Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Tithing After the Cross

Over a year ago I was contacted by and old professor of mine, Dr. David Alan Black, and he requested that I write a book for the new publishing company he was editing for, Energion Publications. Specifically, he wanted me to write  in the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues series on the topic of tithing. As some of you are aware, I have published two scholarly articles on tithing (co-written with Dr. Andreas Kostenberger: part 1 and part 2), a lengthy monograph called You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe?, and a four views book called Perspectives on Tithing. So, why did I agree to write another book on this topic?

First, the monograph is very long, somewhat technical, though very documented. While there are over 1800 footnotes to support the research in You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe?, some people have found the prose too technical, the length too overwhelming, and the price too high (it's about $37 on amazon.com). It contains most of my thoughts on the subject, but it can be a little overwhelming.

Second, the chapter I wrote in Perspectives on Tithing is very limited. To go from over 300 pages to about 30 was a difficult task. I had to edit out so many thoughts that it made the argument less than convincing for some.

Third, while the monograph has almost all the content of this new book, Tithing After the Cross, the structure of this new book makes it an easy resource. See, the monograph is an inductive study on the issue, beginning with church history, then going through both the Old and New Testaments, and then theological systems. The new book is structured around the specific arguments for the continuation of tithing. So there are five categories of arguments: 1) Old Testament Arguments, 2) New Testament Arguments, 3) Theological Arguments, 4) Historical Arguments, and 5) Experiential Arguments. The arguments for tithing are discussed in order from weakest to strongest in each chapter. The book ends with a summary of principles for giving in the New Covenant. So, if there is a particular argument for tithing that you want to research and/or understand, you can easily access it in this book.

Fourth, this book was not written in scholar-ese. I attempted to make it understandable to lay people, not just pastors and scholars. It's under 100 pages in total length.

Fifth, this book is the most affordable. Right now amazon has the paperback on sale for $8.99 and the Kindle version for only $2.99. Now people won't have to take money away from their tithe in order to afford the book ... I'm just joking! :)

I'll end with some of the endorsements it has received:

Craig L. Blomberg, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of New Testament
Denver Seminary, Denver, CO
"David Croteau has already published a detailed study of all the significant biblical, theological and historical evidence for and against tithing as a mandatory practice for Christians. Here he distills the highlights of that research in brief, accessible form, responding to the most common arguments for tithing. Croteau convincingly demonstrates that believers after Jesus’ death and resurrection are not required to give ten percent. Instead they are exhorted to generosity and sacrifice, which for a few Westerners may be less than ten percent but for many of us means much more. Here is essential reading for the Christian who wants to be
biblically obedient!"

Andy Naselli, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology
Bethlehem College and Seminary, Minneapolis, MN
"This book is thoughtful, clear, pastoral, convincing, and convicting. It does not lead to a position that Christians should give less than ten percent. Rather, (a) if the foundation of giving is our relationship with God and the grace and love he gives us and (b) if the amount we give is based on our income, what we determine
in our heart, the needs of those ministering to us and of fellow Christians, and generosity, then why give only ten percent?"

Michael A. Grisanti, Ph.D.
Professor of Old Testament
The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, CA
"David Croteau has provided the Church a concise and helpful argument for a biblical approach to giving for modern times. By contending that God does not require tithing for believers today, Croteau does not seek to minimize the giving of God’s people. Rather, he wants people to give in accordance to the pattern provided
by the Scriptures: generously, cheerfully, and sacrificially. May God’s people understand that we should not limit our giving to 10% of our resources, but to give in light of God’s abundant mercy and grace toward us."

George Athas, Ph.D.
Dean of Research and Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia
"With sharp simplicity, David Croteau exposes a range of assumptions that many Christians employ in their thinking about tithing. He demonstrates how these assumptions can appear to be biblically based, and yet surprisingly be flawed. Croteau then uses sound biblical principles to shape a wise and godly attitude towards financial giving for the Christian. His concern for biblical faithfulness and God’s grace is evident throughout, and his explanations are enlightening and encouraging. Croteau is to be commended for serving the Christian community with these valuable (pun intended!) insights on what can be a controversial or even burdensome topic for believers."

Robert L. Plummer, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY
"There are many soundbites on tithing, but few exegetical studies - even fewer that are understandable to the average layperson, well-written, and concerned about the practical generosity of God’s people. Well, there may only be one book that fits that description, and you’re holding it in your hands."

Russell S. Woodbridge, Ph.D.
co-author of Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity
Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ
"If you want a concise overview of a better way to give generously to the Lord, then this book is for you. Dr. Croteau has provided a resource for the church to examine biblical principles for giving today. He fairly responds to the arguments for tithing today, and winsomely presents his view of grace-driven giving. Whether or not you believe tithing is still applicable today, this book will help you sort through the issue, and become a more generous giver."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The San Francisco Plane Crash

I had a wonderful, but exhausting week, in South Korea. I was invited to teach through Paul's Epistle to the Philippians on Jeju Island just off the coast of mainland South Korea. I would be speaking to about 25 college-aged students from South Korea, Japan, and the United States at the Word of Life Bible Institute. Saturday began with a drive to the Jeju airport, followed by a quick 1 hour flight to Gimpo Airport in Seoul. After a bus ride across town, I arrived at the Incheon Airport in Seoul for my United Airlines flight to go home. We were flying through San Francisco.

