Monday 31 August 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (2): Whole-Life Wisdom

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the second in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else... He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
1 Kings 4:29-34

Something greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew 12:42

There are many things a king might ask of God given the opportunity to do so: good health and long life, numerous descendants, prosperity for himself and his people, the subjugation of enemies. Yet, Solomon asks for ‘a discerning heart’ (1 Kings 3:9) in order to govern the nation.

Although God gave Solomon wisdom, it didn’t arrive as a ready-made package from heaven. 1 Kings 4:29-34 describes how Solomon became a student of both the ‘natural’ creation and neighbouring cultures. The comparison of his wisdom to that of renowned wise figures beyond Israel’s borders implicitly pays tribute to the value of the wisdom of surrounding nations, even while claiming that Solomon surpassed it.

But such insight and understanding was not for Solomon alone. Biblical wisdom is grounded in the ongoing regulation of the world by the creator God, and its first principle is the ‘fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 1:7), flowing out of reverent relationship with the covenant God – and it’s available for all those who seek to live wisely in God’s world.

Far from removing us from the rhythms of our everyday existence, such wisdom embraces a range of skills and practices, worked out in different spheres of life – at the city gates and in the market squares, in our homes and in our workplaces, with our children and with our colleagues, in our bedrooms and in our boardrooms – wherever God has called us.

If all this seems too challenging, from James comes the encouragement that if any of us ‘lacks wisdom’, we may ‘ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given’ to us (James 1:5) – a reminder that wisdom still comes as a gift from God, even as we seek to cultivate it in our lives.

In the light of how he starts, Solomon’s ultimate failure is all the more tragic, reminding us that wisdom can be misplaced, and encouraging us to look for one ‘greater than Solomon’ (Matthew 12:42). So it is that wisdom remains a key feature of the Christian life, as it did for the ancient Israelite, but is now focused on the person and work of Jesus. The ‘fear of the Lord’ and the way of life that flows from it find their fullest expression in relationship with Christ, ‘who has become for us wisdom from God’ (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Monday 24 August 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (1): Whole-Life Gospel

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the first in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
‘Your God reigns!’
Isaiah 52:7

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
Mark 1:14-15

Many religions begin by telling people what they should do; Christianity begins with what God has done. And that, right there, is what the gospel is all about – not a set of good instructions or a piece of good advice, but the good news of what God himself has accomplished, for us and for the world, in Christ.

In the Roman Empire of the first century, heralds would spread the ‘good news’ of military victories or an emperor’s coming to the throne. But for Christians, the word ‘gospel’ also came loaded with Old Testament promises of salvation. Isaiah, in particular, declares the ‘good tidings’ of God coming in power, exercising his reign, saving his people, and establishing peace. Indeed, the closing chapters of his prophecy describe how God’s reign will be universal in its scope, embracing all nations, even renewing the whole cosmos. No wonder it’s described as ‘good news’!

It’s in this light that Mark describes Jesus preaching the ‘good news’ of the arrival of God’s reign – as the culmination of a story which reaches back into God’s dealings with his people. But as the account moves on, as Jesus walks the path to death and resurrection, it becomes clear that the promised salvation will come about through the servant promised by Isaiah who would suffer and die on behalf of others. Kingdom and cross are bound together in the gospel.

It’s often tempting to reduce the gospel to a personal transaction between me and God in which Jesus dies for me, I repent, and God forgives my sin. Certainly, the gospel is not less than that. But it’s much more, involving not only the rescue of men and women from judgment, but the renewal of God’s relationship with his people, and the restoration of creation itself. The good news of what God has done in Jesus carries zoom-lens implications for the redemption of individual sinners and wide-angle implications for the reconciliation of all things.

On this understanding, a commitment to the gospel is significant for the whole of life. At home and at work, in the art gallery and the sports arena, in business and in politics, walking the dog and washing the dishes, there is no place the gospel does not touch with its implications because of the comprehensive nature of God’s saving work in Christ, his rule over every aspect of life.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Tyndale Bulletin 66, 1 (2015)

The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles and dissertation summaries.


