Saturday, May 07, 2011

Euangelion Has Moved to

Dear friends, just to let you know that Joel and I have decided to move Euangelion to a new host site We think this will represent a bigger and more manageable platform for us to do what we do: blog on biblical studies, theology, and church life. So adjust your browser, RSS feed, and Google Reader accordingly.

Our new site is Euangelion.

It will be found under the evangelical portal at

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, and followed us at this blog site. We hope you will join us for a more bibliologging adventures at our new location.


Mike Bird & Joel Willitts

New Testament in Antiquity

The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context
Zondervan, 2009

The perfect textbook for an undergraduate introductory course on the New Testament in an evangelical setting! The New Testament in Antiquity is handsomely produced, highly accessible and sufficiently indepth without overwhelming a reader with detail.

The major focus of the book is clear from the subtitle A Survey of the New Testament Within Its Cultural Contexts: a student comes away from the book aware of the importance of the historical and cultural setting of the New Testament documents for its interpretation. The book is probably not a sufficient introduction for a graduate and seminary level course, although as a supplemental text it could serve quite nicely. I used it in conjunction with one of my favorites: Oskar Skarsaune's In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.

Around the Blogosphere

Here's some stuff around the blogosophere:

Jim Hamilton muses on how often we should take communion - warning, he couldn't be turning Anglican on us! Tim Henderson discusses 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 about women and authority. Andrew Perriman writes about election.

Note also the first book length response to Rob Bell by Michael Wittmer In Christ Alone (HT: Kevin Wax). He writes: "Theology, or our understanding of God, is more like a sweater than a smorgasbord. We can’t logically walk up to the Bible buffet and load up on the teachings we like while skipping the ones we don’t: give me an extra helping of love but hold the stuff about wrath. Instead, our beliefs about God and the Christian life are intertwined like the strands of yarn in a cable-knit sweater. When we tug on one, the others tend to come, too. "(2).

Thanks to Marc Cortez for this caption about the KJV at 400 years!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Should Colleges Ban Fraternities?

"A recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal cited the Yale incident and called for fraternities to be banned to protect the safety of women. But should fraternities be singled out? The Education Department's civil rights office is reviewing several sexual harassment and assault cases at other colleges.

Are fraternity members really more apt than their male peers to tolerate sexist attitudes and sexual misbehavior? What role does drinking play, given its role in inciting aggression? Should colleges be doing more to prevent sexual offenses?"

From the NY

Thursday, May 05, 2011

N.T. Wright on Osama bin Laden

N.T. Wright comments on the killing of Osama bin Laden over at Ruth Gledhill's blog.

I hear Wright's objections and I am no fan of American exceptionalism. The point I would like to make is that this is not really exceptional but typical of how governments go after terrorists. The UK and other governments spasmodically engage on seek and destroy missions in other countries where the goal is to terminate rather than capture terrorists. Israel does it all the time and they are not alone. To give an example, an SAS hit team killed three IRA members in Gibraltar in 1988. In terms of the degree of force applied, in the 1980 siege in the Iranian embassy in London all but one terrorist was shot and killed by the SAS who had explicit orders to take no prisoners! You can pursue terrorists with a Tomahawk missile or a special forces hit team, but the result is the same. It is important to remember that under the Laws of Armed Conflict that terrorists are not subject to the protection of the Genevan conventions because they do not qualify for its provision (long story, but it's true). For this reason, the rules of engagement given to soldiers dealing with terrorists are usually different from that during conventional warfare or peace keeping operations.

There are questions of legality and morality about war, how warfare is conducted, and how Christians tackle these tough ethical issues. For all of its limitations, I still think Just War Theory is the best way to go and provides the framework for us to approach this subject.

Post-Rapture Pet Care

Thanks to some Crossway students I've come across several websites for post-rapture pet care. That's right, if you are raptured, left behind unbelievers promise to take care of your pets for you as they unfortunately will not be joining you to meet King Jesus. But there is a fee!

There is Post Rapture Pets who will caters to those pets you love and care for in the event of the rapture. And an atheist site called Eternal Earth Bound Pets (USA) run by dedicated atheist pet-lovers who promise "For $135.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved. Each additional pet at your residence will be saved for an additional $20.00 fee. A small price to pay for your peace of mind and the health and safety of your four legged and feathered friends."

