Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Church Membership

I've been following the recent SBC resolution about regenerate church membership. For me, the idea that a church can have a membership of 1000 and a weekly of attendance of 300 is strange because in Australia and the UK it is the opposite. You have a church with a membership of about 100 and an weekly attendance of about 150-200. Different cultures I guess.

Latest Issue of Tyndale Bulletin

The contents of Tyndale Bulletin 59.1 (2008) is:

"Old Testament Theology and the Canon"
John Goldingay

"Canon, Narrative, and the Old Testament's Literal Sense: A Response to John Goldingay"
Chirstopher Seitz

"'I Hate Them with Perfect Hatred' (Psalm 139:21-22)"
Eric Peels

"Aberrant Textuality? The Case of Ezekiel the (Porno) Prophet"
Andrew Sloane

"Conceptualising Fulfilment in Matthew"
J.R. Daniel Kirk

"Expulsion from the Syngague? Rethinking a Johannine Anachronism"
Edward W. Klink III

"The Deliverer from Zion: The Source(s) and Function of Paul's Citation in Romans 11:26-27"
Christopher R. Bruno

"John or Paul? Who was Polycarp's Mentor?"
Kenneth Berding

"The Measure of Stewardship: Pistis in Romans 12:3"
John C. Poirier


"Evil, Suffering, and the Righteousness of God According to Romans 1-3: An Exegetical and Theological Study"
Erwin Ochsenmeier

"Paul and His Contemporaries as Social Critics of the Roman Stress on Persona: A Study of 2 Corinthians, Epictetus, and Valerius Maximus"
V. Henry T. Nguyen

Written Prayers: Barth & Brueggemann

In more recent years I have loved reading and praying written prayers in the morning (something quite radical from my own anti-liturgical baptist tradition). Reading through the Book of Common Prayer has been a joy and I can add to that reading through two other books of collected prayers every morning: Karl Barth and Walter Brueggemann.

Karl Barth
Fifty Prayers
Trans. David Carl Stassen.
Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox, 2005
Available from (USA)
Available from Alban Books (UK)

In this book we get a glance, not of Karl Barth the towering theologian, but Karl Barth the Christian and the Pastor. For the Barthophobes out there (I was once one of them) there is no prayer for: "I thank you god for your non-propositional revelation, for your modalistic trinity, and for some kind of quasi-universalism that I cannot make up my mind on". These are prayers you could find on the lips of any Reformed Pastor and they are poignant and moving all at once. The prayers are based around a number of themes like Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Ascension, Funerals, etc. Consider this (# 21):

"Lord, our God, here we are gathered, before you and with one another, to celebrate Easter, the day on which you revealed your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the living Saviour who took upon himself all of our sins and, with them, all of our human poverty and even death itself, paid the penance and suffering in our place, and once for all adn forevermore conquered them all and set them all aside".

Reading this was refreshing to my soul!

Walter Brueggemann
Prayers for a Privileged People
Nashville: Abingdon, 2008
Available from (USA)
Available from Alban Books (UK)

This collection of prayers by Brueggemann is for those who live in the privileged situation of North America and it deals with issues that this privileged people face (privilege and entitlement, injustice and violence). The prayers cover a number of areas: collect for purity, well-arranged lives, the world is not safe, brick production, can we risk it?, and choirs of hope. All of the prayers have a poetic rather than prose quality about them. I have to say that many of the prayers are oh-soooo-american it's not funny, e.g. prayers for "Super Bowl Sunday" and "The State of the Union". Indeed, to some extent, the book could be regarded as one long prayer of repentance for American affluence and arrogance! Consider this Christmas prayer:

And while we wait for the Christ Child,
we are enthralled by the things of Caesar -
money ... power ... control
and all the well-being that comes from
such control, even if it requires violence

But in the midst of the decree will come this long-expected Jesus
innocent, vulnerable,
full of grace and truth,
grace and not power,
truth and not money,
mercy and not control.

We also dwell in the land of Caesar;
we pray for the gift of your spirit,
that we may loosen our grip on the things of Caesar,
that we may turn our eyes toward the babe,
our ears towards the newness,
our hearts toward the gentleness,
our power and money and control
towaard your new governance.

I don't expect Joel Osteen or the chaplain to the GOP to pray this one in the near future. I did not enjoy Brueggemann's book of prayers as much as Barth's, but it does have some good and stirring stuff at points. It also makes us think how our western affluence and privilege should effect our devotional and liturgical life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Calvin: Justification, Union with Christ, and Good Works

In reading Calvin on Rom. 3.22, I found this:

‘Faith is therefore said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is communicated to us. When we are made partakers of Christ, we are not only ourselves righteous, but our works are also counted righteous in the sight of God, because any imperfections in them are obliterated by the blood of Christ. The promises, which were conditional, are fulfilled to us also by the same grace, since God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by our free pardon.’


1. It seems to me that for Calvin, union with Christ is logically prior to any act of imputation (in contrast, I think, to Michael Horton and Bruce McCormack who I believe argue vice-versa, namely, that union is based on imputation - others can enlightenment me if that is indeed the case).
2. In union with Christ, good works, actually become good. Here we have, I think, a link between justification and works that can make better sense of passages like 2 Cor. 5.10 and Rom. 14.10, etc. Here is the tension I find in Calvin's thought: (a) He rejects justification based on the gift of faith and renewal of the Spirit, (b) He rejects justification based on works of the law = moral effort, but (c) He grants that in Christ God can "reward" good works. Although what he means by reward is not spelled out.

Interview with Charles Cranfield

Over at Dunelm Road, Ben has an excellent summary of conversations over afternoon tea with C.E.B. Cranfield.

Blogging through SROG

Over at Christians in Context: From Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy, Jeffrey Bruce is blogging through my book The Saving Righteousness of God (SROG) which I've promised to interact with. In his first installment he says some incredibly nice things about me, and then takes an underhanded dig at my like for the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Jeff, thanks for the compliments, but I'll respond to your jibe by asking this:

Q: What is the difference between America and a tub of yoghurt?