Richard Neville
On Exaggerating Creation’s Role in Biblical Law and Ethics
Recent claims that creation theology is the broad horizon of Old Testament theology carry with them the potential for making easy connections between creation and ethics in biblical law. This potential is beginning to be realised in assertions that creation has an implied presence in Israel’s law and that Israel’s economic life was carried out within a worldview shaped by creation principles. These kinds of statements make it possible for the reader to discover creation at any point in the law that modern sensibilities would wish it. And yet the evidence presented here suggests that this will lead to the misreading of Israel’s law. Care needs to be taken that the marginalisation of creation theology in the twentieth century does not give way to a twenty-first century misrepresentation of creation’s role in Israel’s faith.

Robin Routledge
The Nephilim: a Tall Story? Who Were the Nephilim and How Did They Survive the Flood?
The Nephilim figure prominently in some popular literature. Their portrayal is speculative, but also based on Second Temple texts, which portray the Nephilim as the giant offspring of angels and human women who were responsible for the corruption that resulted in the flood. The OT includes few direct references to the Nephilim (Gen. 6:4; Num. 13:33; possibly Ezek. 32:27), though they have been generally linked with giant pre-conquest inhabitants of Canaan, particularly Anakites and Rephaim. The lack of detail in the OT suggests the existence of underlying extra-biblical traditions, though substantial differences appear to rule out Second Temple texts as a source for OT writers. Because the OT appears to include references to the Nephilim existing both before and after the flood, an important question is whether (or how) they survived the deluge. This article argues that the Nephilim in the OT are associated, primarily, with the antediluvian era; though are, intentially [sic], linked with postdiluvian ‘heroes’ to highlight the perversity of the pre-flood generation, who, in seeking liaisons with heavenly beings, seek to overcome their mortality. How they survived the flood does not appear to be of interest to the OT writers.

Isabelle Hamley
What’s Wrong with ‘Playing the Harlot’? The Meaning of ??? in Judges 19:2
The story of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 arouses horror – and very mixed scholarly interpretations. The silent concubine is cast in many shades, from silent victim to shady character on a par with the morally troubled Levite. Characterisation hinges on understanding the nature of the concubine’s actions in verse 2. Was she unfaithful, literally or metaphorically? Or simply angry, as in the Greek text? Despite a long tradition of exonerating the concubine from sexual misconduct, the debate has been reopened, unexpectedly, by feminist critics asking why we should automatically assume she is innocent of all wrongdoing, in a text where virtually all characters are morally ambiguous at best. This paper will argue that the Masoretic Text offers the best reading of the story, consistent with subtle narration and moral complexity.

T.S. Hadjiev
The King and the Reader: Hermeneutical Reflections on 1 Kings 20-21
1 Kings 20–21 offers a critical portrayal of Ahab as a king who practices neither mercy, nor justice in his dealings with his subjects but who strives to present a public image of himself as a king of mercy and justice. His character would have been seen by the exilic/post-exilic readership of the book of Kings as prefiguring their own experience of judgement and providing them with a model of repentance in the face of inevitable doom.

Ragnar Andersen
The Elihu Speeches: Their Place and Sense in the Book of Job
The different opinions about the Elihu speeches (Job 32–37) contribute greatly to confusion in research on the book of Job. In this paper I discuss whether the Elihu speeches are later interpolations or original to the writing, and I defend the latter position. Furthermore, I critically analyse current views on the speeches’ role in the book as a whole and argue that Elihu is an inspired wisdom teacher who paves the way for Job’s encounter with God. Elihu does not merely repeat the claims of Job’s three friends.

Lincoln H. Blumell
A New LXX Fragment Containing  Job 7:3-4 and 7:9
This article presents an edition of a papyrus fragment from LXX Job that is housed in the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan. The fragment likely dates to the sixth century A.D.AD and comes from a codex. On the recto the fragment contains Job 7:3-4 and on the verso Job 7:9.

Joel White
‘He Was Raised on the Third Day According to the Scriptures’  (1 Corinthians 15:4): A Typological Interpretation Based on the Cultic Calendar in Leviticus 23
According to one of the earliest creedal statements in the NT, which Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15:4, the Messiah ‘was raised on the third day according to the scriptures’. Scholarly analysis has centred on determining which scriptures are in view, rarely differentiating between the creed’s perspective and Paul’s. One can only speculate about the former, but with regard to the latter there are contextual clues in 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul sought to draw attention to the typological significance of the sheaf of firstfruits which, according to the Leviticus 23:10-11, was to be waved before the Lord on the day after the Sabbath after Passover, the very day that Jesus rose from the dead.

