Thursday, July 29, 2010

Love Sechrest on Paul's Gospel and Race Relations

I just received a copy of Love L. Sechrest, A Former Jew: Paul and the Dialectics of Race (LNTS 410; London: Continuum, 2009), and this is what she says in her conclusion:

"Even as whites empty themselves of their privilege as an expression of interdependence and mutuality in Christ, the scandal of Paul's gospel would require that, for the sake of Christ, blacks embrace an identity that eschews a group-centered focus on social, economic, and political righteousness to a body-of-Christ-centered focus on these and other issues. Specifically, it means that Christian blacks would foreswear 'nation building' in the church as a substitute for kingdom building in the world, nation building that exchanges the gospel for the American dream. In other words, living life as if race were a matter of theology instead of skin colour means that both whites and blacks would have to live life as blood traitors, who each consider the needs of the other over their own, and the needs of Christian kinfolk above all others - no matter what their skin color. White-born and black-born Gentile Christians could only manage such selfless feats of imagination through humble acceptance of the facts of identity mentioned above. Christians no longer favor bonds of allegiance to their birth identity (Phil. 3.3-9; 1 Cor. 12.2); they are ever-conscious that they all are Gentiles who have adopted an alien history and have been transformed into an alien race (Gal. 3.26-29); and they know and live in the transformed reality that is created by God's grace and mercy (Rom. 11.17-24)."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Justification by Faith and Racism

I have a guest post over at the Institute on Justification by Faith and Racism.

See my earlier post about some issues on racism and the PCA also raised at the Institute blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First and Second Things

I came across this C. S. Lewis quote today and found it quintessentially Lewis in its fresh insightfulness.
The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping. The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication. It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman--glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens? Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made (Readings for Meditation and Reflection, pgs. 14-15).

I especially find the line about the "earlier levels" of intoxication amusing and his analogies so apt.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Daniel Kirk on the Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles

Over at Storied Theology, Daniel Kirk posts some thoughts on authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. The best discussion on that topic around was the exchange between Stan Porter and Robert Wall in BBR back in 1997.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vincent Smiles on the gospel in Galatians

Vincent Smiles writes:

In Galatians the gospel is the invasive and invincible power of God, which is presently at work in the world to complete God's plan of salvation. It is God's "call" (Gal 1:6, 15; 5:7), to which Paul and every human authority or sacred tradition are subject. The gospel is for the whole world, and its subject all humans to itself on the same terms. That is why the negative judgment on law, as on all human wisdom and philosophy (cf. 1 Cor 1:20-25), also lies at the heart of the gospel, particularly in the context of Galatians. This negative edge to the gospel is an aspect of the gospel as grace, for it is only when humanity is revealed in its utter nakedness before God that God's grace can truly be known as grace. The gospel, so to speak, clears the ground for itself; it sheds the light that simultaneously exposes and dispels the darkness of the human condition. It is the gospel, which is simultaneously judgment and grace, that enables Paul so freely to interpret the law and so radically set it aside.

Vincent M. Smiles, The Gospel and the Law in Galatia: Paul's Response to Jewish-Christian Separatism and the Threat of Galatian Apostasy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1998), 28.

Go to the Library

Dear Crossway College students, watch this clip. It explains why you should go to the library:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Software Review: Logos 4

I'm a big lover of Bible Software, indeed I am dependent upon it. I've already done a length review of BibleWorks and Joel has done a thorough review of Accordance. But now it's time to complete the trifecta and do a review Logos 4 Platinum Edition. I trialed using Logos 4 for some lecture prep on "Doctrine of God", sermon prep on 1 Corinthians, and some research on 1 Esdras.

The first big thing I should say about Logos 4 (platinum) is what you get in the library. There are some gems here:

  • Transcriptions of MSS: Phil Comfort & David Barrett, The Text of the Earliest Greek Manuscripts - including P46, 66, 52.
  • Editions of the Gk NT including: NA26, UBS4, Tischendorf and Westcott & Hort.
  • Translation of the DSS (Martini) and transcriptions of the Cairo Geniza Targumic Fragments.
  • Aramaic Papyri: A. Cowley
  • B. Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament
  • K. Aland, Synopsis of the Four Gospels
  • Lexical Resources: BDAG, EDNT, TDNT, and Louw-Nida.
  • Church History: Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers.
  • Apostolic Fathers: editions by Michael Holmes and K. Lake.
  • Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: editions by R.H. Charles
  • Texts: editions of LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate
  • E. Tov's interlinear Hebrew and Greek of the LXX
  • Reference works: Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Harper Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, The Encyclopedia of Christianity (4 vols.), The Context of Scripture (3 vols.).
  • A selection of Paternoster Biblical Monographs.
  • Full commentary series:BECNT, NIGTC, NAC, Pillar NTC.
  • Philo and Jospehus - in English but only Philo is available in Greek.
  • I should also add that there is an array of resources available on their pre-pub site that has some classics, out of print resources, new books, commentaries, and monographs.

Even better the entire library is searchable.