A: If you leave of a tub of yoghurt for 200 years it will develop a culture!

Otherwise, he also has a summary of the first chapter of the book here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Martin Bucer on Rom. 2.13

Indebted to T.H.L. Parker, I was introduced to Martin Bucer's handling of Romans 2.13 which I summarize as follows:

Bucer identifies a ‘tacit irony’ (123a) directed against the Jews who presupposed their advantages but did not translate hearing the Law into practice of the Law. But the statement of 2.13 can be taken at face value because, for Bucer, the ‘doer’ of the Law is one who has a regenerate heart. The logic of Bucer’s argument is that those who do the Law in 2.13 are those who are genuinely ‘doers’ of the works of the Law and it is according to works that God will judge humanity. But to do the Law means to devote one self seriously to what the Law commands and not merely to perform some of the actions demanded by the Law. This can be done only by those who truly believe in the Lord. For Bucer, the actual deeds performed are not those of the believer, but the works of Christ in us! This is not simply Christ inspiring works of Law, rather, believers are justified by the merits of Christ (i.e. Christ’s life, death, and obedience) which become ours through union with Christ by faith. He writes: 'God saves us of his pure mercy and by contemplating the merit of Christ, which is given to us and becomes our own we believe in Christ. For the deeds [of the Law] according to which God justifies us … are Christ’s works in us, given with him, out of a sheer and gratuitous benevolence of God. So the goodness of God is always, per se, the first and complete cause of our salvation’ (129b).

Two comments:

1. It appears that in the early days of the reformation Rom. 2.13 was handled in basically three ways: (a) reconciled with Medieval catholic view of merit, grace, and penance (e.g. Cajetan, Sadoleto); (b) treated it as a hypothetical statement (e.g. Melanchthon, Calvin); or (c) God works his works in the believer through the works of Christ (Bucer).

2. When I read this, I automatically thought of Mark Seifrid's excellent lecture on Justification by Faith at SBTS in 2000 which is evidently Bucerian!

Early English Translations and the Pistis Christou Debate

For my "Romans in the Reformed Tradition" course, I begin each lecture by displaying the English translations of Romans by Tyndale and the Geneva Bible. I am embarrassed to say that I've never yet consulted these translations as part of the pistis christou debate in Pauline studies. I was intrigued, then, when I read their translations of Rom. 3.22:

Tyndale: The rightewesnes no dout which is good before God cometh by the fayth of Iesus Christ vnto all and vpon all that beleve.
Geneva: To wit, the righteousnesse of God by the faith of Iesus Christ, vnto all, and vpon all that beleeue.

I should hardly be surprised since the good ol' KJV is identical here and this underscores that early English translations decidedly maintained the ambiguity of the genitive (the same follows in Gal. 2.16).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On-Line Lecture by Robert Jewett on Romans and the New Perspective

An online version of a lecture by Bob Jewett on Romans and the New Perspective can be found at the Australian College of Theology website. I won't bother summarizing it, suffice to say, Jewett's view is that a sharper sociological perspective renders many of these debates obsolete. It's a good lecture, controversial in its interpretation at points, but well worth listening to. 

Peter Jensen Interviewed on GAFCON

Over at CT, Peter Jensen (Archbishop of Sydney) is interviewed about GAFCON.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Witherington on authorship of 2 Peter

Ben Witherington in his recent book on 1-2 Peter argues that 2 Peter is clearly dependent upon Jude (following R. Bauckham, D. Watson, and M. Gilmour [pp. 260-72]). He surmises that 2 Peter is a composite document based on genuine Petrine testimony (2 Pet. 1.12-21), Jude, and interaction with Paul's letters. According to Witherington, 2 Peter exhibits a form of grandiose Asiatic Greek rhetoric and he considers it unlikely that a fisherman had picked up such "bookish Greek" and there is no reference to an amaneuensis being used. 2 Peter is a truly "catholic" letter in that it is an attempt at mass communication to all Christians in the empire. Witherington is quick to add that 2 Peter is not a pseudepigraphon and he rejects Bauckham's view that 2 Peter follows the "testament" genre. Witherington urges a way beyond the impasse of Petrine vs. pseudepigraphal: "But it is equally surprising that many scholars today do not seem to realize that there are other options besides declaring this document to be a pseudepigraphon or a letter composed by Peter himself" (p. 269). Unlike the pseudepigrapha, 2 Peter has no special axe to grind and no unique doctrine to promulgate. He concludes that: (1) 2 Pet. 1.12-21 (and perhaps 2 Pet. 3.1-3) must be seen as the testimony of Peter passed on orally at Rome before his martyrdom; (2) It uses Jude and is good Hellenistic rhetoric but not bombastic; (3) we should see 2 Pet. 3.3-11 as a summary of apostolic teaching written in asiatic Greek; (4) It is likely that this document was written up after Peter's (and Paul's?) death by someone in the Petrine circle, a colleague, probably not an understudy. Witherington gives tacit approval to Baukham's suggestion of Linus the second bishop of Rome (2 Tim. 4.21; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.13, 21). Thus: "Second Peter is a composite document that draws on material from both Peter and Jude, two earlier apostles, and reflects some knowledge of Paul as well. It bears neither the form nor character of a pseudepigraphon, and since it includes some genuine Petrine material, it is understandably attributed to tis first and most famous contributor' (p. 271).

