Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Entrusted with the Gospel

In this volume, Andreas Kostenberger, edits many essays that examines and explores historical scholarship on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. In their work, much clarification and insight is brought to Paul's controversial theology in these epistles, and several important hermeneutical and exegetical challenges are also highlighted and discussed, including authorship, genre, historical background, and issues surrounding church leadership. See Table of Content for a list of contributors.

This book will serve well any exegesis course on the Pastorals, familiarizing students with the major issues involved, without overwhelming them or while developing their thinking along evangelical lines. The book will also make an excellent supplementary volume for NT Theology courses, or a great read for small groups and/or church study.

Contributors include several scholars who have done previous advanced work on these letters: I. Howard Marshall , Andreas Köstenberger, Terry L. Wilder, F. Alan Tomlinson, Greg Couser, Daniel L. Akin, Ray van Neste, B. Paul Wolfe, Ben Merkle, George Wieland, Thor Madsen, and Chiao Ek Ho.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Calvinism is Back

The Christian Science Monitor has another in a long line of stories on the ascendancy of Calvinism. Christian Faith: Calvinism is Back by Josh Burek

Choice nuggets from the article:
What newcomers at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) hear is hardly "Christianity for Dummies." Nor is it "Extreme Makeover: Born-Again Edition."
Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help.
For all its controversy, predestination is something New Calvinists accept as part of their take-it-all-or-leave-it approach to the Bible.
Ultimately, Calvinism's contrast with chummier, Jesus-is-my-friend forms of evangelicalism may highlight a more fundamental change in the world of faith. Bestselling religion writer Phyllis Tickle sees the interest in Calvinism as the first phase of a backlash against the dominant religious trend of today: the rise of "Emergence Christianity."

Thanks for the nuggets, Josh. Though I'm almost certain you spelled Mark Dever's name wrong for pretty much the entire article.

The Historical Adam

Last week I had the privilege of, once again, joining the fellows from the Reformed Forum on Christ the Center. This week we discussed whether Adam was a real historical person and whether it matters for our understanding of Scripture and theology as a whole. In particular, we discussed a video clip recently posted by Tremper Longman (posted below). You can find the audio clip here. Pay particular attention to the comments on this one. They are very interesting.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesees

This new book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as 'anonymous community traditions,' asserting instead that they were transmitted in the name of the original eyewitnesses. To drive home this controversial point, Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, study of personal names in the first century, and recent developments in the understanding of oral traditions.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory and cognitive psychology, refuting the conclusions of the form critics and calling New Testament scholarship to make a clean break with this long-dominant tradition. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the 'historical Jesus' and the 'Christ of faith,' proposing instead the 'Jesus of testimony.' Sure to ignite heated debate on the precise character of the testimony about Jesus, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses will be valued by scholars, students, and all who seek to understand the origins of the Gospels.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Now This is a Preface!

One of the advantages I have over my seminarian friends is that I get to read stuff that isn't distinctly theological (I just like to rub that in). For example, I've just started reading an historical novel by Erik Larson called The Devil in the White City. Rather than explain what the book is about, I want to include a portion of the preface so that our readers can see how a real preface is supposed to be written...

IN CHICAGO AT THE END of the nineteenth century amid the smoke of industry and the clatter of trains there lived two men, both handsome, both blue-eyed, and both unusually adept at their chosen skills. Each embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized the rush of America toward the twentieth century. One was an architect, the builder of many of America’s most important structures, among them the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C.; the other was a murderer, one of the most prolific in history and harbinger of an American archetype, the urban serial killer. Although the two never met, at least not formally, their fates were linked by a single, magical event, one largely fallen from modern recollection but that in its time was considered to possess a transformative power nearly equal to that of the Civil War.
In the following pages I tell the story of these men and this event, but I must insert here a notice: However strange or macabre some of the following incidents may seem, this is not a work of fiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from a letter, memoir, or other written document...
Beneath the gore and smoke and loam, this book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow. In the end it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black.

All I want to know is...who would not want to read this book after such a preface!?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Two Kingdoms Debate

Blubrry player!

The Two Kingdoms Debate: Should we work to build a Christian Nation

Format of the Debate:
1. Introductory remarks- 5 minutes
2. Opening Statements- 20 minutes each
3. Rebuttals- 8 minutes each
4. Cross Examinations- 15 minutes each
Break- 10 minutes total
5. Closing Statements- 10 minutes each
6. Audience Q & A- 30 minutes

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview on the Authorship of Hebrews

As a few of you might already know, Andrew W. Pitts and I are publishing a chapter together titled "The Authorship of Hebrews: A Further Development in the Luke-Paul Relationship" which is forthcoming in S.E. Porter (ed.), Paul's Social Relations (Pauline Studies 7; Leiden: Brill, 2010). But what you might not know is that an interview on this chapter was posted yesterday on Mike Bird's blog. Here is a sample of the interview.

What is the basic thesis of your chapter on the authorship of Hebrews?