Second, I like the Logos interface (though it took some getting used to). I really liked the idea of typing in a biblical reference like "Revelation 22" and then being only one click away from the commentaries by Beale (NIGTC) and Osborne (BECNT) that cover those verses. Also instantaneously available are pre-written handouts, list of OT quotations in the NT, media resources, and link to sermon audios!

Third, the exegetical guide (that's a tab in Logos) includes instantaneous links to the apparatuses of critical editions, grammars, lexical info, interlinears, and more. Quite a sweet suite!

Fourth, the right-click on Greek words opens a whole host of available info including various forms, semantic domains, occurrences of the word in the NT, etc.

I found that Logos is well suited to those engaging in academic study, esp. given the sheer mass of resources in its library. But it is perhaps best suited to those doing serious Bible study, sermon prep, or preparing lessons for ministry, more so if they already have a divinity degree and need some resources and tips to help them get back into the grove of serious Bible study without a a prof to prod them along. If I had to make additions to Logos 4 it would be English and Greek editions of the NT Apocrypha, Lampe's Patristic Lexicon, and texts from Migne (though some are available for individual purchase at the pre-pub site).

J.I. Packer on Justification

Justin Taylor quotes a famous short dictionary article by J.I. Packer on justification:

“[God] reckons righteousness to them, not because he accounts them to have kept his law personally (which would be a false judgment), but because he accounts them to be united to one who kept it representatively (and that is a true judgment)”

—J. I. Packer, “Justification,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984], p. 596.

If you buy into the concept of "union" and "representation," then the notion of justification as resting on the imputed merit of Jesus Christ starts to fall apart.

Paul's Rule - David Rudolph

A year ago I published a short piece in the Evangelical Covenant denominational magazine Covenant Companion titled "Weighing the Words of Paul". There I highlighted the one rule Paul says he lays down in all his churches. The rule is found explicitly, although not exclusively, in 1 Cor 7:17-21:
Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
My good friend and professor at the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute has written a significant scholarly piece on Paul's rule that has been recently published electronically in the Journal of the Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations titled "Paul's 'Rule in All the Churches' (1 Cor 7:17-24) and Torah-Defined Ecclesiological Variegation".
I encourage you to read this importnat essay.

The "New Atheists" and the Dawkins Delusion

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Veritas Books)This past spring (Apr 11) the Chicago Tribune published an interesting (albeit troubling?) article in the called "Young and Atheist". The article was a multi-page story about the Atheists, Agnostics and Free Thinkers (AAFT) group at Northern Illinios University.

NIU is the primary target of our college ministry at Christ Community Church the university where I am college pastor. It is a university embedded in mid-western farmland with over 18, 000 undergrads plus another few thousand grads and post-grad students. The AAFT group only boasts of meetings of around 10-25 people according to the article, but it is significant that they are getting the attention of a major newspaper like the Tribune. One may be justified in thinking that the Tribune had something of an agenda in devoting so much print to a rather insignificant story. There could very well be an interest in doing more than reporting culture here. This skepticism notwithstanding, the story does raise the issue of Atheism on campuses in the US and I imagine this would true also in universities around the Western world.

The story's primary point is that atheism is on the rise among the young and educated and these are a different breed of atheist than those of a former generation. Far from being belligerent, these atheists are "kinder, gentler religious skeptics". According to the story these young atheists are more interested in joining forces with their theistic neighbors to do humanitarian work than to engage in a debate.

Truth be told, I am no apologist and I avoid debates like the plague. So I’m glad that the new atheists are not generally interested in arguments. Still, the Tribune story points to the fact that books like the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins have emboldened young skeptics to “come out” of the closet so to speak. Now I have not read Dawkins’ book, but I have read Alister and Joanna McGrath’s response to the God Delusion published this year by InterVarsity, The Dawkins Delusion? The main take away for me from this very brief book was that to many, even those who are atheists, Dawkins has written a polemical book that is both thin on evidence and shaky in its scholarly integrity. While I don’t suppose a person fond of Dawkins’ book will wish to read the McGraths, I think it is a useful read for those of us who are uninitiated in these topics.

The most disturbing point raised by the article in the Tribune was the story of a young woman whose faith in the Christian God was shaken by the “non-fiction aspects of the novels ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angles [sic] & Demons’" and by “her Internet research into world religions”. The fact that emerging adults are allowing these things to be the primary influence for their views of the Christian God is horrifying.  We as the church need to do a much greater job of communicating and providing a relevant alternative to this strong cultural propaganda.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Incident at Antioch and the Making of Paulinism

Here's a segment from the conclusion of my "Antioch" article:

In the incident at Antioch we confront the first public expression of Paulinism understood as the antithesis between Christ and Torah. This paradigmatic shift from Torah to Christ as the locus of God’s saving actions was impregnated in Paul’s Damascus road experience, publicly debuted in Antioch, unleashed with the fury of a scorned woman in Galatia, clinically applied in 2 Corinthians 3, given its mature and prudent form in Romans, and eventually lent itself towards the genesis of two competing theologies of proto-orthodoxy and Marcionism in the second century that both claimed ancestry from Paul. This Paulinism is aptly captured by Martin Hengel:

