Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paul and the Parousia

Yes, I'm in eschatology mode today, here is Joseph Plevnik's summary on Paul's teaching on the Parousia:

The parousia is the culmination of Christ’s present rule, the beginning of God’s kingdom, and the moment for the resurrection of the dead. The Lord’s coming is thus the moment for the resurrection of the dead. The Lord’s coming is thus the culmination of Christ’s own resurrection and of his lordship, which began with that event. Christ was raised as the first of many and as the one through whom all others will be brought to life. And he was made Lord so that he may put everything under his feet. The parousia is also the culmination of the present existence ‘in Christ.’ Those who belong to Christ will be with Christ at his coming.[1]

[1] Joseph Plevnik, Paul and the Parousia: An Exegetical and Theological Investigation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997), 328.

Richard Hays on why we need Eschatology

Richard Hays lists six reasons why the church needs apocalyptic eschatology (includes my own summary, paraphrase, and additions to his chief articles):[1]

1. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology to carry Israel’s story forward. Without a future oriented hope one cannot affirm God’s faithfulness to Israel and God’s covenantal promises become unintelligible. Or even worse, a faithless God means we have fickle deity whom we cannot be sure abut. God intends to vindicate his peple (Deut 32:36) at the appointed time when the Redeemer comes to Zion (Isa 59:20). These promises find their proleptic fulfillment in Jesus Christ in the church as a prefiguration of the eschatological people of God, which is a sign in itself of the full divine embracing (proslēmpsis) of eschatological Israel.

2. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology for interpreting the cross as a saving event for the world. If we are to grasp the centrality of the cross, then we must see it as more than a propiatory sacrifice for the forgivnesss of the sins of individuals. The cross should be interpreted as an atoning even within a larger apocalyptic narrative where God destroys the powers of the old order and inaugurates the new creation (Gal 6:14-16).

3. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology for the gospel’s political critique of pagan culture. The biting edge to Christian eschatology is that Jesus is the Lord to whom every leader and government will one day bow (Phil 2:9-11). Christian apocalypticism reminds us that Caesar’s power (in whatever form it takes) might claim to be totalitarian, but in fact it is transient. Christian loyalty to the Lord means resistance to the power, politics, and pleasures of the world around us. If we train our eyes on the ultimate reversal of fortunes then we will never become accommodated or complacent with the status quo in an injust world.

4. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology to resist ecclesial complacency and triumphalism. The looming reality of a final judgment – a judgment that begins with the church – strikes a chord because it prevents the church from having grandiose concepts of its own importance (see 2 Cor 5:11–6:2). The church is a provisional servant of God, a life boat between shipwreck and salvage, and so must avoid becoming fat, sleepy, or abusive.

5. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology in order to affirm the body. Apocalyptic eschatology is in one sense dualistic between certain temporal and spatial entities (e.g., heaven vs. earth, future vs. present, etc.). However, that dualism is never annunciated as a radical rejection of the material world in toto. For apocalyptic eschatology looks forward the the Creator’s redemption and renewal of the created order and his refusal to abandon it to decay. God redeemes what he creates. That is why Christians look forward to the resurrection of the flesh and not to the immortality of the soul (1 Cor 15:35-58).

6. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology to ground its mission. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus was a sign that Israel’s restoration was indeed at hand (Acts 1:11). Yet it was also a call to engage in witness to the expanding kingdom. That witnessing inevitably brings the witnesses into conflict with a world hostile to the message of the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit empowers the church and forms the community as a missional organism that works out God’s purposes for redemption and judgment. Without this endtime perspective the content and urgency of the Christian mission is greatly retarded.

7. The church needs apocalyptic eschatology to speak with integrity about suffering and death. Those armed with an apocalyptic eschatology need not live in denial of the sufferings of this age and the groaning that accompany it. Cynicism nor despair takes over Christians because they know that their telos is the resurrection of their body assured by the resurrection of Jesus’ body. Christians therefore know how to grieve with hope in the face of the horror of death knowing that every tear will one day be wiped away their eyes in the new creation.

