Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference Day 2

Today was definitely the best day for papers at EDC.

Two of my favourite authors, D.A. Carson and N.T. Wright were present, and there was polite sparring between them at several points. Carson's paper was on the wrath of God and was a good critique of views which try to remove God's active agency away from actions in the biblical narratives that are punitively retributive. He also emphasized, correctly I might add, that sin must be understood fundamentally as an offence against God and not simply as something that injures or adversely affects other human beings. Carson also teased out some interesting pastoral reflections on the topic to the point that we will never understand the love of God unless we understand the wrath of God. He remains a dynamic speaker and I got to discuss with him Peter Bolt's book on Mark which, though quite good, says some things about the OT which cause me to grind my teeth.

Wright's paper was on Christian Origins and God which naturally touched upon his magnum opus Christian Origins and the Question of God. I was sadened to learn that COQG 4 is still along way off (sigh). Wright basically laid out his views of the kingdom of God, righteousness of God, and resurrection of Jesus as fundamentally answering the question of God for the early Christians, i.e. God is revealed in the person of Jesus. A good presentation that was basically a summary of Wright's various works in the COQG series. It was a pleasure to shake his hand and seem him in person. Wright's view of Jesus' self-understanding as acting out the vocation of Yahweh naturally came under a grilling by those wanted to know what he made of the Johannine materials such as John 8.58 etc. Wright is really in a catch 22 here, if he doesn't use the Johannine material as evidense of Jesus' own view then evangelicals will accuse him of having a weak Christology. Of course if he tries to argue that the historical Jesus uttered something akin to Jn 8.58, the critical scholars will attack him over his historical optimism about Johannine traditions.

Paul Helm gave a good paper on the Hiddeness of God for Calvin and Barth's appropriation of the topic.

The conference has made me grateful for coming to the UK, since meeting so many excellent scholars and hearing so many fine papers is not an opportunity I had in Brisbane. The curry houses in Edinburgh are fine too.


Scot McKnight said...

Was sin defined "judicially" or "relationally"? I find that to be very important.

Jamie Houghton said...

Can you elucidate your cringe factor on Bolts book?

TheBlueRaja said...


Though extremes do exist along a legal vs. relational axis, perhaps these two options present something of a false dilemna.

I guess it could be considered a sub-category of "relational", but I like the idea of sin being defined "vocationally" - that is, it is fundamentally a failure of proper image-bearing. Stan Grenz has directed attention to the general neglect of the imago dei in the whole of theology (as opposed to only discussions of "origins" and anthropology) and its importance for understanding soteriology and ecclesiology.

This understanding sort of combines judical concepts with relational ones, since it retains the legal sense of man's obligation as vice-regent alongside more relational concepts, such as the violation of Edenic intimacy.

Maybe I'm missing your concern, though. Either way, I'm interested!

Scot McKnight said...

Blue Raja,
I agree completely; sin is relational -- to God and others, and that is why it is image-bearing.

Michael F. Bird said...

Scot: Carson's main point was that sin was against God and not merely against other people. The issue of judicial or relation sin never came up. Personally, I think both aspects need to be contained in our harmatology since sin breaks our relationship with God and results in God's contention against us.

Jamie: I really like Bolt's book, he shows that the cross is central to the whole narrative; but when hes says things like Jesus came to abolish God's own religion (based on Mk. 2.19-21) it feels like he's moving towars an almost Marionite direction. Bolt is mainly against religion in the sense of inauthenticity and he orientates such sayings in a framework of promise/fulfillment and shadow/reality - but I found his discussion unhelpful and he could easily be misunderstood. I have a review in JETS coming out soon.

TheBlueRaja said...

Are the papers from this conference available anywhere on the net, Michael?

Michael F. Bird said...

Bluey, Sadly not. But the tapes are available. Email Rutherford house (link on my side bar) to get them.

James Crossley said...

What did Wright make of the Johannine stuff?

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks . . . Mikey?