Thursday 30 May 2019

Currents in Biblical Research 17, 3 (June 2019)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research recently arrived, with titles and abstracts of the main articles as below.

Chloe Sun
Recent Research on Asian and Asian American Hermeneutics Related to the Hebrew Bible
Compared to Eurocentric biblical interpretations, Asian and Asian American hermeneutics is a relatively late phenomenon. Yet in the past three decades it has gradually emerged as one of the critical interpretations in contemporary scholarship. The common themes shared among Asian and Asian American hermeneutics revolve around the issues and intersections of identity, race, gender, class, liberation, and how one’s social location shapes the ways in which one interprets scripture. As regards Asian and Asian American hermeneutics related to the Hebrew Bible, the book of Exodus has received particularly broad attention due to its migration and liberation motifs. In addition, border-crossing characters and characters with hybrid identities, such as Moses, Ruth, Hagar, Daniel, and Esther, become key subjects for theological reflection. Methodologies are centered on ethnographical, feminist, postcolonial, intercontextual, and culturally specific perspectives such as Dalit and Minjung theologies, as well as LGBTQ readings. As Asian and Asian American hermeneutics related to the Hebrew Bible continues to flourish, the future of this particular way of reading scripture will likely include intersectional and integrational approaches and reception history, and will contribute to the broad interpretive spectrums of the twenty-first century.

Shawn J. Wilhite
Thirty-Five Years Later: A Summary of Didache Scholarship Since 1983
This article provides a summary of Didache scholarship over the past 35 years (1983–present). The review of literature focuses on the individual participants, including notable Didache scholars such as Jonathan Draper and Clayton Jefford, and the field’s respective contributions to Didache research. This article directly considers the vision of the Didache and its role in early Christianity via the literature of participants in Didache research. I consider the individual treatments of numerous Didache scholars and a list of their publications. In the conclusion, I highlight some points of agreement and disagreement to prompt further areas of specific research. I offer four suggestions to continue the work in Didache studies: (1) Wirkungsgeschichte and reception theory; (2) social-scientific methodologies (social identity theory; self-categorization theory); (3) exclusive attention given to H54; and (4) intertextual concerns beyond the Gospel of Matthew and Epistle of James.

Wesley Thomas Davey
Playing Christ: Participation and Suffering in the Letters of Paul
Paul’s theology of suffering has been the subject of a spate of recent scholarly investigations. This article provides a roadmap for the burgeoning conversation, doing so by targeting two objectives. First, it offers a historical account of the origin of interest in the concept of ‘participation with Christ’ in the Pauline letters. The genesis of participation studies played an indispensable role in catalyzing research into Paul’s perspective on suffering, as the article shows. Second, with that stage set, the article then turns to highlight authors who focus more narrowly on ‘suffering as participation with Christ’ in the letters of Paul. Although the current conversation about Paul’s theology of suffering hosts a wide array of approaches and opinions, there is a broad consensus that Paul interprets believers’ suffering as an indispensable part of what it means to be united to a crucified Lord.

Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Lynn Kaye
The Temporal Turn in Ancient Judaism and Jewish Studies
Despite the apparent finality of Heschel’s pronouncement, in 1951, that Judaism is a ‘religion of time’, the past two decades have seen renewed scholarly interest in the relationship between time, time-keeping, and forms of temporality in Jewish culture. This vibrant engagement with time and temporality in Jewish studies is not an isolated phenomenon. It participates in a broader interdisciplinary examination of time across the arts, humanities and sciences, both in the academy and beyond it. The current article outlines the innovative approaches of this ‘temporal turn’ within ancient Judaism and Jewish studies and reflects on why time has become such an important topic of research in recent years. We address a number of questions: What are the trends in recent work on time and temporality in the fields of ancient Judaism and Jewish studies? What new insights into the study of Judaism have emerged as a result of this focus on time? What reasons (academic, historiographical, technological and geopolitical) underpin this interest in time in such a wide variety of disciplines? And finally, what are some new avenues for exploration in this growing field at the intersection of time and Jewish studies? The article identifies trends and discusses key works in the broad field of Jewish studies, while providing more specific surveys of particular developments in the fields of Second Temple Judaism, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature, and some medieval Jewish sources.

Monday 27 May 2019

Embodied Grace

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:11-14

Later on in this letter, Paul will move from the mercies we’ve received from God to the giving of our bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1). He anticipates that move here, using the same language of ‘offering’.

