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.


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

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