Saturday 26 February 2011

Bruce Ashford on Theology and Culture

Over at Between the Times, Bruce Ashford has just finished a twelve-part series on Theology and Culture.

Theology & Culture (1): Introduction

Theology & Culture (2): Alternative Views

Theology & Culture (3): A Theology of Culture (Creation & Fall)

Theology & Culture (4): A Theology of Culture (Redemption and New Creation)

Theology & Culture (5): Case Studies (Augustine, Kuyper, Hubmaier, Lewis, Schaeffer, Neuhaus)

Theology & Culture (6): Theology in Cultural Context

Theology & Culture (7): Why Vocation Matters to God

Theology & Culture (8): Why The Arts Matter to God

Theology & Culture (9): Why The Sciences Matter to God

Theology & Culture (10): Why The Public Square Matters to God

Theology & Culture (11): Why The Academy Matters to God

Theology & Culture (12): My Favorite Colleges, Persons, Blogs, Journals, and Books

C. Clifton Black on Books on the King James Bible

C. Clifton Black, ‘Revisiting the King James Bible’, Theology Today 61 (2004), 347-54.

Its 400-year anniversary in 2011 means we can expect a number of books on the King James Bible to be published over the next few years. The early 2000s also saw a small flurry of books published over a period of two years; in this article, Clifton Black reviews five of them – by David Daniell (2003), David S. Katz (2004), Alister McGrath (2002), Brian Moynahan (2002), and Adam Nicolson (2003).

Thursday 24 February 2011

CALM Online

CALM Online is Christian Adult Education and Lifelong Christian Learning Resources. It is sponsored by Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), and provides basic details about Christian courses and resources available and where to find further information.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Todd D. Still on Philippians

Todd D. Still, Philippians & Philemon, The Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary 27b (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, forthcoming 2011), 256pp., ISBN 9781573120845.

Smyth & Helwys make available an excerpt of this forthcoming commentary by Todd Still on Philippians and Philemon.

After a fair bit of front matter, the excerpt includes the Introduction to Philippians, taking in the city of Philippi, the church at Philippi, and Paul’s letter to the Philippians (looking at the unity of the letter, the reasons for the letter, and the date and place of writing).

Still also includes a section on three recurring themes woven through Philippians:

• Christian Confidence

• Christian Communion and Moral Insight

• Christian Imitation

‘Taken together, then, Paul pens Philippians to encourage the fellowship to stand firm in the gospel (1:27; cf. 3:16) and to call them to embrace and exhibit a Christ-like habit of mind (2:5). The church’s commitment to such aims is to be evinced by its continued fidelity, congregational unity, ethical excellence, and heavenly hope (see esp. 2:1-4, 12-15; 3:7-16; 3:20-21; 4:8-9, 13, 19)’ (17).

And here are the main divisions in his outline of the letter:

Address and Greeting, 1:1-2

Thanksgiving and Prayer, 1:3-11

Paul’s Imprisonment and the Gospel’s Advancement, 1:12-18a

Paul’s Deliverance and Departure, 1:18b-26

Life as Christian Citizens, 1:27-30

Unity through Humility, 2:1-11

Pauline Exhortations in Light of Christ’s Lordship, 2:12-18

Timothy and Epaphroditus: Models of the Gospel, 2:19-30

Transition and Reiteration, 3:1

Paul’s Opponents and Past, 3:2-6

A New Orientation, 3:7-16

Type and Antitype, 3:17–4:1

Miscellaneous Exhortations, 4:2-9

Renewed Concern and Contentment beyond Circumstances, 4:10-20

Concluding Comments, 4:21-23

Trevin Wax on the Gospel as a Three-Legged Stool

In advance of his forthcoming book on the topic, here’s another post from Trevin Wax on the gospel as a three-legged stool:

• The Gospel Story

• The Gospel Announcement

• The Gospel Community

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Tim Keller and Gabe Lyons on The Next Christians

Tim Keller joined Gabe Lyons for a webcast last week, discussing some of the issues explored in Lyons’ book, The Next Christians. The webcast is available here via the QIdeas website, as is a collection of downloadable resources, including a Church Leader’s Guide.

The Period of the Judges: Spiralling Out of Control

[I recently wrote a short piece on Judges and Ruth for something I’m currently working on, and thought I’d post it here.]