It’s bound up with the flow of the gospel, God’s work of salvation in Christ through his Spirit. Paul wants us to know that our obedience to the first Adam is now gone. We no longer need to be enslaved to the way of life which went with that allegiance, ‘for we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin’ (6:6). We have died and risen again in Christ. What is true of him is true of us, however much we might be tempted to think otherwise.

Since salvation involves a recovery of what it means to be truly human, it should come as no surprise that the body is bound up with that restoration. God has saved us – the whole of us. And ‘every part’ of us is offered back to him – hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue, mouth, and brain. All that we are is put at the disposal of our new master.

It’s tempting to think that God’s interest in our bodies is solely restrictive, that God would want to limit our freedom of movement, slap ‘thou shalt not’ post-it notes on every pleasurable activity. And yes, there is a real challenge to note about ears that too quickly listen to the office gossip, eyes that are too easily drawn to images that are titillating at best and degrading at worst, tongues that too hastily put others down, hands that too readily get attached to smart phones and shut out our presence with family members.

But we live in an era of grace, Paul tells us, and we’re able to show a different way of living that flows from God’s generosity towards us. And we do so as embodied people, who have a particular family history, who talk a particular way, who occupy particular places in work and home and church. By God’s design, we live in a world of things we can see and hear, smell and taste. Watch out for the good ones today, and celebrate them as gifts from a gracious God.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Centre for Public Christianity (May 2019)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted an audio interview with Os Guinness ‘about religious freedom, the public square, and whether we’re living in a post-truth world’.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Lausanne Global Analysis 8, 3 (May 2019)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdf downloads.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor writes:

‘In this issue, as the results of the election in India emerge, we analyze Hindu and other nationalisms and their implications for mission; and we consider the crackdown in China and how churches and foreign workers can adapt to a tighter political environment there. We also ask how much we care about integrity and the struggle against corruption, bribes, and extortion; and we explore why wealth creation is central to our mission.’

Monday 20 May 2019

In Christ Alone

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:17-19

As he does elsewhere, Paul places the account of salvation on a big stage – nothing less than the story stretching from the first Adam to the second Adam.

He puts it even more succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:22: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ It’s by virtue of our union with Adam that we die, and by virtue of our union with Christ that we’re made alive. God fulfils not merely his promise of descendants for Abraham, but creates a new humanity in Christ.

And that little word ‘in’ is all-important.

What’s the central thought of Paul’s letters? Is it justification? Reconciliation? Adoption? Those are certainly important to Paul. But what’s most central is Jesus. The prior, primary, central, fundamental reality for Paul is our union with Christ, being in Christ. And all the benefits of salvation flow from that union – our justification, adoption, redemption, sanctification, preservation and glorification, and our being joined to each other in the church, the body of Christ.

Knowing who we are in Christ has all sorts of implications, as Paul will go on to explain: ‘count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (6:11); ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (8:1); ‘in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (12:5).

All this could sound ever so abstract were it not for our all-consuming interest in identity. Who am I, really? We can spend a lot of time wondering. For some of us, the answer depends to a large extent on what others think and say about us – our parents, our peers, our colleagues. What conclusions about me are reflected back in the way they treat me? Who am I – the joker, the trouble-maker, the failure, the helper?

In Christ, we can know who we are. I may be a son, a husband, a father, a colleague – those things make me who I am. And they are not suppressed, but gloriously redefined in the light of my being in Christ, as I bring that identity into my everyday work, my relationship with my spouse, my conversations with my children, my handling of money, my use of time.

In our union with Christ – and Christ alone – our humanity is not obliterated but restored.

Friday 17 May 2019

The Bible in Transmission (Spring 2019) on Millennials

The latest issue of The Bible in Transmission, from Bible Society, is available online here, offering a collection of articles on the theme of ‘Millennials’.

I have taken the ‘tasters’ of articles below from Chine McDonald’s editorial.

Christianity to Millennials was often seen to be hypocritical, judgemental, boring and irrelevant. While these views present challenges to mission among Millennials... Kinnaman points to something... even more concerning: ‘The most common millennial response to religion in general and Christianity in particular, is neutral or none at all,’ he writes.

David Ford asks how the Church in Britain can help digitally savvy Millennials engage more meaningfully with the Bible. His piece draws on... research commissioned by the Bible Society and undertaken by the CODEC research centre in 2017. 

This is also a generation that cares greatly about the world around them. Matthew van Duyvenbode’s article... explores... how this age group emphasises the expectation of helping others. In the 2017 survey, 21% ranked ‘helping others’ as their top aspiration, more important than lifestyle options such as ‘having close friends’, ‘being happy’ and ‘living in a safe environment’. Overall, it ranked as the fifth most likely aspiration. 