[1] Richard B. Hays, “‘Why Do You Stand Looking Up Toward Heaven?’ New Testament Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium,” in Theology at the Turn of the Millennium, eds. L.G. Jones and J.J. Buckley (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 113-33.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ian Paul on 1 Tim 2:11-14

Ian Paul gives a spirited defence of an egalitarian take on 1 Tim 2:11-14 and tries to answer several pointed questions. Still not sure if the use of the article can mean that Paul refers to one "specific" birth!

Jesus and the Eucharist 1

My friend and Catholic New Testament scholar Brant Pitre, for whom I have the greatest respect, has just released an interesting, accessible and important book on the Lord’s Supper (i.e. the Eucharist, for those of us low church folks!). The book is Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper.

I grew up a Protestant low church Baptist so my understanding of the Lord’s Supper has always been very Zwingli-ish. In other words, I have understood the Lord’s Supper as primarily memorial. In the Lord’s Supper we “remember” and reflect on the death of Jesus. Brant’s provocative thesis in the book is that the traditional Catholic view of transubstantiation, which believes that the bread and wine in communion are transformed literally into the body and blood of Jesus, is rooted in Jesus’ own teaching and first century Jewish context. The book presses me, and all readers, to consider a fresh Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. However, this is more than a book about the Eucharist.

In the book, Brant shows the importance of understanding the Jewish context of Jesus. This, for me, is a lesson nearly as important as his thesis on the Eucharist. I will be reflecting on the book in a series of posts.

Brant begins in this introduction with a somewhat darkly comical but yet poignant story of a pre-martial interview with his soon-to-be wife's family's Baptist pastor over 15 years ago. Upon hearing that Brant was a Catholic, the meeting turned from a pre-marital interview into a theological interrogation. As Brant recounts it, the pastor "grilled me on every single controversial point in the Catholic faith". pulled no punches in his questions of Brant over all things Catholic: Mary, the Canon of Scripture, the Pope and the Eucharist.

On the latter topic, the Eucharist, the pastor asked/asserted "How can Catholics teach that bread and wine actually become Jesus' body and blood? Do you really believe that? It's ridiculous!" Brant reflected on the fact that in the moment he was unable to provide a biblical and theological response. He left the meeting devastated. To make matters worse, the pastor said to Brant's fiance that "he has serious concerns about yoking you with an unbeliever".

Brant reflected that this experience was a "major turning point" in his life. He shares that this event became one of the reasons he is a biblical scholar today. Brant writes, "In effect, my exchange with the pastor poured gasoline on the fire of my interest in Scripture". One of the major lessons he learned as he pursued a biblical studies in undergrad, graduate and post-graduate work was this:
If you really want to know who Jesus was and what he was saying and doing, then you need to interpret his words and deeds in their historical context. And that means become familiar with not just ancient Christianity but also with ancient Judaism.

Clement on Love

1 Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ.
2 Who can describe the |blessed¦ bond of the love of God?
3 What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told?
4 The height to which love exalts is unspeakable.
5 Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God.
6 In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.
(1 Ceml 49:1-6)

Restoration of Israel

Over at the new Moore College blog Think Tank, my friend George Athas has an interesting post on The Restoration of Israel and whether the modern state of Israel is such a restored state. I'd also like point out that the modern state of Israel is only possible because Queensland Mounted Infantry won the battle of Bathsheba on 3 Oct 1917 at allowed the British forces to pour into Palestine. See about the battle here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Love Wins 1

Ok. So what do I think of Rob Bell’s book? What if I say I liked it? What if I say that I didn’t like it? What if I say there were parts that I absolutely agree with and other parts that I could not be more fundamentally in disagreement over? What if I came with anything less than a full condemnation of the book? What if I came down with a full commendation of the book? What if I said this was the best book I’ve read in a long time? What if I said this was the worst book I’ve ever read? Would it matter either way? Or any way?

Decisions about the book, about Rob, have been rendered and sides have been taken. Some have been generous in their disagreement, some vicious in their attack. A few have found it to be a refreshingly positive message. In writing a review of such a provocative book, one puts oneself in a position to get shot at from several directions. Well so be it.

