Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

A very happy new year to everyone in biblioblogger land; yes, even to the theobloggers. I am planning on seeing the new year in with my eyelids closed, and I'm assuming that the clock will still tick over without my observation. But please enjoy the picture of New Years celebration in Sydney, always spectacular down at Darling Harbour near the Opera House!

From Joel and myself, have a safe and blessed new year. May your crops be plentiful, your vats brim over with new wine, and may all your children be both masculine and calvinistic.

Hengel and the Gospels

Something I've read recently and really enjoyed and actually learned something from is Martin Hengel, ‘Eye-witness Memory and the Writing of the Gospels: Form Criticism, Community Tradition and the Authority of the Authors,’ in The Written Gospel, eds. Markus Bockmuehl and D.A. Hagner (FS Graham Stanton; Cambridge: CUP, 2005), 70-96. Here's a few gem quotes and key observations:

‘In reality, however, the Synoptic Gospels consciously intend to narrate a temporally removed event of the past, i.e., Jesus’ unique history, which, of course, has fundamental significance for the present time of the evangelists and the communities addressed through them, indeed for all humanity, since what is narrated is already for Mark euangelion which wishes to convey saving faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. The closing statement of John 20.31 basically applies to all four Gospels.’ (pp. 70-71).

Plutarch also has two biographies that could be described as passion narratives with extended introductions: Cato the Younger and Eumenes. (p. 72, 72 n. 11).

Martin Dibelius' review of Bultmann’s History of the Synoptic Tradition: ‘It must be said quite emphatically that B’s scepticism in all questions of historicity is not necessarily connected with form-critical criteria but with his conception of the nature of the primitive Christian community as well as his emphasis upon the difference between Palestinian and Hellenistic Chrisianity’. (pp. 81-82).

‘A further neglected factor in form criticism, therefore, is personal memory, which can hold fast what is seen and heard for decades. It is closely connected with the phenomenon of the “eye-witness”. To begin with, everyone has individual memory. Particular “eye-witnesses” may observe the same process rather differently and often only in a limited way. Of course, there was simultaneously a constant exchange, which was then “institutionalized” in primitive Christian worship through the community of witnesses, in that “the memory of Jesus” from his baptism by John to his passion and its interpretation was narratively proclaimed. There arose thus a “treasure of memory”, which could be supplemented but also controlled.’ (p. 86).

‘An anecdote about the later career of F.C. Baur (d. 1860) was related to me by my teacher, O. Bauernfeind (1889-1972); he heard it from his teacher Eduard von der Goltz (1870-1939), and he, in turn, from his father Hermann von der Goltz (1835-1906), who attended Baur’s Tübingen lecture on the book of Revelation. He is reported to have commented with reference to the number 666 in Rev 13.17: “And Hengstenberg in Berlin [the leader of strict conservatives in Berlin, 1802-1869] says that’s me”.’ (p. 86, n. 64).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Belonging and Believing

I've just finished reading through Tom Wright's Simply Christian, it was okay, but it didn't exactly set my world on fire. But one thing that did set me off thinking was his chapter on "Believing and Belonging".

What has always intrigued me is that it is often assumed that the way that one becomes a Christian is that first one believes the right doctrines and then one belongs to the community and formally becomes a member. I think there are a few things that contribute to this scenario: (1) Even in the ancient world you have the genre of the pilgrimage for religious truth where young curious intellectuals from Josephus to Justin Martyr go on a journey to find spiritual truth among all the various religious offerings and they finally stick to the one that takes their fancy (for Josephus it was Pharisaism, for Justin it was Christianity). (2) In the West, or at least since the Enlightenment, Christianity has been defined largely as a set of ethical and philosophical premises that one assents too. The enlightenment pattern is very much a matter of believe then belong.

But I wonder if, in the early church, there were some converts who belonged before they believed. For instance, some poor Christians in Rome gather together in an insula to share what little food they have and to say prayers to Jesus. One day a labourer or beggar is invited or gets himself invited since he's starving. He does not care much for this Jesus-god, but free food is free food. This goes on for some time until one day he is sick and the Christians he's been meeting with take care of him and they pray for him in Jesus' name, he gets better, the outsider starts to think that since he got better maybe there is something to this Jesus-god thing, maybe Jesus is superior to Artemis or whoever he worshipped, and so he becomes more interested in Jesus and the beliefs of the Christiani. Take another possiblity, a wealthy and honourable noble from the upper tier of society invites a friend to a dinner celebration in honour of this Jesus-god. The guest is somewhat put off that the meal held in the triclinium includes freedman, slaves and even common women, but he is touched by their sense of common brotherhood (a good Greek virtue as Plato would agree) and he does find the literature that they read at these meals quite fascinating, some work by an author called Luke captures his imagination. Eventually, the more and more he meets with this group, discovers what they believe about this Jesus-god, reads their literature, he finally adopts their own identity as his own and formally becomes a Christian through baptism.

My point is that not everyone in the early church heard Paul or Peter on a street corner, got converted then and there, and thereafter became Christians. In some instances the process of going from sympathizer to adherent was a slow and prolonged one. There may well have been some who belonged before they believed. Although there are undoubtedly ethical and cerebral aspects to conversion, we must not forget that socialization was also a vital component as well.

Those who have not read A.D. Nock's study on conversion in the ancient world should certainly do so at first chance. Other works on this topic by Judith Lieu, Scot McKnight, and Peder Borgen are all well worth reading.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Reinventing Jesus

It is no exaggeration to say that Dan Wallace was one of the biggest influences on my early academic development. In fact he was the primary reason I decided to go back to Dallas Theological Seminary --I don't know if he knows that. Recently he co-authored the book Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture with Ed Komoszewski and James Sawyer. I recently read it and would like to join the the chorus of voices that have praised it. Among whom are Scot McKnight, Criag Keener, and Criag Blomberg (by no means can these guys be considered narrow-minded evangelicals).

The book is structured in a very logical manner seeking to build progressively the case for the historical reliability of Christianity in the face of recent attacks. While it is focused on refuting contemporary skeptics of the New Testament and Early Church history, the book provides a graspable introduction to issues in these fields.

Furthermore, it is extremely accessible to the layperson. This is readily seen, for example, in Part 2 of the book which deals with a field that is less than straightforward to scholars much less lay persons: Textual Criticism—by the way, this section surely was written by Dan because he is a recognized expert in the field. Five short chapters--a strenght of the book are the short chapters--deal with a range of issues orienting a person to the theory and practice of TC. Upon reading this section, I first thought of my undergraduate students in my John course who do not know Greek and have no orientation to issues such as these. These chapters would provide an attainable description of the important initial step in interpretation.

The writers believe that open-minded readers will discover that the evidence, when considered more closely, not only reveals the high probability of a reliable text (the NT) and history, but also shows the improbability of recent imaginative counter-narratives of the early history of Christianity.

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70

The first time I saw this painting was in James Charlesworth's office at Princeton Theological Seminary. I was captivated by it then and have become reacquainted with it recently.

The painting is by the British (Scottish) artist David Roberts (1796-1864) and is titled The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70. The original, completed in 1849, was sold at auction in 1961 to an Italian art dealer in London. The painting made its way to Rome and was sold shortly thereafter, but there is no record of the transaction.

It is believed Roberts carefully studied Josephus' account of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in preparing the 7 by 12 feet oil painting.

Tonight on CNN at 8 PM EST (replay on Sun 12/24, 8PM) there is a 2 hour presentation called "After Jesus: The First Christians". This show deals with Early Christianity and discusses the affect the destruction of the Temple had on ancient Judaism and Christianity. I have seen a bit of it and both Bart Ehrman (UNC) and Amy-Jill Levine (Vanderbilt) feature prominently in the documentary.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Confessions of an Evangelical Antipodean Baptist Neutestamentler

There are two things that I never got to do at ETS/SBL in Washington D.C. last November. I didn't get to the see the Pentagon and I never got to meet Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, and Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have heard much about Dr. Moore from a good many people. My own colleague, Prof. Andrew McGowan, heard him speak at ETS a few years back and was thoroughly impressed. He is a rising star in the SBC. Dr. Moore has written some interesting articles including a recent one in JETS about why egalitarians are winning the gender wars (see a synopsis of the article and his lecture at Baptist Press). He has a blog at the Carl Henry Institute too. Then there is Dr. Moore's book, The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective which I have read portions of and hope to read fully in the new year . Dr. Moore is also proudly southern, he likes Johnny Cash, and in his lectures (some of which are are available on-line) he has found a way of making a texan accent sound almost intellectual and learned (although as an Australian I can hardly make fun of other peoples accents!).