I can't really say much about this since I'm not dispensational. So I'll hand over to my co-blogger Joel Willitts, a Dallas Theological Seminary grad, to give us the low down on how DTS grads were taught to care for their pets in the event of the rapture.

What's your political persuasion?

Click the "here" at the bottom of the first paragraph of this article.

Quotable: Christian Living

"Learning to live as a Christian is learning to live as a renewed human being, anticipating the eventual new creation in and with a world which is still longing and groaning for that final redemption."

Folks are Reading "Introducing Paul"

Over at Academia Church my Introducing Paul is book of the month with some kind comments about how folks have found the book helpful (HT David Byrd).

Latest Issue of Themelios

The latest issue of Themelios is up and includes:

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tom Wright for Everyone

Just came across this book from SPCK by Stephen Kuhrt called Tom Wright For Everyone: Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church. Here's the blurb:

Addresses the difficulty many evangelicals have found in really engaging with what Tom Wright has been saying for some time now, then seeks to explain what difference his theology can make when an attempt is made to put it into practice in church life.

The Good Shepherd is the Messiah

John 10 centers on the singular suitability of Jesus to be the leader of God’s people on account of his self-giving actions. The climax of the discourse is obviously the ‘I am’ statements that ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (10:11, 14). The shepherd metaphor concerns the intimate care and sacrificial protection that Jesus gives to the sheep as their leader. However, no one can escape the regal imagery because in the ancient near eastern sources and in Graeco-Roman traditions a ‘shepherd’ was primarily an image for kings. The Egyptian monarch Amenhotep III (1411-1374 BCE) was called: ‘The good shepherd, vigilant for all people, whom the maker thereof has placed under his authority’. The Homeric phrase ‘shepherd of the hosts’ referred to a commander of military forces.[1] In the Old Testament, the metaphor of a shepherd is applied to both Yahweh and to ancient kings. To give a few examples, first, concerning Yahweh, Isaiah contains the words, ‘See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young’ (Isa 40:10-11). The Lord of the nations guides them into the pastures of a restored land like a shepherd directing a flock. Second, it is interesting that Cyrus is labeled as ‘my shepherd’ in Isa 44:28 and then ‘my anointed’ in Isa 45:1. He was the anointed shepherd used by Yahweh to end the exile of the remnant in Babylon. Third, the quintessential shepherd king was David, the shepherd boy who became a king. At Hebron the tribes reminded David that, ‘The LORD said to you: “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel” (2 Sam 5:2). The hope for a new Davidic king was the hope for a new shepherd king to guide Israel into its day of restoration (Jer 23:1-6; Mic 5:1-9). In fact, Ezekiel 34 depicts of the coming of Yahweh as Shepherd in and through the raising up a new Davidic Shepherd-King (Ezek 34:16, 23-24).[2]

The upshot of this is that when Jesus says, ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ we are not confronted with merely a claim pertaining to his quality of pastoral care giving. It is a royal and even messianic claim. Jesus will be the restorer of Israel, exactly what is attributed to him elsewhere in the Gospel (1:11-12; 10:16; 11:47-52), and precisely what the Messiah was supposed to do. Furthermore, John 10 is analogous to the Animal Apocalypse found in 1 Enoch 89–90 that focuses on shepherding as a key metaphor for national restoration. In 1 Enoch the ‘Lord of the sheep’ leads Israel and bring them into pasture (89.42; 75; 90.29, 33) and also gathers them into a new Jerusalem (90.32-36). In imagery reminiscent of Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34–37, Jesus as the Good Shepherd in John 10 is the true and benevolent shepherd who leads Israel into the pastures of restoration. Building specifically from Ezekiel 34, Jesus seems to take on the shepherding roles of both Yahweh and David. Jesus the Shepherd is contrasted with the false shepherds or the ‘hirelings’ – the Judean leaders and the Pharisees – who should have led people to their Messiah rather than hinder their faith and attempted to thwart Jesus’ ministry at every turn. What will prove the true nature of Jesus’ shepherding is when he lays down his life for the flock (10:15-18).[3]

[1] Chae, Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd, 19-25 (esp. 21-22).

[2] Cf. survey of the OT imagery for shepherds in Chae, Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd, 25-172.