I intend to write a series of posts reflecting on the substantive chapters of the book. My intention is that it serve as something of a “reading guide” for those who may wish to read it, but don’t feel they are in a position to think about it critically and theologically.

I don’t at all think this book is an especially important book on the subject. I think in fact that this will be little more than a “flash in the pan”. But the book has received a tremendous amount of buzz and I have found that people want to read it and talk about it. I think this is a great opportunity to take seriously the views offered here and engage them. I think this has at least two benefits: (1) the topic of heaven and hell and the salvation are extremely important--perhaps the most important topics in the Bible; and (2) such topics deserve attention and rigorous thinking. Again, this book is not important, but the topic and discussion is. To the extent that Love Wins has raised the discussion, it is beneficial.

I am going to avoid discussing or naming Rob Bell directly in these posts. I think it is more prudent to address the book and the ideas contained therein and not to discuss Rob or to make personal statements about him. There is too much of this going on in my view. Let's talk about the ideas!

I will begin in this post by listing in random order some affirmative statements about the book by way of introduction. This list will serve to show what I think about the book generally.

  • I don’t think this book is well written . . . surprisingly. It doesn’t seem to flow well. Sections in the chapters don’t move seamlessly. I found myself at many points asking “how did we go from there to here?” It feels very “cut and paste”.
  • The introduction is a confusing barrage of questions and seems to not really lead anywhere.
  • It took me 5 hours to read the book carefully.
  • I believe there are errors in the interpretation of the biblical texts in this book.
  • I don’t think the book roots the discussion enough in Jesus’ first century Jewish context as perhaps ironically as that may sound.
  • I believe the book mischaracterizes the history of the church in suggesting that the orthodox Church (Chalcedonian church [West and East]) allowed universalistic views. This of course does not include the church in the East and Far East.
  • I believe the book is right in the general contours of its understanding of heaven eschatologically (in the final analysis) will be a renewed earth.
  • I believe the book is right to describe the hellish nature of some of this world and folk’s experience of it.
  • I’m not sure I understand the significance of these complementary observations:
    It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing heaven to earth right now, as Jesus taught us to pray: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. At the same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die (45).

    Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death (79).

  • I believe the book does not place hardly any emphasis on final judgment (the kind of emphasis the NT puts on it—e.g. read 2 Thes 1:5-10) although talking about the need for justice and the work of God in bring about a just world in the future (37).
  • I agree with the opinion that God gets what he wants, but I don’t believe we know fully what God wants or exactly how he gets it.
  • I agree that not every person that ever lived will enjoy heaven with God one way or another.
  • I don’t agree that humans can exercise total freedom in their choices.
  • I think the presentation of Atonement in the book (ch 5), while mentioning the full range of biblical images for the significance of the work of Jesus, ends up deficient because it settles on just one.
  • I believe that the book presents the hope of universalism, but is not in the end universalistic.
  • I believe that the book teaches Christological pluralism (many ways to heaven) and not universalism.
  • I believe the book presents a deficient doctrine of hell by narrowing it to “the refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story” (170 [whole ch 7]).
  • I agree that the we are invited to "trust" God's love; to "entrust" ourselves to Him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johannine Eschatology

There other day I was describing the Gospel of John to my students. I described it kinda like the town of Nimbin in New South Wales (Nimbin is known for its hippie culture). Everyone there is chilled, they like to talk about love, its a reflective atmosphere, and it's very different to the hustle and bustle of city like in the Synoptics. That's an intro to my summary of Johannine eschatology:

