Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Schedule

So one of the parts of being married to a teacher is adjusting to a whole new schedule.  So here it is, 7:30 in the morning, and I can honestly say I’ve been awake for about a half hour.  I’m sitting at Renee’s dining room table and preparing to start scanning photos for the slideshow.  My goal, is to finish our slideshow today so that Renee and I can work on seating tonight.

Monday, May 29, 2006


After over a year and a half, the long distance relationship for Brian and Renee is over (the long distance part that is).  Technically it ended on Thursday evening when Renee arrived (just in time for graduation) in Pittsburgh.  But, it feels over because yesterday we drove back to Maryland together and will be together from now until the night before Wedding #2, and then from there after.  While the long distance relationship was without a doubt worth it, I am glad it’s over.  We both commented today as we were working that it was a lot easier to get work done when the other person is in the same room, and you’re not worried about talking to them on the phone.  

Anyway, this week’s agenda includes finalizing table assignments for the wedding, printing table cards, scanning pictures, and making a video, all before we head back to Ohio this Thursday for the rehearsal, parties, and wedding this weekend.  Then back to Maryland for about a week, before we move everything, for good, to our new house.  

Also, pictures from Wedding #1 have been posted.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Well, there I am, hooded and officially graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with my fancy Master of Divinity degree. For the first time in my life, I enter a summer without planning on returning to school in September. For now, its off for a weekend with Renee's family (as her grandmother passed away this week), a short week in Maryland, then Wedding #2 a week from tomorrow. Things keep happening fast! Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006


I'm married.

From Left to Right:
Renee's wedding ring, my wedding ring, Renee's engagement ring

As some reader's know, Renee grandmother has not been doing well lately. It became quite evident to us last week that she would be unable to attend the wedding on June 3rd even if she is still alive at that point. It was really important to both Renee and her grandmother that her grandmother is at the wedding (and I agree). So, we made a slight change in plans: we got married on Saturday.

Renee's pastor from home came over to Renee's grandmother's house, we crowded into her room around her bed, we said our vows, exchanged rings, and had communion and were told "You are now husband and wife"

So now the question? What about June 3rd? (Our original wedding date). Nothing changes. We're still celebrating our marriage on June 3rd as originally planned. But why you ask? Very simple: there's a theological reason.

The service on the third has from the beginning been entitled "A Service of Christian Worship in Celebration of the Marriage of Marilyn Renee Barfay and Brian Robert Wallace." Wedding ceremonies are by definition worship services and that's what we had this past Saturday and that's what we're going to have on June 3rd. Also, while Renee and I consider ourselves married, weddings aren't just about the couple, they're also for the family and friends of the bride and groom. In a wedding ceremony the family and friends pledge to uphold and support the bride and room in their marriage. While some of Renee's family was present on Saturday, a lot of her relatives, my entire family, and a lot of our friends weren't at the wedding on Saturday. Needless to say, it's important for us that they also witness our vows and pledge their love and support.

Finally, what constitues our marriage isn't a ceremony, it's the love that we share between us. A wedding ceremony as part of a worship service is a time for the husband and wife to make commitments to each other before the Triune God and their friends and family, and to ask God's blessing upon the new couple. As they say with ordinations, the act of ordaining someone is merely making public and formal a decision that God made a long time ago. This isn't to devalue the important of having wedding celebrations, but rather to put them in their appropriate context within worship services as well as to understand them and celebrations and formulations of something, rather a mechanic blessing that makes something a marriage. Hence, I don't think it's weird we're going to have two but rather believe it was the "command of God in a limiting case" (for you Barth scholars). In other words, given the circumstances (which are unusual) I think we did the right thing - the thing that God would have us do.

(Leave it to me to make this into a theological issue)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ephesians 2:4-10

Biblical Text
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:4-10, TNIV)  

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
God Did Not Originally Desire That Any Should Perish. Ambrosiaster: These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it mercy was made known through his own initiative…. This is God’s love to us, that having made us he did not want us to perish. His reason for making us was that he might love what he had made, seeing that no one hates his own workmanship. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4.