I actually went to high school in the Bay Area (Foothill High School in Pleasanton, CA) and received my M.Div. from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley. So the area brought back a lot of fond memories, including the first apartment my beautiful bride and I lived in: a one-bedroom coming in under 500 square feet. This planned layover at SFO would be short: about 2 hours. No time to visit friends.

Our plane arrived about 20 minutes early. The pilot joked at how rare that was and asked us to excuse them for the next time we traveled when they would be their typical 5-10 minutes late. So at 11:05am we touched down, a very rough landing that the pilot tried (in vain) to joke about ... not very funny. Regardless, I needed to get through immigration, get my bag, and get rechecked in and go through security in under 90 minutes. So I rushed through everything and in record time, getting to my 1:00pm flight gate at 11:45am.
As I approached the gate, I saw a crowd at the window looking outside taking pictures and video. I wondered: "Haven't these people ever been to an airport?" It was odd to see them so fascinated with the plane that I figured was pulling up to the gate. As I smirked I looked out the window and saw this ...
Picture from my phone at SFO on 7/6/13

Cancellations for incoming flights
 That was when I noticed: everyone was silent and serious. After a minute or two, I asked someone what happened. The first of many pieces of misinformation I would receive that day: "The plane was taking off and it crashed." In fact, the plane was landing, but I didn't find that out for some time. We all were just staring out, waiting for the inevitable: the cancellation of our flights. And then they came ...

We all were told to go re-book our flights. The problem was, the airline had no idea when the airport would re-open. So I quickly rescheduled my flight for 10:15pm that night.

While waiting for the 10:15 flight, I went in to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and watch the news. When I saw the picture on the screen I started to shake: the plane that crashed took off from South Korea at the same time as mine and was one of the options I had looked at for flights. If our plane had not been early, we would have been landing at right about the same time. I don't know exactly what I was feeling, except a sense that I had been close to death. In reality, I was safe in my Heavenly Father's arms. But that (truer) reality didn't kick in for a few minutes.

Rumors circulated that the plane had done cartwheels, that no one had died, that 60 had died, that 2 had died, that an engine had failed on descent, that no planes were leaving SFO until Monday, etc., etc. Eventually my 10:15 flight was cancelled. So I got back in line again. This time I was told that all flights from SFO, Oakland, and San Jose were book for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It might not be until Friday until we all can get out of the Bay Area. I quickly called the phone number given to me and took the first flight out of Oakland: Monday at 6:00am.

Now I needed a place to stay. I asked the airline if they could provide a voucher since I was getting a connecting flight (most people around me were flying out of SFO, not connecting). They said that since the situation wasn't there fault, I was on my own. So, my precious wife got on Facebook to reach out to friends around San Fran. An old friend, Brad, called and invited me to stay at his house. He gave me directions on how to take the shuttle to his place, but at that point I had been up for almost 24 hours straight (I can't sleep on planes). I found my way to the shuttle. After driving for about 25 minutes I asked the person in front of me: "Please tell me we've been here before" (I thought my exhaustion finally got to me!). She informed me that we were driving in circles, around and around the airport until the shuttle filled up. So, after about four circles, we finally left the airport. In all, it took almost 2 hours to get to the end of the line where my friend lives.

On the way we passed Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where I had studied from 1997-2000. From the freeway I could see the first apartment my wife and I lived, a restaurant where we had a date (right next to the Ferrari dealership), and many other places of memories past. Every 2-3 minutes I would smile large and sigh as I had a memory of a place. It had been 13 years since I had seen this area, but there were a lot of good memories.

I went to bed rather quickly and woke up over 11 hours later. We talked for about four hours, enjoying great conversations about Exodus International (he had been on staff there in the 90s), Rob Bell, spiritually abusive churches, the emerging/emergent church, his writing projects, my writing projects ... all stuff from the past 13 years we wanted to catch up on! However, we didn't have a way for me to get to the Oakland Airport Monday morning, until a high school friend of my wife's called.

C.J. is a fireman in San Fran. He was actually on a boat at the airport the previous day searching in the water for any survivors. He came to Novato (25 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge) and took me to his house near Oakland to stay for the night. Now I'm preparing for bed for an early (4am) taxi ride to the airport. If tomorrow goes well, I'll have started my trip in Jeju at 9:45am and it'll (Lord willing) end in Columbia, SC tomorrow at about 6 or 7pm. I think that's like almost 70 hours, but the time zones are rather confusing for me!

Please pray for a safe, quick trip tomorrow. I really miss my family.