[3] John A. Dennis, Jesus’ Death and the Gathering of True Israel (WUNT 2.217; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2006), 270-71.

Tilling the Ground for Easter

My good buddy Chris Tilling delivered some lovely Good Friday meditations at Holy Trinity Brompton which are worth checking out. He's not just an English git, he actually can preach!

Good Friday from Holy Trinity Brompton on Vimeo.

Blessings and Woes of Preaching

Clifton Black of Princeton Theological Seminary has an excellent little piece of beatitudes and woe oracles about Preaching from the Gospels and Acts. Well worth reading.

HT: Steve Walton.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Karl Barth on Exegesis

“We have been studying cheerfully and seriously. As far as I was concerned it could have continued in that way, and I had already resigned myself to having my grave here by the Rhine! …And now the end has come. So listen to my piece of advice: exegesis, exegesis, and yet more exegesis! Keep to the word, to the scripture that has been given to us.”

Karl Barth on the occasion of his farewell to his students in Bonn prior to his expulsion from Germany in 1935.

Writing Style 4

Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb's continue to tackle the question of clarity in the fourth lesson of their book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th Edition). In the last lesson the point was made that clear, direct, concise writing is characterized by two principles of clarity:
Principle #1: A sentence seems clear when its important actions are in verbs.
Principle #2: A sentence seems clear when its important characters are subjects.
In lesson four the focus is on the second of the two principles: “Make the subjects of most of your verbs the main characters in your story”.

Now you might be saying to yourself, I don’t write stories; I write non-fiction essays or blog posts or something other than narrative. But before you stop reading, consider this: every sentence is a story with actors and actions. It is true that sometimes our “characters” are abstractions like “the argument” and “my thesis”, or “freedom of speech” or “the incarnation”. Nevertheless, our sentences tell stories about those subjects.

Readers expect to find characters expressed in simple concrete words early in a sentence. Williams and Colomb’s put it this way:
Readers want actions in verbs, but even more they want characters as subjects. We create a problem for readers when for no good reason we do not name characters in subjects, or worse we delete them entirely (47).
Williams and Colomb’s recommend that whenever possible, we use flesh-and-blood characters as our subjects. Often, even when we’re using abstract nouns as subjects, we can convert them into flesh-and-blood characters.

Consider my silly simple examples:

My argument is dogs are better than cats.
* I argue dogs are better than cats.


It has been shown that people find more enjoyment from dogs than cats.
* Researchers conclude that people gain more enjoyment from dogs than cats.

These are very simple examples admittedly, but the principle can be applied to the writing on the most complex of subjects. It is not the subjects so much as it is the style of our writing that is at issue. One qualification: when your main characters are necessarily nominalizations (verbs or adjectives made into nouns), be sure to use as few around as is possible. Keep the nominalizations to a bear minimum.

One final thought from the lesson: In summing up the main point, Williams and Colomb’s refer to something Albert Einstein said. Einstein used to say that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. They develop that one step further to make their point: “a style should be as complex as necessary, but no more” (64).

Here’s the Writer’s Golden Rule:
“Write to others as you would have others write to you”.
See first post: Writing Style 1, 2, 3.

Craig Keener on the Reliability of the Gospels

A couple of weeks ago Craig Keener (soon to be at Asbury Theological Seminary) was at Crosssway College in Brisbane, Australia and while he was here he delivered a lecture to students on the "Historical Reliability of the Gospels". You can find the audio here. Annoying voice doing the introduction is mine.

Gospel of John and Christology Debates

The Gospel of John is a big link in the chain that moved christology towards Nicea. In the debates about subordination in the early church (Arius vs. Athanasius) and even in the modern church (Kevin Giles vs. Bruce Ware) the Gospel of John looms large for both sides. Those who stress equality or distinctive roles in the Godhead all appeal to the Fourth Gospel for support. I just came across a cute quote about this.

According to F.C. Conybeare: "If Athanasius had not had the Fourth Gospel to draw texts from, Arius would never have been confuted" and he adds "[I]f Arius had not had the Fourth Gospel to draw texts from, he would not have needed confuting."