On a side note, I had a wry smile on my face when I read the CT interview with Tom Schreiner concerning his recent NT Theology (which looks like a very fine book indeed). When asked about possible objections to his volume,  Tom replied: "Peter affirms Paul's writings as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Of course, the standard view in critical scholarship is that Peter did not write 2 Peter, but I argue in my commentary on that letter that there are solid grounds for affirming Petrine authorship. At the end of the day, those who think the NT contradicts itself buy into a philosophical worldview opposed to the NT message. Adolf Schlatter rightly observed that too many do NT scholarship from atheistic presuppositions." The irony is that Schlatter himself did not believe in Petrine authorship of 2 Peter! Go ye and read the end of his book The Theology of the Apostles.

Whatever one's view of 2 Peter, this all makes for good conversation over a bottle of Spanish vino!

Friday is for Ad Fontes

In reading over the Acts of Andrew (probably Encratic rather than Gnostic) I found these quotes:

Andrew laid his hand on Maximilla and prayed as follows, "I Pray to you, my God, Lord Jesus Christ, who knows the future, and I entrust to you my child, the worthy Maximilla. May your word and power be mighty in her, and may the spirit that is in her struggle even against Aegeates, that insolent and hostile snake. O Lord, may her soul remain forever pure, sanctified by your name. In particular, protect her, O Master, from this disgusting pollution. With respect to our savage and unbearable enemy, cause her to sleep apart from her husband and wed her to her inner husband, whom you above all recognize, and for whose sake the entire mystery of your plan of salvation has been accomplished. If she has such a firm faith in you, may she obtain her own proper kinship through separation from those who masquerade as friends but are really enemies.' (16).

'O Maximilla my child,' Andrew replied, 'I know that you have been moved to resist any proposition of sexual intercourse and wish to be disassociated from a foul and filthy way of life. For a long time this conviction has dominated my thinking, but still you want me to give my opinion. I bear witness, Maximilla: do not commit this act' (27).

Note to self: I shall have to ask the wife if marital relations are really that bad! (Don't anyone answer that!!!).

Mark Driscoll on Denominations

I have long been aware that we are living in a post-denominational age. I think Driscoll is right and that networks (local or international) have displaced denominational loyalties for many.

The Theme of Romans: Calvin, Barth, and Wright

Contrast the following commentaries on Romans and their conclusion on Rom. 1.16-17:

Calvin: "We have now the principal point or the main hinge of the first part of this Epistle, that we are justified by faith through the mercy of God alone. We have not this, indeed as yet distinctly expressed by Paul; but from his own words it will hereafter be made very clear that the righteousness, which is grounded on faith, depends entirely on the mercy of God" (p. 29).

Barth: "Where the faithfulness of God encounters the fidelity of men, there is manifested His righteousness. There shall the righteous man live. This is the theme of the Epistle to the Romans" (p. 42).

Wright: "Romans has been thought of for centuries as the letter in which Paul expounds his doctrine of ‘justification by faith’. This half-truth has opened up some aspects of the letter and concealed others. As will become clear, the theological content of this substantial opening section contains ‘justification by faith’ within it by implication, but this is not the stated theme of the letter. The theme is, to repeat once more, the revelation of God’s righteousness, God’s covenant faithfulness, God’s justice, in and through the gospel proclamation of the crucified and risen Messiah … but this letter has announced itself as a treatment, not so much of humans, their plight and their rescue (though all of that has its proper place), but of God – God’s gospel, God’s righteousness. We will not understand Romans unless we grasp this from the outset and remember it throughout" (p. 426).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anglican Conference in Jerusalem

I think I could provide an interpretation of what is happening at GAFCON in Jerusalem by a quote from the musical Brigadoon:

"I'm leavin Brigadoon. 'Tis the end of all us. The miracle's over".

The GAFCON booklet, The Way, the Truth, and the Life is available for download.

Why write a Commentary - Calvin's View!

When time allows I'm working through Colossians which is rip roaring fun. In the mornings I'm reading through a plethora of Reformed commentaries on Romans and preparing class notes for August. I was much inspired by Calvin's justification for writing another commentary on Romans despite the fact that Melanchthon, Bullinger, and Bucer had done so recently as well. This is what Calvin had to say: ‘Since so many scholars of pre-eminent learning have previously devoted their efforts to explaining this Epistle, it seems unlikely that there is any room left for others to produce something better … It will, however, I hope, be admitted that nothing has ever been so perfectly done by men that there is no room left for those who follow them to refine, adorn, or illustrate their work. I do not dare to say anything of myself, except that I thought that the present work would be of some profit, and that I have been led to undertake it for no other reason than the common good of the Church’. I'm certainly glad he did!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

John Calvin an Evangelical?

For sundry and various reasons, I was rummaging through Theopedia and read an article on John Calvin. It seemed alright until I read this part: "Calvin converted from Roman Catholicism to evangelicalism, and subsequently became an informal leader to other Paris evangelicals."

Theologians debate what evangelicalism is. Sociologists debate who is an evangelical. Church Historians debate when evangelicalism formally began. I know some scholars see evangelicalism as an upshot of the union of revivalism and pietism in the aftermath of the Great Awakening in the USA. Although I must point out that a recent volume has argued that nearly all of the evangelical distinctives go back to the Reformation (i.e. the elements of Bebbington's quadrilateral). That said, I cannot bring myself to call Calvin an "evangelical" since it sounds so blatantly anachronistic. I think Calvin's style of worship would be very "high church" and I doubt that Calvin held to a Warfieldian definition of inerrancy (from memory, Richard Muller argues quite cogently that Calvin's doctrine of Scripture is straight out of medieval catholicism, differing in many places of course, but mainly over the role of the magisterium and tradition). To talk about evangelicals in Paris in the 1530s is kinda like talking about the emergent church in New York the 1830s. Surely it is better to say that Calvin joined the Protestant cause or became a religious Reformer at this moment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Notice: Words and the Word

Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Literary Theory
Edited by Jamie A. Grant and David G. Firth
Nottingham: Apollos, 2008
Available from

My colleague, Jamie Grant, is co-editor of this volume featuring essays by Grant R. Osborne, S.D. Snyman, Richard S. Briggs, Jeannine K. Brown, David Firth, Jamie Grant, Peter M. Phillips, and Terrance R. Wardlaw, Jr. It looks like a good selection of essays for those interested in literary approaches to biblical literature.