The exploration of the unique challenges of black majority churches’ engagement with Millennials... once again reiterates that while there are overarching themes when it comes to reaching 20s and 30s, there are also particular cultural challenges. In his fascinating article, Jason Shields explains: ‘One of the biggest shifts the BME Church is encountering is the increase  in black consciousness of Millennials. The history of Christianity and its involvement in slavery has been a particular sticking point as many black Christians attempt to reconcile their Christian faith and the history of the Church’... This article gives real insight into the different ways that churches are reaching Millennials and how those black and minority ethnic Millennials are in turn reimaging their faith.

One of the key themes that emerges from these pages is authenticity. In her discussion of the place of social media and other digital technologies in the life of the Church, Hannah Stevens reminds us of the importance of the physical presence of open and accessible authentic communities that provide opportunities for spiritual growth.

Pete Wynter... makes the same point: ‘if the church cannot learn to speak with authenticity it will not communicate in an intelligible language to Millennials.’ He argues that the culture of the Church needs to change, that leaders need to learn to become more vulnerable if they are to communicate with authenticity.

Chris Auckland writes about the economic and political environment that has led to the positive aspects of Millennial behaviours... ‘We are in crisis; the system is letting us down, and no one is listening. That is why we are the John the Baptist generation, because we are shouting in the wilderness to warn you of what is to come, because it is going to be so much worse. We are not the outliers, we are the warm-up act.’ It is a stark warning to which those who lead churches must pay attention.

Monday 13 May 2019

3D Salvation

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly... God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6-11

The story is told of Brooke Foss Westcott, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and Church of England bishop, being approached by a zealous evangelist. (Accounts differ as to whether it was a member of the Salvation Army or an undergraduate student, but don’t let that get in the way of a good story.) ‘Are you saved?’, Westcott was asked. To which he apparently replied, ‘Ah, a very good question. But tell me: do you mean…?’ – and went on to cite three forms of the Greek verb ‘to save’, indicating that his answer would depend on which of the three was in mind. ‘I know I have been saved,’ he said, ‘I believe I am being saved, and I hope by the grace of God that I shall be saved.’

There’s a temporal span to our salvation, which embraces past, present, and future.

Having just written of God’s love being ‘poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5), Paul reminds us where that love was so clearly demonstrated in the past – in Christ’s death on our behalf, when we were powerless to save ourselves. If God went to such cost to reconcile us to himself, even when we were his enemies, we can be confident he’ll finish what he has started. All this is grounds for assurance in the present, encouraging us to rejoice for what God has done in Christ.

Paul moves with ease from the past to the future to the present. And it’s helpful that he does. Some of us may be certain that God worked in us in the past, but find it difficult to see his hand on our lives right now. Or we might worry whether things we have done in the past disqualify us from his service in the present. Or our current struggles and suffering can make it hard to see the certainty of our future hope. But Jesus has the whole of our redemption wrapped up – then, now, and forever more.

And it’s all of grace. At every stage – past, present, and future – we come with empty hands, seeking mercy from our heavenly father, recognising as Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13 that we ‘work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling’, knowing that ‘it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose’.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Mission Frontiers 41, 3 (May-June 2019)

The May-June 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles on ‘India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization’.

According to the introductory blurb:

The May-June 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers turns our focus to India. No other country in the world has such a diverse and complex society with thousands of different communities all separated by caste, language and religion. Each of these communities will likely need a separate movement of disciple making and church planting – thereby making India the greatest challenge to world evangelization that the global mission force faces today. This issue will provide insight, stories of hope and multiple resources for the task at hand in bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people of India.

Individual articles can be accessed from here, and the whole issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Themelios 44, 1 (April 2019)

The latest Themelios is online here (and available here as a single pdf), containing the below articles. This issue contains the irenic exchange of views on spiritual gifts between Andrew Wilson and Thomas R. Schreiner (both of whom have recently published books on the topic) at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in the Perspectives on the Spiritual Gifts session.

Brian J. Tabb
Themelios Then and Now: The Journal’s Name, History, and Contribution

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
Sad Solo

Andrew Wilson
The Continuation of the Charismata
This article first defines the scope of the debate over whether or not Christians today should earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. The author then offers three key arguments for the charismatic position and concludes by raising and responding to the strongest argument for cessationism.