For him, the encounter with the Resurrected One near Damascus set before him the question of the law or Christ in the form of a soteriological alternative. For Judaism of that time the Torah was in manifold expression the essence of salvation, and could be identified with the fundamental religious metaphor, “life”. Since the opposition between Torah and Jesus of Nazareth had made him into a persecutor, now the relationship between Christ and Torah had to become a fundamental issue, in which the inversion of the opposition immediately because apparent: he, the Resurrected One is zwh& for those who believe (2 Cor 4:11-12; cf. 2:16).[1]

While I demur from Hengel’s treatment of the incident at Antioch for the reasons given above, I remain convinced that Hengel has tapped into the nerve of Paul’s thought and demonstrated the radical stance of Paul and the Torah that made him the controversial figure that he was. Yet this Christ-Torah antithesis needs some qualifications as I suspect that it does not mean what many Protestant commentators think it means. It does not mean that Jewish Christians should cease observing the law, nor does it mean that the Torah has nothing binding on the ethical life of Gentile Christians. Rather, the advent of Christ means that his death and resurrection has effected the end of ages and broken the link between law, sin, and death. Christ turns the condemnation of the law into justification. Christ made the curse of the law into redemption. Faith in Christ is the testimony of the law and yet faith in Christ places believers beyond the jurisdiction of the law. Christ terminates the Mosaic dispensation in order to fulfil the Abrahamic hopes. Christ serves the circumcision by making Gentiles heirs of the Patriarchs.

[1] Martin Hengel, “The Stance of the Apostle Paul Toward the Law in the Unknown Years Between Damascus and Antioch,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volumes 2 – The Paradoxes of Paul, eds. D.A. Carson, P.T. O’Brien, and M.A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), 84.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fake Reviews by Historian

BBC News reports how a leading historian who wrote anonymous reviews on the Amazon website praising his own work and criticising rivals is to pay libel damages and costs. I wonder how this could affect reviews in biblioblogdom, especially anonymous reviews of books.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Film+Theology - An Education

Orientation to the film
One reviewer calls An Education a “beguiling little film that, with deceptive restraint and forthrightness, opens up worlds of roiling [disturbing], contradictory emotions” (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post). The “near perfect cinematic experience”, An Education, is a 2009 independent British coming of age drama film.

The film was directed by Danish born director Lone Scherfig who has only directed one other English-language film: the comedic drama Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (2002) shot in Scotland. She co-wrote and directed the film.

British born Nick Hornby who has written novels and adapted them for the screen wrote the screenplay for An Education. To his credit are the films High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch. Fever Pitch incidentally was in its prior form a story about an Englishman’s obsession with the Arsenal Football Club in London. It was later adapted in the US and Jimmy Fallon played an obsessive Red Sox fan.

In this case, Horby didn’t write the story however. It was adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoir of the same name. Barber is a journalist in London and published a ten-page memoir in the literary magazine Granta in the spring of 2003 about her two-year relationship as a 16-year Oxford University bound old school girl with a thirtysomething con-man named “Simon”.

Hornby’s screenplay is to a considerable degree true to the original memoir. The film is the product of a close collaboration between Scherfig and Hornby. In an interview Scherfig admits to “touching [the screenplay] less than I ever have anything I've worked with”. And she remarks about her role as director of this film:

[I]t was about being loyal and trusting that the story would be strong enough to carry a film. If you don't do that or think that way, you probably shouldn't direct something like this. Nick is extremely orderly. There are no set-ups that don't have payoffs; everything is there for a reason, or if it's not, it's really entertaining. That's quite a good reason, too. So it's not that I just didn't want to fix things. It's also because I didn't really feel I had a right to or reason to.

The story is set in the pre-Beatles era of the early 1960’s (1961 to be exact) in the sleepy London suburb of Twickenham. Jenny Millar (played by Carey Mulligan) is a 16-year-old student preparing for University in England’s version of a prep school. She is obsessed with things French and dreams of a sophisticated life beyond the overbearing protection of her father Jack (played by Alfred Molina) whose equally obsessed with his daughter learning Latin and getting into Oxford.

One rainy day, while walking home with her cello, Jenny meets David Goldman (Peter Saargard). Her life is never the same. David introduces her to the sophisticated life she dreamed of and even after realizing his money comes by way of shady business she willingly continues to enjoy the life that he offers her.

Without giving more away, she gains an education in life that ultimately compliments her bookish education.

Here’s what Lynn Barber wrote of her experience on which the film is based:

What did I get from Simon? An Education – the thing my parents always wanted me to have. I learned a lot in my two years with Simon. I learned about expensive restaurants and luxury hotels and foreign travel, I learned about antiques and Bergman films and classical music. All this was useful when I went to Oxford – I could read a menu, I could recognize a fingerbowl, I could follow an opera. I was not a complete hick. But actually there was a much bigger bonus than that. My experience with Simon entirely cured my craving for sophistication. By the time I got to Oxford, I wanted nothing more than to meet kind, decent, straightforward boys my own age, no matter if they were gauche or virgins. I would marry one eventually and stay married all my life and for that, I suppose, I have Simon to thank.