Monday, June 16, 2008

CT on Schreiner

Tom Schreiner is interviewed by CT about his new book on NT Theology. Some good stuff here including Schreiner's justification of his thematic approach and how a NT Theology can edify the church. Importantly, Schreiner also testifies to G.E. Ladd's influence on his understanding of biblical eschatology.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Around the Blogs

Blogging is slow this time of year with marking papers and getting ready for next academic year. Here's the highlights from this week of biblioblogdom as I see it.

Tim Brookins has a great post in Infallible vs. Inerrant.

Justin Taylor makes reference to an interesting JETS article on the Christian and the Law of Moses (a little too much discontinuity for my liking, but some good stuff there).

IMonk spends five fours with Scott Hahn.

Book Review: A Place at the Table by John A. D'Elia

John A. D'Elia
A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America
Oxford: OUP, 2008.
Available at OUP in the UK and US
Available at

I first read G.E. Ladd in seminary where his excellent NT Theology was mandatory reading for NT 101 and Ladd also convinced me of the coherence and persuasiveness of historic pre-millennialism (despite my dispensational theology lecturer). John A. D'Elia has done a service in providing a biography of one of the most important biblical scholars in North American evangelicalism in the second half of the twentieth-century. The rehabilitation of evangelical biblical scholarship in America is very much indebted to G.E. Ladd. But Ladd's story is a complex one as it is a tragic one as well. His attempt to refute dispensationalism which he saw as a threat to the intellectual credibility and theological charity of evangelicalism was largely a success, but his attempt to gain the respect of non-evangelical scholars (in his view) failed and made him a bitter and twisted alcoholic. D'Elia provides a biography that merges together Ladd's academic career and personal life with great effect and detail.

Chapter one covers "Early Life and Academic Preparation (1911-50)" which details Ladd's troubled family life and his conversion by the sermon of a female preacher in a methodist church. As a child he was tall and thin and nicknamed "freak" due to his statue. D'Elia covers Ladd's early study at the irenic Gordon College, his marriage to Winifrid (aka "Winnie"), his initial pastoral ministry, and draw to an academic profession. Ladd had a hard time finding entrance into a graduate school but after a prolonged search with much rejection he was finally accepted at Harvard University where he studied under the famed Henry Cadbury. During this period, Ladd began to distance himself from dispenationalism climaxing in his Ph.D thesis on the eschatology of the Didache. Ladd eventually ended up at Gordon College before coming to Fuller where a new chapter in his life began.

In chapter two, "The Emergence of a Strategy (1950-54)", D'Elia marks out Ladd's maturing as a scholar and his aim to engage the non-evangelical world. Ladd's son Larry suffered from cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) which adversely affected his physical and mental development. According to D'Elia, Ladd's strategy was to aim for an erudite level of scholarship rarely seen in evangelicalism, express modern biblical criticism within the boundaries of a conservative theology, and to distance himself from dispensationalism by critiquing its origins and foundations. John Walvoord remained a long time nemesis of Ladd concerning his critique of dispensational theology. Ladd did his best to avoid the RSV controversy (although I learned that several members of the translation committee were investigated during Joseph McCarthy's search for communists).  This period was one of consolidation for his time at Fuller.

"Old Battles and Partial Victories (1954-1959)" is covered in chapter three. Dispensationalism remained a hot topic even among the Fuller faculty and especially through Charles Fuller, although Dan Fuller was more clearly on Ladd's side theologically. The dispensational controversy came to a head at Western Seminary were the faculty was decimated by the issue (only in America!).  Ladd constantly urged that matters of eschatology be treated with a degree of charity and liberty and himself claimed that: "My hope for the future is not a millennium, it is the Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 9). Building on his first book Crucial Questions about the Kingdom in another book The Blessed Hope Ladd made a further critique of the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture. It was also during this time that evangelicalism, centred around Billy Graham and Christianity Today, emerged from the separatist fundamentalist movement. But at this time there were indications that Ladd was abusing alcohol and his behaviour was often becoming unseemly in purportedly making unwanted advanced towards a student's wife. Ladd undertook a sabbatical in Heidelberg and was elected to SNTS after being nominated by F.F. Bruce and Henry Cadbury.  While there was some opposition to his nomination, Matthew Black pointed to the high quality of Ph.D candidates from Fuller studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Ladd was intellectually developing and he started exploring Martin Kahler's distinction between historie and history and Cullmann's Heilsgeschichte, but D'Elia's view is that Ladd's premillennialism remained a hindrance to his full acceptance in broader academic circles (p. 89). 

Chapter four covers, "Beyond the Borders (1959-93)," Ladd began his magnum opus on "Jesus and the Kingdom" and persuaded Harper & Row to publish it. However, his drinking became more heavier and during a sabbatical in Germany D'Elia says that Ladd "sampled some of the city' s tawdrier attractions" (I'm afraid to ask what that means) (p. 94).  Ladd also started reading Bultmann and to think through the issues that he raised. Ladd's reaction to Bultmann was not entirely negative, but hardly embracing.  The choice of David Hubbard as President of Fuller meant the victory of the progressives at Fuller and D'Elia points out that Ladd and Paul Jewett wanted to replace "inerrancy" with "infallibility" as the seminary's statement of faith. But the election of Hubbard gave Ladd a sense of security in light of criticisms of him from Walvoord at DTS and John Warwick Montgomery at ETS.