Now when I was a young soldier in the Army doing my training to be an NCO, I once asked an old crusty platoon sergeant what do I say if an officer asks me to do something immoral or stupid, but without getting myself into trouble for insubordination. The old sergeant smiled at me and said, "You just say to your officer, 'Sir, I am concerned and confused'. That's how ya get away with it". I have listened to one particular lecture by Dr. Moore and I confess that I am "concerned and confused" by what he is saying and by what he appears to be implying. That lecture is his Confessions of a Fundamissional Dean: Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, or What?. I have listened to the lecture three times and for the best part of six months I have wrestled about whether I should throw in my two-cents. Part of me said, "why bother?" leave the SBC folk to their own devices, all you'll do is make enemies (not the least of which might be. Dr. Moore himself) and get a rep for being some kind of "moderate" Baptist maverick. But then again, I have heard first hand in both conversation and through email some of the concerns that my SBC friends have and their fear that the conservative resurgence in SBC is now headed in a neo-fundamentalist direction. Thus, my following remarks about Dr. Moore's lecture should be seen in light of that context. I am not offering a rejoinder or a rebuke to Dr. Moore, but a polite response to the effect that many of us choose to disagree and with very good reason might I add. From my informed albeit external observations the SBC stands at a cross-roads and she must choose between two different ways of being Baptist: Evangelical renewal by maintaining one's Baptist distinctives in conjunction with an evangelical ethos in theology and missionary co-operation (e.g. Wade Burleson, Frank Page, Timothy George, Rick Warren) OR seek renewal by liquidating from the denomination those who deviate from perceived norms of a redefined sectarian Baptist identity (Neo-Fundamentalism).

Now let me make this very, very clear. I am not imputing to Dr. Moore or his lecture all of the failings that I and others see in the SBC. There is much in the lecture that I genuinely like and anyone who enjoys Johnny Cash cannot be all that bad anyway. Dr. Moore writes with a great passion for truth, with a love for men and women in the SBC, he has a desire to see Southern Baptists live humbly under the authority of God's Word, and he hopes for them to impact their surrounding culture. Thus the bits I like, I really, really like (e.g. I am also suspicious of some of the edginess of youth culture, I want to maintain my Baptist distinctives, I think Christians should go against the cultural trends for the most part, and I want to avoid any liberalism). The bits I dislike, however, leave me "concerned and confused"! I hope I have correctly represented the views of Dr. Moore in what follows and I hope he takes time to respond in some forum. I feel that I have a lot in common with Dr. Moore and I have intended my arguments, humour and rhetoric to be understood in a sense of collegiality and not hostility towards him. I would very much like this post to foster a balanced and gracious discussion about Evangelical identity in the SBC. What does it mean for an SBC pastor, missionary, scholar, lay-persons to be Evangelical? Are they mutually exclusive and how do they operate together?

Let me begin my response, not to the whole thing, but to selected points of the lecture:

1. Dr. Moore on Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.

Dr. Moore has nothing particularly good to say about Evangelicalism in his lecture and nothing really bad to say about Fundamentalism. He gives a reasonable overview of the Liberal vs. Fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century and how American Evangelicalism emerged from Fundamentalism in the mid-20th century through Carl Henry and others who wanted to retain the "Fundamentals" but also wanted to engage culture. Also the SBC did not experience the Liberal vs. Fundamentalist controversy until much later. Here we find the centre of gravity for Moore’s thesis: The SBC has an identity independent of Evangelicalism and Evangelicalism is movement that is compromised theologically and so the SBC needs to be insulated from it.

About Fundamentalists, Moore is correct that "Fundamentalist" is not a bad word if by that one means the fundamentals of the faith (e.g. Virgin birth, Resurrection, atonement, and biblical inspiration etc). In his view, Fundamentalists, while a bit quirky (KVJ-only etc), possess the correct framework and were right to be wary of the developing liberalism in the SBC earlier on. What he fails to mention was the cultural transformation of Fundamentalism itself during the 1920s-1970s. The Fundamentalism of J.G. Machen is not the Fundamentalism of Bob Jones University. When the Fundamentalists lost out in the major denominations they experienced their own cultural and theological shift and they moved towards a more ultra-conservative stance in reaction to their losses and became isolationist, introspective, anti-intellectual, and (in the sociological sense) sectarian. They took on certain beliefs such as two degrees of separation, KJV-only, Landmarkism, etc and maintain that they are just as essential as other doctrines such as the Trinity. Moreover, they claim that this is what all true Christians have always believed. Thus, Fundamentalism is just a revisionistic as some forms of Liberalism.

From a social vantage point Fundamentalists major on the minors, and make minor issues tests for faith and orthodoxy (e.g. alcohol, Bible translations, etc). In terms of ethos, Fundamentalists are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between what is Christian and what is the cultural Christianity that they were nurtured on. Some Fundamentalists practice a pernicious doctrine called "Two-Degrees of Separation". The word adiaphora is not in the Fundamentalist vocabulary. Romans 14.1-15.13 cannot be properly applied to Fundamentalist congregations. At the hub of Fundamentalist ecclesiology is the remnant doctrine: they alone have the truth and they alone follow the way of the Lord. Thus, they have a different ecclesiology from Evangelicals as Fundamentalism is governed by legality not liberty. This is not merely a odd few quirks or rough edges, this is a fundamentally different way of being church and it operates with categories and precepts that are not conducive to grace-based relationships, forming spirit-led communities, or expressing a hermeneutic of love in applying Scripture. In this sense, Fundamentalism abandons the New Testament vision of church life and mission.

Fundamentalists preach the authority of the text but practice the authority of the community (I owe this point to Kevin Vanhoozer, Is there a meaning in this Text?). In practice their doctrine of Scripture is docetic, the Word of God is divine but not human. Thus, they have a doctrine of Scripture that is altogether different from Evangelicals. If you do not believe me, go read J.I. Packer's classic volume: Fundamentalism and the Word of God.

During question time, Moore stated that the SBC is alot like Elijah, "I and I only am left". Does Moore really believe that the SBC (and friends) are the only "true" believers in the US or in the World? Here I must accuse Dr. Moore of plagiarism as Independent Baptists have been saying the same things since the 1950s. While Moore may say that the SBC is not Evangelical nor Fundamentalist and that they are "something else", nonetheless, his worldview and self-definition is thoroughly Fundamentalist in orientation: we and we alone we are the true bastions of holiness, doctrinal purity, and moral righteousness - everyone else is corrupt and compromized! I am trying to be remarkably restrained in my response here, but I find this worrisome. All I can say is that Dr. Moore will find the afterlife very disappointing when he discovers that heaven might not be as a glorious as the SBC.

Dr. Moore admits that he can be an Evangelical in so far as as he believes the Evangel, but he eschews what the movement actually is. He warns his audience against becoming, I quote, "American Evangelical mush". According to Moore, leaders in the SBC in the 70s were originally ambivalent towards Evangelicalism since it was a "Yankee" thing. He argues that Southern Baptists must be even more ambivalent now. He offers several reasons:

(1) Evangelical doesn't mean anything any more and it does not describe doctrinal beliefs.

This is patently false. There is a theological breadth in Evangelicalism but that is not the same as being theologically vacuuous. The centre-piece is a commitment to the Evangel and Evangelicals have expressed doctrinal agreement in places like The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1999), Together for the Gospel (2005), and see also Packer and Oden, The Evangelical Consensus. Doctrinal unity does not demand doctrinal uniformity. Also, the theological breadth of Evangelicalism does have limits. Evangelicalism still has "heresy" in the vocabulary.

(2) Evangelicalism describes a number of institutions driven by consumerism and they shifted their values when their support base shifted. Evangelicalism is a movement of compromise and acculturation that has sought to pander at the pool of popularity in American culture and tried desperately to attain a measure of intellectual respectability within the American sphere by worshipping at the altar of academia.

I can share in Moore's critiques of wanting to be hip, cool, or edgy particularly in relation to youth culture. I do not see the attraction of inviting Bono to preach at my church. But the Evangelicals I know on three continents, lecturers, pastors, students and lay people are not off glavanting around trying to win the favour of the intellectual elite, cultural gurus, or fashional police. If consumerism and being edgy is what is wrong with Evangelicalism, then I'd really like to meet some of these people. Where are these guys and gals who have stopped preaching to street kids and toilet cleaners so that they can sing with Bono? I think that Moore is talking about a minority and using them to describe the whole of Evangelicalism. This sounds like the old "reds under the beds", but I haven't found these people under any bed I've slept on and I've slept on alot of beds in a lot of diffentent places. They are out there no doubt, but as a small, small minority. These edgy Christian leaders seem to exist mainly in books and in blogs. What is more, is Evangelicalism really to be identified with American institutions? Do the roots and ethos of Evangelicalism in any way precede 20th century North America? Some historians believe so. On consumerism, I think Moore over-emphasizes the influence of Christian publishing houses. These publishers did not invent the Emergent Church anymore than Al Gore invented the internet. What is more, these publishing houses like IVP, Eerdmans, and Baker have also had a tremendously positive role in global Evangelicalism and have promoted an orthodox theology.