Spiritual themes
Life Education. The film asserts that to truly learn, one must experience things personally. There are lessons that books just can’t teach you and these lessons are the most important ones. Jenny signs up willingly for the seminar in real life David offers her. She willingly embraces the curriculum of art galleries, the opera, night clubs, race tracks and international travel. What could be (perhaps should be) a stomach curling story of a sexual predator is turned into a story of a coming of age by the very able screen writer and director. And all of this is supported by Jenny’s parents and particularly her father who is, in the end, less determined that she go to Oxford than he is that she (and he) achieve an upgrade in social class.

So as you watch the film think about the education Jenny receives through her relationship with David. How does the perspective of personal experience jive with the biblical worldview?

Sexual revolution of the 1960’s. The film asserts that the radical societal changes of the 1960’s (often referred to as the “Sexual Revolution”) had positive elements and, all in all, made a positive contribution to the maturing western world. The most significant element of the changes, as illustrated in the film, was the dramatic shift away from traditional values. This change affected sexuality and sexual behavior, birthed feminism and women’s rights and was the cultural condition for the passage of the civil rights legislation.

The sexual revolution made personal freedom and the quest to find “one’s self” outside of what had been traditionally elements of adult identity—academic education, marriage and family—an obsession.

Jenny’s coming of age story is a symbol for the coming of age of the culture. The message is essentially: “Ok there were some excesses and not all aspects of it were positive, but generally we are better off having lived through it.”

To many, the sexual revolution of the 60’s paved the way for the progress of the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and beyond.

As you watch the very stylized presentation of the era, think about what contributions the societal changes made both positively and negatively.

The seduction of sophistication. One of the memorable lines in the film is Jenny’s comment that she wants to spend time with “People who know lots about lots”. This line and the story touches on a mystery of adolescence. In the quest for autonomy and the desire to have the trappings of adulthood, one of adolescence’s strongest impulses is sophistication.

As the film shows, there is something seductive about the freedom of adulthood. This sophistication is often expressed as the fantasy of relationship with older people.

As you watch the film thing about why sophistication is so seductive. What does a biblical worldview offer by way of critique of this fantasy?

“Action is character”. The film asserts at one point explicitly and throughout implicitly that what is important is not one’s words but one’s actions when it comes to knowing who a person really is.

The negative consequences (or lack of) from our past mistakes. The film presents Jenny’s exploits with David having certain consequences. Some of these are even seen as positive. However, in the end she is not all that worst for ware as she achieves her dream of going to Oxford after all. What’s more, she’s all she more mature with a wide breadth of life experience.

Barber herself however noted the negative consequences of her experience when she wrote:

But there were other lessons Simon taught me that I regret learning. I learned not to trust people; I learned not to believe what they say but watch what they do; I learned to suspect that anyone and everyone is capable of “living a lie”. I came to believe that other people – even when you think you know them well – are ultimately unknowable. Learning all this was a good basis for my subsequent career as an interviewer, but not, I think, for life. It made me too wary, too cautious, too ungiving. I was damaged by my education.

About this lack of real consequences, one reviewer commented,

In the film’s historical view Jenny is a generational pioneer, and Ms. Scherfig and Mr. Hornby make some effort to reckon the costs of her exploration as well as the thrills. Tears do flow after the Champagne is all drunk. But the filmmakers themselves seem too intoxicated by the mystique of the period to take full account of the sad, bleak aspects of the story they have to tell. At crucial moments the movie recoils from its own implications and finds a default tone of wry comedy when something more stringent and difficult is called for . . . It’s a pleasure—which I don’t mean as a compliment (A. O. Scott, NY Times).

Book Notice: Philippians & Philemon by Charles Cousar

Charles B. Cousar
Philippians and Philemon: A Commentary
NTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Available from in the USA and Alban Books in the UK.

Charles Cousar has done several works on Paul including an introduction to Paul's letters, Paul's theology of the cross, and a commentary on Galatians. This volume is a very brief but readable commentary on Philippians and Philemon that situates them both in the context of Paul's Ephesian ministry in the mid-50s.

In the introduction, Cousar is uneasy about the purported compilation theories where Philippians is made up of several letters that have been synthetically compiled into one. He thinks, with M.D. Hooker, that it easier to attribute the sudden changes in the letter to Paul himself than to an editor. On the place and date of writing, I was pleasantly surprised and glad to see that Cousar assigns it an Ephesian provenance. He is correct in that it is hard to reconcile Paul's view in Romans that he has no further work left to do in the eastern regions (Rom. 15.22-29) and hold to Paul's intent to visit Philippi after his release from imprisonment Rome (Phil. 2.24). That would mean dating Philippians 52-55 AD. Cousar believes that the primary purposes of Philippians are (1) to report on his situation in captivity to relieve the anxiety of the Philippians; (2) express gratitude for their recent gift through Epaphroditus; (3) to commend Epaphroditus to them; and (4) to encourage them to remain united in the face of opposition. On the Christ Hymn, Cousar rightly regards its purpose as an ethical exhortation to humility. He rejects a strictly Adamic reading of the hymn where Christ is another Adam who does not seek equality with God, but humbles himself as the true bearer of God's image. Cousar notes that morphe is not strictly synonymous for eikon and what Jesus grasped after seems to be something that he already had, but did not exploit, rather than something that he grasped after. He regards the passage as allowing for a "traditional reading of the preexistence of Christ". Cousar also regards Paul's boast in Phil. 3.4-6 as including his inherited credentials and achieved credentials. The soteric imagery indicates that "Being incorporated into Christ" is the vantage point from which he now sees himself. I also agree with Cousar that dia pisteos Christou can serve as a shorthand for the obedient self-surrender of Jesus. On Philemon, Cousar also assigns it to Ephesus in the mid-50s. I concur with Cousar's reconstruction of the situation that Philemon is not a runaway slave, but is an estranged slave seeking the help of his master's friend to be reconciled.

