About Me

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Hey! I’m Nate Labadorf. I love God and my family and I also love theology and coffee (hence the name). I’m from Travelers Rest SC and I was homeschooled till college. My childhood can be described in three words: bare feet, Bluegrass and BB guns. Feeling the call to preach, I went to Bob Jones University where I got my BA in Bible and my MA Biblical Studies. I am now currently working on my Ph.D in Theological Studies with an Old Testament emphasis.

As for coffee, I enjoy roasting my own. My favorite beans are from Kenya but I also super-enjoy beans from other African countries. I typically shoot for a city+ roast, but I have been known to get distracted and end up with a French roast. My go to brew is a Makita pour over, though I’ll use an Aeropress from time to time. And the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life was a cabinet FULL of Folgers… like someone actually spent money on that!

Outside of school, I work as a journeyman electrician for Carolina Power. I’ve wired high-rise hotels, restaurants, schools, and a bunch of other buildings. I’ve also wired many of my church remodeling projects and a installed security POE security camera system. Of all the trades, I think electrical is the best.

Featured post

Songs of the Kingdom

Now, we move to the Psalms. The Psalms have a completely different feel to them. They present the truth of the Kingdom in poetical form, not in chronological form. The first psalm we considered was Psalm 2. This Psalm presents the king of the kingdom. People, nations, kings rebel against him now. But through the resurrection, God will use the Anointed oneā€”Jesusā€”to establish the kingdom. It will be a universal kingdom. Therefore, as the author of Psalm 2 enjoins, we are to kiss the son lest he be angry. We must submit to him now, or else die before him later. The next Psalm we considered is Psalm 18, which presented the international reach of the kingdom. The Kingdom includes all the nations of the world. Thus the 18th Psalm indicated the universal scope of the Anointedā€™s Reign. And this universal scope of the kingdom motivates Paul to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the gentiles: The good news that they too can enter into the kingdom. Next, we came to Psalm 45 which is a Coronation Hymn. This Psalm describes the awesome wonder of that King and the joy of the new kingdom. The King, who is Jesus, is anointed by God himself. And God declares the truth Jesus is God. Then we came to Psalm 145 which looks at the eternal kingdom of God and its relationship to us. It is a jubilant Psalm, calling us to trust and praise the God who controls all things.

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fresh-ground-theology/id1449094482?mt=2

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/episode4QFiuuv1jpjyxO8KjmlPUB?si=Jvxh4UTLRPKwbl-o1XOs4A

The Virtue of Courage in KoĢˆstenbergerā€™s Book Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue

KoĢˆstenberger opens his book addressing young, Christian scholars entering the world of academia. Distraught over the bifurcation of scholarship from faith, he argues that the two can be united successfully by the Christian scholar. The Christian scholar, according to KoĢˆstenberger, should be both academically rigorous and committed to his Christian faith. Both objectives can be achieved through excellence. Excellence is a compilation of many different virtues, founded on the very character of God. And since God calls Christians to model his character, the Christian scholar must model these virtues in his academic work. One of these virtues is courage. In the academic world today, the scholar must pursue courage, drawing from the strength which God provides.

The Emphasis of Courage

KoĢˆstenberger emphasizes the need for courage throughout his chapter. While the scholarā€™s work does not require the same type of courage that one would need in the military or in the police force, it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to be a Christian scholar in secular academia. Often the temptation arises to choose topics which are non-confrontational in order to get a degree. Or to choose a topic that will not offend a publisher.

KoĢˆstenberger illustrated his own struggle with this pressure, describing the academic climate when he wrote his dissertation. While he was studying for his doctorate, academia was persuaded that the gospel of John was written by a Johannine community and not John himself. KoĢˆstenberger, however, did not believe that the evidence necessitated a community, but he held that John was the author of his gospel. And so, he wrote his dissertation accordingly, having the courage to stand against current academic trends.

He then develops a brief biblical theology of courage, focusing primarily on the life of Joshua. When Joshua was about to enter the promised land, God told him to be courageous and follow the Law. Only when he obeyed would he have success. KoĢˆstenberger concludes with three observations:

(1) Courage is based on the presence of God whom Godā€™s people can trust because of his actions on their behalf in the past and his promises of future action. (2) Courage is tied to obedience, because without obedience and faithfulness there can be no confidence that God will act favorably. (3) Courage is necessary to fulfill a particular mission or call from God.

With these three observations in mind, he then continues through the rest of Scripture developing the theme. In the New Testament, obedience is connected to the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world. And believers can proclaim the Gospel because God is nearby providing them courage to obey.