In chapter five, "The Costs of Engagement (1963-66)" we begin to see the end of Ladd's attempt to be accepted by a wider strand of biblical scholarship. Ladd spent ten years researching and writing a book on the Kingdom of God which he hoped would put him in the limelight outside evangelicalism. Many of the reviews of the book were positive, but Norman Perrin of Chicago University was absolutely scathing, and this haunted Ladd for the rest of his life and he believed that he had failed to be taken seriously by non-evangelical academics and he henceforth abandoned any attempt to write academic works for a broader audience ever again. But as D'Elia points out there are striking parallels between Ladd and Perrin, both were former baptist pastors and both were determined to make up for their background by excelling in their profession. I also learned that Perrin called Cullmann's Heilsgeschichte "Bullgeschichte". Ladd became despondent and called himself "an academic failure" and "a scholarly wipeout" (p. 140). How tragic that one review could so turn a man against himself and his own work! Ladd's alcohol problem worsened and his marriage deteriorated further. During a sabbatical in Germany he visited a psychiatrist on a US Army based and was recommended that he abandon his Christian faith (p. 144). Ladd was a broken man believing that he had been humiliated by Perrin.

Chapter six covers, "Surrendering the Quest (1966-82)" and D'Elia narrates the final stages of Ladd's life that, though productive with five books, was typified by emotional, physical, and spiritual disintegration.  Ladd considered divorcing his wife and even brought up the possibility with David Hubbard. By now Fuller was a megaseminary and Ladd had an immense reputation in evangelicalism. His alcohol abuse was no longer a rumour but a well known fact at Fuller and he even appeared inebriated at the funeral of a faculty member (p. 161).  D'Elia rightly asks as to why Ladd was allowed to remain on staff and hints that it was probably the desire to avoid bringing the seminary into disrepute (p. 163). Even Robert Guelich, who was like a surrogate son to Ladd, bore the brunt of his scorn on at least one occasion.  Ladd blamed others for his situation: "His wife was frigid, his children were disappointing, and other theologians were too critical" (p. 165). Ladd finally retired in 1976, Winnie died in 1977 which shook him greatly with much guilt, and he and his soon could be seen staggering around Pasadena drunk (p. 171).  Ladd's health deteriorated and he died in 1982 after being in a semi-conscious state for two years from complications with pneumonia. 

Overall, D'Elia's treatment of Ladd is sympathetic. D'Elia concludes that Ladd was a pivotal evangelical figure in the post-war period. I loved the reference to Dan Fuller who reportedly said that in 2000, Dallas Theological Seminary had finally caught up to where Ladd was in 1955 (p. 181). D'Elia concludes: "Ladd's scholarly work was not groundbreaking in the broader academic world - the audience to whom his major work was directed - but it functioned as such for the subculture from which he wrote, and this is another of his lasting achievements. Nearly four decades before a new generation of evangelicals could lament the scandal of the evangelical mind and propose the outrageous idea that scholarship could be distinctively Christian, Ladd bet his reputation and professional life on both of these ideas. That he was largely unsuccessful in his own time is beside the point. He set a standard that later evangelical scholars would have to reach or exceed if their work was to find acceptance in the broader academy. Generations of highly regarded evangelical scholars owe an unpaid debt to George Ladd for opening doors to them at the highest levels of academic discourse, and making possible their place a the table" (p. 12).

What a read! For me, Ladd's failings in self-discipline, marriage, fatherhood, ethics, personal relationships, and as a colleague were many; but in his quest to gain the respect of non-evangelicals he never seems to have contemplated abandoning evangelicalism or his deeply personal faith. This is the one deficiency I see in D'Elia's narration of Ladd. Ladd did not go the "liberal" track like others of his day (Norman Perrin is the obvious counter-point to Ladd here). Though he would sacrifice family and friends for the sake of courting the admiration of others, never did Ladd contemplate abandoning evangelicalism in order to acquire a place at the table. For that reason, he should at least be admired, especially when many of our own day (for often complex and sundry reasons) have jettisoned their evangelicalism. 
If I may make an unguarded personal note, Ladd's biography is disturbing for many of us who have used academic success as a means to compensate for feelings of inadequacy and inferiority from our childhood or adolescent years. Drive, ambition, and its accompanying successes may dull the memories of one's painful past and cruel tormenters, but they are an insufficient basis for self-esteem and self-identity. D'Elia's portrait of Ladd reminds me of the American from the musical Chess. The American (characterized after Bobby Fischer) is a brilliant, relentless, and self-consumed chess playing champion. Yet his story is only understood in light of his tragic childhood. The ruthless pursuit of success is entirely driven to validate his otherwise fragile personality and lingering insecurity. This is encapsulated in the song, "Pity the Child" and particularly touching is the line: "pity the child with oh so such weapons, no defence, no escape from the ties that bind". Ambition and success are weapons that can embarrass one's former adversaries, but they can also consume, control, and destroy the person and the people that they love the most. Perhaps then we should "pity" Ladd in this way. Success is the best revenge, but success is equally a narcotic that is addictive and destructive. Scholarship itself can be one of the illicit substances of success.  While faith can drive scholarship, scholarship can never be a substitute for faith.  It is great to be a man of words, but not if our walk does not match up to them. Evangelicals should remain thankful to Ladd (and to D'Elia for this impressive biography) because he ably refuted the hermeneutics of a crass dispensationalism,  he challenged the militancy with which dispensationalism was held in some establishments as a test for orthodoxy, he wrote a brilliant  A Theology of the New Testament which has influenced countless pastors and scholars, he championed of Heilsgeschichte, he wrestled with the relationship of faith and history, and he paved the way for evangelicals to enter the fray of modern biblical scholarship beyond their own constituency. His efforts impacted the scholarly maturing of evangelicalism by combining missionary fervour, faithfulness to biblical teaching, and a willingness to subject the relevant texts to critical analysis with a view to joining a wider academic discussion. Viewed this way, Ladd's personal tragedy is, I believe, eclipsed by the positive impact that he had upon evangelicalism as a whole, and all who follow after him in some respect stand on his fallible shoulders.