He Formed Us Anew as His Members. Ambrosiaster: God made us in Christ. So it is through Christ once again that he has formed us anew. We are his members; he our Head. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.5.

Already Exalted. Jerome: Above he said that God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand…. Some may ask how God who has saved us and raised us with him has also made us sit with Christ. A simple response would be indeed that, in the light of God’s foreknowledge, Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done. … One who understands the resurrection and the kingdom of Christ spiritually does not scruple to say that the saints already sit and reign with Christ! Just as a person may become truly holy even in the flesh, when he lives in the flesh and has his conversation in heaven, when he walks on earth and, ceasing to be flesh, is wholly converted into spirit, so he also is seated in heaven with Christ. For indeed “the kingdom of God is within us.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1 seq.

My Comments
These two comments from Ambrosiaster and Jerome stood out to me.  In the past I've usually focused on the later part of this verse, especially Ephesians 2:8.  Ephesians 2:8 is a verse that contradicts "faithism" – the idea that it is our decision for Jesus that saves us, thereby turning faith into a work that we do in order that God might have mercy.  

Ambrosiaster clearly argues against this type of attitude toward salvation.  God's love is shown that even when we did not seek his mercy he made it known through his own initiative.  The act of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ was the embodiment of the mission of God to reconcile the whole world to himself.  Ambosiaster continues that just as we were made through Christ (John 1:3 – all things were made through the Word of God) so too we are redeemed through Christ.  The reconciliation and restoration of us is at God's initiatve.  All that we can do is respond in faithful obedience, but this response is not the condition of salvation.  

Finally, Jerome strikes an "eschatological" cord here.  Paul writes this unusual line, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."  Taken literally, at the time of Jesus' ascension we too were taken into the heavenly realms.  The interesting note here is that at the time of Jesus' ascension none of us were born.  So what does Paul mean?  I think Jerome gets at it well, "Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done."  I agree with Jerome here but want to phrase it a little differently.  Moltmann, in his introduction to Theology of Hope, talks about how Christians live in the tension of knowing that there is something more - the knowing anticipation of the full revelation of God's reign on earth.  The telos, or end point, to which all of history is driving this will literally be true – those who are "In Christ" will be seated in the heavenly places with Christ.  As for now, "in Christ" we too have been taken up into the heavenly places.  What is a reality has not yet been revealed, but is real none the less.  Christ, as our representative has taken us up into the heavenly places: we simply await the eschatological fulfillment of this.

Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366–384). Name given by Erasmus to the author of a work once thought to have been composed by Ambrose.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 131.

  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Word to Remember

There are some day when you ask yourself, "Is ministry really worth it?"  On those days (btw, today is not one of those days by any means) it's reading things like this that remind you

"… You've always been willing to talk to me when everyone else is sleeping and in these times you have taught me more than any religious book has.  (And you know how much that means coming from me"

Saying Farewell

So tonight I finally said good bye to Northmont.  Ever since October of 2003, with the exception of the summers, I’ve been a part of the Northmont family.  My first year I was a volunteer and for the last two years I’ve been on staff.  Needless to say, saying goodbye was far from easy.  There are some wonderful people there who I am going to miss dearly.  

What stood out to me tonight as I was driving home was that for me I only had one church during seminary.  While it’s true that I was a staff member at Northmont, but I was also part of the Northmont family.  From participating in worship services, youth events, and social events I always felt like one of the group.

While my time in the seminary classroom has been incredibly valuable my time at Northmont has been equally valuable in learning and the lessons I’ve learned I will carry with me for a very long time.  

Saturday, May 13, 2006



That’s right, done.

Today I handed in my last two assignments for m seminary career.  I have one more paper that I need to turn in on Monday to a professor, but that is sitting on my computer awaiting the print button.  For the next week and a half I can relax and enjoy myself as my time in seminary wraps up.  It is literally hard to believe that I am finally finished with my work here.  At the same time I can getting more and more excited about what’s coming next.