(3) Moore argues that Evangelicalism de-emphasizes denominationality so that baptism, the Lord's Supper, and ecclesiology are relegated to second order doctrines.

This seems to be the heart of Moore's objection. To be an Evangelical will entail abandoning one's Baptist distinctives. There is a train of thought here. Moore assumes that second order equals irrelevant or not important. Thus "Evangelical" can be an adjective but not a noun, and so Southern Baptists cannot be Evangelical without forfeiting their beliefs about the church. Let me say, first, one can rate doctrines in order of importance. Getting the gospel right is more important than getting a doctrine of baptism right. Who cares if you're correctly baptizing unconverted people? So a hierarchy of beliefs is kosher. And if the Evangel trumps Baptism, then I'm an Evangelical first and a Baptist second. On top of that, being an Evangelical does not mean forfeiting my Baptist distinctives. I am a Baptist in the heart of Presbyterian Scotland who has maintained my Baptist distinctives because I believe they are biblical and I have refused to try to fit in and be Presbyterian or Anglican (though the thought has often crossed my mind). As a Baptist I can hang out with Evangelical Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians etc and we have great gospel fellowship even though we disagree over baptism and church governance. Where Moore is right is that Baptists should know what Baptists believe and why Baptists believe what they do about church and baptism. But that does not stop me from identifying with Evangelicalism and prevent me from fellowshiping with other Evangelicals. Also, a strong belief in Baptist distinctives does not justify some of the IMB policies about baptism which are unbiblical.

When Dr. Moore uses the word "Evangelicalism" I feel like quoting the movie The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means". Moore treats Evangelicalism as an American phenomenon. When he says “Evangelicalism” he means typically “Evangelicalism in America” which is a typically American-centric way of looking at things. To the contrary, Evangelicalism is a global movement that has origins as far back as the reformation, roots in German pietism, the Moravian missionary movement, the Great Revivals, the Great Awakenings, in the Fundamentalist vs. Liberal controversy of the early twentieth-century, and in the explosion of faith in South America, Southern Asia, and Africa in the last 50 years. Evangelicalism at its essence is a renewal movement that has sought to bring Christians back to the Evangel and called them to proclaim it and to live a life worthy of the gospel. Baptist historian David Bebbington has drawn a quadrilateral of the main tenets of Evangelicalism and they include:

- Conversionism—a belief that lives need to be changed (or a stress on the New Birth);
- Activism—the expression of the Gospel in deed (or an energetic, individualistic approach to religious duties and social involvement);
- Biblicism—a particular regard for the Bible (or a reliance on the Bible as ultimate authority);
- Crucicentrism—an emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (or a focus on Christ's redeeming work as the heart of essential Christianity).

You will notice, however, that inerrancy, complementarianism, and credo-baptism do not figure as its essentials. They is not to say that they are false or insignificant but they do not constitute the core of the Evangelical identity or the Evangelical fulcrum. (In counter-point to many narrow definitions of Evangelicalism I recommend the book by J.I. Packer and Thomas C. Oden, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus; see an exert here).

If Evangelicalism is such a "mush" and if ETS is indicative of the theological compromize that is rampant in Evangelicalism, then I am perplexed as to why Dr. Moore continues to participate in ETS. Does he think that we will hear him speak and suddenly repent of our ways and become Southern Baptists? Or does Dr. Moore also aspire for some degree of influence and recognition among the intellectual elites of ETS? Does he want us so-called Evangelicals to take him seriously? If Evangelicalism is "collapsing" as Dr. Moore alleges, why does he want to be part of the collapse? The logic of his own position would be to abandon ETS and set up the Southern Baptist Theological Society.

2. Dr. Moore on Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Anglicanism

At one point in his lecture, Moore proceeds to make some negative remarks about Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Anglicanism. I found this immensely disconcerting and somewhat odd at times.

What about Fuller Seminary? True, you might not find too many special creationists there. But special creationism is not an "essential" of the orthodox faith. The fact is that Fuller is one of the more left-leaning Evangelical institutions in the American Evangelical context (see George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987]). Its egalitarianism and Barthian-esque theology (Barthian at least back in the 1970s) is not everyone’s cup of tea. Of course there are some superb Evangelical scholars at Fuller that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting including M.M. Thompson and D.A. Hagner who, in my mind, are definitely in the Evangelical camp even if they do not cross the i’s and t’s like I do. But we should also consider the effect of Fuller seminary upon the mainline denominations. In organizations such as the PCUSA and Uniting Church of Australia, the majority of Christians who are upholding the authority of God’s word and fighting against the homosexual agenda in these denominations are Fuller graduates. Fuller graduates are the vanguard of the orthodox resurgence in the mainline denominations. Recently, the Highland Theological College hosted a meeting of Forward Together, an Evangelical renewal group in the Church of Scotland. Their speaker was Jerry Andrews from a similar such organization called Re-Forming in the PCUSA. Jerry is also senior minister at First Presbyterian of Glen Ellyn near Wheaton. I had an excellent conversation with Jerry about the struggle that the orthodox have in the PCUSA and he told me that he thanks God for Fuller Seminary, because they are providing the foot soldiers in this battle. Rather than kick Fuller in the teeth because they are soft on inerrancy or women-in-ministry, I say that we should cheer them on to fight for an orthodox faith in the mainline denominations. You do not have to agree with them on everything, but give these Evangelical Fullerites a slap on the back not a knife in the back! Fuller is not the enemy within the gates.

I confess to being concerned and confused by Moore’s remark that Wheaton College is a mainline institution (as opposed to being Evangelical). I have a problem in regarding Professors such as Doug Moo and Greg Beale (a former president of ETS) as mainliners! But I have never been to Wheaton, so at SBL in Washington D.C. in 2006 I asked Dr. Todd Wilson, who pastors at College Church in Wheaton, if Wheaton College was Evangelical or Mainline. He said “It’s Evangelical” and he gave me a look as if I was asking if the Pope was Catholic. I trust the judgment of a local pastor in Wheaton with a Ph.D from Cambridge (like D.A. Carson!). I also asked Jerry Andrews who is a senior minister near Wheaton and he said the same thing. I trust the judgment of two pastors in Wheaton that Wheaton college is Evangelical more than I trust Moore’s judgment on this one. Who do you believe?

I again confess to being absolutely gob-smacked and confused by Moore’s implied assault against Evangelical Anglicans. He opines the fact that many faculty at Wheaton (about 25% according to reports I have received) attend Anglican worship and many of the staff at the magazine Christianity Today are Anglican. He never exactly specifies as to why this is a bad thing. I can only assume that the problem is either that Anglicans are not Southern Baptists (which would be a truism) or that that there is something inherently wrong with Evangelical Anglicans, perhaps they are in too close a proximity to liberals. Yet some of the most godly and gifted Evangelical leaders in the world are Anglicans. Certain names come to mind like J.I. Packer, John Stott and Chris Wright and these guys are global Evangelical leaders (read Stott’s The Cross of Christ, which no self-respecting Evangelical lay person should be without). At the 2006 SBL I had a drink with a group of people including Peter Jones of Westminster Theological Seminary. Jones attended the World Reformed Fellowship earlier that year and he heard Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, speak. Jones said that he had never heard an Archbishop preach the gospel like Peter Jensen did. Organizations like UCCF, Tyndale House, Latimer House and more were all started by Evangelical Anglicans. My own exegetical idol, Leon Morris, was himself an Evangelical Anglican and if you start casting aspersions on his theological pedigree then every member of the Aussie biblical studies diaspora in the US will have their own private jihad on your knee-caps! (A cover drive with a size six twin-scoop Gray-Nichols to the tibia and fibia will do the job!!) If Moore thinks that Anglicans are so terrible then he should consider: (1) There were Bible-believing Anglicans long before there were Southern Baptists; and (2) Visit Moore Theological College in Sydney and you’ll experience one of the most exciting Reformed, Bible-believing, Complementarian, Missional, and Christ-loving seminaries in the world. I spent a month there as a visiting scholar back in 2005 and it was a great experience. I had more in common with those Sydney Anglicans guys (students and faculty) than I have with some of my own Baptist associates. I do not care for anyone who alleges that these Anglicans are theologically dubious. As a Christian scholar and as a Christian statesman, Dr. Russell Moore is not even in Peter Jensen’s league.