Towards the end of his life, Joshua gathers the people together and recites the story of all that God has done for them. Affirming that he and his household will serve the Lord, the people respond by saying that they too will stay faithful (Joshua 24:1-28). Knowing our own capacity for self-delusion, we’re perhaps not surprised to learn that, after Joshua’s death, they stray from the Lord. This leads into an era when there is no national leader or central government, with little unity between the tribes. Early military successes give way to failure, and moral apathy takes hold. Then, as now, neglect of the covenant relationship with God spills over into society.

Still, God doesn’t abandon his people. They are disobedient to him, and he allows them to be defeated by enemies, but he responds to their cries for help by raising up a a ‘judge’ through whom he brings deliverance – only for the people to turn away from him again. This pattern can be seen in the account of the first judge in 3:7-12, but the cycle is repeated throughout the book.

Except that, if anything, it becomes a downward spiral. The final chapters (Judges 17-21) portray the inevitable breakdown in episodes of idolatry, lawlessness, and civil war. The horrific story of the gang rape and dismemberment of a nameless woman (19:1-30) shocks us into realising how far the people of God have failed in their calling to be a holy nation, with everyone doing what is right in their own eyes (17:6; 21:25). Alas, no judge arises to meet this progressive anarchy, and a recurring refrain – ‘Israel had no king’ (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) – strongly hints that something else is needed.

There is brutality, but there is also blessing. The first verse of the book of Ruth invites us to read the story that follows in the light of what we know of the period of judges. As we do so, the shameful, violent treatment of a woman gives way to tender, honourable conduct towards women. And through it all, the sovereign God works out his purpose with the inclusion of a Moabite ‘outsider’ into the fold of the covenant people – not only as one who is herself a sign of the fulfilment of his promise to bless the nations, but from whom King David (Ruth 4:17-22) – and Jesus himself (Matthew 1:5) – is eventually born.

Sunday 20 February 2011

The Guardian on the Language of the King James Bible

Yesterday’s Guardian (19 February 2011) carried a piece on the language of the King James Version, with several contributors, including Jeanette Winterson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Alexander McCall Smith, Michèle Roberts, David Crystal and Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Friday 18 February 2011

Jeremy Begbie on Theology

Buried in the Introduction to Jeremy S. Begbie’s Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, Engaging Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007) is a superb three-page treatment of the nature of theology.

He writes:

‘I am taking theology to be the disciplined thinking and rethinking of the Christian gospel for the sake of fostering a wisdom that is nourished by, and nourishes, the church in its worship and mission to the world’ (19, his italics).

He then unpacks that statement phrase by phrase...

• Disciplined thinking and rethinking – a form of thinking that ‘is affected by, and out to affect, every human faculty – including our willing, feeling, sensing, and bodily actions’ (19).

• Of the Christian Gospel – ‘the announcement that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Triune Creator, the God of Israel, has acted decisively to reconcile the world to himself’ (20).

• For the sake of fostering a wisdom – a practical orientation, and ‘directed toward a lifestyle thoroughly “in tune” with God’ (20).

• Nourished by, and nourishes, the church in its worship and mission to the world – such that ‘the gospel finds its outworking in a people gathered by God’s Spirit to share God’s life and make known what he has done in Jesus Christ, a people of worship called to be in and for the world’ (20).

He reflects, in conclusion:

‘In the sense I have described it, theology can and should be practiced by all Christians, not only professionally trained academics. All Christians who think intelligently about their faith along these lines are theologians’ (21).

Englewood Review of Books

Here’s a good and generous offer, providing you live outside the USA.

Sign up for an electronic edition of the quarterly print edition of Englewood Review of Books for free.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Michael Horton on the Gospel Commission

Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, forthcoming 2011), 320pp., ISBN 9780801013898.

This is due out in the not-too distant future, but the publishers make available an excerpt here. The January-February 2011 edition of Modern Reformation – devoted to ‘The Great Announcement – also gives some hints about what to expect.

It effectively forms the third book in a trilogy with his earlier Christless Christianity (2008) and The Gospel-Driven Life (2009). This one, according to the publisher’s blurb, pushes for ‘a renewed understanding of and commitment to the Great Commission’.

Horton himself writes in the Introduction:

‘In Christless Christianity, I paint an unflattering but documented portrait of the message that seems to pervade contemporary churches. Following closely on its heels, The Gospel-Driven Life focuses on the core Christian message and its radical implications for our lives in the world. My goal in The Gospel Commission is to call us away from mission creep, centering our discipleship and our churches on the very specific sources, goals, strategies, and methods that Christ mandated for this time between his two comings’ (8).

