Thursday, 17 September 2020

Themelios 45, 2 (August 2020)

The latest Themelios is online here (and available here as a single pdf), containing the below articles.

Editorial

Brian J. Tabb

Pursuing Scholarship in a Pandemic: Reflections on Lewis’s “Learning in War-Time”

Brian Tabb argues that an 80-year-old sermon by C.S. Lewis offers timely perspective for these abnormal times. Lewis reminds us that ‘life has never been normal.’ He explains why and how we should pursue serious learning for the glory of God – whether in war or peace-time – and highlights three acute challenges that distract or discourage such scholarship.


Strange Times

Daniel Strange

Praise and Polemic in Our Global Pandemic

Dan Strange calls Psalm 92 an oasis in our COVID-19 desert, a one-stop-shop, not merely for our survival, but for our thrival needs. This psalm of praise also offers an important polemic against our cultural idols. If we believe that Christ has the right to be Lord of all, then Christians have a duty to challenge areas where this rule is not respected, and accounts of anything in creation that do not relate that something to Christ and the Christian worldview are necessarily incomplete, and to that extent misleading.


Jason DeRouchie

The Use of Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12: A Redemptive-Historical Reassessment

Paul cites Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12 in order to support that ‘no one is justified before God by the law’ (Gal 3:11). Leviticus 18:5 portrays the principle of ‘doing’ in order to attain life that characterized the Mosaic law-covenant, and when this principle met human inability, the law became an enslaving guardian until Christ (3:21–26) and identified how ‘all who rely on works of the law are under a curse’ (3:10). To say ‘the law is not of faith’ (3:12) means that the era of the law-covenant was not characterized by faith leading to life but by rebellion leading to death.


James S. Spiegel

Celebration and Betrayal: Martin Luther King’s Case for Racial Justice and Our Current Dilemma

During the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s principal arguments reasoned from theological ethics, appealing to natural law, imago Dei, and agape love. Today in the United States, with the prevailing ideal of public reason, such arguments are unacceptable in the public square. In lieu of King’s theological arguments, are there philosophical principles or values adequate to sustain the cause of racial justice, establishing both a secure rational foundation for racial justice and providing sufficient moral incentive for citizens to work self-sacrificially for this cause? I assess the prospects of the major philosophical alternatives, specifically utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, contractarianism, and the anti-theory option. I conclude that each of these approaches fails to provide the necessary conceptual resources to sustain the cause for racial justice. This presents a disconcerting dilemma: either we readmit theological considerations into the public square or surrender hope for the achievement of lasting racial justice in the United States.


Lydia Jaeger

Christ and the Concept of Person

The concept of personhood is crucial for our understanding of what it is to be human. This article considers the ways that Christological debates in the early Church contributed to the emergence of the concept of person. It then suggests that neglect of the theological roots of this concept is the reason why modern definitions of person are unsatisfactory. The latter typically refer to particular properties of the individual, whereas the Trinitarian concept of person is relational. Finally, some ethical implications are drawn from the Christological insight that the person is a fundamental ontological category. In particular, this perspective defends the personhood of those who do not meet the criteria of modern definitions of person. 


Martin Foord

The “Epistle of Straw”: Reflections on Luther and the Epistle of James

Many believe that because Martin Luther called James an ‘epistle of straw’ he wished to remove it from Scripture. And he has been accused of doing this according to his individual whim. This paper firstly seeks to show that Luther wished to keep James in the New Testament and his decision was not based on personal whim. Luther was able to call James an ‘epistle of straw’ and retain its canonicity because he held to a two-level view of the New Testament: James was excluded from the top tier and consigned to the lower tier of New Testament books. However, secondly, this paper subjects Luther’s position to a theological critique. It is found that Luther’s two-level understanding of the New Testament, and his conclusions about James, are ultimately unconvincing because they are not faithful to Scripture itself.