If this was a lecture, at this point I would ask the audience: "Those in favour of slapping Dr. Moore in the face with a soggy fish please raise your right hand". (That is my Aussie humour creeping in and I'm still sore about the implied aspersion made against St. Leon of Morris who is an Anglican). Dr. Moore did use some degree of hyperbole in his lecture (he is a gifted speaker too) and many of my responses could perhaps be explained as attacking the rhetoric rather than his reasoning. I am willing to be corrected, but still much of what he said in that lecture left me feeling that his way of being Baptist does not correspond to the Faith delivered to the saints. The faith of the early church is not necessarily identical to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, in fact, I'm positive it's not. For me, being Baptist and being Evangelical go hand in glove and I feel no need to choose between them. In fact, I prioritize my theological identity as: Christian - Evangelical - Reformed - Baptist. The question posed to us by Dr. Moore is whether or not one can have a legitimate Baptist identity that has anything other than "Baptist" first and "Baptist" with a capital "B".

Why am I confused? Dr. Moore claims that Southern Baptists are not Evangelical nor are they Fundamentalist, they are "what" or "something else". In fact, in his conclusion he pleads for those in the SBC to be DT'd from Evangelicalism, i.e. detoxed or perhaps we could say "cleansed". Why am I concerned? Because Moore's "something else" looks and sounds alot like Fundamentalism. This is not Fundamentalism with the all trappings of KJV-only or two-degrees of separation, it is a fundamentalistic ethos and worldview that is rooted in its own indigenous subculture and it constitutes a departure from the worlview of the biblical authors. The sine qua non of Fundamentalism is not its approach to the KJV or doctrine of separation, rather, it is their belligerent attitude towards other forms of orthodox Christianity (George Marsden's definition). Even if one is not a KJV-only advocate one can still be a Fundamentalist. This is the problem, Dr. Moore's SBC identity appears to be Fundamentalism minus a few of the more extremist trappings, but I do not see any other tangible difference. Why is this a problem? J.G. Machen said that Liberalism is not Christianity and Moore would agree here. But I would insist that Fundamentalism is not Chrisitanity either, and Moore would not agree with that. Liberalism is neo-gnosticism and Fundamentalism rehearses the theological errors of the anti-pauline judaizers. Thus, whether it is "neo", "new" or "missional" Fundamentalism, it is still not Christianity. Fundamentalism is slavery and it is a distortion of the Baptist faith and the historical orthodox faith. In counter-point to Moore I say: "For freedom Christ has set us free", Galatians is the epistle of Christian freedom and liberty. To be Baptist is to be biblical, and my Bible calls me to a rich and diverse Evangelical Faith of which I consider the Baptist way as being the one most true to the Scriptures in my judgment. But the Baptist household has a lot of room for diversity (as well as some house-rules I might add) and the Baptist household has some lovely neighbours with whom I lovingly share my Evangelical neighbourhood with.

Are Southern Baptists Fundamentalists, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope not. Are Southern Baptists Liberals, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope not. Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope so!

Excursus 1 - bloggers

In his lecture Dr. Moore regards some bloggers in the SBC as jerks, immature and divisive. He refers to one particular group as "bloggofascists". I have no doubt that this is true of some. But I am "concerned and confused" as to how this label "divisive" might apply. Does it designate those SBC bloggers who are rumour-mongers, make groundless accusations, and slander SBC leaders? Or, does it refer to those who are critical of certain political machinations in the SBC, those who encourage others to vote against candidates "endorsed" by the establishment, and those who refuse to tow the party-line because they feel that it is unbiblical and unbaptist? Bloggofascism could sound like a form of "deviant labelling" employed in order to stop Baptists using the internet to voice disagreement and discontent with some SBC policies such as those surfacing in the IMB. I am open to correction here if I am reading too much into Dr. Moore's remarks.

Excursus 2 - A plea for Evangelicalism in the SBC

More generally speaking now (this is not directled against Dr. Moore in particular), to the arch-conservatives in the SBC I say this: if you define the boundaries of group identity in such a way as to imply that Wade Burleson, Dwight McKissic, and Beth Moore are not simply very wrong on some issues, but are a threat to the authority of the Scriptures, if you feel the need to purge them and their supporters from the SBC itself, then you have lost a gospel-centred faith and you are headed to the arms of the theological Sith Lord known as Darth Fundamentalism. He will promise to purify the SBC from the remnants of the "moderate" Evangelical Jedi and give you unlimited denominational power, more power than you can dream of, enough power to make sure that you'll never again have to worry about Liberalism making a comeback. But the power will corrupt and kill the work of the gospel and others of us will be forced into exile until a new hope emerges.

Dr. Michael F. Bird

Solum Evangelium
Sola Christo
Soli Deo Gloria

Written on the 23rd of December on the feast of St. Leon of Morris, last Saturday of Advent.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Michael Jensen on the "The Power of Scripture?"

Over at The Blogging Parson, Michael Jensen, has an interesting post about The Power of Scripture?. (Michael is son of the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen; he is a lecturer at Moore College; and currently doing his Ph.D at Oxford). Here's quote:
In fact, I would want to say that the human weakness of Scripture is entirely in keeping with the character of the God whose word Scripture claims to be. Protestant attempts to defend the Bible from its own scandalous humanity by appeals to (real or alleged) “original autographs”, and the like are not only futile: they are unnecessary. While often this theology appeal to the character of God, by supernaturalising Scripture it actually conceals something of God’s true nature. These appeals are an expression of an over-realised eschatology of Scripture, an emphasis of the “now” at the expense of the “not-yet.”
Scintilating reading, but be sure to read the whole entry before jumping to conclusions.

Mr. Bean goes to Church

Make sure you check out this post with the accompanying You.Tube clip.

HT: Tony Konvalin

Klyne Snodgrass on the "gospel of Jesus"

In a chapter of the book The Written Gospel edited by Markus Bockmuehl and Don Hagner, Klyne Snodgrass has an interesting article on "The gospel of Jesus".

Snodgrass asks a few questions about Jesus and his "gospel":

What was the explicit content of Jesus' gospel?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus new?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus eschatological?
What does Jesus' gospel have to do with Israel or other groups?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus political?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus focused on ethics?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus focused on himself?
To what degree is the gospel of Jesus in line with the gospel of Paul and the early church?
All very good questions indeed! Sadly, Snodgrass never gets around to answering them for us. Instead, he analyses how Jesus' gospel interfaces with four key foci: celebration, compassion, Israel and kingdom. This is a good article for anyone engaged in historical Jesus studies to read.

News on the Blogosphere

Fellow blogger and biblical scholar Peter Williams has just been appointed as the new warden of Tyndale House. Congrats to Peter and we wish him every blessing and success in his new post.

The great Reformed Theologian, Paul Helm, now has his own blog entitled: Helm's Deep: Philosophical Theology which will prove to be interesting and provocative no doubt.

Also Jack Poirier reviews James Tabor's book on the Jesus Dynasty at Jerusalem Perspectives.

Over at Beginning with Moses, the latest biblical theology briefings include articles by Jim Hamilton, Ros Clarke, and Mike Cain.

"What is this Word?" - N.T. Wright on Christmas

Over at Christianity Today, Tom Wright has an article based on his Christmas 2005 Eucharist sermon, delivered at the Cathedral Church of Christ. Here's a quote:
There is a fad in some quarters about a "theology of incarnation," meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and to do it with him. But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with. John's theology of the Incarnation is about God's Word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as a fresh word of judgment and mercy. You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is about discovering what God is saying no to today and finding out how to say it with him. That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it's all too relevant as today's world becomes simultaneously more liberal and more totalitarian. This Christmas, get real, get Johannine, and listen again to the strange words spoken by the Word made flesh.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Last minute I have organized a research trip to Israel for the first couple of weeks of January (1-10). This will be my second trip to Israel. The first time was in 2000 when I went on a dig with my grad school.

This year I applied for a development grant from North Park and I was award funds to conduct research in archaeology and for a course I will be teaching next year on Historical Geography of the Land. One of the benefits of having a wife who works for American Airlines is the flying privileges. Karla's connection allows me the opportunity to go.

I have a real passion to bring the concreteness of the Jewish eschatological expectations to my classroom and in my publishing and I can think of no better way than to spend time in the Land for which all Jewish hopes were tied.

There are varying motivations for having a strong affection for the Land of Israel. Growing up in a dispensational context the land was important because it it here where Jesus' 1000 year reign will be conducted. Furthermore, the occupation of the Land in the 40's was considered to be nothing short of the fulfillment of prophecy. Thus, for some dispensationalists supporting the contemporary Israeli government became a spiritual discipline.

Others--and these are not mutually exclusive--have an affection for the Land as a place of religious relics. If you have ever been to the Land you know the sense of feeling like you are at Walt Disney World when you tour the scared Christian sites. This part of the Land I don't really enjoy. The gaudy churches and religious relics seem to me to take away from the humble way of Jesus.

For me, I am motivated to be in the Land in order to awaken my historical imagination. I want to taste the tastes and smell the smells of first-century Judea, Samaria and Galilee. I want to gain a familiarity with distance and language and culture and topography. And this is not so much because I want to lecture on a given topic, but I want there to be an unconscious familiarity with the place on which the Jewish people have set their hopes. The place for which they longed to be restored.