In his next major section, KoĢˆstenberger applies the Biblical theology to the life of the scholar. He focuses on how it takes courage for the scholar to please God, and not merely the publisher or professor. This Godward focus, then, would inevitably cause the scholar to oppose some dogmas of academia, especially in the integration of faith with scholarship. Academia holds faith in contempt, asserting that a confessional scholar cannot do objective scholarship. And so, KoĢˆstenberger encourages his readers to pursue excellent academic scholarship to over come the bias of academia. In his final exhortation, he reminds the reader that scholarship, just like the rest of the Christian life, is spiritual warfare. And in his words, ā€œthis takes courage.ā€

Excellent Points on Courage

Particularly helpful is his encouragement for the Christian scholar who enters the antagonistic world of Biblical scholarship. All the leading academic institutions, Harvard, Yale, etc., reject all supernatural events, concluding contrary to what the Scriptures claim. And so, these institutions put pressure on the Christian scholar to conform. As KoĢˆstenberger puts it, ā€œpressures abound to go with the flow of scholarly consensus, and the academy often marginalizes those who buck the system.ā€

This pressure enters even in Christian seminaries, which take a high view of Scripture. While the pressure may not come from the professors, the student will inevitably read and analyze the works of critical scholarship because he must be thorough in his research. While he might not be convinced of the critical position because of one work, continued exposure may weaken his resolve to hold a high view of Scripture. And after countless interactions with critical scholars, the student may not necessarily give in to their position, but he may not publish on the topic either.

This is where courage must come in. It will never be easy to stand up against the ā€œassured results of modern scholarship,ā€ but he must stand in order to maintain his calling from God. God has called certain men to maintain the faith through scholarship. And it will clash with unbelieving scholarship quiet often. In this fight, however, the Christian scholar is not alone, as KoĢˆstenberger points out, ā€œWe, as evangelical scholars, have a strong reservoir from which to draw courage. We can have confidence in Godā€™s favorable presence with us to help and sustain us on a daily basis.ā€ It is not sheer force of will or intellectual brilliance that will give the scholar courage, but courage comes through the presence of the Almighty God which lives in him.

One Small Critique

The one area in this chapter which could use some improvement is KoĢˆstenbergerā€™s example of how Israel drew on Godā€™s courage to fight Benjamin. He states: ā€œIn Judges 20:22, the people of Israel took courage in their fight against Benjamin, even in the face of incredible losses, because of Godā€™s command (Judg. 20:18, 23, 27ā€“28).ā€

While Israel did indeed need courage to fight the Benjamites, it does lack the clear moral context to which the Christian scholar can aspire. As many have observed, Judges traces the moral decline of the nation of Israel as they turn from God. This decline does not always follow a chronological emphasis, but rather a theological one. Case in point, this event recorded here happened soon after the entrance of Israel into the promise land, because the text says that Phineas was still the high priest (Judg. 10:27-28). But, this account appears at the end of the book of Judges and so it is out of chronological order. Thus, the author must have had a theological purpose in mind.

In the overall structure of Judges two themes come out. First, Israel was caught in an endless cycle of sin, judgment, repentance and restoration. And Second, during those days, there was no king in Israel. And as the author develops these themes, he shows the nation getting worse and worse. So, with this example appearing near the end of the book, the author is showing how utterly wicked the nation had become. So, while they did require courage, it is not necessarily an example for believers to follow.

Conclusion and Personal Takeaway

The biggest takeaway from the chapter was on the need to take courage from God to do the work which He has called Christian scholars to do. Often times, the task can be daunting. But as the Lord commanded Joshua to take courage to conquer Canaan (a task more formidable than scholarship), so to the Christian scholar can obey his call and campaign for the cause of Christ in academic circles. Whether the scholar is called to pastoring, writing, podcasting, or what have you, he can draw on courage in order to develop his materials to the best of his ability.

Courage, however, does not stand by itself. For, by itself, courage often ends up in brash ignorance or mean-spirited belligerence. Courage must be inseparably tied to the other virtues listed in the book. And as God grows the scholar in all of these virtues, the scholar can pursue more excellent academic work for the glory of God.

A Childā€™s Faith

For all the learning that we can achieve in the knowledge of God, it is not necessary for life. All that we need is a child’s faith, simple child’s faith that is merely content with trusting him. It is a heart dependent on his words without demanding that he explain it all to us. And an honesty that takes at face value his decrees about us.

