Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Loren Gieger

The following interview was conducted by Jim Mitchell, and was featured in our magazine, The Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with two men who have been a part of Oklahoma Christian University for decades and have had a positive impact on thousands of students over the years. Both are still very active in the Lord’s work, and their insights on how things have grown and changed carried both encouragement in things which have been positive as well as concern for the challenges the Lord’s church faces.

Dr. Loren Gieger served as a Professor of Biblical Studies at OC for 31 years before retiring from the University classroom. He continues to teach the Early Bird class on Wednesday evenings at the Memorial Road church of Christ in Edmond, OK – which he has done for over a quarter of a century, and he preaches for the church of Christ in Stroud, OK. Dr. Gieger is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Near Eastern Archaeological Society. He has done archaeological studies in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

What changes have you seen within the Lord’s church through the years?

LG: The first change I see is a decline in numbers. Small congregations in rural areas continue to decline as smaller communities dwindle and people migrate to the cities. It seems like congregations that are doing well are the larger congregations as people become more attracted to congregations with huge numbers. The strength of the leadership within many congregations is declining as membership in general is “graying.”

My second concern is with the soundness of the church. I think that younger ministers have not fought the battles a previous generation did with denominationalism. Younger ministers in general seem unaware of the dangers of the vocabulary used where there are non-Biblical terms frequently used in the religious world. Generally, as I listen to younger preachers, they don’t seem to know the book or how to exegete passages properly. They endeavor to appeal to a wider diversity of members and as a result, the distinctiveness is losing ground. I do think we need to turn some of these trends around.

What things do you see happening today which are encouraging?

LG: Our preachers are more formally educated than ever before. They tend to be very sharp, eloquent and good communicators. They are much better at illustrating lessons, stories are interesting, the lessons they give include lots of examples. However, as a result of that emphasis, there is a lot less Biblical proclamation in their preaching.

There are more opportunities and ministries for local congregations which is fantastic. Visual presentations (utilizing things such as power point) make lessons interesting and memorable more than ever before. The internet gives us opportunities which are unparalleled as we can communicate with Christians and missionaries around the world. Generally speaking, members of the church are more prosperous (at least in this country). We have finer homes, but may actually use them less in Christian hospitality than previous generations. The younger generation in the Lord’s church are very service oriented and take advantage of multiple mission trips, camps, and campaigns around the globe.

Within the younger generation, the commitment to the restoration of New Testament Christianity is not something which I see today as much as in the past.

What can you share from your ministry which was unusual or humorous?

LG: When I was in Fort Worth, one of the elders gave me a call late at night about the death of one of our members and told me he would come by and pick me up to go visit the family. I dressed hurriedly and slipped my shoes on (I had two pairs of shoes sitting by the couch). When we arrived at the home and rang the doorbell, one of the two elders with me said “Hey preacher, look down at your feet.” I had put on one white shoe and one black shoe. I tried to hide one foot behind the couch, but finally just brought both feet and told them that I have on one black shoe and one white shoe as you can see, but that I had another pair just like it at home. When I arrived back home, the front porch light was on, and my wife had set the other white and black shoe out on the porch. Later, the congregation took up a special contribution to give me a trip to the Bible lands. They rented a banquet room and had a dinner to see me off on the trip. Every man who came to that dinner came wearing one white shoe and one black one. The story made the front page of the local paper in Fort Worth.

What concluding thoughts do you have as we bring this interview to a close?

LG: I am afraid that the restoration mindset may be fading away, and I’m not sure how to stop that from happening. I also think there are some things we have taught we need to continue to revise, we never want to get away from scripture, but there are some things that are problems in today’s society that we really haven’t faced as well as we should. We have taken a [prohibitive] stance in churches of Christ (you can’t do this and you can’t do that) but we have not taken a redemptive stance, that is, how do you handle people that are in certain situations. I think we need to take another look at how we conduct funerals. We can do a better job ministering to the family of the deceased in times of grief. I think we need to teach people how to give. I think we have converted people (even on the mission fields), but we don’t teach those people to give like previous generations have given. I don’t want to sound negative, but I do think that along with the positives taking place, there are problematic areas we need to continue to address.

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Luke the Historian

Did You Know?

Luke has been called a “first-rate historian” by a man who was an atheist.  This atheist (Sir William Ramsay) set out to prove the Bible false by traveling the same route that the Apostle Paul traveled.  However, he found that everything Luke said was 100% accurate, even down to the names and ranks of various Roman officials at the time Paul went through (though those officials may have later changed roles).