Trevin Wax on Gospel Definitions

Back in March 2010, I posted a link to a very useful collection of definitions of the ‘gospel’ by Trevin Wax (one of my favourite bloggers, by the way).

He’s posted an update recently, available as a pdf here.

While we’re at it, keep a look out for his forthcoming from book, due out in April this year:

Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (Chicago: Moody, forthcoming 2011).

In this book, he says, he treats the ‘gospel’ more fully, seeing it as a three-legged stool. As the book blurb puts it:

‘There’s the Gospel Story – the grand narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration). Within that overarching framework, we make the Gospel Announcement about Jesus Christ (His perfect life, substitutionary death, resurrection, exaltation). The gospel announcement then births the Gospel Community: God’s church – the embodiment of the gospel, the manifestation of God’s kingdom. A counterfeit gospel is like a colony of termites, eating away at one of the legs of this stool until the whole thing topples over. This book exposes six common counterfeits (Therapeutic, Judgmentless, Moralist, Quietist, Activist, and Churchless) that would get us off track.’

Richard M. Davidson on the Song of Songs

Richard M. Davidson, ‘Theology of Sexuality in the Song of Songs: Return to Eden’, Andrews University Seminary Studies 27, 1 (1989), 1-19.

After looking at ‘allegorical’ and ‘literal’ approaches to interpreting the Song of Songs, Richard Davidson notes studies that have analysed the relationship between the early chapters of Genesis and the Song of Songs (5). On this basis, he makes the following points:

Sexuality is Good

‘First, underlying the entire Song is the same high doctrine of creation that forms the backdrop for biblical wisdom literature in general’ (6).

Sexuality is for Couples

‘Secondly, the man and woman are a duality, as in the beginning – a lover and his beloved’ (7).

Sexuality is Egalitarian

‘Third, the lovers in the Song are presented as equals in every way’ (8).

Sexuality is Related to Wholeness

‘Closely related to the motifs of equality/mutuality, we note, fourthly, the concept of wholeness in sexuality’ (10).

Sexuality is a Multidimensional Relationship

‘From the aspect of wholeness and solidarity we are led to a fifth insight into the nature of sexuality: Paradisiacal sexual love means a multidimensional relationship’ (11).

Sexuality is Pleasurable

‘As a sixth insight into the nature of sexuality from the Song of Songs, we note one aspect that is not mentioned. The Song contains no reference to the procreative function of sexuality’ (15-16).

Sexuality is Beautiful

‘This leads us to the final insight and the major statement of the Song of Songs regarding the nature of sexuality. In living pictures sexuality is presented as wholesome, beautiful, and good; something to be celebrated and enjoyed without fear or embarrassment’ (16).

He also notes, in conclusion, that the Song may contain an explicit indication of the divine source of human love – in 8:6-7, translated as:

‘For love is as strong as death,

ardent love as relentless as Sheol;

the flash of it is a flash of fire,

a flame of Yah(weh) himself.

If this is the case, he holds, ‘then true human love is explicitly described as originating in God as “a spark off the original flame” [and] points beyond itself to the Lord of love’ (18).

Davidson thus advocates a typological – as opposed to allegorical – approach to the Song of Songs. While the relationship between husband and wife as described in the Song ‘has independent meaning and value of its own that is affirmed and extolled’, yet ‘at the same time this human love is given even greater significance as it typologically points beyond itself to the divine Lover’ (18).

Davidson returns to Song of Songs in the final two chapters of his 844-page treatment of sexuality in the Old Testament – Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007), dealing with similar themes though under a slightly different set of headings.

The final chapter seems to expand the ‘sexuality is beautiful’ dimension under the following points:

• Paradisal love is stunningly beautiful

• Paradisal love is wonderfully sensuous

• Paradisal love is an exuberant celebration

• Paradisal love is a thrilling adventure

• Paradisal love is an exquisite delight

• Paradisal love is highly erotic

• Paradisal love is unashamed and uninhibited

• Paradisal love is restrained and in good taste

• Paradisal love is light-hearted play

• Paradisal love is a romantic love affair

• Paradisal love is powerfully passionate

• Paradisal love is an awe-inspiring mystery

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Brian Russell on Reflections on the Missional Church

Brian Russell posts a nice, short set of ‘Reflections on Missional Church’, outlining ‘five emphases common to those self-identified with missional’:

• Church as the sent people of God

• The world as the locus of ministry

• Churches as mission outposts

• Pastor as resident missiologist

• New measures for evaluating success

Adam C. English on Christianity as Story, Game, Language, Culture

Adam C. English, Theology Remixed: Christianity as Story, Game, Language, Culture (Downers Grove: IVP, 2010), 208pp. ISBN 9780830838745.