In all the bustle of this life, I fail to hear you Lord.

My heart grows faint from the strife that keeps me from your word.

Yet paradox, within your word I study every hour.

But as a text, not as a friend, I analyze and scour.

Each verb I parse, each noun I know. I’ve read the parallels.

But this I miss, your loving voice that guides me through each peril.

Oh! help me see beyond the text the Word who died for me!

Lift up my eyes that I may spy your Love nailed on the tree!

Key Kingdom Documents: Part 2

Built into the constitution of Israel, God also declared his intension to give them a human king. God predicts that Israel will desire a king when the settled in the land and directs Israel in how they would choose their king. Their King was to be divinely appointed, that is, chosen by God. He was to be an Israelite, and not a stranger. A stranger would not know God the true ruler of Israel, and he might introduce the strange gods into the nation of Israel. Therefore, God required the king to be an Israelite. The greatest human king of Israel was David. Because of his faithfulness, God gave David an unconditional covenant. It stated that David and his son would inherit an eternal kingdom. And Davidā€™s son would build a house for God and would become the son of God as well.  Today, we do not see Davidā€™s kingdom and we cannot see how God will reestablish a monarchy in Israel. Ethan the Ezrahite wrestled with the same question in Psalm 89. Although confused by his surroundings, Ethan did not seek a ā€œdeeperā€ meaning to Godā€™s promises. Rather, he turned to God and asked, ā€œLord, when will you make good on your promises as you have stated them?ā€ Even today, we have our own struggles with the promises of God. But If we take God at his word like Ethan did, we do not have to spiritualize his promises, but trust that somehow God will fulfill his promises exactly as he said.

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fresh-ground-theology/id1449094482?mt=2

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/episode4QFiuuv1jpjyxO8KjmlPUB?si=Jvxh4UTLRPKwbl-o1XOs4A

The Christian in Critical Thought: A Reflective Essay on Browne and Keeley and Belief Perseverance

In the final chapter of Asking the Right Questions, Browne and Keeley (B&K) mention several road-blocks to critical thinking. Among others, they discuss how belief perseverance limits the ability of a person to pursue critical thinking. Belief perseverance is the “tendency for personal beliefs to persevere” despite evidence to the contrary (171). These beliefs are dearly held convictions and biases which a person has absorbed into his personality. Most people continue to hold personal beliefs, not because they do not want to improve, but they have overestimated their own competence. In order to overcome this obstacle, B&K recommend that a person acknowledge that “judgments are tentative or contextual.” Further, they add: “we can never permit ourselves to be so sure of anything that we stop searching for an improved version” (172). In the end, being able to release oneself from long held beliefs is a highly valuable skill that should be prized, and anybody that holds to beliefs despite overwhelming evidence is “intellectually dishonest.”

This ideal of critical thinking has been used to criticize Christians who are not willing to release those dearly held convictions. Christians hold certain truths as fundamental to understanding the universe. For example, there is a supernatural God. And this God has supernaturally revealed himself to humankind through the person Jesus. And Christians are not willing to release these foundational beliefs. Therefore, because they do not meet this ideal, they are classified as irrational and intellectually dishonest.

However, everyone has fundamental presuppositions to which he grounds his reasoning. For example, B&K assume that the human mind can make sound judgments apart from biases, emotion, and beliefs. For Christians, we assume that there is a God who revealed himself through Jesus. While these presuppositions can be supported by evidence, they still are presuppositions at the heart. And since everyone has presuppositions, the Christian can engage in critical thinking as does the most passionate skeptic.

As Christians, it is our duty to engage in critical thinking, especially to analyze our traditionsā€”theological systems which synthesize Biblical data. As finite humans, we only understand a portion of the truth of God’s Word, drawing conclusions which are partial or erroneous. Further, we are ever hampered by the fear of men, wanting to fit our conclusions in our philosophical climate rather than God’s truth.

Therefore, we must check ourselves with all the available data to refine our traditions so that they accurately reflect what God has said. We need to make full use of historical, systematic, and Biblical theologies. We need to engage critical scholarship, even though many do not believe the Word of God. We need to use geology, anthropology, and other sciences to refine our understanding of God’s Word.

But most of all, we need to pursue a relationship with the Creator of truth. He is the one who will illuminate our minds. While God works through supernatural means, He more often uses natural means, such as the sciences and critical thinking to help our understanding. And so, for the Christian, critical thinking is a tool to build our faith. As we rely on Him to help us, we can explore His truth, growing closer to Him as our Father and Friend.