Perhaps the most contested part of Luke’s writing, from a historical standpoint, was his statement about a census during the governership of Cyrenius over Syria.  It was stated that (1) Cyrenius was never governor over Syria—he held a different role; and (2) there was no record of a census (“taxing”, KJV) during the time under consideration.  Sir William Ramsay, an archaeologist himself, discovered inscriptions in Syria, dating from that same time period, describing Cyrenius as “governor.”

Never once has archaeology found anything that disproves the biblical record.  Not once.

-Bradley S. Cobb

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The “Wiles” of the Devil

Did You Know?

In Ephesians 6:11, God inspired Paul to alert us to the “wiles” of the devil.  Some translations render it “schemes” of the devil.  It is because of the wiles or schemes of the devil that we are to wear the whole armor of God.  But why exactly is the word “wiles” or “schemes” used to describe the attacks of the devil?

Well, first off, we need to remember that as God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), Satan is the opposite—a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).  Because his very nature is sin, everything he does is opposed to God and God’s people.  The word translated “wiles” or “schemes” in Ephesians 6:11 is the Greek word methodeia—methods.  All of Satan’s methods are evil, they are parts of his attempts to devour the followers of God.  And since all of his methods are evil, we need to be constantly on guard.  NOTHING that Satan says or does will help us or do us anything but harm.

Satan, by nature, is wiley, a schemer, a creature with only evil methods designed to harm us.  Praise God that He has provided us with His armor to protect us!

-Bradley S. Cobb

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Paul’s Past Hubris

DID YOU KNOW?

When relating his former life as a persecutor of the church of Christ, the Apostle Paul describes himself as “a blasphemer…persecutor…injurious” to the cause of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13).  The original word translated “injurious” (KJV) or “insolent” (NKJV) is hubristes.

In English, the word hubris means “the excessive pride and ambition that usually leads to the downfall of a hero in classical tragedy.”  It is interesting that Paul’s hubris as an enemy of Christ led to his downfall as a Jewish hero.  He spoke boldly against Christ, and Christ triumphed.  Is it any wonder that Paul said that he counted his past life as rubbish? (Philippians 3).

-Bradley S. Cobb

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Our Recent Silence Explained

Perhaps you’ve noticed (and then again, perhaps you haven’t), but we’ve not posted any new articles for the past several weeks.

Today’s post is to let you know why, and to give you an idea of what to expect from us in the new year.

First, I’ve been doing a lot of editorial work for brethren, preparing several new books for publication.  That includes a book on why one man left Catholicism, a book of sermons, and even a sci-fi novel which helps to teach truths about God.

Second, I’ve taken on a second job (well, I guess it’s more of a third or fourth job), loading trucks early in the mornings for UPS.  Needless to say, it has messed with my schedule a bit, but it has also proven to be a place with opportunities to evangelize.  One man I work with is an agnostic, but he is very excited to read the Bales-Teller Debate on the Existence of God which I gave him.  Another man is religiously minded, but unsure of salvation.  He’s presently reading Muscle and a Shovel.

Third, I’ve been working hard on the next issue of the Quarterly, trying to get it ready for publication.  It should be shipping around the middle of January.

So, there’s my excuses.  🙂

So what can you expect from us in the new year?

Our goal as of this moment is to have at least one new article each week (not counting any updates or announcements).

  • Historical research articles on Restoration Movement personalities (some of which you may never have heard of).
  • Continuing the popular sermon commentary series on Mark from last year.
  • Finishing the series on the apostles (which have been used as Bible class material and sermons by people in four different states that I know of).
  • More “Did You Know?” articles.
  • A series of articles on various aspects of elders.
  • Lessons on the Lord’s Supper.
  • and more!

So, stick with us as we bring you sound and interesting articles for your enjoyment, edification, and encouragement!

Happy New Year!

-Bradley S. Cobb

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Michael the Archangel

Michael the Archangel

Angels!  They have fascinated the mind and imagination of believers for millennia.  Elaborate schemes of angelic hierarchy are popular in some denominations.  One of these beings in particular is mentioned by name multiple times in the Scriptures.  His name is Michael.