D'Elia has written a superb biography of Ladd, I had trouble putting it down, it is clear, well-sourced, and succinct (and those who knew Ladd personally are probably the best to arbitrate on his accuracy). This volume is necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand how evangelicalism emerged from the separatist shadows of the 1950s in America and how it eventually won a place at the table of modern academia. I commend this book also to evangelical scholars so as to be reminded that the best of men are men at best. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

SBL Draft Programme On-Line

A draft of the programme for the SBL Boston meeting is now on-line.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Festschrift for Michael Lattke

During my time at the University of Queensland I had the pleasure of getting to know Prof. Michael Lattke and frequently played tennis with him. I'm glad to say that on the occasion of his retirement Prof. Lattke has been presented with a Festschrift by former students and colleagues celebrating his work (esp. on the Gospel of John and the Odes of Solomon).

“I Sowed Fruits into Hearts” (Odes Sol. 17:13). Festschrift for Professor Michael Lattke

Edited by Pauline Allen, Majella Franzmann, and Rick Strelan.
Early Christian Studies 12 (Sydney: St. Paul’s Publications, 2007), xx + 250 pp

The title of this wide-ranging collection of essays in German and English summarises the scholarly work of Professor Michael Lattke across two hemispheres. Offered to him on the occasion of his retirement from the University of Queensland, this volume reflects the breadth of erudition for which he has acquired his international reputation. The Odes of Solomon, which figure largely in Professor Lattke’s research, are well represented here, and so too is the Gospel of John, which was the subject of his early research. However, the tributes of his colleagues and former students in this book range further — to other New Testament writings, Intertestamental works, Nag Hammadi, Gnostic, and Syriac studies, and the field of Patristics.

I should mention that Lattke's work on Odes of Solomon is going to be translated into English and published in the Hermeneia series.

Biography of G.E. Ladd

I'm hoping to read George Beasley-Murray's biography some day soon (if anyone has a copy let me know). But I've just learned about this biography about G.E. Ladd:

John A. D’Elia has written critical biography of George Eldon Ladd entitled, A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. Here is the description from the Oxford University Press website:

George Eldon Ladd was a pivotal figure in the resurgence of evangelical scholarship in America during the years after the Second World War. Ladd’s career as a biblical scholar can be seen as a quest to rehabilitate evangelical thought both in content and image, a task he pursued at great personal cost. Best known for his work on the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, Ladd moved from critiquing his own movement to engaging many of the important theological and exegetical issues of his day. Ladd was a strong critic of dispensationalism, the dominant theological system in conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism, challenging what he perceived to be its anti-intellectualism and uncritical approach to the Bible. In his impressive career at Fuller Theological Seminary, Ladd participated in scholarly debates on the relationship between faith and historical understanding, arguing that modern critical methodologies need not preclude orthodox Christian belief. Ladd also engaged the thought of Rudolf Butlmann, the dominant theological figure of his day. Ladd’s main focus, however, was to create a work of scholarship from an evangelical perspective that the broader academic world would accept. When he was unsuccessful in this effort, he descended into depression, bitterness, and alcoholism. But Ladd played an important part in opening doors for later generations of evangelical scholars, both by validating and using critical methods in his own scholarly work, and also by entering into dialogue with theologians and theologies outside the evangelical world. It is a central theme of this book that Ladd’s achievement, at least in part, can be measured in the number of evangelical scholars who are today active participants in academic life across a broad range of disciplines.

George Marsden says, “George Ladd was arguably the leading ‘new evangelical’ biblical scholar in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. He was also a person whose life and work were filled with intriguing tensions and contrasts. John D’Elia tells this poignant and fascinating story well.”

HT: In Light of the Gospel

Oldest Church Found in Jordan

The BBC has the news on the discovery of a church unearthed in northern Jordan that appears to be dated around 33-70 AD. If this is the case, then it is a big deal, it could mark the site of Jewish Christian refugees from Jerusalem; of course, the jury is still out on this one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Faithful in Colossae

I'm working my way through Colossians (translation and commentary) and I'm convinced that a number of the references to pistis should be translated as "faithfulness" rather than "faith". Consider the following:

1. Pistos as "faithful"
  • Colossians 1:2 - To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
  • Colossians 4:7, 9 - Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant1 in the Lord ... and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
  • Colossians 1:7 - just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.
This is the standard adjectival use of pistos, but it is prominent in describing members of the Pauline circle. The Colossians are also lauded as "faithful" and I wonder if much of Paul's instruction is going to hedge up this point in light of the Colossian "philosophy".

2. Pistis as "faithful"
  • Colossians 1:4-5 - since we heard of your faithfulness in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel. This could be "faith" but the surrounding description clearly sees the faith as something that is or becomes displayed in action, i.e. in love.
  • Colossians 1:23 - if indeed you continue in faithfulness, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Again "faith" does make sense here, but the surrounding description sounds far more like "faithfulness".
  • Colossians 2:5-7 - For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faithfulness in Christ. Same as above, "faith" could work, but "faithfulness" seems supported by the context.

3. Pistis as "faith" or "believing"

  • Colossians 2:7 - rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
  • Colossians 2:12 - having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
These seem to be clearer expositions of faith as the act of believing (2.12) or that which is believed (2.7).

What does this mean: Colossians is not simply about right doctrinal belief, but about a life lived in faithfulness to the Lord under adverse circumstances. It is also about ministers of the gospel remaining faithful to their calling. It evidently does include a reference to believing and that which is believed, even if that does not become the primary focus.

Ranting Against Christians

David Marr's long article/rant/manifesto against orthodox Christians in the Sydney Morning Herald comes about as close as citing hatred against Evangelical Anglicans as one can imagine. It's an interesting read if you want to understand: (1) why the left-wing intelligentsia hate orthdox Christians, and (2) the current dynamics in the world Anglican communion. Of course, we shouldn't really be surprised at this; if you fail to bow the knee at the pantheon of pluralism, postmodernism, and pansexuality, this kind of talk is always gonna happen.

