV App Commentary) : The author exaplains the context for stimulation toward love and good works in verse 25, using contrasting expressions that mark out what the hearers must not and must do. What they must not do is stop meeting together on a regular basis.

5)reasonable:But worship is not equivalent to Sunday (or whatever day) group song-singing service.

I agree. I didn't say worship is equivalent to Sunday group song-singing service. Worship is more than that. I would like to John Piper here. Worship is the term we use to cover all the acts of the heart and mind and body that intentionally express the infinite worth of God.

I do not think the infinite worth of God is ONLY to be expressed ON Sunday.

6) reasonable: Sunday service is merely one form of worship.

In my understanding, worship is of course not limited to Sunday. We worship God through the many activities of our lives.

7) reasonable: Worship manifests itself in many external activities. Group song-singing sessions are merely one form of worship and one form of Christian spirituality.

Yup ...

8) reasonable: Even without any of such external activities, one can still worship his God

True!

SHWong said...

Persevere on. I was never model student myself either.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi SHWong,

Thank you for the message! :-)

reasonable said...

Hi Ignatius, you failed to show where in Hebrews 10.25 was there any mention of gathering together FOR WORSHIP.

Even your commentator which you quoted did not say anything about gathering FOR WORSHIP in his comments on Heb 10.25.

Your quoted words of Guthrie was "The author exaplains [sic] the context for stimulation toward love and good works in verse 25, using contrasting expressions that mark out what the hearers must not and must do. What they must not do is stop meeting together on a regular basis."

The above sentence of your commentator does not say anything about meeting together FOR WORSHIP. What was mentioned was "for stimulation toward love and good works".

So I do not know why your quote those words of your commentator since those words did not say anything about gathering FOR WORSHIP.

In Hebrews 10.25, nothing was said about gathering together FOR WORSHIP. It just mentioned about meeting together, about stimulating one another towards love and good works.

So again, show me, exactly which phase or which group of words in Hebrews 10.25 did the unknown author mentioned about meeting together FOR WORSHIP?

scruffy said...

bro, i for one will think that it will be a crying shame if you ever left TTC before completing the studies - your advice and help have been crucial to my own development, your inputs during class have been most illuminating and thought provoking and your friendship is very much appreciated! Thank you! :D

as for the blog, i think it's fine just the way it is!

Ignatius said...

reasonable: Even your commentator which you quoted did not say anything about gathering FOR WORSHIP in his comments on Heb 10.25.

Not the commentator’s fault. He did mention further down in the same page:

Apparently some in the community were abandoning their gathering together for worship. God would never forsake them (Heb. 13:5), but some of those who had been associated with the Christian community were forsaking them (6:4-8; 10: 26-31) and his people. […] Whatever the reason, the author sees their discontinuance of common fellowship and worship as fatal for perseverance in the faith.

Lee Campbell pointed out:

If it were not for the traditional use of the word 'worship' amongst Christians, substantial arguments could be raised against its continued use. For one thing, the denotative meaning of 'worship' is different from the related Greek and Hebrew terms. For another, the connotative meaning of 'worship' in the Christian community is substantially different from the biblical teaching on the topic. Since the evangelical Christian community is committed to the use of the term worship, it certainly bears careful examination so that we mean what God intends when we use it.

Dr Arthur Patzia (Prof of NT at Fuller) has this comment when discussing about the development of the Lord’s Supper: The author reminds the readers not to neglect meeting together (Heb 10:25), an obvious reference to worship service.

In defining ‘Worship’, Dr D A Carson (Prof of NT at TEDs) wrote: The NT speaks of the gathering or the coming together of the people of God in many contexts (e.g. Acts 4:31; 11:26, etc.). “The church in assembly not only provides encouragement to its members but also approaches God (Heb 10:25),” writes Everett Ferguson (In The Church of Christ, Eerdmans, 1996, p. 233). But this could equally be put the opposite way: The church in assembly not only approaches God, but it provides encouragement to its members. Even in Eph. 5:19 we speak “to one another” when we sing; and in Colossians 3:16, the singing of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” is in the context of teaching and admonishing one another. This means that the purist model of addressing only God in our corporate worship is too restrictive. On the other hand, while of the purposes of our singing should be mutual edification, that is rather different from making ourselves and our experience of worship the topic of worship.

The Greek word episynagoge translated “meeting” in Heb 10:25 refers to the regular meeting together of believers in worship and instruction. (The New International Dict. Of NT Theology)

reasonable said...

Hi Ignatius, to say "meeting together" equals worship service is to commit the error of eisigesis (reading something into the text which is not present in the text).

The context of the passage was about apostasy, about trying to encourage readers to remain faithful, and the immediate context was about people giving encouragement to one another (an antidote for apostasy). Meeting together is not equivalent to having a worship service. The burden of proof is on those who claim that "assembling together" = worship service. As far as the text goes, the meeting together is associated with provoking one another to love and good works, giving encouragement to one another, within the context of persecution and apostasy.

One has to read commentary and theological dictionary critically.

reasonable said...

Hi Ignatius, the word episunagoge/episynagoge merely means to come together or to assemble together - nothing about worship. Unless its usuage in a context shows clearly that the word carries a meaning wider than the meaning of "coming together", one should not force other meanings such as "worship service" onto that word episunagoge/episynagoge.

Hebrews 10.25's 'assembling together' or 'coming together' is about fellowship or koinonia if one were to look at the immediate context and wider context in Hebrews.

Note that:
1. The context does NOT have anything that says this "assembling together" or "coming together" is worship service. The context does NOT have anything that says they "come together" for the purpose of worship service. [by the way, consider this example: some Christians coming together for a nice dinner together, and during the dinner they might pray, but this coming together is not about prayer but about eating and fellowship, so the presence of the activity "prayer" during the dinner session does not mean that the coming together is for prayer. Prayer is a secondary purpose in this dinner event. Similarly, even if in the context of Hebrews, the Christians come together for mutual-encouragement and if in their fellowship they also prayed or sing praise to God, one should still not say that they come together for the purspose of a worship service if they main purpose is fellowship and mutual-encouragement] Since this is the case, then "assembling together" or "coming togehter", if one wants to talk about the purpose of assembling together IN THE CONTEXT OF HEBREWS, then base on the context, at most one can say is that it is about mutual-encouragement and mutual-provoking for love and good works.

2. The Greek word episunagoge/episynagoge translated in English as meeting together or assembling together is also used in 2 Thessalonians 2.1, where it was about the saints "coming together" to welcome Jesus during Jesus' "second coming". The word episunagoge/episynagoge merely means to come together or to assemble together - nothing about worship. Unless the use of the word episunagoge/episynagoge in a context shows clearly that the word carries a meaning wider than the meaning of "coming together", one should not force other meanings onto that episunagoge/episynagoge. As to what the purpose of the "coming together" is for, it depends on the context. In Thessalonians it was coming together to welcome Jesus; in Hebrews, the context does NOT show that the coming together is for worship; at the most, one can only say that the coming together has to do with mutual-encouragement, mutual-provoking to love and good works, in the midst of persecution and apostasy.