  • He is called “the archangel” (the word “archangels”—as in more than one—never appears in the Bible. There is only one). (Jude 9).
  • He is called the great prince [ruler] of Israel (Daniel 12:1).
  • He is the one who would defeat Satan (Revelation 12:7-9).
  • He is the one whose victory over Satan would bring about the kingdom of God (Revelation 12:10).
  • Since there is only one archangel, when Jesus comes in judgment, it is with Michael’s voice that He will speak (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
  • He is probably “the Angel of the LORD” from the Old Testament (compare Jude 9 and Zechariah 3).
  • The word “archangel” means “highest messenger.”
  • The name “Michael” means “who is as God” (and it should be noted that this name could have come from none other than God Himself).

Putting all this together, Michael is the highest messenger of God, who is as God, who is the great ruler of Israel, who would defeat Satan and bring about the kingdom of God, whose voice will be heard when the judgment comes.

He’s a lot more important that we might usually think!

-Bradley S. Cobb

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The Jehovah’s Witnesses and “a god”

Perhaps the most striking fact about the religious group calling themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses” is that they believe Jesus is not God/deity, but that He was created by God.  As a way of trying to bolster their doctrine, they created their own version of the Scriptures, The New World Translation.

In the NWT, in John 1:1, they made a slight change that makes a big difference.  “…the word was with God, and the word was a god.”  If you question them about this, they will say something about a Greek rule that say when the word “the” (the Greek form of it, at least) doesn’t appear before the word “God” (theos in Greek), it is not talking about THE God, but only A god.

Here’s the problem with that reasoning…well, a couple problems—(1) It’s not true, and (2) they don’t follow their own supposed rule anywhere else in their translation—including the other four times it appears in the same chapter!  John 1:6, 12, 13, and 18 all have the word “God,” but the Greek word for “the” is absent.  In the NWT, each one of these verses is translated “God” (with a capital “G”).

In short, they made the whole thing up in order to “support” their false doctrine.  But Jesus is God in the flesh, He is the creator, the defeater of Satan—He is not “a god.”

-Bradley S. Cobb

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The Return of the Used Book List!

We’ve moved into the new house (YAY) and we’re starting to go through the myriad of boxes.  Check out Used Books page to see a large list of books, organized by topic.

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Paul – the Preacher of Foreign Demons

Did You Know?

When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was “wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16).  This city had idols and shrines to every imaginable god.  There were shrines to Zeus, to Hermes, to Apollo, to Dionysius, and on and on and on.  But in the synagogue, Paul was arguing with the Jews for Jesus Christ—the true Son of Deity.

However, some of the pagans in the city heard what Paul was preaching, and they desired to hear more about it, because it was something new to their ears (and they longed to hear new things).  But what is interesting is what they attributed to Paul.  Most translations render the phrase from Acts 17:18 this way: “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign [or strange] gods.”

But did you know that the word translated “gods” in that verse is actually the word “demons”?  In fact, this verse is the only instance in the entire Bible where that word is NOT translated “demon” or “demons” (or “devils,” in KJV).  They apparently believed that since they didn’t already worship Him (they thought they had every god already covered by all the shrines and temples), he couldn’t be a real god—so they called Jesus a “foreign demon.”

-Bradley S. Cobb

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The Two Mans (yes, I said “mans”)

Did You Know?

While Jesus was on earth, He was called a “man” in two different ways.  Obviously, Jesus was a male, and as such was called a “man” by His cousin, John the immerser (John 1:30).  The Greek word for a male is aner. (Interestingly, every time the word “husband” appears in the New Testament, it is the same Greek word).

But Jesus, while on earth, was also a human.  He frequently identified Himself as “the Son of man,” or more literally, “the Son of a human.”  You’re probably more familiar with this Greek term (almost always translated as “man” or “men” in the New Testament)—it is anthropos (as in anthropology).

But now Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the throne of God.  So, is Jesus still “man” in either way?  2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul tells the church that he has espoused (betrothed) them to one “husband,” Jesus Christ.  The Greek word there is aner, a male.  So Jesus is still described as a “man” in that way, even though He is in heaven.  But what might surprise you is 1 Timothy 2:5: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  In this verse, Paul describes the current role of Jesus as Mediator in heaven.  And there, by inspiration, Paul says Jesus is human (anthropos).  Jesus, though ascended and glorified in heaven, still retains His humanity so He can be our perfect mediator with the Father.

-Bradley S. Cobb

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