My itinerary will be flexible but here is what I am thinking right now: 3 days in Jerusalem, 3-4 days in Galilee and 1-2 days in Dead Sea region. I will be spending the first few days with Jerusalem University College before venturing out on my own.

Post-First Semester Syndrome (PFSS)

I can certainly relate to Mike's recent blog on finishing his semester. I have now, myself, come up from grading and submitting grades. I had about 140 students this semester over four courses. This has been a great semester of teaching and I have learned a lot of lessons. I believe that lecturing is one of my strengths and the reason I wanted to get into academics in the first place. But there is much to learn when beginning to teach even in the best of circumstances. I want to share some of the most important lessons I learned.

(1) Assignment rebound: I learned that whatever you assign you have to grade. If you assign three papers in a course that has over 100 students that means you will be grading 300 papers. Now that seems obvious, but when I was idealistially creating the course I was teaching, it actually did not factor into my thinking.

(2) Freshman by and large do not write very good papers. This is certainly a generalization, and I had some exceptional students, but the papers that freshman write are hard to grade. Unless the course is focused on learning to write good papers--which is not a learning objective of Intro to the Bible. Next semester I am not requiring papers in my Intro course.

(3) Students who have to take Intro to the Bible courses as a general education requirement are not that motivated to work hard and won't expect to have to give their best to a course like this. While at first this might be a bit offensive, I have come to repsect this fact and I now think I need to keep this in mind when developing an intro course. While a Bible course will be rigorous for most students, especially one that covers the whole Bible in one semester, I learned that I need to develop the course with minimal requirements.

(4) While content preparation is time consuming, I never appreciated the amount of time and effort a professor devotes to the managing of their courses. Keeping up with 140 students takes a lot of energy.

(5) Personal research time in your first semester is non-existent.

(6) As hard as you might try, not all your students will like or connect with you.

(7) God works in the lives of students when they approach the Bible with open minds employing a hermeneutic of trust rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Up for Air!

I have finally emerged from the murky waters of marking (i.e. grading papers) and Michael Pahl knows my feelings. I have new insights into the afterlife. If there is a purgatory, I'm sure its inhabitants will do penance by having to read, blind-mark, and write feedback to a number of mediocre essays about the warning passages in Hebrews. Actually, some of my students wrote very good papers and it was fun watching them referee the Scot McKnight vs. Wayne Grudem confrontation. The best part was that all of the students who did the essay actually learned something. The next essays to come in will be from a course called: "Exploring Other Faiths" and the essay is entitled: Who are God's People in the Middle East? I'm looking forward to that one. The best part about being a lecturer is that I can set essay topics on stuff that interests me and I can make the students do some of the leg work before I decide to tackle the subject myself. I'm not saying that it isn't somewhat self-serving, but every job has its perks! Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I also set them topics that will contribute to their theological and ministerial formation so that everyone will gets something out of it.

Abortion in the Early Church

Note this "fire and brimstone" passages from Apocalypse of Peter:

And near this flame there is a pit, great and very deep, and into it flows above all manner of torment, foulness, and excrement. And women are swallowed up therein up to their necks and tormented with great pain. These are they who have caused their chidren to be born untimely and have corrupted the work of God who created them. Opposite them shall be anotehr place where their children sit alive and cry to God. And flashes of lightning go forth from those children and pierce the eyes of those who for fornification's sake have caused their destruction. Other men and women shall stand above them, naked; and their children stand opposite them in a place of delight, and sigh and cry to God because of their parents saying, "These are they who despised and cursed and transgressed your commandments and delivered us to death: they have cursed the angel that formed us and have hanged us up and begrudged us the light which you have given to all creatures. And the milk of their mothers flowing from their breasts shall congeal and from it shall come beasts devouring flesh, which shall come forth and turn and torment them for ever with their husbands because they forsook the commandments of God and slew their children. As for their children they shall be delivered to the angel Temlakos. And those who slew them shall be tormented eternally for God wills it so. (Apoc. Pet. [Eth] 8; cf. Clement of Alexandria, Eclogae, 41.1-2. Text from Elliott, NT Apocrypha).
See also this text from Did. 2.2

And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.
I know this is a touchy subject and I do not want to prompt an endless debate on this, I am opposed to abortion (with some exceptions), but I think it worth noting that early Christianity was largely pro-life and pro-child in its ethos: life is a gift from God. I once heard Tom Wright say that in the ancient world Christians stood out because they did not sleep around and they did not abort or "expose" infants. Those interested should read the volume by Michael Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish (Gorman is a great scholar isn't he, and he's also written Holy Abortion? a Theological Critique of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice ).

A few remarks:

1. The difference between pro-life and pro-abortionists I think comes down to this: "Life, what a wonderful choice!" or "Choice, what a wonderful life!". Sadly, I do not think it possible to conduct meaningful dialogue when you have paradigms as mutually exclusive as these. We are just operating with a different worldview and with a different string of values. Do not expect non-Christians to agree since the Christian view sounds like trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

2. To this day abortion is the single largest form of discrimination against females in the developing world. What is more, abortion is also the cause of further discrimination and violence against women in these places. In many countries like China and India the number of females in the population has fallen dramatically due to the abortion of unwanted female pregnancies, resulting in increased sexual trafficking and wife stealing to make up for the lack of available wives. (I owe this information to Ron Sider's recent ETS paper about women in the majority world).

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Bird-Book has Arrived!

Today I got an unexpected surprise when my book Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission arrived in my pidgeon hole. Nearly five years of my life was dedicated to these 212 pages and it is a joy and relief to finally be able hold it in my little hands. I have something to show for my labours and I now have closure (well, until the book reviews come out). To be honest, I have been getting sick and tiried of writing books which do not see the light of day but exist only as a on my CPU or in some "virtual" reality between my CPU and my editor's CPU. Who should I thank:

1. Lord Jesus Christ.
2. My dearest wife Naomi.
3. My children: Alexis and Alyssa.
4. Rick Strelan, Bobb Webb, Scot McKnight, and Peter Bolt.
5. My friends back at Grace Bible Church
6. Faculty and Staff at HTC who have helped to get it published.
7. My lecturers at Malyon College, esp. Jeff Pugh, Jim Gibson and Les Ball.
8. My thanks to the editorial team at T&T Clark.

In the words of the great pomo philosopher of the Matrix, the Oracle, "Everything that has a beginning, must have an end". I am glad that this project has now ended.

Of course I have four other books at various stages of production:

1. The Saving Righteousness of God (Paternoster)
2. Two Views of Christian Origins with James Crossley (SPCK)
3. The Faith of Jesus Christ with Preston Sprinkle (Paternoster)
4. 1 and 2 Esdras with Joel Willitts (Brill)

One down, four to go!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Baptism in the Ancient Church

By the late second century an elaborate process had developed leading into baptism including:

1. Catechesis. This process included an intense period of instruction in the rudiments of the Christian faith, and often included a time of probation of seven years.

2. Fasting and Prayer. Since baptism often was done on Easter, the forty days prior to this event was dedicated to various spiritual exercises including fasting, prayer, and reading of Scripture.

3. Renunciation. When the time for baptism came, the candidate would be called upon to renounce the devil and all his pomp. Facing westward, direction the sun went down, he would exlaim "I renounce, thee O Satan, and all thy works", and then spit three times in the direction of darkness.

4. Credo. And turning eastward to the sunrise he would say, "And I embrace thee, O Lord Jesus Christ". And this point he would be baptized and recite a baptismal confession of faith often given the form of answers to questions and response with "I believe".

5. Disrobing. The candidate would remove all clothing and enter naked into the waters.

6. Immersion. In some churches the candidate would be immersed three times in the name of the Triune God.

7. New Robe. Coming out of the baptismal waters the candidate would be given a new rob symbolizing their putting on Christ.

8. Annointing. Each candidate would be annointed with oil symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

9. Laying on of Hands. This represented a sealing of the blessing given to each newly baptized Christian. It connoted a kind of commissioned to stand for Christ and his truth.

10. The Lord's Supper. Only those initiated into the church could partake of the Lord's Supper, and so the candidates would have an early morning supper with fellow Christians.

See Tertullian, De Baptismo; Hippolytus, Apostolic Constitutions; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures; John Chrysostom, Baptismal Homilies.

Take from Timothy George, Galatians (NAC; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994), pp. 280-81.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


John Armstrong's Ministry ACT3 - Advancing the Christian Tradition in the Third Millennium has a new website and it always has some good articles to read. The aims of ACT3 are:

1. To advance worship in culturally accessible forms, through orthodox theology that is deeply rooted in the classical doctrine of the triune God and through humble collaboration and cooperation within the whole Christian Church.

2. To advance spiritual formation that renews and reforms the church by a growing love for God, neighbor and one another in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, so that the world may believe the Father sent the Son to save it.