Mario M. C. Melendez

Interpreting Faith in the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Interpretations of Habakkuk 2:4b and Its New Testament Quotations

The sixteenth century Reformation debate primarily centered upon the interpretation of Scripture. The Reformers called into question Catholic understandings of justification. The result was a long period of theological writings concerning faith and justification. This study provides a historical survey of Habakkuk 2:4b’s use in the Reformation. The accomplished research shows that Luther and Calvin pointed to Christ’s faithfulness as the object of the Habakkuk 2:4b faith. For the Catholics, Erasmus began with an almost paralleled belief to the Protestants, but the Council of Trent concluded with a conviction that both the works of Christ and sacraments are necessary for salvation.


Michael N. Jacobs

The Resurgence of Two Kingdoms Doctrine: A Survey of the Literature

Two Kingdoms doctrine distinguishes between the common kingdom, the created order common to all life that will one day come to an end, and the redemptive kingdom, the church and those called to consummation into the world to come at the end of the current age. This article surveys the recent resurgence of scholarship on Two Kingdoms doctrine, focusing on work by David VanDrunen, Michael Horton, and D.G. Hart. The article concludes by reviewing neo-Calvinist criticisms of the doctrine and suggesting potential paths forward for future Two Kingdoms scholarship.


Gavin Ortlund

Why Not Grandchildren? An Argument against Reformed Paedobaptism

Reformed paedobaptism generally argues from continuity with the Abrahamic covenant, situating infant baptism as a continuation of infant circumcision. Credobaptist objections have typically challenged this premise, stressing points of discontinuity across the biblical covenants. This article suggests a different (though not incompatible) response, arguing that even if the paedobaptist vision of continuity between circumcision and baptism is accepted, current paedobaptist practice is not in line with it anyway, since circumcision was never at any time administered to ‘those who believe and their children.’ The argument is buttressed by a historical survey of Reformed baptismal practices from John Calvin through the mid-17th century (often forgotten/unknown today) which, by the same appeal to continuity with circumcision, affirmed intergenerational baptism.


Ronald L. Giese, Jr.

Is “Online Church” Really Church? The Church as God’s Temple

Many churches switched to streaming or recording their services during the COVID-19 crisis. This brought a question to the forefront: Can church be done online, not just in part but fully? This can’t be settled by the meaning of the Greek word ἐκκλησία. This article proposes that, though we should use technology in many ministry areas, ‘online church’ is an expression that should not be used. First, one of Paul’s main metaphors for the church is the temple of God. And, in keeping with the literal temple of the Old Testament, and the eschatological temple of the future, this is a place, in the usual meaning of the word. That place now is the local church, gathered physically. Second, God did not create humans as disembodied souls. The soul and body are both critical in Christian anthropology, redemption, and ministry.


Pastoral Pensées

Timothy E. Miller

Text-Criticism and the Pulpit: Should One Preach about the Woman Caught in Adultery?

This article considers whether ‘The Woman Caught in Adultery’ (John 7:53–8:11) should be preached. After indicating why the issue is significant, the article details eleven approaches to the question. Throughout, an analysis of each position on the basis of textual evidence and an evangelical definition of canon is provided. The article concludes by suggesting practical ways of handling the text as it comes up in an expositional series.


Book Reviews

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 5, 1 (2020) on Ephesians and the Powers

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies carries a set of essays devoted to the topic of ‘Ephesians and the Powers’, available from here.

John Frederick

Introduction: Ephesians and the Powers


Daniel K. Darko

‘The Ruler of the Power of the Air’ in the Salvific Story of Ephesians 2

Post-enlightenment theological articulations of what salvation entail often ostracize Satan in the process and limit the experience to a transaction between God and humans. The idea of ‘salvation by grace’ is however borrowed from Ephesians 2 where pre-conversion life was purportedly lived under the domain of Satan. The human condition is engineered by diabolic influence. Thus, people are saved from satanic in influence and its attendant consequences of sin, social breakdown, fleshly impulses etc. to belong to a people of God. Spiritual warfare is meant to curb pressures from evil powers to maintain faithful standing in God. Salvation would be incomplete, according to Ephesians 2, if it did not include deliverance from the control of ‘the ruler of the power of the air.’


