Monday 3 May 2021

Themelios 46, 1 (April 2021)

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


Brian J. Tabb

The Neglected Virtue of Contentment

Strange Times

Daniel Strange

Coming to Our Senses: The Case for a Civil Elenctics and an Elenctic Civility

Henri A.G. Blocher

Canonicity: A Theologian’s Observations

The topic of the biblical canon raises a specific, twofold difficulty for evangelical systematic theologians: the appeal to the Spirit’s testimony and a recognition of divine providence in history. It is crucial to recognize that “canon” entails both a principle – a body of teaching incorporating the word of God that binds the conscience of believers – and a list of books officially recognized as authoritative by the world-wide church. The principle of canon and specific canonical books are organically linked. While the validity of our confession of the canon of Scripture cannot be proven on any “neutral” ground, believers have sufficient clarity and confidence to confess the rule we need in radical dependence on God.

Matthew Bingham

Brains, Bodies, and the Task of Discipleship: Re-Aligning Anthropology and Ministry

Exploring the intersection of anthropology and ministry, this article offers an appreciative critique of recent authors who suggest that effective Christian discipleship requires holistic, bodily engagement. James K.A. Smith and others have helpfully drawn attention to ways in which contemporary evangelical approaches to Christian formation can risk over-emphasizing the transfer of information while neglecting things like desire, love, and imagination. Having thus diagnosed the problem, these authors suggest that the solution lies in a turn towards “embodied rituals” that they believe can more effectively form the whole person. Through a critical evaluation of this proposal, the present article seeks to distinguish between its attractive aspects and those which would unhelpfully undermine the Reformation emphasis on the primacy of Word ministry. The article concludes by suggesting ways in which evangelicals might advance a more holistic approach to discipleship that is congruent with longstanding Reformation priorities.

Daniel K. Eng

‘I Call You Friends’: Jesus as Patron in John 15

This article proposes that John 15:13–16 draws on the language of Roman patronage, which impacts the understanding of Jesus’s sayings regarding friends. We will suggest that φίλος conveys a regent obedient to a royal patron. Thus, the role of Jesus’s friend is one of subordination, not equality. After an introduction to patronage, this article makes the case that Jesus portrays himself as the greatest patron. First, John’s farewell discourse points to the disciples being subordinates. Second, Jesus makes a contrast between slaves and friends, which is consistent with many patronal relationships. Third, Jesus describes himself as a broker, mediating benefit from the Father. Fourth, inscriptions and provincial coinage contained terms like ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙΣΑΡ (friend of Caesar), referring to regents of the emperor. Patronage best explains the saying, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (15:13).” Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice for subordinates makes his patronage greater than Caesar’s.

Scott MacDonald

Spirit-Anointing and New Testament Church Leadership: Are Our Church Leaders Uniquely “Anointed?”

Does the church need Spirit-anointed leadership? “Anointing” is an increasingly common topic in relation to Christian leaders. This article aims to clarify the role of Spirit-anointing in the Old and New Testaments, with special attention to texts that are explicitly relevant to the church’s experience (i.e., 2 Cor 1:21–22; 1 John 2:20, 26–27). The misuse of the term “anointing” arises from a recast of Old Testament pneumatology as post-Pentecost. This misapplication of Old Testament texts denigrates the Holy Spirit’s expanded role of inhabitation in the New Testament era. Furthermore, the obfuscation of Spirit-anointing has incurred significant harm to the practices and doctrines that relate to local church leadership.

Doosuk Kim

The Parting of the Way: A Survey of  the Relationship between Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries CE

People today clearly view Judaism and Christianity as different religions. Undisputedly, however, Jesus and his followers were Jews in the first century. When did the parting of the way between Jews and Christians take place? What are the decisive factors that made the two ended up so far from each other? This essay examines this relationship in its social, theological, historical, and political context. The evidence suggests that though the exact time and impetus for the parting remain elusive, the parting of the way began in the first century and gradually became clearer in the second century.

John Kegley

The Nature and Task of Theology in John Owen’s Forgotten Work

Theologoumena Pantodapa may be John Owen’s most comprehensive theological work and his greatest contribution to the Reformed tradition. However, this work was not translated into English until 1994. Since its translation, it has received a noticeable lack of scholarly attention. This essay seeks to fill a part of the void in scholarship by examining Theologoumena Pantodapa’s historical context, structure, and key themes. This examination is profitable and pertinent for pastors, students of theology, and all Christians as it includes an analysis of Owen’s hermeneutical method, understanding of the relationship between theology and practice, and comments on the character of the gospel theologian.

Jarred Jung

Trinity, Creation, and Re-creation: A Comparison of Karl Barth and Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Doctrines of Creation

Karl Barth’s doctrine of creation, while rooted in his doctrine of the Trinity, errs in the way that creation is conflated into re-creation, resulting in a diminished doctrine of creation at the expense of his christological Trinitarianism. By comparing Barth’s doctrine of creation with that of Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck, this article argues that Bavinck offers a doctrine of creation that is as equally grounded in the doctrine of the Trinity as Barth’s and yet avoids the shortcomings of Barth’s doctrine by appropriately distinguishing between creation and re-creation. As such, Bavinck serves as an appropriate example of doctrinal emphasis for theologians and pastors.

Geoffrey Butler

Appeasement of a Monster God? A Historical and Biblical Analysis of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Long considered a key tenet of evangelical theology, the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has come under particularly intense scrutiny in recent years. Critics claim that it is a fairly recent innovation with little support prior to the Reformation, and that it depicts Yahweh as comparable with the pagan deities of the OT. This article makes the case that, on the contrary, the substance of penal substitutionary atonement has been taught from the church’s earliest days, arguing that the doctrine stems directly from a careful, thoughtful engagement with Scripture, which from beginning to end points toward the sacrificial death of Israel’s Messiah.

Robert D. Golding

Making Sense of Hell

Christian universalism (the view that all people are eventually saved) is largely predicated upon a negative reaction to the traditional doctrine of hell. It is therefore a “second option” to those who see hell as illogical, unnecessary, and/or cruel. In this article, I will argue that hell is not only logical and just but that it is also conceivably necessary. I will do this by way of a theological examination of those who occupy hell’s harrowing halls. This is essential because the loss of the traditional doctrine of hell can mean the loss of souls along with it. Doubting hell is playing with eternal fire.

Book Reviews

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