This weekend is also my last weekend at Northmont UPC.  I’ve been a part of the Northmont community for about three years.  I started there as a volunteer my first year of seminary and have served on the staff for the past two years.  There are some incredible people there who have helped me along the way and given taught me things that I will never forget.  There is also a incredible groups of kids whose lives I had the privilege of being apart of for the past three years and who I will miss dearly.  

But, times-are-a-changing and new challenges and opportunities are coming.  I graduate on May 25th, then Renee and I get married on June 3rd.  We close on our town house on the 15th, take our honeymoon from June 21st – 25th.  Then my first Sunday at Hampton is July 2nd and I’m being formally introduced on July 9th.  Then Renee and I are off to Tennessee as part of Hampton’s Senior High Mission Trip.  It will be a whirlwind two months, but an exciting two months.  

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ephesians 2:1-3

Biblical Text
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
Whether Sin Is Rightly Spoken Of As Natural. Augustine: We speak of “nature” in two ways. When we are speaking strictly of nature itself, we mean the nature in which humanity was originally created— after God’s own image and without fault. The other way we speak of nature refers to that fallen sin nature, in which we are self-deceived and subject to the flesh as the penalty for our condemnation. The apostle adopts this way of speaking when he says “for we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.” On Nature and Grace 81.

My Comments
“Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” By what nature? “Do what’s natural” What exactly is natural?

If this seems like an unlikely topic for me to pick up on but I’ve spent a good chunk of my time this year reflecting on that question precisely. The first (and in my opinion, best) volume of Alister McGrath’s scientific theology is entitled Nature. McGrath demonstrates that throughout history the concept of nature has really been nothing more than a social construct, one that has often been misused. McGrath demonstrates that throughout history what is deemed “natural” is usually that which benefits those in power.

So, when Paul writes that we were by “nature” children of wrath, what does he mean by “nature”? The word that we’re dealing with here is phusei which can be defined in this context as denoting a condition or circumstance as determined by birth. Where Augustine is helpful is in drawing the distinction between “nature”, or as McGrath would term it “creation” and “nature” as a state of being. Paul is not arguing that we were originally intended and created to be children of wrath. Rather, because of the fall into sin of humanity we are born into a state which we inherit by means of being a human – a state of not being as we were intended to be. By virtue of our birth we were found in this state.

Pastorally this concept has been one of the most challenging for me to work with. People, when confronted with this doctrine of what is termed “original sin” are usually repulsed. After all, why should I be held accountable for someone else’s sin? And isn’t that just simply being human? Two points are worth considering here. There is a good distance from “original sin” to “original guilt”. Original guilt would hold that we are held accountable for the original sin of Adam. I don’t agree with that position. And yes, to a certain extent the doctrine of “original sin” is part of human nature now. But the problem is that this wasn’t intended to be. We, in the words of Cornelius Plantinga live in a world that is “not the way it’s supposed to be”.

About two weeks ago I wrote an obscure post entitled “The Cosmic Nature of the Fall” in the wake of Elora’s death. While Paul is addressing the concept in a very different way here (compared to how he addresses in Romans 8) the central idea is the same. Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be or will be at the end. That I think is something that the church needs to be reminded of constantly. I’ve heard and I’ve said, “That’s just the way things are.” My first reaction when I hear that now is “Well that may be, but is that how things are supposed to be?”

Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Bishop of Hippo and a voluminous writer on philosophical, exegetical, theological and ecclesiological topics. He formulated the Western doctrines of predestination and original sin in his writings against the Pelagians.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 130.

  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Logos Resource Sale

So as graduation approaches I need to unload some electronic books. Here's what I have available:

SPECIAL OFFER: All four resouces for $450

Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear (List $99.95/ My price: $75)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (List: $34.95/ My price: $25)
NET Bible (List: $19.95/ My price: $15)
New International Greek Testament Commentary (List: $499.95/ My price: $375)

If you're interested let me know brian.wallace@gmail.coms

For more information go to http://brian.wallyandnay.net/Logos

Ephesians 1:19-23

Biblical Text
"… and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:19-23, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
The Immeasurable Greatness of His Power. Theodoret: But “the immeasurable greatness of his power” ironically now comes to mind as he thinks of the dishonor of the cross and considers how much was achieved through it.