The Fourth Gospel clearly favors the realized component of Jesus’ work. John sees in Jesus the coming of God’s revelatory light, the incarnation of divine glory, and the life of heaven made manifest (John 1:3-4, 14; 3:31). The final resurrection expected at the end of the age (see John 11:24), is burgeoning in the spiritual life that Jesus imparts to followers (John 5:25; 11:25-26). Eternal life becomes intractably bound up with, almost collapsed into, the act of knowing and believing in the God who sent Jesus (John 17:3). The Johannine Jesus can even aver that “Now is the time for judgment on this world” by virtue of the presence of the judge (John 12:31; cf. 5:22, 27, 30; 8:15-16; esp. 9:39). Still, John has not forfeited all sense of the future as he refers to a future judgment and resurrection (John 5:28-29; 6:39; 40, 44, 54; 11:23-26). The demonic “prince of this world” is still yet to be fully driven out (John 12:31). The kingdom of God is something that one must yet enter into (John 3:3-5). The Fourth Evangelist also knows that Jesus is preparing a place for where his disciples and will one day return to take them there (John 14:1-3). Putting this together, in the Gospel of John an absolute distinction between this age and the coming age has become fluid so that believers can experience real blessings, even eternal life, in the here and now. The Johannine Jesus brings a “rift” between evil and good, darkness and light, belief and unbelief, future and present. John knows of the cosmic “hour” that already has come and is yet to be, an hour that brings judgment as well as life, unity as well as division, it is the hour of salvation and reprobation that exudes form Jesus’ person (John 5:25). Contra much scholarship, John is not for the abandonment of a future apocalyptic kingdom for an existential present experience, rather, “John’s sense of time – his eschatology – is shaped by his recognition that in the coming of Jesus the light has made a decisive difference between the past and present. But John also knows that the present is the scene of conflicting claims. True life is a current reality, yet so is death; some people can now see; yet others have become blind. These truths grate against each other like a dissonant sound pressing for resolution. The Gospel assumes that there is no going back, as if Jesus never came. There can only be going forward to the point where the dissonance resolves into harmony,” and for John that harmony transpires at the future judgment.[1] John offers a summons to believe in Jesus as the light, life, and judge of the present hour and so avoid condemnation “at the last day” (John 12:44-50).

[1] Craig R. Koester, The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 176.

New Blog: Theology for Real Life

My buddy Dr. Preston Sprinkle of Eternity Bible College has alerted me to a new blog started by the faculty of EBC called Theology for Real Life. Looks good, check it out when ya get a chance.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Martin Hengel on Unity and Diversity in the Early Church

In a forthcoming memorial volume for Martin Hengel, his essay on "Confessions" is reproduced (and wonderfully translated by Daniel Johansson) and it includes this statement about the unity and diversity of the early church:

“Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (15:11). This succinct sentence contradicts the assumption so common today that in early Christianity there was not one fundamental confession of the faith which united all, but all kinds of kerygmas, not one Gospel, but many Christologies contradicting each other, and many churches whose teaching and living were quite disjoined, so that one must speak of a chaos at the beginning of the early Church. The Pauline letters in particular show that the opposite is true. In order to justify itself, modern theological pluralism here project itself onto early Christianity against the clear statements of the texts. There were of course – considerable – differences in the preaching of individual apostles and missionaries, even contradictions and conflicts. I just remind of the struggle at the apostolic council, the later incident at Antioch, and, what I believe, the permanent conflict between Peter and Paul. There are also, for example, considerable theological opposition between Romans and Galatians on the one hand and the Letter of James on the other. Nevertheless, all early Christian writings agree that eschatological salvation is effected through Christ, the Kyrios, his death and his resurrection. Only on this foundation, the attachment to the one Kyrios, was an agreement such as the one Paul depicts in Gal 2:1-10 at all possible, and in Gal 2:15ff. he assumes that Peter too acknowledges justification by faith alone and not through works of the law.