Cited from James D. G. Dunn, ‘Let John be John – a Gospel for Its Time,’ in Das Evangelium und die Evangelien, ed. P. Stuhlmacher (WUNT 28; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1983), 311 n. 4.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Love Wins 6

Rob Bell’s fourth chapter in his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived asks a great question: “Does God Get What God Wants?” This is the sixth installment of a series of posts on the book. In this series, I intend to expose the main lines of argument in each chapter and critically reflect on them. Admittedly, this is not always done systematically as today’s post will reveal.

I think this is probably the best chapter of the book because the argument is tight and the question is significant.

So what do you think?
Does God get what God wants? Is this answer obvious? But perhaps a more important question is: What exactly does God want? Is it presumptuous on our part to state is so simply? Could it be there a number of different answers to the question depending on the point of view or subject?
Rob asks: “Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity in conscious punishment and torment, suffering infinitely for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth?” (102). Great Question. And this really is the central issue of the chapter.

Rob surveys biblical evidence of an inclusive salvation of every person who has ever lived. On reading the list, the conclusion seems obvious: God wants to save everyone. Yet, when one drills down, it becomes a much more complicated picture. Of these complications Rob seems completely unaware. When the Bible speaks of the pilgrimage of the nations to God in the OT, does this mean every person on the earth at the time, let alone every person who's ever lived? There is a difference in the way writers can use the word “all”. “All” can mean: (1) all without exclusion of any one [this is the way Rob takes it] or (2) all without distinction between parties. While not taking the time now to show this exegetically, it is clear from the OT contexts that the second of the two is most often meant. In other words, the prophets are not predicting that every person who ever lived will come to God, but that when God visits in the last days, all the “nations” will come to him. Revelation 5:9 captures this idea in the NT: “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. Notice that text doesn’t say every person from every tribe, language, people and nation, but representatives, a remnant, of every tribe, language, etc. This is “all with out distinction”. Besides in the very concrete perspective of the OT, there’s no conception of an afterlife salvation. This picture is in purely earthly terms. When God acts in history in bringing salvation, this act will be inclusive of a remnant of people of every nation not only the remnant of Israel.

Now for the sake of argument, it may be true that God will save everyone, but that is not the point of these passages. It seems to me that if one wishes to conclude that God will save all without exception, this is a deductive conclusion because no biblical passage teaches this explicitly. One needs to theologize to this conclusion. This is not a criticism, we do this on plenty of important issues (e.g. Trinity), but it is not specifically stated in Scripture. Thus, an argument like Rob’s doesn’t hold up to scrutiny because his evidence doesn’t actually support the claim. This by the way, goes for the NT evidence as well. Did Jesus and Peter and Paul and James and John believe that every person that ever lived would be saved in the end? Does Jesus’ statement in Matt 19:28 and Peter’s in Acts 3 and Paul’s in Col 1 mean that every person who ever lived will be saved? Again this theological claim may be right, but not based on the evidence given.

God doesn’t get what he wants in salvation from a biblical perspective, only if you define what he wants wrongly. God’s aims are universal, yes cosmic. God’s intentions are inclusive; yes they will reach every nation. And yes, God attains his universal aims and his inclusive intentions.

In order to answer the apparent issue of between God’s universal salvation purposes and the traditional doctrine of hell, Rob lists five options for understanding how to reconcile this contradiction. The options range from the traditional evangelical view, to extreme universalism. Rob maintains that all five of these are comfortably within “orthodoxy”: “Serious, orthodox followers of Jesus have answered these questions in a number of different ways”? (109) This conclusion is of course questionable as I've stated elsewhere since it includes the word "orthodox", although it is true that "serious followers of Jesus" have believed these things and one's view on this question does not make or break one's Christian identity.

Any reader will be able to discern that it’s the fifth option (universalism) that Rob likes best and is most convinced by, although others seem to at least be amicable to him. You even think that the fifth option is what he opts for. But before you can feel that you have got him pegged, he pulls back from that fifth choice in the subsequent paragraphs (pgs 113-17). Rob does not appear to be a universalist because for him human freedom trumps even God’s unrelenting love. But as it turns out, this circumstance is not contrary to what God wants because God wants to love. God’s love has consequences. Love wins, but it doesn’t mean that hell will ultimately be evacuated. Rob may hope for this and surely does, but he’s apparently a realist. Rob says, “Love demands freedom. It always has, and it always will. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want" (113).