3. To advance the mission of Christ’s kingdom by teaching believers and churches to engage both people and culture with the story of Jesus Christ.

You may not always agree with John's perspective, but he is possessed of genuine concern for renewal in the mainline denominations.

Evangelical Exegetes Hall of Fame III - George R. Beasley-Murray

George Raymond Beasley-Murray was one of the finest twentieth-century Baptist New Testament Scholars. He was principal of Spurgeon's College in England and also James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Some of his finest works include:

- Jesus and the future; an examination of the criticism of the eschatological discourse, Mark 13, with special reference to the little apocalypse theory (1954)
- A commentary on Mark thirteen (1957)
- Baptism in the New Testament (1962)
- The general Epistles: James, 1 Peter, Jude, 2 Peter (1965)
- The Book of Revelation (1974)
- Jesus and the kingdom of God (1986)
- John (1987)
- Gospel of life: Theology in the fourth Gospel (1991)
- Jesus and the last days: The interpretation of the Olivet discourse (1993)
- Preaching the gospel from the gospels (1996)

He also translated Rudolf Bultmann's The Gospel of John: A commentary (1971) and received a festschrift Eschatology and the New Testament: Essays in honor of George Raymond Beasley-Murray (1988) edited by W. Hulitt Gloer. His son Paul Beasley-Murray (a bit of a chip off the old block himself) has written a biography of his father called: Fearless for Truth: A Personal Portrait of George Raymond Beasley-Murray which I am hoping very soon to get a hold of and read.

Beasley-Murray is probably best known for his work on Mark 13, New Testament Eschatology, commentaries on Revelation and John, as well as his book on baptism. He sadly passed away in 2000.

I'm glad to say that Beasley-Murray visited Australia and even preached at the Baptist Theological College of Queensland (as it was called then and long, long before my time) and I remember listening to an audio tape of his lecture on Revelation where he recounted how he and his wife were reading through Revelation for their morning devotionals and his wife turned to him and asked what it meant (something to do with the bowls of wrath I think). I shall never forget his reply where he said to his beloved wife, "I haven't the foggiest idea". Good to know that I'm not alone on that one!

Paul on Scripture "for us"

In reading over Paul lately, I've been struck by his repeated reference that these things were written "for us".

1 Corinthians 9.10: "Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest."

Romans 4.23-24: "The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead."

Romans 15.4: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

The sense here is that Scripture was written for our benefit, instruction, and edification. But a few questions emerge:

Is Paul saying that Scripture was written with Christians in mind? The phrase "for us" could mean (a) "for our benefit and use" or it could mean (b) "for us who would interpret this properly and realize that it pertains to them". If (b) does this come close to a type of pesher hermeneutic (see 1QpHab "Interpreted this concerns ... [something related to the Qumran community]").

On the one-hand, Paul clearly reads his Scriptures redemptive-historically (i.e. as part of an unfolding story) hence his repudiation in Romans 4 and Genesis 3-4 of the view that Abraham was a law-observant Jew which some Jewish interpretaters held to. At the same time, is his approach to Scripture "sectarian" in the sense that he regards the new covenant community as the object of reference on occasions and also the interpretive arbiter of the proper meaning of the Jewish Scriptures themselves?

I understand that D.A. Carson and Greg Beale have a two-volume work on the OT in the NT coming out which would be good.

New Blogs XIII: Apocryphicity

A note for all you out there who like extra-biblical literature, I have just come across the blog Apocryphicity: A weblog devoted to the study of the Christian Apocrypha which has some good stuff and is operated by Tony Chartrand-Burke.

HT: Phil Harland.

If you're young and serious about NT studies and have not read at least 1-2 Maccabees and Tobit, then you should be slapped in the face with a soggy fish! Remember axiom # 2 of Witherington's desideratum (see post below).

Who knows what kind of fish this is?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Latest Issue of Colloquium 38.2 (2006)

Colloquium is the journal of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Theological Studies. The latest issue includes:

Michael F. Bird
Jesus and the Revolutionaries: Did Jesus Call Israel to Repent of Nationalistic Ambitions?

John L. Dunn
Jesus Scholarship and Paradigm Shifts in Christology

Edmund A. Parker
Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic: Towards an Inclusivist Model of Reading

Cathy Ross
Educating for contextual Mission "In Light of Recent Events"

Anton Karl Kozlovic
The Holy Cinema: Christianity, the Bible and Popular Film

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Witherington's desideratum on NT Theology

I've just finished reading Ben Witherington's book The Problem With Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, And Wesleyanism . This book will probably result in cheesing off everyone some way or another. But! There is one very good section at the end of the book. Witherington gives 12 theses on biblical study:

(1) You need to be able to read the text in the original languages.

(2) You need to study the text in its original contexts (literary, historical, archaeological, and theological).

(3) If you are an Evangelical, then it is imperative that you interact with non-Evangelical treatments of the text and listen to the church fathers.

(4) As J. Bengel said: apply the whole of yourself to the text.

(5) The text should not be watered down or dumbed down, but one should ratchet up one's attention and degree of devotion to the text.

(6) NT Theology should be done in the context of a community of faith. One should listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be guided by God in prayer.

(7) Western theologians who live in an individualist society should try to understand the collective and honour-shame mindset of the majority world.

(8) The theologizing of the NT was written to an oppressed minority. We should also write and listen for the voices of the oppressed, hungry, poor and disenfranchised.

(9)Biblical theology is the basis of both NT Theology and Systematic Theology.

(10) Theologizing needs to be done across denominational lines.

(11) Doing NT Theology requires humility not hubris.

(12) The time is ripe for us to redraw boundaries and rethink our differences. "Perhaps all Evangelicals need to spend more time sitting at hte same table, sharing communion, serving one another, serving together in missions, listening to one another, loving one another, and leaving behind triumphalism based on our ecclesiological and theological differences".

On pages 246-47.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

New Blogs XII

One chap in the UK I would like to share a cup of tea and a biccy with would have to be Tim Chester (see his blog Tim Chester: Writer, Bible teacher, and household church planter). He is also a leader in the Crowded House which is "a network of missionary congregations, most of which meet in homes". I have heard of Tim some of his writings including a very good article in Themelios that weighed up the New Perspective on Paul both pro and con (I mention Tim's article in my forthcoming book with Paternoster).

His book From Creation to New Creation: Understanding the Bible Story from the brief glance I had seems like a great way to introduce lay people to the biblical storyline and biblical theology in general. And for the Theobloggers out there (those in the ilk of Been Mires), he also a theology volume entitled: Mission and the Coming of God: Eschatology, the Trinity and Mission in the Theology of Jurgen Moltmann. Tim is also a DODO (Dad of Daughter's only!)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Communion: Eating is Believing and Belonging

I'm currently working on an essay called "Re-thinking the Sacraments for the Post-Chrisendom Baptist Church" for a book on Baptists and the Sacraments edited by Anthony Cross (editor at Paternoster). I'm having fun reading, thinking, and praying over 1 Cor. 10.14-22:

14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

What does it mean in v. 16 to have a "participation" or "sharing" in the blood of Christ? Well, I do not think that it means some kind of mystical unity achieved by teh ingestion of the elements as if one were eating the "Lord". The meal creates fellowship between the believer and Christ and, as a corollary, between the believers themselves. The sacrament is not to do with anything in the bread or cup but it pertains to the fellowship one experiences with Christ and the fellowship that one experiences with other Christians. I think there is a sacrament here, but the sacrament is the communing with Christ and communing within the eschatological community of the new covenant. It is also an exclusive communion and because of the covenantal obligation it places upon participants, that communion is not to be shared with others such as the table of pagan deities who are in reality demons.

The participate in the Lord's Supper/Communion/Eurcharist/Jesus-meal (or whatever you want to call it) is to confess that Jesus died and rose and will come again, and by eating and drinking one believes that he is Lord and one belongs to the community that honours Christ's name.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Origen on Scripture

“If anyone ponders over [the scriptures] with all the attention and reverence they deserve, it is certain that in the very act of reading and diligently studying them his mind and feelings will be touched by a divine breath and he will recognize that the words he is reading are not utterances of man but the language of God” (Origen, First Principles 4.1.6).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

2006 annual F.F. Bruce Lecture

This years annual F.F. Bruce Lecture is to be delivered by Dr. Andrew Clark of Aberdeen University. His topic is “The Parameters of Pastoral Persuasion: a Pauline Perspective”.

The lecture is free to the public and will be delivered on Wednesday 3rd of December at 3:00pm in Castle Street Church of Scotland, Dingwall

If you are nearby or in the neighbourhood, please do come along, as Andrew is a foremost expert on leadership and ministry as it is exhibited in the Pauline letters.

Dr Clarke is Head of the Department of Divinity with Religious Studies in Aberdeen University. Before moving to Aberdeen he was the Research Librarian at Tyndale House Biblical Studies Research Library in Cambridge. He is also currently the Chairman of the Tyndale House Council.