This Redemption Is Already Accomplished, Even If Still in Reference to the Future. Hilary of Poitiers: The language of the apostle, acknowledging the power of God, refers to future things as though they have already happened. For the things which are to be performed already subsist in their fullness in Christ, in whom is all fullness. Whatever is future is so by God’s provident ordering, not as if it might exist on its own

Human Nature Honored. Theodoret: It is clear that he says all this of Christ in his humanity. This is what inspires wonder. For it would hardly be remarkable to say that God sits by God if fellowship in power is a corollary of their identity of nature as Father and Son. But that the human nature assumed from us should partake of the same honor as the one who assumed him, so that no difference in worship is apparent, so that the invisible Godhead is worshiped through the visible human nature—this exceeds all wonder! The holy apostle is overwhelmed. He first sings of the exceeding greatness of his power. Then he speaks of the working of his mighty strength. Then he looks for whatever he can say that might point to the extraordinary nature of his exaltation. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.20.

My Comments
For the last two weeks I've been cranking away on my final papers, which I wrapped up tonight.  I've been working on Exodus 4:10-17 where Moses complains that he is not a "man of words" because he is "heavy" of mouth and tongue.  In retrospect, to look at what God accomplished through Moses' speaking ability, in spite of him not being a "man of words" is astounding.  

Theodoret gets to that point with his comments on v. 19-20.  As he notes, the irony is that through death Christ overcome death and the powers of this world.  Hence, what is considered "weak" in the world shamed what is considered "strong".  But, the truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter what is "weak" and what is "strong" when it is in the service of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.  The will of the Triune God in the world, even if for a short time it is rejected and worked against will ultimately prevail over all forces that oppose it.  

In the case of Moses, his "weak" voice ultimately shamed Pharaoh because Pharaoh was working against the will of God.  It wouldn't have mattered if Moses was the best speaker in the world or the worst, he would have prevailed because he was on God's side in the matter.  


Theodoret of Cyr (c. 393–466). Bishop of Cyr (Cyrrhus), he was an opponent of Cyril who commented extensively on Old Testament texts as a lucid exponent of Antiochene exegesis.

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315–367). Bishop of Poitiers and called the “Athanasius of the West” because of his defense (against the Arians) of the common nature of Father and Son.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 122.

  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

PTS Board

At its annual meeting yesterday, the Board of Directors of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary elected yours truly to be the Senior Class representative to the board for the next three years.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Let's Go Buffalo!

There’s a great article on ESPN tonight about the rising Buffalo Sabres.  Well worth reading!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Next Two Months

So it’s crunch week here at PTS for Seniors – our papers are due Friday May 12th.  At this point I have my first draft of one of my papers completed (The Trinity and the Adolescent) and I’m about half way through with my Hebrew exegesis paper, so I’m in pretty good shape.  This week is also the innagural for our President, Dr. William J. Carl, but given my schedule I don’t know how much, if any of that I’ll be taking it.  

After Friday I have a two farewell events tied to the end of my time at Northmont.  Saturday from 1-5 we’ll be gathering at Devlin Park and then on Sunday I’ll have my farewell at Northmont.  That evening I’ll be preaching, for the last time, at the SON Service.

After that the next big event in my life in May 25th, which is baccalaureate/commencement which my parents will be coming down for.  Sadly, because its scheduled on a Thursday, Renee won’t be able to make it.

After that, it’s June 2nd-3rd which are the wedding rehearsal and ceremony.  Then its off for about a week and a half to Maryland to Renee can finish up teaching before we return to Pittsburgh in order to…

Close on our townhouse on June 15th.  So we’ll have a couple weeks to spend getting moved in and settled there before…

July 2nd, which is my first Sunday at Hampton and July 3rd, my first day at the office so to speak.  Renee and I are being formally introduced on July 9th however because of the holiday.

After that… July 16th-22nd I’ll be gone as part of Hampton’s Senior High Mission Trip to Tennesee, which I am really looking forward to.  

So, pretty much from now till the middle of July I have one major event scheduled every two weeks.  As busy as it will be, its also incredibly exciting to watch all these changes happening.  