The evidence we examine suggests that Hebrews likely represents a Pauline speech, probably originally delivered in a Diaspora synagogue, that Luke documented in some way during their travels together and which Luke later published as an independent speech to be circulated among house churches in the Jewish-Christian Diaspora. From Acts, there already exists a historical context for Luke’s recording or in some way attaining and publishing Paul’s speeches in a narrative context. Luke remains the only person in the early Church whom we know to have published Paul’s teaching (beyond supposed Paulinists) and particularly his speeches. And certainly by the first century we have a well established tradition within Greco-Roman rhetorical and historiographic stenography (speech recording through the use of a system of shorthand) of narrative (speeches incorporated into a running narrative), compilation (multiple speeches collected and edited in a single publication) and independent (the publication of a single speech) speech circulation by stenographers. Since it can be shown (1) that early Christians pursued parallel practices, particularly Luke and Mark, (2) that Hebrews and Luke-Acts share substantial linguistic affinities and (3) that significant theological-literary affinities exist between Hebrews and Paul, we argue that a solid case for Luke’s independent publication of Hebrews as a Pauline speech can be sustained. We don’t claim to have “solved” the problem of authorship in terms of absolutes or certainties, but we do think that this is the direction that the evidence points most clearly.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is Social Justice Really the Heart of the Christian Faith?

So the folks at Sojourners are up in arms because of Glenn Beck's statement that "social justice" is code-word for communism. He further says that if you go to a church that pushes "social justice," you should leave. Now, I refuse to take church attendance advice from a Mormon, but I do appreciate his larger point: namely that it's stopped being about caring for the poor and it's become more about the government monstrosity caring for the poor, the widow, and the needy. The church's role in fulfilling Jesus' command has been relegated, in my opinion, to begging our congressmen to feed the monster and make it bigger so that the poor can please get something to eat.

Jim Wallis, who's been running Sojourners for ages said on his blog, "What he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show."

I have spoken on the perversion of "justice" before, so this is nothing new for me. But I am increasingly frustrated by the abuse of this word, and so for me, Beck's comments certainly reflect sentiments that I have harbored for a number of years.

Listening to Wallis' response to Beck makes me wonder if he is simply resorting to hyperbole by saying that social justice is really the heart of the Christian faith. Actually, since I have some experience with reading Sojourners, I don't think it is hyperbole. Which is sad.

On the blog, Wallis points to Luke 4:18-19 to justify his statement that social justice is the "heart" of the Christian faith.
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Where, in these verses, does Wallis find even the slightest suggestion that social justice is the heart of what we as Christians believe?

[As always, do I need to say that I'm a huge fan of "social justice" if we mean by it that that church should privately help the poor, as James said true religion consists in?]

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

King and Servant Show 15

Blubrry player!

Jonathan and Bryan discuss eschatology and the sensationalism that often surrounds modern end time scenarios. Jonathan lays the foundations of a more biblical eschatology, which is primarily focused on the consummation of redemptive history.

For other shows go to KingandServant.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spoilerific Thoughts on 'Shutter Island' and the Noetic Effects of Sin

I have recently read the novel Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. The new Scorsese film is based on Lehane's novel, but as I understand it, the movie follows the book pretty closely.

I'm warning you all, right now. The rest of this post is PURE spoiler. It assumes you've either seen the movie, read the book, or that you never intend to see/read either. Read further at your own peril!

The entire story of Shutter Island is really one of a man who is self-deceived. Teddy has been deceived for the entire story because the truth is too horrible for him to possibly live with. In the case of Teddy, the truth is that his wife murdered his three children, and after she murdered them, he killed her. For Teddy, the truth about reality is far too painful for him to live with. Therefore, he has constructed a tremendously elaborate narrative which permits him to be the hero of his life story rather than as the villain which he, in reality, is. Throughout the story, he is searching the island for Andrew Laeddis (a man he mistakenly believes to have killed his wife) so that he can kill him out of revenge for his wife's death. Teddy eventually comes to the painful truth that he actually is Andrew Laeddis, and he is the man who killed his wife after all.

I find the entire story to be a fascinating allegory of mankind's suppression of the knowledge of God. About self-deception. About the painfulness of the truth about us as humanity. You see, like Teddy, we are not the hero of the story; we are the villains. We are the antagonists working against the grain of the universe. We are the ones who rebelled, we are the ones who bear the tremendous weight of evil and sin from the Fall.

This is a painful truth; the existentialists, the poets, the scientists, and the scholars have constructed a new and elaborate narrative which allows humanity to suppress the truth of our villainy. The new narrative tells every person that they are the hero of their life's story, that they are not the enemy, that this morality which we appear to be born with is something of an illusion. The new narrative says that God is bad, man is good, and that by the help of science and politicians, we can create the eden which God failed to secure in the Beginning.

So mankind knows the truth - that we're the enemy. We know that we're the bad guy and not the good guy in the Story of the universe. However, this is far too painful to come to terms with. So now we are deluged with false religions, philosophies, tales of humanity's exploits of greatness, of the failure and badness of God - all of which reinforce this delusion; because the truth is far too painful to embrace. If mankind were to wake up, to stop deluding themselves and realize the truth about themselves in its fullness - well, I am tempted to say they would fall to the ground frozen in terror and never stop weeping for their guilt and for the crimes they have committed.

Now, I am sure that Dennis Lehane never intended this tale of a deluded U.S. Marshall to be seen for anything more than a thrilling exploration of one man's painful journey towards the truth. This should be obvious. But it does not take a great deal of effort, in my opinion, if you possess a robust Christian worldview, to see the allegory.

[Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention - Bruce Willis is dead like, the WHOLE movie in The Sixth Sense.]