D.A. Carson on Private Prayer Languages

D.A. Carson in his book Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988) has the following to say about private prayer language:

"[based on 1 Cor. 12.7] As we shall see, some wish to rule out the legitimacy of any private use of tongues on the basis of this and similar texts: What possible benefit for the entire community is there, they ask, in such private tongues-speaking? Clearly there is no direct benefit: no one but God is hearing what is being said. But Paul was granted extraordinary visions and revelations that were designed only for his immediate benefit (2 Cor. 12:1-10); yet surely the church received indirect profit insofar as those visions and revelations, not to mention the ensuing thorn in his flesh, better equipped him for proclamation and ministry. In the same way, it is hard to see how verse 7 of this chapter renders illegitimate a private use of tongues if the result is a better person, a more spiritually minded Christian: the church may thereby receive indirect benefit. The verse rules out using any charisma for personal aggrandizement or merely for self-satisfiaction; it does not rule out all benefit for the individual (just as marriage, one of the charismata according to 1 Cor. 7:7 may benefit the individual), providing that the resulting matrix is for the common good. The context demands no more."

I think the Carsmeister has nailed this one!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from ETS-IBR-SBL 2006 (Part III)

Finally on SBL, some good papers were on offer including one by Francois Bovon in response to R. Cameron and M.P. Miller (eds.) Redescribing Christian Origins, which was great. Bovon pointed out that the heirs of Mack have a habit of taking what was peripheral (Thomas-Q) and moving it to the centre, while take the centre (Paul-Luke) and pushing them to the periphery of early Christianity. Bovon also intimated that the volume was a little too self-congratulatory. Wayne Brindle gave an interesting paper that was a response to I. Howard Marshall' proposal of "Allonymity" in the Pastorals. Much as I favour Pauline authorship (but it is not quite clear cut either!) I think Brindle was unable to show that authority is dependent on authenticity. When I asked about Hebrews (i.e. the Church accepted Hebrews because they thought it was Pauline, despite the fact that it's clearly not Pauline) he responded by saying that anonymous authorship makes Pauline authorship possible. In the John, Jesus and History group the standout was Ben Witherington's paper that argued that the Fourth Gospel was written by Lazarus. Ben made a good point that Lazarus is called in John 11 "the one whom you loved" allowing some identification of Lazarus with the Beloved Disciple. Sadly, after that, most of the evidence became circumstantial and oblique. I for one was not convinced that Lazarus was from a family of Lepers and in the retinue of the High Priests of Jerusalem. The thing with Ben is that he speaks with such gusto and conviction that you can't help but be sympathetic, even if you think he's out of left field. But Paul Anderson's response was very gracious and he did not launch a tirade of criticism at Ben. Stan Porter also gave a good overview of discourse analysis.

Paper's I wished I been at include the session on Simon Gathercole's new book, the session on Larry Hurtado's new book, the session on Acts in the Second Century, the session on Mark and resurrection, and Danny Zacharias' paper. Sadly, sight seeing, forgetfulness, tiriedness, and tromping the book stall for too many hours got in the way.

Once more the receptions were great fun, esp. meeting up with another of the old Ph.D cands. from Uni of Queensland that I went through with, Katie Scott and her fiance Frederick, whom it was great to see again after a few years. The Sheffield and Duke receptions were great (and may I add, I was invited to both my participatings). They Scottish Universities reception was, as per most years, the best and this was the first time that HTC was among the crowd. I also find myself amidst the Hendrickson reception. Sadly, I didn't make the Yale reception. Let's just say a certain co-blogger refused to hold hands!

My papers on the Historical Jesus and Matt 8:11-12/Luke 13:28-99 and Sectarian Gospels for Sectarian Christians went well and no-one made me cry or shot me down in flames. In fact, the second paper was largely a response to Thomas Kazen who actually attended the session and offered some points of clarification of his own view.

Let me finish off my ETS-SBL musings with the two best quotes from the conference:

Lars Kierspel: "Unless you come to Jesus through the prologue you are a thief of meaning and a killer of context".

Katherine Grieb who pointed out that in the hotel in Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr. as martyred has a quote from Genesis which reads: "Here comes the dreamer. Come now, let us kill him...and we shall see what will become of his dreams(Genesis 37:19-20)."

Book purchases included:

James G. Crossley, What did Christiantiy Happen?
J.K. Elliott, New Testament Apocrypha
Arland Hultgren, The Rise of Normative Christianity
E.E. Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents
J. Ross Wagner, Heralds of the Good News: Paul and Isaiah in Concert
Brian Vickers, Jesus' Blood and Righteousness
Paul Achtemeier, Paul and the Jerusalem Church
Peter Lampe, From Paul to Valentinius: The History of Christianity in Rome in the First Two Centuries

That concludes my SBL-ETS reflections. It was good fun!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

J.G. Machen and the Virgin Birth

One of the most brilliant conservative scholars of the early 20th century had to be J.G. Machen. This was a guy who knew his primary sources and was thoroughly conversant with the leading scholarship of his day, and yet, remained steadfast in his Christian conviction. Baird is less than generous when he says that with the death of Warfield [I think] that "a double portion of the polemical spirit fell upon Machen" [or words to that effect]. Read the wikipedia article about Machen. See/Listen to John Piper's account of Machen and Modernity at Desiring God Ministries

I'm currently writing an article about the "Birth of Christ" for the Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus and was reading over Machen's book, The Virgin Birth of Christ. A couple of quotes stand out:

"[A] Christianity dependent on the so-called 'historical Jesus' is gradually giving place to a Christianity that is dependent upon no Jesus at all - a Christianity that is content to use the ethical and religious ideas contained in the Gospels without settling the question whether the person who is said to have enunciated these ideas ever really walked upon the earth." (p. 384).

"One thing at least is clear: even if the belief in the virgin birth is not necessary to every Christian, it is certainly necessary to Christianity. And it is necessary to the corporate witness of the Church." (p. 396).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Back from ETS-IBR-SBL 2006 (Part II)

Recollections continued. Ed Yamauchi's presidential address was, well, not what everyone expected. I had a good chat with Craig Keener and K.C. Hanson about the super-mega-major project which cannot yet be spoken of without the cone of silence. The last day of ETS included my late afternoon paper, "Meeting the New Perspective Half-Way" which was fairly well attended and included an overview of Romans focusing on the salvific and sociological significance of Paul's argument (see more in my forthcoming book, Paul and the Saving Righteousness of God). Late afternoon at SBL included me bumping into Paul Foster of Edinburgh and having a quick discussion about Q before finally rendezvous with Matt Montonini. We had a fine dinner followed up with IBR. Klyne Snodgrass (I love that name), gave a decent paper on the parables with a fine response from Craig Blomberg. I got to meet up with Graham Twelftree and another Aussie by the name of Doug Green, both are fine men who are part of the ever expanding Aussie biblical studies Diaspora. And everywhere I was I kept running into Preston "Twinkle when I" Sprinkle, my good friend and mate.

A major highlight of SBL was my birthday. Not only did my paper went well, but something mystical happened. For those who remember my post Things to Do at ETS - SBL I mentioned, among other things, buy Michael Bird a book from Brill for his Birthday. And some person going under the name, "Brill Team" wrote: "Mike, please pick up your free BRILL book on your birthday at our booth!" However, when you click on the link it goes nowhere. I suspected a joke and Chris Tilling, Jim West, Jim Crossley and Ben Myers were my suspects. However, my belief in the depravity of man was assuaged temporily while browsing through the Brill book stall on my birthday, the acquisitions editor Michiel Kleemans came up to me and said, "Hey, you're Michael Bird. It's your birthday. We have a free book for you. You can have any book you like." Well, after I picked up my jaw off the floor I went through several emotions: (1) Disbelief: "Wow you guys are for-real". (2) More disblief: "It wasn't a joke". (3) Humility. I wanted to prostrate myself before Michiel's feet and cry, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!". (4) Finally, Greed: "Could you please show me your most expensive book". The choice was hard, I had to choose between Porter's book on Paul's Opponents, Ehrman's essays on Textual Criticism, or Epp's collection of essays on Textual Criticism [I can hear Peter Williams and Peter Head crying out, "why didn't you take Epp you mad red head git?" - well, it was too big to take on the plane]. In the end I settled for: Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen, eds., A Companion to Second-Century Christian 'Heretics', which will come in very handy for my "eventual" project on Christian Origins and New Testament Theology.

So I wish to issue my thanks to the generosity and sense of humour of everyone at Brill for making my 32nd birthday a truly joyous and most memorable ocassion. So three cheers for Brill. Now, if I can only get Walter de Grutyer and Mohr/Siebeck to do the same next year!

Themelios Article

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I am grateful to Robert Bradshaw for putting on-line my Themelios article entitled: Should Evangelicals Participate in the 'Third Quest for the Historical Jesus'?.