In the final analysis according to Rob the question of the chapter “Does God get what he wants?” while a good, interesting and important one, is fraught with speculation about the future. It is no doubt true that God gets what he wants; the precise manner of it is concealed. However, there is a question that he thinks is much easier to answer and no less important. The question: “Do we get what we want?” To that question the answer is absolutely yes. Yes we get what we want, because “God is that loving” (117). So as C.S. Lewis said, there are two kinds of people in the world, those who say ‘Thy will be done’ and those who say, ‘My will be done’.

There is a vague sense of justice in the chapter’s conception of restoration, but it is the weakest part of the chapter and Rob’s whole proposal in my view. Rob writes
This is important, because in speaking of the expansive, extraordinary, infinite love of God there is always the danger of neglecting the very real consequences of God’s love, namely God’s desire and intention to see things become everything they were always intended to be. For this to unfold, God must say about a number of acts and to those who would continue to do them, “Not here you won’t” (113).
Still this chapter surfaces what I think to be the most significant and thorny question with which traditional evangelicals must deal: the question of the justness of infinite punishment for finite sin. And this is not simply an issue Rob Bell has raised. The idea that the sin we commit in our finite bodies deserves an infinite amount of punishment seems absurd on any definition to a growing number of people. We can pretend that it makes “perfect sense”, as someone has recently remarked [Tim Keller: “I seems perfectly reasonable for an infinite God to punish infinitely” – round table discussion at Gospel Coalition].

But simply saying it’s “perfectly logical” does not actually deal with the question. To growing number of people it's just not. While it in fact may be reasonable, the biblical argument needs to be made today in a way that is freshly compelling and grounded in Scripture. I don’t completely know where I am on this and I haven’t thought enough about it to offer anything of a thoughtful cohesive view. I think there are fundamental parameters, however, within which one must work. In spite of arguments to the contrary, biblically the afterlife of the unrighteous is:

(1) eternal—final and unalterable,
(2) conscious—there is a person, mind and body, and
(3) retributive—there’s no reformation

The actual working out of these is where things are fuzzy for me. In addition, the extent of the actual punishment in this eternal, conscious and retributive state is also something I continue to mull over.

Recently, Scot McKnight in his book One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Followhas given us a proposal to consider. First Scot rejects the idea of infinite punishment for finite sin, although he maintains, I think, the three fundamentals above. This leads him to the second part of the proposal. I’ll let him speak for himself:
So where are we? I have thought long and hard about hell and have come to a view that modifies the second above: hell is a person’s awareness of being utterly absent, which is what “death after death” means, but yet in the presence of God, like C. S. Lewis’ wraiths yearning to be observed and present but deeply aware that they have declined both options. I am unconvinced that annihilation fully answers all that Jesus says, but I also believe that the second view doesn’t contain enough mercy and grace (165).
I can’t say I’m convinced by his view. What’s more, I have not rejected the idea, as Scot seems to have, of infinite punishment on the basis of it being unjust. Yet, Scot exhibits the kind of fresh thinking on the question that I think is beneficial. I think we need to go back to the Bible and present its view of ultimate punishment of the wicked in a convincing well-argued manner. Simply appealing to the old argument of an infinite God who, because of his infiniteness, punishes infinitely is not adequate.

For earlier posts for Love Wins see: Post When your wife . . ., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

If you find this post helpful, please share it with others.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Judgment as Retribution and Restoration?

A common theme in recent theological work is to stress God’s justice as restorative rather than retributive. The underlying assumption appears to be that retribution is mean, nasty, and unnice and therefore unworthy of a God of love, grace, and mercy. For instance, Tom Smail comments: “God’s justice is concerned less with punishing wrong relationships than with restoring right ones. Like the heroes of the Book of Judges, Jesus is concerned with freeing the land from the evil forces that have infested it and setting our humanity free from the personal and social twistedness that is corrupting and destroying it.”[1] Stephen Travis believes that “Retributive concepts are forced toward the edges of New Testament thought by the nature of the Christian gospel. It is a gospel that proclaims Christ as the one through whom people are invited into a relationship with God. Once the relationship to Christ and to God is seen as central, retributive concepts become inappropriate. The experience described by such terms as forgiveness, love, grace and acceptance overrides them. And the experience of those who refuse to respond to this gospel is not so much an experience of retributive punishment as the negation of all that is offered in Christ.” He points out that the biblical imagery for justice contains warnings of retribution against the wicked, but they are largely metaphors for exclusion from God’s presence rather than speculative descriptions of postmortem torments like that found in some Jewish literature. Moreover, retributive judgment is frequently juxtaposed with wider visions of the triumph of God’s glory and love. In his conclusion he asks whether “retributive language should be displaced from Christian vocabulary” in favor of “the language of a relationship to Christ”.[2]