Reflections on Universalism

It just so happens that I'm lecturing on the "scope of salvation" for Friday's systematics lecture. Here is part of the notes that I've prepared:

Calvinists like to tout themselves as holding to a form of monergism whereby God alone works salvation in the individual, while those horrid Arminians and Catholics purportedly teach a synergism of divine and human wills. The problem is that any system of theology, including Calvinism, that recognizes a tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is going to entertain some form of synergism. Unless humans are nothing more than puppets there is always going to be the objective work of God countenanced with the subjective response of humanity to the divine work. In the Reformed scheme human will is freed and faith is activated by the regenerating work of the Spirit. God takes the initiative, he is utterly sovereign, his purposes are assured, but I’d hardly call it mongergism in the literal sense. Truth be told, the only true monergism is universalism since God alone does everything for salvation, no response, not even faith is required, and there simply is no tension about divine sovereignty and human responsibility on the universalist scheme. Understood this way universalists are the true “Calminians,” a hybrid Calvinist-Arminian offspring, as they combine the Calvinistic view of the efficacy of God’s saving power with the Arminian view of the universal scope of God’s salvation. God’s love is universal and his power is limitless; what God desires must effectively come to pass. If his desire is that all people be saved, then all people must be saved. However, this is a jaundiced view of salvation. God produces the means of salvation (the cross and empty tomb) and also induces the prescribed response (faith and repentance). God determines the end of salvation and also the means. God’s glory is manifested in the satisfaction of his justice, the exercise of his grace, the protection of his holiness, and the effusion of his love. God gives to each as they deserve, though to some, for reasons ineffable and mysterious to us, he designs to show mercy by bestowing the gift of faith. I would add that the universal offer of the gospel does not require a universal salvation. Irenaeus believed that the incarnation was purposed to unite humankind to the Logos so that they might receive adoption. But he also believed in an eternal punishment for the wicked who failed to embrace the gospel. So there is an objective dimension to salvation, but it needs a subjective appropriation.[1] God’s communion with creation will only transpire once it is purified of the sin and evil that has entangled it, and it is believers who cling to the Logos through the Spirit, that will enter into that world.

Wrapping this topic up, part of me would like to be a universalist (I think), but the testimony of scripture and the witness of the broad Christian tradition suggests that it is not a legitimate theological option. The exegetical gymnastics used to justify universalism will not score high before a panel of exegetes. Howard Marshall rightly concludes: “The major weakness in the universalist view is thus that in attempting to explain the few text which it interprets to refer to the salvation of all people it has to offer an unconvincing reinterpretation of texts about God’s judgement and wrath and to postulate an unattested salvific action of God in the future … The New Testament does not teach nor imply universal salvation. It teaches the reality of a final judgment on the impenitent and sadly it states that some will be lost. That is why there is such an urgency to proclaim the gospel to all the world.”[2] I agree, a passion for mission will inevitably evaporate in the universalist scheme. If everyone is saved whether they know it or not, does it really matter if we make it known or not?

But there is another problem for universalism concerning justice. Is it the case that the Pol Pot’s and the Billy Graham’s, the Adolf Hitler’s and the William Wilberforce’s of world history, will share in God’s paradise with only a temporary detention for the wicked? Does the depth of depravity perpetrated against other human beings and against the infinite holiness of God not warrant a proportionate punishment? If martyrs for the faith receive the same destiny as those that murdered them, is there any point in suffering for the faith, and do martyrs really receive a reward that is different from what their murderers receive? Will God not answer their prayer and avenge their blood (Rev 6:10). In the end, I have to agree with Dale C. Allison who reflects: “I do not know what befell Mother Theresa of Calcutta when she died, nor what has become of Joseph Stalin. But the same thing cannot have come upon both. If there is any moral rhyme or reason in the universe, all human beings cannot be equally well off as soon as they breathe their last and wake again.”[3] Though heaven may be the will of God, an eternity without God is the natural will of fallen humanity. For I believe that many on the last day, though they may regret their sin and the estate it has brought them, will still loath their Judge, show contempt for the Saviour, and would prefer to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.