Latest Issue of SBET

The latest issue of the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology includes the following volumes:

J.R. Daniel Kirk
The Sufficiency of the Cross (II): The Law, the Cross, and Justification

Oliver D. Crisp
Sin, Atonement and Representationalism: Why William shedd was not a consistent realist

Nigel Anderson
Follow Jesus: An Assessment of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Theology of Discipleship

Michael F. Bird
Is There Really a "Third Quest" for the Historical Jesus

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back from ETS-IBR-SBL 2006 (Part I)

After 29 hrs of travel, I'm back in Dingwall, catching up on classes, working through an infinite number of emails, and marking.

I'll bring up the highlights in a number of posts over the next few days. At ETS the Trinity and Gender paper went well. My basic point is that I think biblically speaking that the eternal functional subordination of the Son is correct (although it needs to be carefully constructed in order to avoid Arianism), however, I do not think it wise to use Trinitarian relations as a complete prescriptive model for male-female relations. Yes, the Trinity indicates that it is possible to have ontological equality with differences in rank; but, nothing in Genesis 1-3 indicates that rank should be determined by gender. What is more, unless your marriage consists of some bizaar love triangel with two male persons, applying Trinitarian relations to human relations is going to break down at some point. I am suspicious of the fact that most egalitarians are against functional subordination and that most complementarians are for functional subordination. I wonder if the debate has been hijacked by theological issues concerning gender. All the same, Millard Erickson, Bruce Ware, and Kevin Giles all gave interesting papers on the subject and Wayne Grudem was there to put in his two cents during question time. Ron Sider gave a top paper detailing the suffering and oppression of women around the world.

Papers on the New Perspective by Andrew Das and Don Garlington were most stimulating, although, I regret to say that I cannot follow Garlington on his use of 4QMMT where he thinks the "works of the law" are the distinctive laws of the Qumran sect. The laws seem to me to include much more than than, and include that which is good, desirable, and righteousness before God.

Of course meeting new people is always the fun part of the ETS-SBL circuit. My honour this year was meeting up with Frank Thielman whom I accidentally sent to the wrong meeting room in my error. And who could forget seeing Denny Burke (see photo of us) as well as the likable Jim Hamilton. Denny gave a good paper on “The ‘Fresh Perspective’ on Paul: A Theology of Anti-Americanism”. There was also lunch dates with Michael Pahl and Alan Bandy - both of whom are doing well - (see the photo here). I met up with my main-man, Joel Willitts, and we had lunch with Scot McKnight (and Scot is taken to speaking Italian these days). Lunch also included time with Jason Hood and Mark Booker (long live the AMiA!!).

Bruce Ware was also made Vice-President, so good for him. Also, ETS adopted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy as Chris Tilling opines in this post. All I can say is that if you are going to affirm inerrancy, then the Chicago Statement is probably the best way to go about doing it. To all critics out there, remember that ETS reached the decision democratically and the Chicago Statement has long been endorsed by institutions. Personally, I would rather see ETS define the evangel as the sine qua non of evangelicalism in conjuction with a statement on Scripture taken from one of the confessions. One can still have a high view of Scripture without using the language of inerrancy (e.g. Westminster Confession), alas, there were Christians before B.B. Warfield. What is more, I would like to forewarn many at ETS that next year my learned colleague Andrew McGowan intends to present a paper called The European Alternative to Inerrancy based mainly on the approach of Bavinck - watch this space!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ETS Day One

Like Joel I've arrived in D.C., however, my flight was significantly longer than his (Inverness - London - Raleigh/Durham - Washington). Opening day at ETS was good except that the book stalls did not open until 4.00 p.m. But I still had some good papers that I attended:

Paul Eddy - A Review of Dunn's Remembering Jesus

A.B. Caneday - The Eschatological World Already Subject to the Son - The Oikoumene of Hebrews 1.6 and the Son's Enthronement

Michael Pahl - Discerning the "Word": en logo Kuriou in 1 Thess 4.15

But the highlight was the paper by Lars Kierspel on "The Jews in the Gospel of John". This was well presented and well argued. It was a good example of evangelical scholarship at its best. Email him and ask him for a copy of it.

Another highlight of the day was meeting Brian Vickers, lecturer in NT at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book Jesus' Blood and Righteousness is out and is only $5 at the Crossway stall. Vicker's is theologically solid but also irenic in the way argues and, what is more, he is capable of actually letting the text speak for itself. Read that book.

Always good to see Stan and Wendy Porter. And Stan was quite impressed that I'd been able to write a virtual-review of his Romans commentary before he'd even submitted the manuscript. It was more of a promo than a review, but I was under the impression from Sheffield-Phoenix people that his book would be out at SBL.

I had lunch with some blogging people (Michael Pahl and Alan Bandy - Caesar Salads all around).

Also, I have new shoes and my feet are absolutely killing me!

Due to a headache and sore feet, I didn't make the other sessions that night.

My Trinity and Gender paper is tomorrow and so I'm off to rehearse that. A scholar should rehearse all of his papers to enhance his presentation.

Washington, D.C.

I just arrived into D.C. this afternoon and I am excited about a week of stimulating conversations with old friends and hopefully some new. I trust that the papers will be as stimuplating; typically, though, I am disappointed.

I usually go to ETS, but this year I have decided to attend the annual meeting of ASOR . This will be my first go at ASOR and I hope to meet people and develop relationships. I have an interest in New Testament archaeology and I hope to develop it over the early years of my career. My experience is that attending conferences is one way of doing this.

I will be attending ETS on Friday morning to hear the review of Larry Hurtado's book Lord Jesus Christ in the Synoptic Gospels section. Richard Burridge will be presenting a review of the book and I really like his stuff on genre criticism of the Gosples as well as his Four Gospels One Jesus? The latter is a phenominal introduction to the Gospels, by the way. I use it in my John course.

I look forward to presenting a paper at SBL on Sunday afternoon in the Matthew Section entitled Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King. It will be a synopsis of my Ph.D. thesis.

I hope to see some of you around.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tilling and Bauckham

Chris Tilling has a good interview with Richard Bauckham about his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Worth checking out.

Otherwise, I've arrived in DC with minimal fuss and I'm ready to engage in multiple-conference-fests!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shout with Delight

Since I'll be at SBL for my birthday, my wife gave me my presents early which consisted of a new dressing gown, a reading of Phil 2.5-11 from my daughter Alexis, a lovely card, and a copy of the CD Shout with Delight which features songs with lyrics written by Don Carson from Christway Media. Now I know that Carson is not everybody's cup of tea and not everyone likes his critique of the emergent church; but the songs are fresh, orchestrally rich, and theologically kosher! I love the CD and am grateful to my dear wife Naomi for getting it for me. Tragically, it arrived several weeks ago in the mail and as I was the one collecting the mail that day I already knew what I was getting.

Every year somehow I accidentally discover what I'm getting for my birthday. One year I went to go and buy a copy of Robert Gundry's commentary on Mark, but my wife wouldn't let me buy it and when I relentlessly pursued her as to why I could not buy it when it was heavily discounted she had to confess that she'd already bought it for me. On another ocassion she ordered a CD of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Whistle Down the Wind and the Music Store HMV phoned up to tell her that it had arrived, except that they got me instead and told me that it was in. So every year, somehow, my suprise birthday present is foiled. Better luck next year darling!

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Testament Teaching in an Urban and Multicultural Setting

This weekend North Park University is inaugurating a new President, David Lee Parkyn. As a part of the celebration the University hosted a Symposium on NPU's distinctives. Among them are the elements of Urban and Multicultural. Both topics were the subject of papers with a panel of respondents. It was great to see our own faculty and students thinking about these topics in the setting of our community. The topics proved fruitful and there was a diversity of opinions and approaches. After the presentations, I am left asking a series of questions:

  • How does an education that is in an urban setting look different than one that is in the suburbs?
  • How does an institution create engagement with the Urban community around it?
  • And more personally, how do I as a New Testament scholar inculcate urban and multiculturalism into my research, writing, and teaching?

While the answers to these questions are not easily had, one idea comes to my mind that seems to provide, at the very least, a direction, a trajectory toward the answers. The idea is "Relationship".

I think what will make my research and teaching urban and multicultural is my "encounter" with the urban and multicultural setting around my university. I will imbue urban and multicultural perspectives to the extent that I am in relationship with people who are urban and represent multi-cultures. In this way, it is not through gimmick or formula or program that will bring this about, but willingness on my part to incarnate.

But still, what are the research topics and unique pedagogy that marks a New Testament scholar engaged in an urban multicultural environment? This is still something I need to think deeply about.

Nevertheless, I think the only way North Park will fulfill its potential to be an engaged urban academic institution is as more and more of its faculty live into its unique urban and multicultural setting.