Update: Here's my response to Marr:

David Marr's article: "Archbishop says No" was one-sided and disappointing. What I found objectionable were:

(1) He mentions the protest of the Fred Phelps group at Gene Robinson's ordination as a bishop. They reportedly yelled out: '"Fag Church, Fag Gospel", "Thank God for September 11", and "AIDS is God's Curse".' Fine, I really dislike them as well, but they are hardly representative of any or all "evangelical" Christians (in Sydney, Nairobi, or the USA). Marr was tacitly linking this kind of hate mongering with the views of the Sydney Anglican diocese and made no attempt to differentiate them from one another. The Phelps group is extremist not mainstream.

(2) Marr omits the Lambeth Resolution of 1998 where the world Anglican communion accepted the historic and orthdox Christian teaching on sexuality. For all his tirade against Jensen for seeking schism, it was the Americans who acted unilaterally and violated the resolution. So who's the schismatic now? What is more, the former TEC primate Frank Griswold told the Anglican Primates that he would not consecrate Gene Robinson given their objections, and then he went ahead and did it anyway. Talk about duplicity, but Marr didn't mention that one either. In light of this, is it fair to insinuate that a schism is the fault of Jensen and Akinola and their narrow brand of Christianity?

I understand Marr's dislike of orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality, I don't agree, but I genuinely understand. But one would expect a journalist to try to understand someone on their own terms without resorting to this kind of pot shot journalism. I got the feeling that his intent was no so much to report the facts (some of which were disorted [Phelps] or missing [Lambeth Resolution]) but to promote antipathy towards Jensen and the Sydney Anglicans. If one were to deconstruct the rhetoric of this discourse, that is where the centre of gravity appears to be.

My question for Marr and the SMH editorial team is would they write a similar piece about an orthodox rabbi or an Islamic cleric and their views on human sexuality? I would love to read a piece by Marr saying the same kind of thing with the same kind of rhetoric against a local Moslem leader in Sydney (he'd probably end up spending the rest of his life hiding in a motel with Rushdie and a couple of Danish cartoonists!). Please email me when the piece is published.

Mike Bird
(Go the maroons!).

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday is for Fontes

Tonight I'm treating myself to a Spanish Shiraz and listening to Bruce Winter's audio lecture on: "You Were What You Wore in Roman law - Women in the Pauline Communities" available here. This gives a good overview of the relevance and applicability of Graeco-Roman sources to the study of Paul's letters. 

I See a Rock: Teaching Epistemology to Students

Epistemology (the theory of knowledge and knowing) is one of the hardest things to teach, and even harder to show how it impacts biblical and theological studies. I do, however, use these little illustration as a way of trying:

1. Naive Realism.

"I see a rock. "
"How do you know you see a rock?"
"What do you mean, 'how do I know?'. It's right there in front of me. If you can't see what I see then you're either blind or an idiot."

2. Phenomenalism.

"I see a rock. "
"How do you know you see a rock?"
"Well, I might not actually be seeing a rock. Afterall, it is just the electrical circuits in my brain creating the image and evoking the memory of a rock before me. It might well be an optical illusion or perhaps I'm mistaken and it is in fact just a piece of dog poo with sand on top. And then again, 'rock' is just the word that I use to describe it. Someone else might call it a 'pebble' or a 'stone' and who knows how many different words for 'rock' people working in a quarry might use to describe it. Someone standing to my left might not even see it and for them there is no 'rock'. When I say, 'I see a rock' all I'm doing is interpreting the sensory data I'm experiencing with linguistic codes that may or may not correspond to reality or correspond to anyone elses reality."

3. Critical Realism.

"I see a rock. "
"How do you know you see a rock?"
"Well, my vision ain't perfect, but it is genuinely pretty reliable. If I ask the guy over there if he sees it and if he does, then between the two of us we can safely assume that it's a rock. Of course I can also go over there and just kick it over and we'll see that it's a rock."

Verses for Myanmar and Mugabe

God has given me a "verse" for the Military Junta in Myanmar and for the regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe:

"The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is a murderer."
- Sir. 34.25

Gerald Bray on Biblical Interpretation

Dr. Gerald Bray's John Murray Lecture on, "The challenges and promises of biblical interpretation today" is now available on-line in audio. He makes some good point and some most amusing observations.

Tyndale Fellowship NT Group - Register Now!

All those on planning on going to the Tyndale Fellowship NT Group need to register before the 20th of June.
Note: Some bursaries are still available!!!

This years theme is 'Petrine Traditions and Petrine Literature'. Planned speakers include: Richard Bauckham, Markus Bockmuehl, and Tomas Bokedal.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good Works Really are "Good"

Over at the PTC blog, John Davies has a good exposition on the goodness of good works in the NT. Sadly, it is only us Reformed types who seem to have a hang-up with this. He offers some good advice: "I’m just doing my usual thing here of making a plea that we allow the Bible to speak in its own terms, rather than filter it too heavily through a grid which is an outcome of controversies of a past age".