What is more, I would add that that announcement of judgment is something that is part of the gospel message (Rom 2:16; Acts 17:31) and judgment is partly deserved for not believing the gospel itself (Rom 10:16-18; 2 Thess 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17). For the universalist this judgment is effectively neutered, denied, or curtailed by their scheme. Let us remember that the gospel is news about destruction and salvation, it is invitation and warning, it pertains to persons lost and found, it is both gift and demand. A denial of a final separation between God and the wicked tears apart the very heart of the salvation that the gospel offers. For if we are not saved from the judgment of God, what is it that we are saved from? For the universalist the best he or she can say is that by believing in Jesus one avoids an unfortunate though entirely temporary purgatorial state that cleanses a person before entering paradise. For the universalist the gospel is news of salvation for all, not an invitation for the lost to be saved. For the universalist the good news is so good that it need not be announced for Jesus Christ and faith in him are not, never were, and never will be the necessary means of salvation. But this is not the gospel we have received in the church. The condemnation resulting from Adam’s fall can only be undone by the condemnation of sin in the flesh of the Son of God, so that the sons and daughters of Adam, through faith in the Logos, attain to reconciliation with their Creator. I might also point to the words of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden who told Eve that if she were to eat of the tree of knowledge, “You will not certainly die” (Gen 3:4). The gospel was required because the first doctrine denied by anyone was the doctrine of judgment. If a denial of judgment facilitated the Fall and necessitated the gospel, if the gospel saves believers from the judgment of God against their sin, then denying judgment can be nothing other than a denial of the gospel story. What univeralism offers is a mirage, what the gospel offers is hope.

[1] Against Heresies 1.10.1; 3.19.1; 4.37.1.

[2] Marshall, “Universal Salvation”, 73-74.

[3] Dale C. Allison, “The Problem of Gehenna,” in Resurrecting Jesus (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 99.

On-Line Lectures by Bauckham and Hurtado

I've seen posted on-line lectures by Richard Bauckham on the Gospels and History and Larry Hurtado on the Resurrection and History.

Joshua Jipp Appointed to TEDS

I'm proud to announce that my buddy Joshua Jipp has recently been appointed as a lecturer in New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I've known Josh since he was an undergrad at NWC and we met on a discussion forum about the New Perspective on Paul. Josh is finishing up his Ph.D at Emory University on Acts. He'll be a fine addition to TEDS.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Couple of early reviews of Rob Bell's Love Wins

See Tim Challies and Kevin De Young.

Rob Bell Interviews

See last night's interview with Rob Bell about Love Wins.

After viewing the interview, I have this to say. It seems that Rob’s greatest concern in raising the issue about hell and salvation has come from his pastoral ministry. I believe him. Rob said in the interview that he has grown concerned from his pastoral work that the Gospel retold as it has been in effect paints God into this person with polarity disorder. On the one hand, the Gospel says, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life", on the other, "if you don’t believe in him at this moment, that loving God will reek havoc on you for eternity." "If you don’t pray these words after me, you could die tonight and suffer for an eternity in hell being tortured because you rejected God’s free gift." Rob thinks this telling of the Gospel story is not at all good news because of what it presupposes about God. The God of that story is not a God who loves by any human measure, according to Rob. As I recall, Brian McClaren made nearly the same point in Generous Orthodoxy.

The understanding of the Gospel in fact is perhaps the key issue for many emerging Christians. What I took away from the interview is that it seems that the central question for Rob Bell is "what is the Gospel?"

I agree that how we as evangelical Christians understand and frame the Gospel is an important and relevant question. And I'm just post-modern enough to believe that our cultural influences can shape how we understand the Gospel such that a constant evaluation of our understanding of the Gospel is essential. As early as Paul's day, there were "culturally conditioned" alterations of the Gospel with which he had to contend (Gal 1:6-9). And while Rob’s proposal is seriously flawed and dangerous theologically, that does not take away from the truth of his pastoral observations. When the Gospel is put in these terms it can lead in fact to equally flawed and dangerous theological points of view.

So, I agree with Rob, “the Gospel is good news indeed!”. But it’s not likely for the reason Rob proposes. I don’t intend a full discussion at the moment, but after watching the interview, I think at least one thing that is missing in Rob’s proposal is that for love to win, something or someone has to lose. With biblical salvation comes judgment, as my friend Jim Hamilton in his recent book, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, has eloquently made plain:

In the powerfully redemptive story that Rob told about the “Cutter” in his congregation, the men who perpetrated the abuse which led to the woman's psychological pain need to be brought to justice. At least part of the good news of the Gospel that Jesus told is that those who commit such things will meet justice if not in this life, than in the “death after death” to use a phrase from Scot McKnight in One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, in which Scot has a nice short discussion of hell (160-65). A Gospel which doesn't announce justice is no Gospel.