I have to say that this volume is rather terse compared to other volumes in the NTL series. It is only 106 pages long and the Philemon commentary is only five and a half pages! Though I have to say that it is an easy read, gives opinions on all the disputed matters in a concise way, and I agree with nearly all of Cousar's opinions on the critical issues. So despite its brevity, it does have some value. But there is no escaping the fact that it looks like this volume is out of place in the NTL series esp. when compared to the far more thorough volume on Colossians by Jerry Sumney. I still prefer the Philippians commentaries by Bockmuehl, O'Brien, Fee, and Hooker, but this one will sit nicely on the shelf.

American Journal of Theology

The latest issue of the American Journal of Theology is out with several interesting article. Aussie will be interested in a review of Paul Barnett's Jesus and the Logic of History by one of my doctoral students David Wenkel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Christ-exalting, Self-forgetful, Shamelessness

I had the privlege of preaching at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL this past weekend. I preached on Matthew 15:21-28, the story Jesus and the Canaanite Woman. The sermon is available to download. It's title is Christ-exalting, Self-forgetful, Shamelessness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Peter Tomson on Gal. 2.11-14

The two most persuasive cases that I've read on Gal. 2.11-14 are by Mark Nanos and Peter Tomson. Note these quotes from Tomson (pp. 222-30):

"The agreement involved mutual trust and respect: neither party would interfere with the commission of the other. Paul could expect the others not to intervene in his 'Law-free gospel' for gentiles, just as James and Peter could count on his non-involvement with their Law-abiding gospel to the Jews. This conclusion is utterly important: Paul implies here that his 'Law-free gospel' for Galatian gentiles was founded on his respect for Law-observance by Jewish Christians. All would be well as long as two separate domains remained. Problems might arise where they overlapped, or in other words, where Jews and gentiles were living and eating together, as at Antioch. Thus the question was: can Jews and gentiles eat together without endangering either the Law-observance of the former or the freedom from the Law of the latter? James' representatives apparently thought they could not, but Paul and Barnabas, as well as other Antioch Jews and Peter, thought they could. According to Gal 2:11-13 the majority of Jews of Antioch, as Peter and Barnabas and also Paul, thought it possible for Jews and gentiles to eat together without transgressing the Jewish Law."

"The conclusion is that here Paul does not urge Peter to join him again in a non-Jewish way of life. On the contrary: he urges for a Jewish life which does not force gentiles to judaize, in line with the agreement."

"If Paul really would have violated the food laws and induced others to do so in the presence of Barnabas, Peter and the Antioch Jews, he would have made the agreement [Gal. 2.1-10] null and void and his apostolate impossible."

Things to Click

Around the blogosphere:

At RBL, William Arnal reviews James Crossley's book Jesus in an Age of Terror.

Larry Hurtado announces the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins now has its own blog.

Michael Gorman reviews James Dunn's Christianity in the Making at the journal Interpretation.

Mike Koke talks about Gospel Communities and reflects on Bauckham's thesis.

Jim Allman continues his interesting series about the Lord's Supper.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tom Wright in the House of Bishops

Tom Wright gives an amusing spiel about safeguarding dissenters in the COE's recent decision to go ahead with women bishops.

HT: Rachel Marszalek

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Protest at Appointment of N.T. Wright to St. Andrews

The Scottish Sun and the Scotsman both report a Glaswegian Episcopal Priest protesting the appointment of Bishop N.T. Wright to a Professorship at St. Andrews University for his opposition to gay ordination (HT: James Crossley).

There are two ironies here:

(1) In the USA Tom Wright is regarded in some circles as the greatest threat to orthodoxy since Marcion, yet in the UK he's chastised as a traditionalist and no one gives a flying donut roll about his views of Paul.

(2) The liberal left is, well, not really liberal (i.e. generous). They talk and cry about "inclusiveness", "diversity", and "tolerance" which is their gospel, and yet they are not willing to include those who have a different vision of human sexuality, ethics, and religion than they do! And yet they have the gall to call evangelical Christians hypocrites.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

On-line Classes at Eternity Bible College

For any lay folks wanting to do on-line Bible College study, check out Eternity Bible College (which has my good friend and Aberdeen Ph.D grad Preston Sprinkle on staff). You can get a hint of what they offer from their Vimeo. Apparently it's only $125 per subject for the on-line classes.