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I think I may be a "Complementary Egalitarian"

William Webb's book Slaves, Women & Homosexuals has put me over the edge I think. I have continued to straddle this fence for quite some time. Yet, I think I may have jumped; I think I might be a "complementary egalitarian". I think I have found a category in the debate that fits my developing perspective. It is true that I have and continue to waffle back and forth between what Webb terms "ultra-soft complementarian" and this "complementary egalitarianism".
However, there are two reasons that Webb may have pushed me over. First, his careful discussion of the culturally-bound aspects of the concept of primogentiure (creation order), which has been the primary issue for me in maintaining some sort of a complementarian position. Second, Webb provides a convincing discussion of 1 Tim 2:13-14, particularly the connection between the two points in Paul's argument (creation order and the easily deceived woman) and their culturally-bound aspects. What's more he usefully presents the weakness of soft-complentarian explanations of 1 Tim 2:13-14 (i.e. Schreiner & Doriani) (see pgs. 224-28).
Here is how Webb defines a complementary egalitarianism:

Complementary egalitarianism is an appropriate title for the form of egalitarian position developed within this book. On the one hand, it differs from secular egalitarianism in the sense that interdependence and mutual submission are the pursued values instead of extreme independence and autonomy. On the other hand, it differs from some forms of Christian egalitarianism in that it applauds the recognition of biological, psychological and social differences between males and females. Men and women can and should function in "complementary" ways (p. 241).

I appreciate the combination of equality and interdependency. Without a creation-order argument then there is no reason to be a complementarian. Yet from 15 years of marriage and just a year of being the father of a girl, I can definitely say that there are biological and psychological characteristics of females even a little baby girl. Men and women were made to complement each other this is the truth of Genesis 1-2 and a truth of experience. I think I'm off the fence.
By the way, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals is an excellent book and should be a must read for all evangelical Christians.
Update: Let me clarify two points. First the title of this post is "I may be a complementary egalitarian". I still have reservations about both sides of the debate, not least I continue to wrestle with the creation-order issue. What's more, I still think there is something to the very concrete observation of the context of the early church being in the home. I think it might be possible to say one thing about the home that is different than the church in today's culture where the church is detached from the home (at least most churches in the West).
Second, I was asked if I think Webb's book makes interpretation more complex than is necessary. On this point, I think there is room for critique. But when I made the endorsement above I was more or less agreeing with what Schreiner wrote in his less than complementary review of the book: "There are some good insights in his use of the criteria" (p. 16 of Schreiner's review at Resurgence). Now we won't agree with what insights or how many I would guess, but I think there are well argued and persuasive discussions on the interpretation of women passages; particularly criteria 7, 11 and 18. Furthermore, I would recommend reading Webb's book from the end. Read his chapter "What if I am Wrong? (8)and the "Conclusion" (9) first.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Michael Bird is Everywhere

Today I came across Michael Bird's name in three different contexts. Is there anywhere Bird is not?! First, I noticed the most recent issue of Currents in Biblical Research where he has an article co-authored by Preston Sprinkle on Jewish interpretation of Paul. Then I was given a new book edited by Scot McKnight titled Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am?: An Investigation of the Accusations Against Jesus and Bird has an essay there. Finally, when I was sitting down to watch my beloved Yankees and do some "fun" reading I saw that he had read and given "critical feedback" on the first draft of Piper's new book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. It appears he has made good use of insomina. I don't think even with insomina I would be as productive!
God bless you Mike!

John Piper and Fundamentalists

John Piper has given 20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists. I appreciate his point as I know some fundamentalists who are godly, loving, Christ honouring, and self-less people who, I lament, are just a little further down the right end of the theological spectrum than myself. I genuinely understand their stance but I do not agree. However, I've also seen fundamentalism destroy people, churches, marriages, and missions over matters that are trivial and rooted in cultural preferences rather than theology. I've made fairly solid critiques of fundamentalism (and liberalism) elsewhere so I won't rehearse them here. But I will ask (tongue in cheek) if John would like to do a three part follow-up series on the following:

20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at the Proselytizers in Galatia
20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at the Pharisee Christians in Acts 15
20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at the Mutilators of the Flesh in Philippi

Lately I've enjoyed singing 2 Cor. 3.17 with my eldest daughter. That verse, plus Gal. 5.1, is why I'm not a fundamentalist! Evangelicals are not Liberals and not Fundamentalists - the distinction is important - in fact, it's critical for the integrity of the gospel. I'm happy to sit down and chat to Bob Jones and Bishop Schori about theology, politics and rugby league over coffee or at a conference; but I'm not gonna elect either one to be president of a seminary that I've working in.

Craig Keener's Homepage

My good friend Craig Keener has his own webpage. Craig teaches at Palmer seminary and is one of the most gentle and kind men that I know. All of his commentaries have an encyclopedic list of relevant primary and secondary sources and contain a vast pool of knowledge. Do read the brief story of his wife Médine who was a refugee from Africa.

HT: Matt Montonini

Planned Excavations at Colossae

In his book, Seeing the Word, Markus Bockmuehl asks, "when is someone going to dig up Colossae?" (p. 43). I'm glad to say that I've just heard that efforts will be soon underway! Dr. Michael Trainor is part of a collaborative projective involving Flinders University (South Australia) and Pamukkale University (Turkey) which will begin excavations at Colossae within the next two years! See the website here about the progress.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Book on Marriage and Family

In a few weeks I will be teaching a week long intensive course at North Park Theological Seminary on Ministry with Families. In preparation for the course I have read some good books on the issue and I would recommend a couple.

Edited by Ken M. Campbell
Published by IVP
The book is comprised of four chapters dealing with the topic of Marriage and Family in the various historical contexts relevant for biblical studies as well as two chapters on the Old and New Testaments teaching.
1. Marriage and Family in the Ancient Near East by Victor H. Matthews
2. Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel by Daniel Block
3. Marriage and Family in Ancient Greek Society by S. M. Baugh
4. Marriage and Family in Roman Society by Susan Treggiari
5. Marriage and Family in Second Temple Judaism by David W. Chapman
6. Marriage and Family in the New Testament by Andreas Köstenberger
The book provides a solidly researched and accessible presentation of the topic of marriage and family in the ancient world. While some will no doubt notice the complementarian bent with Daniel Block and Andreas Köstenberger's contributions, the other essays reflect no overt interpretive agenda since they are primarily descriptive in nature. Block and Köstenberger provide useful summaries in one place of the two testament's teaching on marriage and family. This resource could be useful for pastors and seminary professors.