Luke R. Hoselton

“You Have Been Raised with Christ”: Investigating the Spatial Portrait of New Creation in Ephesians

The theology of Ephesians comprises a number of distinctive features. Among other things, the letter portrays a unique relationship between the temporal and spatial aspects of its soterio-eschatology and displays significant attention to the powers. This essay explores the soteriology of Ephesians with reference to its spatial framework, the powers, and the new creation concept.


Eric Covington

Power and the “Powers” in Thomas Aquinas’ Lectura ad Ephesios

In his medieval commentary on Ephesians, Thomas Aquinas interprets the various terms that refer to the “powers” throughout the letter as references to specific tiers within hierarcies of both benevolent and malevolent spiritual beings. Intriguingly, Aquinas interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 1:21 and Ephesians 3:10 as references to the benevolent, angelic hierarchy, while he interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 2:2 and Ephesians 6:12 as references to the malevolent, demonic hierarchy. This chapter will examine Aquinas’ interpretation of these terms in each of these verses and will conclude by examining the theological significance of this identification for Aquinas’ reading of Ephesians. Ultimately, Aquinas sees Christ as the form and exemplar of true divine power, which is most fully expressed in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation over all spiritual beings. Thus, while Aquinas does not contradict modern scholarship’s focus on the subjugation of malevolent forces, he dramatically reorients the discussion around Ephesians’ presentation of Christ as the exalted one through whom the appropriate divine power extends to every creature – physical and spiritual.


Mark R. Kreitzer and Nancy C. Kreitzer

Three Cycles of Growth: Warfare and Spiritual Metamorphosis in John and Paul

In this paper, we examine two key NT passages that address spiritual warfare and spiritual growth, showing how they are inextricably linked. In Ephesians 6:10–20, Paul shows believers that in order to stand in their faith, they must stand in God’s full armor, their identity “in Christ.” With each piece, he reveals essential aspects of Christ’s armor, beginning with the belt of truth and ending with requests for prayer for evangelism. Paul seems to organize them in three sets of three pieces of armor. In 1 John 2:12–14, John teaches that the natural outworking of standing in Christ’s armor is growth in three stages. As we compare the 1 John and Ephesians passages, we will see how each piece of armor, and the believer’s understanding of them, is necessarily linked during the three stages of growth. Finally, we conclude with the far-reaching missiological implications. 


Joshua M. Greever

The Armor of God, the Gospel of Christ, and Standing Firm against the ‘Powers’ (Ephesians 6:10–20)

As the climactic conclusion to the letter, Ephesians 6:10–20 recapitulates and summarizes much of the earlier themes in Ephesians. It clarifies that the “powers” are evil, supernaturally power, spiritual beings. Christians must therefore stand firm against the “powers” by resting in Christ’s redemptive work for them. Christ is seen as the Divine Warrior whose victory over the “powers” is the armor that Christians are called to put on and appropriate by virtue of their union with Christ by faith.


John Frederick

Ephesians and Evangelical Activism: The Covenantal, Corporate, and Missional Components of the Ecclesial Armor of God

In Ephesians 6:10–20, the apostle Paul penned one of the most memorable accounts of spiritual warfare for Christians. Throughout the history of interpretation, the majority of exegetes have viewed Paul’s account of the “armor of God” in relation to the spiritual struggle of individual Christians in their quests for growth in personal holiness. This article counteracts individualistic, moralistic, gnostic readings of Ephesians 6:10–20 by re-situating the “armor of God” metaphor within its original corporate/ecclesial, covenantal, and missional context in Ephesians. The article begins by redirecting evangelical thinking on social activism away from recent fundamentalist denunciations back to the original activist ethos of neo-evangelicalism. Next, Walter Wink’s phenomenological reading of the Powers is explored as a framework for evangelical activism against human structures, systems, and ideologies that facilitate the activity of demonic and oppressive spiritual Powers. The article concludes by offering an exegetical recovery of the corporate, covenantal, and missional components of the armor of God metaphor thus providing a biblical and theological rationale and impetus for evangelical social action as the primary referent of spiritual warfare in Ephesians.