Joan Lockwood O’Donovan
Human Dignity and Human Justice: Thinking with Calvin About the Imago Dei
This article explores Calvin’s theological treatment of the Biblical doctrine of humankind’s creation in and restoration to ‘the image of God’, and draws out the critical implications of his treatment for the contemporary elaboration of an ‘inherent human dignity’ in terms of ‘human (subjective) rights’ as the moral foundation of a public justice of secular, egalitarian rights. The argument is that Calvin locates the created and restored ‘image’ in active Trinitarian and Christological relations of divine and human knowing and loving, and not in any immanent or self-standing human structure, quality, or capacity, and in so doing renders theologically problematic an elaboration of ‘inherent human dignity’ in terms of subjective rights. Moreover, his account of public justice, being rooted in, ordered to, and limited by these divine-human relationships, is incompatible with a secular rights polity.

Dillon T. Thornton
Satan as Adversary and Ally in the Process of Ecclesial Discipline: The Use of the Prologue to Job in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20
Twice in the NT Paul refers to delivering someone to Satan. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, the apostle tells the Corinthian believers to hand a man living in sexual immorality over to Satan (paradounai ton toiouton tw satana). In 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul tells Timothy that he handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan (paredwka tw satana). Paul’s language is strikingly similar to language contained in the prologue to Job. In Job 1:6-12, Satan disputes the blamelessness of Job and seeks Yahweh’s permission to test Job’s integrity. First, Yahweh allows Satan to attack Job’s most prized possessions (Job 1:12). After the first attack fails, Satan asks for Yahweh’s permission to assault Job physically. Then in Job 2:6 LXX, the LORD says to Satan, ‘Behold, I deliver him to you’ (Idou paradidwmi soi auton). In this paper, I argue that in both 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul draws from the prologue to Job, and he portrays Satan as an enemy of God who nevertheless can play the part of an ally in the process of church discipline.

Dissertation Summaries

Nicholas J. Moore
Repetition in Hebrews
The phrase ‘vaine repeticions’ indicts medieval Roman Catholic worship in Cranmer’s preface to the 1549 prayer book, and recurs in the Geneva and King James Bibles to describe the prattling prayers of the Gentiles in Matthew 6:7. These examples indicate both the bad press repetition has had in certain streams of theological tradition, and the ambivalence of such a reception: Cranmer’s liturgy was to be repeated daily throughout England, and Matthew 6:7 forms part of the introduction to the most repeated petition in Christian history, the Lord’s Prayer. This reception has in part been caused by and has in turn affected readings of the Letter to the Hebrews, which speaks of repetition in ways unique in the NT and has often been assumed to denigrate repetition as negative, ineffective, and ritualistic. This study challenges this reading, demonstrating that repetition functions in a multivalent way in the letter. The study thus rehabilitates our understanding of repetition in Hebrews, and thereby lays foundations for the theological development and deployment of this theme in other contexts.

Yonghua Ge
Participation and Creation in Augustine and Aquinas
‘The One and the Many’ names one of the most ancient debates in philosophy – it enquires whether reality is ultimately a unity or a plurality and how the two relate if we admit to both. For most people today, this topic seems too archaic to have any relevance. However, in his Bampton Lectures at the University of Oxford in 1992, The One, the Three and the Many, Colin Gunton sought to analyze the ills of modernity – excessive secularism and radical fragmentation – in the frame of the One and the Many. He argued that the dominant mode of the Western philosophical and theological tradition tended to prioritize unity over plurality and as a result led to the revolt of the Many against the One in modern thought. On this interpretation, the origin of the modern problem lies in the failure of classical Western theologians, such as Augustine and Aquinas, in offering an adequate Christian solution to the problem of ‘the One and the Many’.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Centre for Public Christianity (August 2015)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview with Trevor Hart on ‘the role of art and the imagination in coming to terms with the human condition’, and an audio interview with Margaret Somerville who explains ‘why she believes euthanasia is a social and ethical disaster – and why we should trust our imaginations more’.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Themelios 40, 2 (August 2015)

The latest Themelios is online here (and available here as a single pdf), containing the below articles, several of which engage with some of the current discussions on Adam and Eve, human origins, and original sin.