200 copies of "Scandalous"

In our front office is 200 copies of D.A. Carson's "Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus". They were graciously donated by Crossway publishers for the forthcoming celebration of the Bible College of Queensland changing its name to Crossway College. Thanks Crossway! BCQ students and supporters should remember to register for the event taking place on the 24th of July that includes speaker Ron Sider, the launch of the alumni association, a lunch, and of course their "goodies" bag with "Scandalous" inside.

Racism in American Presbyterianism

Over at The Institute, Anthony Bradley drops some bomb shells from Peter Slade's book Open Friendship in a Closed Society: Mission Mississippi and A Theology of Friendship, that documents pro-segregationalist policies in the PCA, First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, and RTS. It ain't fun discovering that your grandaddy was a racist, but that's how it looks for some southern Presbyterians. I have no idea what recognition there has been of this soiled past in these southern Presbyterian places or if there has been any act of contrition and repentance for what went on. But if there hasn't been, then there should be. I think it would be a just and noble act if the moderator of the PCA, the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, the Presidentof the RTS all made a joint and public statement denouncing racism and pro-segregation beliefs in their institutional history. If ya think this is unwarranted, then read Bradley's other post "American Reformed Christianity: a comfortable safe haven for racists?".

I cannot resist one point. Maybe if some Reformed folks had a more biblical understanding of justification as having a horizontal element (note, not just horizontal) that recognized that God's declaration of "righteous" also creates a new people comprised of Jews, Greeks, Barbarians, Africans, Arabs, Americans in the church of God who are all one in Christ Jesus, then maybe they'd discover that justification by faith is more than a stick to bash Catholics with, it's a stick to bash racism with! But then again if you accept Peter Lillback's view of social justice as the official Reformed view of southern Presbyterian churches, i.e., it's a bad thing and church's shouldn't go around preaching against evils like racism (esp. not in its own domain), then sadly we cannot expect too much from them can we! The lesson to be learned here is that a concern for social justice does not necessarily lead to the advocation of a social gospel!

Good string of comments too in Bradley's post! Note esp. Ligon Duncan's comments that give some cause for hope!

The road to Antioch

I'm currently writing an essay for a volume in honour of Martin Hengel. The subject I've chosen is "The Incident in Antioch: The Making of Paulinism". What I take to be the formative factors and decisive events leading up to the incident in Antioch (Gal. 2.11-14) are as follows:

• Due to its devotion to a crucified messianic claimant, the Jerusalem church was under scrutiny and opposition from their Jewish compatriots. The two pogroms resulting in the martyrdoms of Stephen and James son of Zebedee show just how incendiary the church’s praxis, preaching, and proselytism proved to be.
• The period between the late 30s and late 40s CE was a tumultuous time in Palestine with Herod Antipas exiled to Gaul for stockpiling weapons, Caligula’s attempt to place a statue of himself in the Jerusalem temple prompted outrage among Jews throughout the empire, a rise in anti-Gentile sentiment and anti-Romanism, an increase in banditry in the countryside, and a series of incompetent and heavy-handed Roman governors (including the Jewish apostate Tiberius Alexander (ca. 46-48 CE).
• The acceptance of Gentile believers without the obligation of circumcision as advocated by the Jewish Christian Hellenists and then Peter.
• Peter’s ministry and movements alternated between Jewish, Samaritan, and Gentile settings and his actions in these spheres left a question mark for some hanging over Peter’s fidelity to the Torah.
• Paul’s arrival in Antioch infused further theological depth into the church of Antioch. Paul also emerged as the leader of the Antiochene mission to Jews and Gentiles and constituted the foremost defender of the Antiochene church’s stance concerning Gentiles and the Torah.
• The increase in the number Gentile believers in Antioch and in Antioch’s daughter churches in Cyprus, Cilicia, and Pamphylia.
• Active opposition from the pharisaic wing of the Jerusalem church to Jewish Christians eating with Gentiles and foregoing the necessity of Gentile circumcision for conversion. At one point they even took the initiative to try to intervene in the Antiochene church.
• Mediation between the Antiochene and Jerusalem churches by Barnabas (Greek-speaker) and by James (Aramaic-speaker) on the subject of Gentile inclusion.
• The Jerusalem council achieved a via media by finding in Scripture a justification for the inclusion of Gentiles within the church without requiring circumcision and placing upon Gentiles only the obligation to avoid idol food and sexual immorality. Yet the Jerusalem council also permitted the existence of two parallel theologies: one theology where the Gentiles were uncircumcised equals in a renewed Israel with holiness constituted by the Spirit and another theology where uncircumcised Gentiles were guests in an Israelite remnant that still defined holiness through Torah observance. The Jerusalem council’s decisions seem optimized in a setting where Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians remain in parallel rather than integrated, especially in relation to shared meals. The council did not stipulate the standard of law observance to be upheld for Eucharistic fellowship to ensue.
• The accession of James as the senior authority among the “elders” in Jerusalem. James stood in between Paul and Barnabas on the one hand and the conservative Jewish Christian members one the other hand. James sought to permit the freedom of the Antiochene churches while staving off criticism from nationalistic Jews in Jerusalem for being insufficiently loyal to Israel, the temple, and Torah.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Larry Hurtado Enters the Blogosphere

I am very pleased to announce that Prof. Larry Hurtado of Edinburgh University has entered the blogosphere. His blog has the arousing name "Larry Hurtado's Blog". Prof. Hurtado is known for his work on early christology, textual criticism, and the Gospel of Mark. The blog has uploads and links to some of Prof. Hurtado's lectures on early Christian devotion to Jesus. If I remember rightly, Prof. Hurtado is currently working on the concept of "God" in the New Testament. Add this one to your blog reader!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Hengel on the Word of Christ

I'm reading a lot of Martin Hengel now as I prepare to write an article interacting with Hengel on Gal. 2.11-14 and I found this charming quote from him:

"Christ's teaching could not be detached from his person. The word of God and the word of the Lord or Christ fundamentally became one and could be understood as both subjective and objective genitives."