Simon Gomersall

Considering the Impact of Missiology on Contemporary Understandings of “Principalities and Powers”

While the early 20th century saw well-defined movement toward the depersonalizing and demythologizing of principalities and powers as they are described in the biblical text, the latter part of the century witnessed a reappraisal of this process as multi-cultural perspectives began to filter from the mission eld into the academy. This paper traces key milestones in the former demythologizing process and then explores some of the reasons why these modernist assumptions have been revised, including: the experiences of missionaries, greater insight into the assumptions that lie behind worldviews, and the research of anthropologists. The paper finishes with the brief suggestion that each part of this journey brings value to the practice of Christian ministry. 


Vicky Balabanski

Reading Ephesians in Dialogue with the Powers in Colossians

This chapter focuses on interpreting the powers in Colossians, a letter with close connections with the Letter to the Ephesians. It begins with three contemporary scenarios where the perception of the powers among indigenous Christians is contrasted with that of non-indigenous Christians. This demonstrates that any discussion of the powers is conducted in a culturally and theologically contested space. From the perspective of the positive reference to the powers in Colossians 1:16, it examines the more negative references in Colossians 1:13 and 2:15. It sets all these references against the background of Hellenistic cosmology, including the depiction of the powers in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, 1 Enoch 64:1–2, and Jude 14-15. The reference to angelic worship in Colossians 2:18 is also discussed. The chapter concludes by comparing the portrayal of the powers in Colossians and Ephesians, arguing that Western Christianity is right to emphasize the victory of Christ over all powers, but foolish to lose belief in the reality of the powers themselves.


Jonathan K. Sharpe and Jerry Pilla

Bonhoeffer and the Way of the Cruci ed: Methodeia, Doctrine, and the ‘Powers’

The Greek word methodeia, the “schemes,” “tricks,” or “methods” of the enemy that move us away from Christ and from unity in his body, is uniquely found only within Ephesians 4:14 and 6:11. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul focuses on the unity of the body of Christ and the way Christians grow into unity and maturity with Christ is by avoiding the methodeia of the enemy. The term also appears again in Ephesians 6:11 where Paul urges believers to put on the armor of God to avoid the methodeia of the devil. In this chapter we consider Peter Rollins’ theological movement of “Radical Theology” as being an example of methodeia which might disrupt the transformational unity of the body of Christ and against which we need to arm ourselves. We especially examine the purported reliance of Rollins’ movement upon the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and to what extent Bonhoeffer may propose a still radical but, conversely, more clearly orthodox movement of deconstruction than that suggested by Rollins, one in which Christ alone must deconstruct the human “I” and supernaturally enable persons both to overcome sin and the devil and to do good in the world only in and through Christ, via the specific historic means provided by Christ.


Joshua M. Greever

Conclusion: Ephesians and the Powers


Book Reviews

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Centre for Public Christianity (September 2020)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts: an interview with Richard Shumack, ‘about his new book Jesus through Muslim Eyes, and Abdu Murray, who has looked at Jesus through both Muslim and Christian eyes’, and one in which Justine Toh talks about ‘the struggles facing working mothers during COVID-19, and why society should value the practice of “care”’.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Bible in Transmission (Summer 2020) on Covid-19

The latest issue of The Bible in Transmission, from Bible Society, is available online here, offering a collection of articles on ‘When a Crisis Strikes: Perspectives on the Impact of Covid-19’.

I have taken the summaries of articles below from Hannah Stevens’ Editorial.


Hannah Stevens

Editorial


Dave Landrum

The Role of the Church In, Through and Beyond the Pandemic

It is because of the conscious recognition of a God who cares for us that the Church has taken the opportunity to respond with outreach in the midst of this crisis. In his article, Dave Landrum discusses how the Church is responding with deliveries of food and medicines, shelter, phone calling ministries and much more. Perhaps this could be part of the reason why there is evidence, as Dave also explores, that people in general are more open to conversations about God and willing to explore church during this time. Historically, the Church’s willingness to stretch out a hand to those crying out for help has helped it grow. It could also be because the fear invoked by a crisis exposes the deeper need for a greater plan and power to be in place. Digital church services, online prayer groups and Zoom meetings also make church more accessible to those who are just beginning to explore faith, as well as supporting regular church members during this time. Dave notes that many churches are coping well despite the closure of their buildings – they are adapting by digitising their content and still ‘meeting’ in each other’s homes digitally, a response which may be going back to a format more in line with the Church’s roots. However, Dave also explores how the Church might respond to the predicted economic crisis through a focus on employment provision and supporting local business.