Excerpt here.

‘The contention of this book is simple: the best way to understand what Christianity is is to find out what it is like, to compare it to things with which we are familiar. To the question, What is Christianity?, this book responds: the question needs to be answered by means of images, similes, comparisons and analogies’ (25).

Recognising the imperfect nature of analogies, an the importance of treading lightly, Adam English borrows ‘from four different fields in an attempt to present four different analogies’ (21):

1. ‘Christianity is like a story – with scenery, characters and plots – that reaches its climax in the person of Jesus the Christ, the main character who ties the plot together and gives it meaning.’

2. ‘Christianity is like a language, with all the features and peculiarities thereof. We articulate the faith best when we learn the correct vocabulary and grammar to carry out the conversation.’

3. ‘Christianity is like a game, with rules, players, goals and equipment for play. Each of these elements carries with it its own implications for the practice of the Christian faith.’

4. ‘Christianity is like a culture, in that it presents a distinct way of living, working, playing, worshiping, marrying and caring for the dead. Like a culture it is community based, and, also like a culture, it is learned through the long process of cultivation.’

Monday 14 February 2011

Biblefresh Newsletter (February 2011)

The Biblefresh February 2011 newsletter has just come out (subscribe via this page). This month features links to several resources related to ‘Bible Experiences’ – creative ideas for churches, including for Easter and Lent – as well as some opportunities for training in various parts of the country.

Sunday 13 February 2011

Contact Magazine 38, 2 (2010)

The current Contact magazine from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has a number of articles devoted to the topic of ‘Christian Ethics in a Post-Christian Society’:

Esther Byle Bruland

What Is Ethics All About?

Dennis P. Hollinger

Wonderfully Made–Terribly Fallen

David W. Gill

Ethics in the Workplace

Eldin Villafañe

To Live in Justice

Patrick T. Smith

How to Make Ethical Decisions in a Complex World

The entire magazine is downloadable as a pdf here.

D.A. Carson on the Bible’s Literary Genres (2)

The London School of Theology 2011 Laing Lecture, given by D.A. Carson – on ‘The Bible’s Literary Genres: Reflections on What They Say About God’ – came in two main parts:

(1) What does the diversity of genres itself tell us about God?

(2) What do each of the genres individually say about God?

I’ve already posted on part 1 here, and summarise part 2 below. Once again, it’s worth recognising that I was scribbling notes furiously and so won’t necessarily have caught all the nuances Carson managed in the actual address.

The second main part of the lecture asked, What do each of the genres say about God? As with the first part, Carson developed a number of points:

1. Lessons from the occasional nature of New Testament letters and Acts.

When Paul writes Romans, he is not giving a complete summary of doctrine. He is responding to different pastoral needs. Particular occasions call forth particular responses – but there is no single document containing Paul’s entire theology. Through the letters, God addresses particular churches with particular needs. If we take any one of the letters and try to make it say all that needs to be said on a topic, we distort its teaching.

Carson cited the example of Paul refusing to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2), as (in that context) it would jeopardise the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus. And yet, he is happy to have Timothy circumcised (in Acts) in a different context where there is an issue of removing an unnecessary source of offence.

By way of application, Carson used the example of alcohol – and the different ways we might act in different situations – whether to avoid offence or to issue a challenge where a particular practice is jeopardising the exclusive sufficiency of Christ.

2. Lessons to be learned from the historical books.

God discloses himself in space-time history, and we have access to history through witnesses. According to Carson, if it could be proved that Gautama the Buddha never existed, it would not make any substantial difference to the buddhist system. Or, if it could be proved that Krishna never existed, nothing in Hinduism would be placed in jeopardy. In principle, in Islam, Allah could have given his final revelation to someone other than Muhammad, for Allah could give it to anyone he pleases. But it is quite different in Christianity where, if we pull Jesus out, there is nothing left. Jesus is not just a medium for the revelation of God, he is the revelation of God.