Now I can genuinely sympathize with a desire to escape the western captivity to a contractual understanding of divine-human relationships and the limitation of justice to recompense of deeds. Aristotle and Anselm have set the agenda and grammar for theology for too long. So instead may God give us a covenant relationship rather than a contract. May his justice be transformative rather than punitive. But the more I think about this the more baby and bath water comes to my mind. God’s covenants are intimately relational, but they are also legally binding, hence the law-suit motif one finds in the Pentateuch and Prophets. God’s justice will transform the world, but a transformed world must be one where the most insidious of evils and their perpetrators are not lightly rinsed with a perfume of goodness. Evil is such that it must be destroyed or quarantined if the goodness of God has utter supremacy in the new creation. Precisely because God condescends to covenant with creation is why he can prosecute his contention when his covenant partners fail to follow the obligations in that relationship. Precisely because God is love is why he must not allow evil to have the last enduring word in any corner of the galaxy.

We do not have to choose between retributive and restorative schemes of divine justice. The righteousness that brings judgment also fills the universe with God’s shalom for. For “the fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isa 32:17; cf. Ps 85:10; Isa 9:7; Heb 12:11). There can be no reconciliation without recompense otherwise the disorder, destruction, and decay of evil prevents peace from lasting. The incarnation and the cross achieve both: juridical judgment and relational peace wrought in the atonement. As Henri Blocher comments: “Retribution and restoration are not mutually exclusive; the good news is the retribution, and the basis of restoration is in the person of the head and substitute.”[3] Theologians will protest that this is divine violence and it sanctions human violence rather than preventing it. Yet God’s justice is about vindication not vindictiveness. The “vengeance” (ekdikeō) of God is not his unbridled and disproportionate violence unleashed through an unchecked hatred at his opponents. It is more properly his righteous decision to be the God who vindicates those who suffer and avenge their pain with an appropriate action that holds the subjects of evil responsible for their actions (see esp. Deut 32:43; Luke 18:3, 5; Rom 12:19; Rev 6:10). Divine vengeance – like it or not there is such a thing – is not a license for human violence, but the grounds for the end of it. As Miroslav Volf states: “The certainty of God’s judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence. The divine system of judgment is not the flip side of the human reign of terror, but a necessary correlate of human nonviolence”.[4]

[1] Tom Small, Once and For All: A Confession of the Cross (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1998), 95.

[2] Stephen H. Travis, Christ and the Judgment of God: The Limits of Divine Retribution in New Testament Thought (2nd ed.; Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2008), 325,327.

[3] Henri Blocher, “God and the Cross,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives, ed. B.L. McCormack (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 140 (125-41).

[4] Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 302.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Interview with Rob Bell and British Evangelical Adrian Warnock

A rather enlightening interview with Rob Bell appeared on the British evangelical program Unbelievable hosted by Justin Brierley on Premier Christian radio. The interview included a chap named Adrian Warnock who represents a more traditional evangelical perspective.

Some very interesting dialogue was generated over the issues most important to Evangelicals. You can watch the entire program here or listen here.

In this excerpt Adrian questions Rob about really being an Evangelical.

The Royal Spectacle . . . But Why?

Why did nearly 1 million people descend on London with an another online and TV viewing audience estimated at 2 billion (that's 33% of the world's population!) to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? What was it about a royal wedding that caused people all over the world to tune in? Into what deep human affection does such an event tap?

Kids just make you laugh . . .

Check out my daughter Mary practicing her ballet. Also, keep an eye out for Zion's impersonation of Tom Cruise in Risky Business in the background.

HT: Audra for the footage.