Rob also appeared this morning on ABC's Good Morning America.

HT: Jameson Ross & Taylor Clausen

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Triune Nature of Salvation

In her cracking book book, Images of Salvation in the New Testament, Brenda Colijn notes the triune nature of salvation in these terms:

Throughout the New Testament, as in the Old, sōtēria is regarded as the work of God. It is provided by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. The Father is the source of sōtēria; he sends the Son into the world so that it might be saved (Jn 3:17). Jesus is the mediator of sōtēria. He came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10), and salvation comes only through him (Acts 4:12). Jesus provides sōtēria through his healings, forgivness, his death and his life (Rom 5:10). The power of sōtēria is the power of his resurrection (1 Pet 3:21; cf. Rom 1:4). The Holy Spirit makes sōtēria actual in the lives of believers by setting them apart for God and making them holy so that they can share in the glory of Christ (2 Thess 2:13). [p. 137].

Ambassadors of Reconciliation

One of the upshots of reconciliation is that Christians preach a message of reconciliation to God, but they can also model reconciliation in a community context. For Jesus, being reconciled to a brother was more important than offering sacrifices at the altar (Matt 5:24). The gospel is lived when Christians practice reconciliation among themselves and model it before others. The ambassadors for reconciliation have the opportunity to promote peace-making in communities rife with factions, distrust, and mutual suspicions. Because we have been comforted we can be a comfort to others (2 Cor 1:4). As John Chrysostom wrote: “If he who reconciles only is called a son of God, of what shall not he be worthy, who makes friends of those who are reconciled? Let us engage ourselves in this trade, let us make those who are enemies to each other friends, and those who are not indeed enemies, but are not friends, them let us bring together, and before all, our own selves.”

D.A. Carson on Westminster Catechism Rap

Denny Burke has the audio for a rap song about the Westminster Catechism that features D.A. Carson. Very amusing. Carson has many talents, now I know that rapping down in da hood is one of them. Worth listening to for a laugh!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

New Book in honor of the memory of Graham N. Stanton

I want to announce a new book due out this year of which I am a co-editor.

Jesus, Matthew's Gospel and Early Christianity: Studies in Memory of Graham N. Stanton.

Here is the description:
The passing of Professor Graham Stanton, former Lady Margaret chair of divinity at Cambridge University, in 2009 marked the passing of an era in Matthean scholarship and studies of early Christianity. Stanton’s fifteen books and dozens of articles span thirty-four years and centre largely on questions pertaining to the gospel of Matthew and early Christianity. The present volume pays tribute to Stanton by engaging with the principal areas of his research and contributions: the Gospel of Matthew and Early Christianity. Contributors to the volume each engage a research question which intersects the contribution of Stanton in his various spheres of scholarly influence and enquiry. The distinguished contributors include; Richard Burridge, David Catchpole, James D.G. Dunn, Craig A. Evans, Don Hagner, Peter Head, Anders Runesson and Christopher Tuckett.
The book is in the LNTS series published by T & T Clark. See the book here.

When your wife tells you to comment about Rob Bell's new book

I did not intend to weigh in on the blog-troversy about Rob Bell's new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Livedbeing released now by Harper One on March 15th.

But when your wife tells you to write a comment about about something you do! Karla, my lovely wife of nearly 18 years, is not one to engage in theological debate. She has been my greatest supporter through my theological education, but her eyes glaze over within a few seconds of hearing a theological or biblical debate. She's practical and no non-sense. But on the issue of heaven and hell and God's will in allowing people entrance into heaven or sending people to hell she is always frustrated. She believes the Bible, she loves God, but she hates the doctrine of hell. and she doesn't understand the God behind it. She cannot understand how God could send a person to eternal torment because they did not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But she is not a universalist. She won't be. And my guess is neither is Rob.