As Carson reminded us, in 1 Corinthians 15, for instance, certain entailments follow if Jesus did not rise from the dead. The truthfulness of faith’s object is necessary for faith. This is significant, Carson noted, because ‘faith’ on the street means either ‘religion’ (a particular faith) or ‘a personal subjective religious choice’, with no necessary connection to truth – which is not how Paul sees faith.

There are lessons from historical books which show how God works through history, attested by witnesses, which is why Christians are interested in historical issues.

3. Lessons from wisdom.

One of the most interesting features is the way wisdom thinks in polarities – lady wisdom or dame folly. Much of Jesus’ teaching also sets up simple polarities – two houses, two ways, etc., in this wisdom style.

Noting that wisdom literature can be abused from the pulpit, Carson used the example of Psalm 1, sometimes said to be a wisdom Psalm, drawing a polarity between the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’. He noted the challenge of always living up to the criterion of, say, delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night. Who of us always manages to do this, and never fails to do so? Constant preaching of simple polarities, Carson warned, will produce a congregation of legalists or hypocrites.

Narrative, however, allows more nuance. David might well be a man after God’s own heart, and yet he commits murder and adultery. In Judges, with its downward spiral, even the ‘good guys’ are disgusting by the end of the book.

When it comes to Job, Carson noted that some critics love the moral ambiguities expressed in the poetic portions of the book, but then assume the ending of the book (where everything is reinstated, and there is a happy ending) must have been written by a different hand. But it’s wisdom, Carson said, and so we should expect there to be polarities. Much of contemporary culture enjoys moral ambiguity for its own sake – and there is moral ambiguity, Carson noted – but it will be resolved by God in the end.

Carson ran out of time at this point, and so left off a further two sections on apocalyptic and typology.


There was time afterwards for three questions.

• Someone asked whether Melchizedek could be understood to be an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Carson responded that he thought nothing in the Old Testament account suggested that to be the case. Some of the description in Hebrews 7 might suggest it to be the case, but the writer here is simply exegeting the Genesis passage, noting Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy, etc. Moreover, the author of Hebrews says that Melchizedek is like the Son of God. He becomes a figure that prefigures someone else, and what’s picked up is that he is a priest-king – a prototype of the ultimate priest-king.

• Riffing (a tad cheekily, I think) on Carson’s lines about whether it would make any difference if Buddha or Krishna had not existed, someone asked about Genesis 1-2 and whether it would make any difference if Adam had not existed. Carson responded that this was a genre-identification question that he had not been addressing in the lecture, and that he would normally ask for four hours to deal with it. But he did express the opinion that if one denies a historical first couple and a space-time fall, it’s difficult to make sense of Paul. A historic Adam, he said, ‘is non-negotiable’.

• Someone asked about the negative side of Scripture’s diversity. Carson responded that he didn’t see it as a ‘negative’ so much as an ‘entailment’. We are finite, and God cannot download omniscience to us (it is one of his ‘incommunicable attributes’), which means that everything he says to us, and every way he communicates with us, will be, in some sense, necessarily limited. There would have been a ‘downside’ to any way he communicated. Moreover, Carson noted, there is a ‘hiddenness’ to God’s revelation. What was prophesied in the Old Testament is now fulfilled; but it is also said in some places that what was hidden in the past has now been revealed. Many truths are hidden in plain sight.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Chris Smith on Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch on the Church-Kingdom Relationship

Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford, Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

These two books are near the top of my ‘to read’ pile.

For the moment, over at Englewood Review of Books, Chris Smith looks at them (here), particularly on what they say about the relationship between God’s universal reign and the local church.

His brief summary is that ‘Alan Hirsch is making the appeal that we need to loosen up the correlation between kingdom and church, while Scot McKnight is calling for a stronger correlation between kingdom and church’.

After some excerpts from Hirsch and McKnight (and some further elaboration from an interview with McKnight), Smith suggests they ‘are each framing their remarks about church and kingdom in response to two very different problems that emerge as we seek to embody a church-kingdom relationship’, and he hopes there might be a synergy between their two responses:

‘Scot is in essence addressing the problem of individualism, and our tendency to narrate the kingdom through our own individualized lens rather than through our commitment to and the discernment of the local church community... Alan, on the other hand, is addressing the problem of narrow-mindedness, the perspective that God’s kingdom is manifested only in the local church community.’