Martin Hengel, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch, p. 203.

Clement of Alexandria on Women

I'm currently involved in editing a book on "Paul and the Second Century" and one of the contributors Pauline Nigh Hogan has a piece on Paul and women in the second century which makes several references to Clement of Alexandria:

“So the church is full of those [worthy of martyrdom], as well chaste women as men, who all their life have contemplated the death which rouses up to Christ. For the individual whose life is framed as ours is may philosophize without learning, whether barbarian, whether Greek, whether slave, whether an old man, or a boy, or a woman” (Strom. 4.8.58).

“That there is the same equality before the righteous and loving God, and the same fellowship between Him and all, the apostle most clearly showed, speaking to the following effect: 'Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed, so that the law became our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster' [Gal. 3:23-25]. Then he provided the saying, clear of all partiality: ‘For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is no male and female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus’” [Gal. 3:26–28] (Paed. 1.6.30–31.1).

“There are not, then, in the same Word some ‘gnostics’ and some ‘psychics’ but all who have abandoned the desires of the flesh are equal and spiritual before the Lord. And again he writes in another place: ‘For in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and we have all drunk one spirit’” [ 1 Cor.12:13] (Paed.1.6.30–31)

I don't think that Clement was necessarily in favour of ordaining women to the priesthood or episcopacy, but he does have a view of "equality" in the spiritual sphere and especially in martyrdom that stands out against Graeco-Roman views of women as ontologically inferior.

Michael Jensen - 10 Most Pressing Issues Facing Evangelical Theology

Rev. Dr. Michael Jensen has written about "The 10 Most Pressing Issues Facing Evangelical Theology" and I resonate with all of them:

1 - scripture

How is inerrancy best to be understood and expressed - if indeed it is the most appropriate and useful word to express and uphold the highest possible commitment of the authority of scripture? Can we move beyond the use of the word as line in the sand and actually articulate what we mean by it in the midst of a post-biblical culture? Can evangelicals actually have a mature discussion about this - the word itself has become a shibboleth of US evangelicalism?

2 - God

Now that the ‘openness of God’ distraction has been (in my opinion!) overcome, there still seems to be a tension between the position known as ‘classical theism’ and the more ‘biblical personalist’ position. How are the attributes of God to be addressed, then, by the biblical Christian? Does classical theism help or hinder?

3 - election
Election is always a tough one. Double or single? Have new readings of Paul made a difference to what needs to be said about Israel? What is the purpose of the doctrine of election, dogmatically speaking?

4 - the atonement
Classic evangelicalism has always stood firm on the centrality of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the propitiation of our sins. But even between those who would agree that penal substitution is an indispensable part of the Bible’s teaching on the atonement - what place does it have within the whole scope of the Bible’s teaching? How does it relate to other descriptions of the atonement in Scripture?

5 - justification

The debate between NT Wright and John Piper over imputation reveals some fault lines. Imputation seems a necessary corollary of an evangelical testimony to justification by faith. But what are its exegetical foundations? And will ‘union with Christ’ prove to be a more fruitful model to explain this teaching? (with much good work to come from Moore’s own Con Campell)

6 - anthropology

I think theological anthropology is right at the missional cutting edge, and the more thinking evangelicals can do about it the better. That is not to fall prey to the temptation to collapse theology into anthropology, or to get distracted by all kinds of anthropologically interesting byways, but to give a full and rich account of the meaning and purpose of human life lived under the hand of the God who is mindful of man (to steal from Psalm 8).

7 - sin

Sin is a corollary of the doctrine of man… Once again it is a missionally urgent task to give an articulation of sin that is as full-orbed as we can make it. This is one instance where ‘biblically faithful’ and ‘culturally aware’ are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The mute incomprehension of our contemporaries as they hear contemporary preachers talk about sin highlights the problem… The answer is not in their hearts of course. The word of God is better than we think it is.

8 - philosophy & theology

Evangelicals seem genuinely undecided about this as a group. Is philosophy good, bad, or indifferent? A friend, or a foe? Is a philosophy-less theology simply naive? or is a philosophy in addition to theology a blasphemy? What have we to say about thinking?

9 - apologetics

A connected issue, then, is that of apologetics. Ought we to do apologetics at all? Many evangelicals have invested very heavily in apologetics. But to what end? Are the models of apologetics - evidentialist, presuppositionalist (does anyone actually understand what presuppositionalist apologists are saying?) - enough for the needs of the day?