Peter Heslam

God’s Pandemic Rule and Redemption: Business and the Renewal of the Global Economy

Peter Heslam explores the challenges faced by business with the closure of places to work, shop, learn, socialise, travel and enjoy leisure. Peter notes that social isolation has become a way to ‘engage in a communal struggle’ rather than an expression of individual self-sufficiency. He states that business [sic] are fundamentally ‘other-oriented’, co-operative enterprises and that those most in touch with their purpose are the most successful during the pandemic. They are the ones most engaged with their customers and their changing needs. This drive to meet needs – fundamentally, to serve – is driving three Industrial Revolutions. These are the digital technology revolution, which includes the boom of web-based business such as Zoom; the revolution of local digital production through technologies such as 3D printing, and, Peter hopes, a decarbonising green revolution, aided by the replacement of mass manufacturing and carbon-consuming habits with digital and local alternatives.


Chris Sunderland

So What for the Earth?

Chris Sunderland’s point that deep and lasting culture change is needed to protect the Earth beyond the lockdown. Chris is concerned with environmental issues and makes the point that although much of our response to the crisis has had a positive effect on our environment, this will be short-lived unless we change our view of our relationship to the Earth. For Chris, the collective feeling of dread bought about by the pandemic should catalyse a restructure in our thinking about how we can care for others through caring for our environment. This is grounded in an understanding of ourselves as ‘part of the Earth’s life’, and the Earth as God’s precious creation, a creation that is a continuing process beyond the initial act at the beginning.


Fleur Dorrell

Alchemy for the Masses: Why We Need Art in This Pandemic

Creation is a deeply human response to pain and crisis, which we do as part of our reflection of our creator God. We create to express to others and for the benefit of others. Fleur Dorrell explores the artistic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. She tackles the myth that art is an inaccessible luxury only for the elite, pointing to the democratisation of art apparent during the crisis, such as painting rainbows for the NHS. This, too, is a response that reflects God, because, whether consciously or unconsciously, people are utilising a symbol that invokes God’s promise and protection against total destruction. Just as the biblical rainbow in the sky was and is for everyone, so the artistic expression of solidarity with the NHS and social care is for everyone, from children to the elderly to the disabled. Art speaks to people of all walks of life, and so, Fleur points out, art is a means of connecting and caring for others.


Philippa Taylor

Coronavirus: Some Ethical Issues

A person’s relational health is... a factor in whether they will survive illness, as well as physical health. The truth of this drives us to reach out and provide social interaction to the self-isolating in whatever way we can, as much as we are driven to feed them, because of our shared sense of the ‘high value of human life’, as Philippa puts it. This in turn drives us to evaluate the ethics of the way medical care is being distributed. Philippa explores the ethical dilemmas faced by many medical staff today due to the shortage of resources.


Paul Williams

The Revelation of the Lockdown

Paul Williams discusses the opportunity for a new mission field after lockdown has ended. Paul makes the point that lockdown has revealed the flaws in the metanarratives that influence post-Christian society – science and the courses of action based on science are not always clear, and the world of business and economics is not always stable. He argues that there is a sense we are tired of cynicism; we hunger for ‘the real’, which is expressed in the appreciation of relationships and life, as well as gratitude for the NHS and key workers. Paul has recently written Exiles on Mission, in which he discusses the sense of alienation of Christianity from culture, but even in this he points to the hope that we can be ambassadors for the culture of Christ. Perhaps to the people who are feeling alienated from their old lifestyles as a result of lockdown, Christians can relate and be ambassadors of Christ in the midst of it.


Paul Woolley

News from Bible Society