D.A. Carson
Some Reflections on Pastoral Leadership

Off the Record
Michael J. Ovey
Can Antigone Work in a Secularist Society?

Editor’s Note
Brian J. Tabb
Adam in Evangelical Theology

Stephen N. Williams
Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: A Review Essay
The contributors to Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin rightly maintain the traditional view of the historicity of Adam and the entry of sin into the world through him. However, the account displays three weaknesses. First, the inerrant authority of Scripture is sometimes interpreted as entailing that the Ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis sheds no light on how it should be read. Second, the question of why humans are justly condemned for the sin of Adam is never answered. Third, no ground for dialogue with science is provided. It is more successful in indicating what we should affirm than in grappling with the difficulties of affirming it.

Hans Madueme
Another Riddle without a Resolution? A Reply to Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams raises a number of concerns with the book, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin. The authors, he concludes, fail to grasp the nettle of difficulties facing the Augustinian hamartiology. While some of his objections hit the mark, others are less convincing. Original guilt, in particular, is a resilient doctrine. Rooted in Scripture and of a piece with Christ’s atonement and imputed righteousness, this doctrine resists its detractors. Thus, rumors of the demise of original sin as a viable doctrine have been greatly exaggerated.

Richard E. Averbeck
The Lost World of Adam and Eve: A Review Essay
In his new book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, John Walton tries to show that there is no necessary contradiction or tension between the discoveries of modern science when they are rightly understood and what the Bible actually teaches about cosmic and human origins. The reviewer agrees on this point and many others through the book. The major area of disagreement is that, in order to make his argument, Walton proposes there is no material creation in Gen 1–2; that is, creation has to do with establishing functions alone. This is not sustainable from the text. Both material creation and the functions of those things created are essential components of these creation accounts.

John H. Walton
Response to Richard Averbeck

Daniel J. Estes
Communicating the Book of Job in the Twenty-First Century
In churches, seminaries, and in the scholarly literature, the book of Job is only rarely preached or taught in detail. This wisdom text has always been a difficult book to interpret, and to complicate matters it is increasingly counter to the assumptions and
values of the contemporary culture. This article proposes six strategies for the effective communication of Job in the twenty-first century.

Pastoral Pensées
Eric Ortlund
Five Truths for Sufferers from the Book of Job
The book of Job is an obvious place to turn when a Christian suffers, but it is not easy to discern what God means to teach his people through this difficult book. This article interprets Job’s teaching on suffering from five broad perspectives: (1) God’s purpose in allowing suffering; (2) how Job “diversifies” our interpretations of suffering; (3) what God requires of us when we suffer; (4) what promises God makes about the
end of suffering; and (5) how Job-like suffering grants us a new vision of God.

Book Reviews

Sunday 9 August 2015

American Theological Inquiry 8, 1 (2015)

The latest issue of American Theological Inquiry is now online here, with the following content:


Kent Eilers and W. David Buschart
“An Overtaking of Depth”: Theology As Retrieval

Nathan Crawford
Forming a Community of Resistance: Oscar Romero and Joerg Rieger in Conversation

Sr. Sheila Galligan, IHM
C.S. Lewis: The “Real Tussle” of Forgiveness

Daniel J. Heisey
Erwin Panofsky’s Gothic Architecture

Sarah Irving
Beyond Dominion and Stewardship: Humanity and Nature in Puritan Theology

Fr. Gabriel Mendy
The Theological Significance of the Psalm of Lament

Review Articles

Steve Clark
Diana Garland and Family Ministry

Ryan McIlhenny
A Revolution In Mind: Andrew Newberg’s Principles Of Neurotheology

Book Reviews

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Os Guinness on the Power of the Gospel

Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014).

From a veteran in the conversation on cultural engagement comes this bracing critique of western society and challenge to Christians to be an influence in the world. While others might be pessimistic about the ability of the church to bring about real social change, Guinness points out that Christianity has changed the world in the past and can change it again – through a new renaissance, a restoration of radical faithfulness to Jesus and his way of life, and a committed engagement with surrounding society. The power of Christianity to influence culture rests in its adherence to God’s truth and its ability, in God’s strength, to live out the gospel – not just in a ‘faithful presence’ but through ‘transforming engagement’.