ESV Greek Tools

There is a cool Greek resource from Crossway called ESV Greek Tools. Go and watch the video here. It sounded really cool right up until the guy said "Macarthur study Bible" (though ESV study Bible does make up for it). I suppose Greek tools are Greek tools and this one is fairly cheap! It's not Bible Works, Logos, or Accordance - the Trinity of Bible software - but it's better than eSword (which I wish my students would stop using).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Mob Song in Beirut

Check this out, it is flipping awesome! I'm currently learning a bit of Arabic and it really is a beautiful language when sung like this.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Accidental Anglican!

Just finished reading The Accidental Anlgican: The Surprising Appeal of the Liturgical Church by Todd D. Hunter (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010). Find it at Amazon with look-inside feature.

Good read. The book narrates Hunter's journey from Jesus people to being head of the Vineyard Churches to Executive Director of Alpha USA to Bishop in AMiA. He was ordained a priest and then a bishop a month later! Now that is fast. He also gives snap shots of his Anglican heroes in J.I. Packer, John Stott, and N.T. Wright. A big theme of the book is Churches-for-the-sake-of-others or CS4O! He also unpacks the Anglican treasure chest of the liturgical calendar, the Book of Common Prayer, the ministry of the word, reciting the creed, and eucharist. Good overview of the Anglican Evangelistic Tradition and bios on some top Anglican leaders in Africa.

David Neff has a write up about the book in CT.

Here is a clip of Hunter preaching at Christ Church in Plano.

I find it interesting that John Wesley was an Anglican and so were the creators of the Westminster Confession. That's right boys and girls, we owe Methodism and Presbyterianism, partly, to Anglicanism!

Papers in San Francisco

For those interested, I've got a few fun gigs lined up at SBL and ETS in San Francisco.

SBL: I've got a spot to discuss Darrell Bock and Robert Webb, Key Events in the Life of Jesus and Beverly Gaventa and Richard Hays, Seeking the Identity of Jesus at the Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture group.

ETS: "Raging against the Roman Empire with Romans: The Value of Anti-Imperial Readings of Romans" at the Pauline Studies Session.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Style 3

In the third lesson in Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb's book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th Edition)they begin to tackle the question of clarity. They usefully observe that readers reflect on the writing of others with words like

clear, direct, concise or
unclear, indirect, abstract, dense, complex.

These adjectives don’t really tell us anything more than how the writing makes us feel. To say something is unclear does not actually say anything about the writing on the page. What then makes a piece of writing feel or seem clear or dense? Williams and Colomb begin here to make their case. Clear, direct, concise writing is characterized by two principles of clarity:

Principle #1: A sentence seems clear when its important actions are in verbs
Principle #2: A sentence seems clear when its important characters are subjects.

Lesson three’s focus is on the first of the two principles.
Readers will think your writing is dense if you use lots of abstract nouns, especially those derived from verbs or adjectives, nouns ending in –tion, -ment, -ence, and so on, especially when you make those abstract nouns the subjects of verbs (32).
When, for example, you create an abstract noun by putting an –ing on the end of a verb (e.g., eating), you are nominalizing the verb. Nominalization is the technical name for the phenomenon. You are transforming the part of speech from a verb to a noun. This can be done to both verbs and adjectives. Consider these examples:

Examples of verbs:

discover = discovery
resist = resistance
She flies = her flying
We sang = our singing

Examples of adjectives
careless = carelessness
different = difference
No element of style more characterizes turgid writing, writing that feels abstract, indirect, and difficult, than lots of nominalizations, especially as the subjects of verbs. (33).
Williams and Colomb recommend a three-part revision process for writers. This process is is tailored here to address the question of clarity.

1. Diagnose – Underline the first seven or eight words of each sentence
2. Analyze – Decide your main characters and look for the actions of the main characters
3. Rewrite – Make nominalizations verbs, make characters subjects and rewrite using subordinating conjunctions (because, if, when, etc).

Near the end of the chapter they return to a key question they raised earlier, but return to again:
Why are we so often right about the writing of others and so often wrong about our own?
Because we all read into our own writing what we want readers to get out of it.
Thus we need a "mechanical" method of revision that sidesteps our "too-good understanding" of our writing.

So the bottom line here is that to be a clear writer we need to take two concrete actions: (1) remove most of the abstract nouns from our sentences (certain abstract nouns are necessary) and (2) revise our sentences so that the action is contained in the verb and the character is in the subject.