Thomas R. Schreiner
A Response to Andrew Wilson

Thomas R. Schreiner
It All Depends Upon Prophecy: A Brief Case for Nuanced Cessationism
Nuanced cessationism can be defended from a number of angles, but one of the most significant is from the nature of prophecy. The argument defended here is that NT prophecy is infallible and inerrant just like OT prophecy. Various arguments are given by some continuationists to establish the fallibility of NT prophecy, but it is argued here that they are unconvincing. Since NT prophecy is infallible and inerrant like OT prophecy and since the church is established upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20), we have significant evidence that NT prophets no longer exist today inasmuch as the doctrinal foundation of the church has been laid once for all. First Corinthians 13:8–13 is a good argument for all the gifts lasting until the second coming, but this text does not demand that all the gifts continue until the second coming.

Andrew Wilson
A Response to Tom Schreiner

Richard M. Blaylock
Towards a Definition of New Testament Prophecy
Despite a number of recent proposals, scholars have yet to reach a consensus regarding what the New Testament prophets were actually doing when they prophesied. In this essay, I attempt to make a contribution to New Testament studies by working towards a definition of New Testament prophecy. I proceed in three steps. First, I survey five different views on the nature of New Testament prophecy. Second, I analyze relevant texts from the New Testament to answer the question: what kind of an activity was New Testament prophecy? Third, I evaluate the arguments made for both limited prophetic authority and full prophetic authority. On the basis of the study, I conclude that prophetic activity in the New testament (1) is a human act of intelligible communication that (2) is rooted in spontaneous, divine revelation and (3) is empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that prophecy (4) consists in human speech or writing that can be attributed to the members of the Godhead and (5) that always carries complete divine authority.

Vern S. Poythress
The Boundaries of the Gift of Tongues: With Implications for Cessationism and Continuationism
Speaking in tongues potentially includes three subcategories: (1) known language; (2) unknown language; and (3) language-like utterance – an utterance consists of language-like sounds but does not belong to any actual human language. Category (3) occurs today in charismatic circles. Given that the church in Corinth was permissive, it can be inferred that category (3) may have occurred at Corinth. Moreover, each of the three categories can occur either in inspired, infallible form or noninspired, fallible form. Thus, it is possible to hold a cessationist view of inspiration (no more infallible utterances) and a continuationist view with respect to noninspired forms.

Ben C. Dunson
Biblical Words and Theological Meanings: Sanctification as Consecration for Transformation
Protestants have traditionally understood sanctification as God’s work of gradual spiritual transformation over the entire life of every believer. Recent biblical scholarship has argued that such a definition does not actually correspond with the meaning of biblical terminology for sanctification, which refers to a single and definitive setting apart of believers at conversion. Some have also insisted that this calls into question the wisdom of using the word “sanctification” to describe how God transforms Christians throughout their lives. This article examines these competing perspectives, concluding that biblical terminology for sanctification, while indeed definitive in nature (indicating a once-for-all action occurring at conversion), is also integrally connected in the Bible with the process of spiritual transformation begun at conversion. The article then provides some reflections on how definitive and progressive dimensions of sanctification can (and should) be held together in a doctrine of sanctification.

Lydia McGrew
Finessing Independent Attestation: A Study in Interdisciplinary Biblical Criticism
The claim that some incident or saying in the Gospels is multiply and independently attested is sometimes made in the wrong way by biblical scholars. Insights from formal epistemology can help to sharpen the requirements for alleging independent attestation to avoid such problems. In the course of this analysis it becomes clear that independent attestation is entangled with the connection between the documents and the facts, so that it is not possible simultaneously to theorize that the differences between accounts are due to the authors’ embellishment while also arguing persuasively that the accounts have the relevant kind of independence for multiple attestation. I discuss three cases where independence has either been claimed inaccurately or has been claimed in such a way that the scholar’s own theory blocks the route to arguing independence. This study illustrates the need for cross-disciplinary interaction in biblical criticism.

Michael Allen
Disputation for Scholastic Theology:Engaging Luther’s 97 Theses
The essay first seeks to unpack the anthropological and soteriology teaching of Martin Luther’s diatribe “against scholastic theology,” that is, against Semi-Pelagian or Pelagian moral anthropology in his 97 Theses of September 1517. Second, the essay turns to ways in which the theological task is located by Luther in the history of sin and grace, thus connecting his teaching against the anthropology of the scholastics with his methodology for studying theology academically, further clarifying the precise nature of the objections to scholasticism raised by Luther and other reformers (such as Calvin). Third, the essay concludes by charting a set of four protocols for systematic or scholastic theology today, so as to reconfigure the intellectual practice as an exercise in intellectual asceticism or discipleship that is part of the broader process of the sanctification of human reason.

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