10 - church

Evangelicals have always prided themselves on being ecclesiology-lite. They have achieved far more in terms of ecumenical co-operation than other forms of Christianity as a result. Ecclesiology is secondary. However, there are numerous settings where this needs to be revisited, given the rapid realignment of denominations and the retreat of Christendom. So you see some pretty heavy church-speak from evangelicals these days: the Nine Marks ministry says some pretty particular things ecclesiology-wise. The Federal Vision movement is likewise (though very different) heavy on sacraments and covenant/church talk. This is not an isolated trend.

11 - hermeneutics

I don’t mean hermeneutics in the sense of perspectival readings etc, but in the sense of asking the question: what makes the bible a unity? In what does a richly theological reading of Scripture consist? There are some very exciting developments on this front, building on the work of a previous generation - biblical scholars now collaborating with theologians on the matter of scriptural interpretation.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Independence Day and Messianic Patriotism

This is a longer version of a reflection I gave to our church this weekend in view of Independence Day and the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

* * *
This weekend Americans all over the world are celebrating the Independence Day. We commemorate the day, 234 years ago, when our fledgling union of American colonies established their independence and became a nation. Americans are patriotic people. Go anywhere around the world and you will not find a people prouder of their national identity. It is an identity won, in the words of Winston Churchill, by “blood, toil, tears and sweat”.

American patriotism is a national pride which, to a degree, is deserved, right and appropriate. And we celebrate our country this weekend and are thankful to God for the privileges our nation affords us—especially the freedom to worship Jesus.

A number of years ago, however, I had an experience that caused me to reflect on patriotism.

My wife Karla and I were living in England at the time and there were a number of other Americans around. One year someone decided that we should throw a big 4th of July barbecue. You might not have ever appreciated this before—I hadn’t, but the Independence Day is not exactly a popular holiday in England!

About 40 of us showed up with some English friends for a traditional 4th of July celebration. About 40 of us showed up with some English friends for a traditional 4th of July celebration.
•    We grilled hotdogs and burgers and ate potato salad. 
And During our celebration someone had organized a short patriotic program.
•    We sang our country’s songs.
•    We read from our country’s foundational documents and some of the writings of our Founding Fathers.
•    We reflected on our country’s ideals and our hearts were warmed to our native land.
•    We all left with full hearts, with a renewed sense of patriotism and that intangible experience of being in the presence of people who were uncannily familiar, and this in spite of many difference—Americans from all points of the compass.

On that day in Cambridge, England, the presence of the America was tangible. The USA was heard, tasted, and experienced. We became an American outpost in an English backyard.

Since that sun afternoon in an English garden I reflected on the similarity between that experience and what we do when we gather together as a church; and not least when we come together as we are today to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus through the Lord’s Supper, the Communion.

Believers in Jesus are citizens of God’s government whose king is the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Messiah. The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (3:20) that a believer’s citizenship is in heaven from where we eagerly await the arrival of our Savior. Christians are expatriates of a foreign government—a government that will arrive in the future. Christians are people who presently reside in a foreign land no matter where they are on the earth.

When we gather to worship Jesus weekly we are outposts, enclaves, if you will, of a future kingdom which has broken into, that has stormed the present world in the work of Jesus. Like the Allied Forces invading the Normandy Beaches early on a June morning in 1944 God’s kingdom has begun to liberate this world. The Church is a station of liberation.

When we gather weekly we embody God’s foreign society on earth.
•    We sing songs celebrating our founding as a people and the ideals of the Kingdom.
•    We listen to the Bible, the foundational text of our identity as a people.
•    We reflect on the ideals of the kingdom..
•    We depart again into the foreign land with hearts full, with a renewed sense of identity and with that intangible experience of being truly understood and known.
•    And . . . we eat; we eat the meal of the kingdom, the Lord’s Supper.

Our regular gatherings and the work of the church in the world represent the tangible presence of a distant kingdom within a foreign country. This can perhaps be called  Messianic Patriotism, the patriotism inspired by Jesus’ Messianic kingdom. An infinitely more profound patriotism than that inspired by American action and ideals.

And the Lord’s Supper is a vital part of that presence no matter from what tradition one comes. For me as a Baptist, in the elements of Communion the Church looks in two directions simultaneously: backward and forward.

When partaking of the Lord’s Supper the church looks backward as it commemorates what Jesus has done for us in the giving his body, represented by the bread, and shedding his blood, represented by the cup. Jesus himself, when instituting the meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, referred to his work, represented by the bread and the cup, as establishing a new Constitution, a new Covenant.

By his death and resurrection God made it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to become his people.

The Lord’s Supper also looks forward and anticipating that future day when Jesus returns as the King and savior of the world.  On that future day, the Bible tells us he’ll hold a great banquet in celebration of his victory over evil and sin and the creative work of a new earth. Communion is a foretaste of that Messianic banquet.

So when we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are celebrating the ground, the basis, the foundation of our new citizenship, but we also are celebrating the assured hope of the future world with God in the Messianic Kingdom.

PS: HBO has been showing the mini-Series John Adams and it provides a powerful picture of the forces that led to the Declaration of Independence and its aftermath.