When Karla heard about the book Rob has written she immediately wanted to watch the promo video. Not because of Rob (who the heck is Rob Bell?!!) but because the questions Rob is asking are her questions. The tensions Rob is willing to entertain in a public forum are exactly the ones she struggles with. And apparently so do thousands of other biblical evangelicals.

I have two thoughts for what its worth.

1. I think this book is important. Not because Rob will somehow set the record straight or because he has some new insight on the age old issue, or because he is in some papal position to render the final word on the issue, but because he is raising the issue for discussion. A discussion that is going on all over our country in living rooms, dorm rooms, coffee shops, driveways, bus stops, pubs and anywhere else where there are believers in Jesus who care about people.

2. I think we need to wait to read the book. There's no sense prejudging. It seems to me that what his critics are up in arms about is that he asks questions. But since when are questions out of bounds? Are there any questions that are "off limits"? I hope not. While the particular social contexts within which we are raising questions matter (e.g. church, academy, etc), the minute we put a limit on the kinds of questions we are allowed to ask, we've ceased being people of the book. We've become instead a people of dogma. For the life of me I can't figure out why John Piper would say something like "Farewell Rob Bell"? Was it because in the promo he asked "Will only a few select people make it to heaven and will billions and billions of people burn in forever hell "? Was it because he raised provocative questions that everyone is asking? Was it because he hinted at answers that press traditionally articulated answers?

Rob Bell may offer heretical views in this book, we won't know until it is read. But my suspicion--grounded as it is like everyone else's on almost no evidence--is that Rob is less a heretic and more a critic of biblical answers that don't speak in ways that make sense to people. Again my very uninformed guess (and we'll have to see if I'm a prophet or not) is that Rob will greatly nuance a traditional opinion on the matter in which he will be willing to let things that are unknowable remain so while emphasizing primary NT themes.

I suppose both sides will just have to wait an see. I will review the book when it comes out for the blog.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The meaning of "glorified" (Rom 8:30)

Writing a Systematic Theology, here's my thoughts on "glorification":

According to Paul’s sequence beginning in Rom 8:29, persons were predestined in order “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. God purposes to imprint all those who belong to Christ with the image of the second Adam. As to when this occurs is debated, but the parallel language with Phil 3:21 (God “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”) and 1 Cor 15:49 (“just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so will we bear the image of the heavenly man”) suggests that the conforming to Christ’s image is a future eschatological event. That is to say, God predestines believers to a future glory, the glory that Christ currently enjoys.[1] Consequently glory is a future hope for the believer to share in Christ’s glory (Rom 8:17; Col 1:17; 3:4; 2 Thess 2:14; 2 Tim 2:10; Tit 2:13; 1 Pet 4:13; 5:10). This meshes with the final item mentioned in Paul’s sequence in Rom 8:29-30 that those justified are also “glorified”. Too much is made of the Aorist tense form of edoxasen as if it means a completed or punctilliar event, but the main issue is the verbal aspect which is perfective and so the action is envisaged as a simple whole. Perhaps as a protreptic Aorist the point could be that those whom God justified he will also glorify. The Aorist is fitting because God has already decreed that it will take place.[2] Yet in another sense “glory” is a proleptic experience for the believer. For Paul, transformation into the glory of the Lord Jesus has already begun: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Peter informs believers that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet 4:14). Undoubtedly “glorification” is essentially a future hope, but it has proleptically begun through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who unites us with and patterns us after the Lord of glory. Glorification represents the culmination of salvation as the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23) and being “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). If justification means being freed from the penalty of sin, if transformation means being gradually freed from the power of sin, then glorification means to be freed from the presence of sin. The future “glory” means entrance into the new creation, to dwell in God’s new world, in God’s eschatological reign, among the glorified host of God’s people.

[1] Moo, Romans, 534-35.

[2] Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 37.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jobs: NT Lecturer at Vose Seminary

Vose Seminary is the Baptist Theological College of Western Australia and they are looking for a New Testament lecturer. See details here.