Devotion through Academics

I’ve recently been thinking about the relationship between my studies as an academic and my relationship with God. How do I love God and pursue academics at the same time?

The academy is stone cold. Books of unknown age line the walls filled with tedious sophistry. The bearded scholar sits in his 1800s garb engrossed in books and cares nothing for the world around. The glass in his spectacles must often be replaced because his perpetual staring wares them thin. Or so academics is perceived by those outside the window, and truly much of academics do take this persona.

But must we take on this persona? Does theology necessitate a Christian who has little passion for God? I’ve heard many comments which say, “Yes, teaching and theology is necessarily dry.” Even if the role of doctrine is appreciated, it is almost treated as if it is an oversized pill that we must choke down to stay health spiritually.

But this is hardly the role that theology is meant to fill. In fact, the opposite is true. The greatest theologians of the church all had a passionate heart for God. Read any church father and you might be surprised.

Augustine was the most influential philosopher of the church. No other person has been more quoted or referenced in all of church history. In his well-known book Confessions he said:

O Lord my God, hear my prayer and let thy mercy attend my longing. It does not burn for itself alone but longs as well to serve the cause of fraternal love. Thou seest in my heart that this is so. Let me offer the service of my mind and my tongueā€”and give me what I may in turn offer back to thee.

This passionate prayer prefaced his discussion of God and his relation to time. He philosophized for an entire book on this subject because he was passionate about loving God. Here is part of what he said:

All thy years stand together as one, since they are abiding. Nor do thy years past exclude the years to come because thy years do not pass away. All these years of ours shall be with thee, when all of them shall have ceased to be. Thy years are but a day, and thy day is not recurrent, but always today. Thy ā€œtodayā€ yields not to tomorrow and does not follow yesterday. Thy ā€œtodayā€ is eternity. Therefore, thou didst generate the Coeternal, to whom thou didst say, ā€œThis day I have begotten.ā€ Thou madest all time and before all times thou art, and there was never a time when there was no time.

And this quote is the lighter end of his philosophical confessions. All that to say, his passion and love drove him to theology/philosophy/academics, not away from it. Examples could be multiplied here: Eusebius, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin to name a few. All these men found their passion fulfilled in knowing God more and more. And look how these men have shaped the church. They brought reform, defended the existence of God, and wrote about the cloud of witnesses who have gone on before.

Not to mention Paul who was probably the most educated New Testament writer and Moses in the Old. On a human level, these two brilliant men wrote some of the most world-shaking literature which is still passionately studied by believer and nonbeliever alike. But they too had a passion for God. Moses begged to see God’s glory. Paul overwhelmed by God’s grace and wisdom cried out:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

In the end, my point is this: theological academics are not just a wall to defend against error, but a portal through which we enflame our passion for God.

Key Kingdom Documents: Part 1

In this podcast, we transition to key kingdom documents which shape the nature of the Kingdom. These documents are covenants, and despite the tragic history of the nation of Israel, God still covenanted with them several times.  These covenants describe Godā€™s relationship with Israel and with significant people in the nation.  In some covenants, God requires that the nation or individual do certain things to maintain their obligations to the covenant. These covenants we call conditional covenants. Other covenants, God does not require the nation or individual to do anything to receive the benefits of the covenant. These covenants we call unconditional covenants. The first covenant that God makes with the nation of Israel is the Mosaic Covenant, a conditional covenant. The Mosaic Covenant establishes the core aspects of the nation of Israel: the King of the Israel, the people of the nation, and the land of the nation. First, God is the King of the kingdom as manifested by his actions: he rescued them, fought for them, regulated them, and he received homage. Second, the people were Godā€™s treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation to her God. Finally, we will see that God promised to give them the territory which he promised to the patriarchs: from the red sea, to the Mediterranean Sea, to the edge of the wilderness toward Egypt, and up to the Euphrates river.  By the Mosaic Covenant, God established his kingdom on this earth.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fresh-ground- theology/id1449094482?mt=2

Google Play:

https://playmusic.app.goo.gl/?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius= googleplaymusic&apn=com.google.android.music&link=https://play.google.co m/music/m/Iosb5uqxvd6xytoampbehdzujcm?t%3DFresh_Ground_Theology% 26pcampaignid%3DMKT-na-all-co-pr-mu-pod-16

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4QFiuuv1jpjyxO8KjmlPUB?si=Jvxh4UTLRP Kwbl-o1XOs4A

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