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mom's New Computer

So after many years of faithful service, my mom's iMac (circa 1999) finally decided to retire a few weeks ago. So my parents opted to buy a new mac, and tonight I picked them up a new iBook G4. So, tonight, while taking a break from writing my paper for Doctrine of the Trinity, I am setting it up and playing with. Needless to say, I have Mac-envy - my mom has a much nicer laptop than I do.

But... not for long. He he... as part of my job I'll be using a Powerbook G4, and then my Mac-envy will cease.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Cosmic Nature of the Fall

Being as reformed as I claim to be, I have a great appreciation for the cosmic nature of the fall.  What I mean by that is this: Not only is humanity marred by sin and thus “noy the way we’re supposed to be”, but the whole cosmos is not as it is supposed to be.  Paul picks up this theme in Romans 8

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:20-22, TNIV)  

Why do see this as so important?  Simply because it helps us interpret why things happen the way they do.  If, as some of the Church Fathers argue, Paul is only speaking figuratively and the whole creation really isn’t affected by the fall, then it gives to humanity a level of independence that I don’t think is appropriate given the nature of the creation accounts where humanity is clearly connected relationally to the rest of the cosmos.  Therefore, the impact of human sin also effects the relationship humanity has with its environment in a negative way.

I think it’s important to understand the fallen nature of our world.  If we look at things such as disease, ecological/environmental issues, etc. and compare them to the image of how the world was supposed to be (Gen 1-2) and how it will be at the end (Rev 21-22) we recognize how exactly different the world is from what it was supposed to be or what it will be at the end.  Thus, a central part of God’s new creation will be the renewal and transformation not only of us, but of the world around us and that is something the church is called to be apart of.  And in particular, what does the renewal and transformation of the world look like when it comes to bio-medical issues such as combating disease?

This has been on my mind with the recent passing of Elora.  I was reminded tonight at the calling hours that we weren’t meant to die, it’s that simple.  We have gotten used to people who are older dying almost to the point that I think we can forgot that death isn’t supposed to be.  But when someone dies at 14, a child who modeled in so many ways what it meant to be truly human at that, we are reminded that death wasn’t supposed to be.  However, death’s like Elora’s cause me to examine and seek out answers in faith.  The only answer I find at all compelling as to why Elora died is that the whole creation is fallen.

Yet, even in the face of this tragedy we rest in the promises that God will renew the creation and we will once again see Elora, transformed and renewed into the likeness of Christ.  Praise be to God!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lyrics for the week...

For Elora…

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!"

- From Christ the Lord is Risen Today


“Elora Geisler Geier, 14, showed others what it means to love and to live. Elora, a 7th grade student at North Allegheny, lost her courageous fight with Leukemia Saturday, April 29, 2006, surround by many of those who love her.”(Full Obituary Here)

That line, from today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is bittersweet news for those of us who knew Elora. Elora was active with the Jr. High youth group at Northmont. Her life had been indelibly marked by tragedy, as when she was young she had been struck by an automobile which had resulted in long term physical and cognitive effects. But that was part of what made her such a beautiful person. She was genuine in all she said and did. She truly did show what it meant to love and to live. And losing her is the bitter part, but she is free of her suffering.

Late in the summer Elora was diagnosed with Leukemia and she has battled it ever since. She came to youth group just once since then and there was not a person in the room who wasn’t happy to see her smiling face and hear her voice. I guess in youth ministry they tell you you’ll deal with a lot, and this is one of the things that you deal with. And, it goes without saying that the loss is sad and devastating. However, one thought that has been on my mind ever since I heard the news is how Easter has taken on a new meaning because of Elora this year. I was reading my bible this morning and read 1 Corinthians 15:21-28

"For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:21-28, ESV)

The good news of Easter is that death does not have the last answer. The final chapter in Elora’s life remains to be written because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sign and promise of our own resurrection. We know, that even in the midst of our grief over the loss of Elora, that she will be raised and transformed along with the rest of the Saints. Until then, Elora is in the hands of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Praise be to God!