Friday 11 February 2011

Homiletic 35, 2 (2010)

The latest issue of Homiletic – 35, 2 (2010) – is online.

As I think I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, perhaps the most useful thing about this journal is its reviews – which cover not only Bible and preaching, as one might expect, but media and contemporary culture, worship, and practical theology.

D.A. Carson on the Bible’s Literary Genres (1)

I was present at the London School of Theology 2011 Laing Lecture earlier this week. The speaker was D.A. Carson, and the title was: ‘The Bible’s Literary Genres: Reflections on What They Say About God’.

There was lots of familiar material for those who have heard or read Carson before, but it was good to have it reiterated. The lecture came in two main parts:

(1) What does the diversity of genres itself tell us about God?

(2) What do each of the genres individually say about God?

I’ll post separately on these two questions; obviously since these are my notes of his lecture, it’s possible that I’ll misrepresent something he said and/or fail to do it proper justice; but here goes...

On the first point, Carson began by reminding us of the sheer diversity of literary genres in Scripture – narrative, poetry, apocalyptic, letter, etc. – as well as genres within genres (beatitudes and parables within gospels, for instance) and genres within genres within genres (e.g., metaphors).

After this brief preamble, he took us through a number of points:

1. Although many true things can be said about God, God cannot be domesticated.

Systematic theology has its place, of course, but a biblical narrative can push the categories we use. We can line up biblical passages that speak of God’s sovereignty. He is sovereign, but is also a personal, talking, interactive God. Or we may speak of his aseity (his utter independence, his need of nothing), but then find other passages that strain the categories we use. Unlike Islam (described by Carson as ‘monotheism simplex’), Christianity (‘monotheism complex’) holds that God is love.

2. The diversity of Scripture’s literary forms attests different modes of inspiration.

Unlike, say, The Book of Mormon, or the Qur’an. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is ‘God-breathed’; his word may be breathed out in different ways – but the result is always that Scripture is his word. In one case, Jeremiah dictates God’s word to Baruch. Which is different from the way God’s word comes to Daniel – through visions, which Daniel does’t even understand. Other forms are different again, such as David’s psalms, which are a reflection of his own experience, where he is not a ‘dictation machine’, like Baruch – and yet the resulting word is still God’s word. Luke engages in careful research before he writes. Etc.

3. Biblical treatments of interaction between God and humans are recorded not only in affirmations, commands, and propositions, but in stunning depictions.

There are affirmations and commands (Carson cited parts of the Sermon on the Mount and Philippians as examples), but biblical depictions push us in other ways:

• Genesis 15:19-20 – God and human interaction in one and the same event in the different intentions of Joseph’s brothers and God – the mysteries of providence.

• Isaiah 10:5-19 – God uses Assyria (as one would use a club) to bring judgment on his people, and then promises to punish the Assyrians.

• Acts 4:27-28 – The apostles recognise the evil that brought about the crucifixion of Jesus, and yet also describe it as ‘determined beforehand’.

4. The diversity of materials placed along an historical axis generates some of the most important trajectories in the Bible.

Carson used the example of Melchizedek here, in his three occurrences in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 7. They are different literary genres, but when placed in historical sequence say some crucial things about Jesus.

• Genesis 14 – Melchizedek is described as a priest and king, which could never happen under the Mosaic covenant, and he receives a tithe from Abraham. Unlike other significant characters in Genesis, he has no genealogy, seemingly arriving out of nowhere and disappearing again.

• Psalm 110 – Between Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 comes the Mosaic covenant, where priests descend from Levi, and kings (after Saul) from Judah; the two roles are not found in the same person. David becomes king and rules from Jerusalem over a united kingdom. The kingship is established and the priesthood is established, but – as David writes in Psalm 110 – there was a priest-king (of Jerusalem? Salem?) a long time before, who was great enough for Abraham to pay him homage.

• Hebrews 7 – God’s promise of a priest-king only makes sense if the priesthood itself, in principle – including the covenant on which it was based – was becoming obsolete.

5. Sometimes there are interesting lessons to be learned within literary genres.

Ecclesiastes, Job, and Proverbs are all wisdom literature – but are very different.

What is a gospel, and why are there four of them? Carson pointed here to the titles of the gospels – The Gospel According to Matthew, etc. – such that there is one gospel with several witnesses. The gospel is the good news of what God was doing in his Son – which is why we announce it and preach it (what else does one do with news?).

I’ll post notes on Part 2 of the lecture anon.