Thursday 25 August 2022

Themelios 47, 2 (August 2022)

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


Brian J. Tabb

The Pastor as Biblical Theologian

Strange Times

Daniel Strange

Dr Strange in the Multiperspectival Paradox

Peter Orr

Mark as the Backstory to the Gospel: Mark 1:1 as a Key to Mark’s Gospel

This article argues that the first 3 words of the Gospel of Mark… [“the beginning of the Gospel”] are best understood as the title of the book. Mark identifies his work as a description of the origin or backstory of the preached gospel that his readers were familiar with. The article examines what this implies for the relationship of Mark to Peter and Paul. It then explores the implications of this understanding for reading Mark.

William B. Bowes

Revisiting “the Time of Abiathar the High Priest”: Interpretation, Methodology and Ways Forward for Understanding Mark 2:26

Mark 2:26 has presented itself as a difficult textual and historical problem for interpreters. Mark narrates Jesus describing an action of David which is said to happen during the priesthood of Abiathar, but in the Old Testament source this detail appears inaccurate and is absent from the Matthean and Lukan versions. This article will first examine three types of problems that arise in interpreting this text and will then evaluate two types of solutions that have been proposed. The aim of this article is to highlight the limitations of previous approaches and to argue for a third type of solution as best option for understanding the text, which is based in a narrative reading of Mark’s Christology.

Scott D. MacDonald

Rejecting Syncretism: Paul and the Python

Syncretism – the blending of two or more religious paradigms – threatens Christian witness around the world. And the church in Africa continues to struggle with the popularity of local religious practices. In many locales, the ng’anga (an African religious diviner) prominently features in the lives of many church-going people. In response, Paul’s mission to Philippi, recounted in Acts 16:16–18, provides needed clarity concerning Christianity’s relationship to other religious powers and to syncretism. This article outlines the religious backdrop of Philippi, Paul’s missionary method in the Greek religious context, and the consequences that arise from Paul’s exorcism of the πύθων. In sum, Paul’s reaction to the divining spirit of Philippi leaves no room for syncretistic behavior among Christians today. Accommodation and any reliance upon other religious powers compromises the quality of the gospel and the reputation of the savior.

Allan Chapple

The Fantasy of the Frantic Apostle: Paul and the Parousia

There is a widespread belief that Paul understood his Gentile mission as the brief final chapter of salvation-history, preceding – or even triggering – the imminent return of Jesus. The first half of this essay discusses four major problems that make this view implausible: Paul’s understanding of the extent of the world, of God’s saving purpose, and of his specific task, and what his plans and activities reveal. The second half provides an alternative account of what the evidence discloses about the connections between Paul’s missionary convictions and activities and his beliefs about the end. The conclusion indicates where this discussion takes us.

EJ Davila

Love, Hope, Faith: Christopher Nolan and the Apostle Paul in Dialogue

This article examines Christopher Nolan’s three most recent films, Interstellar (2014), Dunkirk (2017), and Tenet (2020), through the lens of Christianity’s preeminent theological virtues: love, hope, and faith, respectively. In dialogue with the apostle Paul, I argue that Nolan takes Paul’s cruciform theology of virtue (consisting of vertical and horizontal relationships) and intentionally flattens it to the purely horizontal, resulting in a presentation of these virtues that, while emotive, ultimately strips them of their significance.

Robert D. Golding

Give Honor and Vote? A Reflection on the Christian’s Voting Conscience and Romans 13:1–7

Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:1–7 can be applied to Christian voting behavior in the West. Since Paul tells the Romans to honor debauched pagans, Christians can vote for similarly debauched political candidates with clear consciences. There are clear distinctions between Paul’s teaching and the Western political context. However, the underlying continuities are clear and they are based in God’s sovereignty, not political structure. Furthermore, the ancient Roman practice of giving honor to rulers only regarded the office, not the office holder’s morality.

Leland Brown

The Standard-Bearer: Pastoral Suffering in the Theology of John Calvin

This article examines John Calvin’s theology of pastoral suffering, an overlooked but relevant aspect of his theology for pastors struggling with the trials and difficulties of ministry. Calvin pictured the pastor as the chief agent of edification for God’s people, and therefore, the primary target for the assaults of Satan. Pastors will therefore suffer in the ways that all believers suffer but also suffer peculiarly as pastors – especially from opposition in their churches, criticism, slander, and possibly martyrdom. Calvin encouraged pastors to prepare themselves for sufferings, to set their eyes on Christ, and to patiently and gently deal with those causing their sufferings.

Paul Dirks

Hell for a Single Sin: A Response to Robert Golding’s Asymptotic Theory of Those in Hell

This article is a response to Robert Golding’s recent essay, “Making Sense of Hell,” in which he contends for the logic of eternal punishment on the basis of a progressive and asymptotic conception of sin and sinners in hell. I will argue that this innovation is unnecessary and that both the Scriptures and the “infinite-obligation” proof by Anselm of Canterbury demonstrate that hell is just and necessary for even a single sin.

Edmund Fong

Gender Dysphoria and the Body-Soul Relationship

After presenting the phenomenon of gender dysphoria as a state of consciousness experienced by the individual, I explore how the two major anthropological frameworks of materialism and substance dualism account for the conscious state of gender dysphoria. In particular, the article addresses the extent to which materialism and substance dualism support what I term a “created but misplaced being” scenario, where it is claimed that an individual could be created with an “inner” self gendered one way but placed in a body of a different biological sex. Three theological insights into gender dysphoria that follow from the findings of this exploration conclude the article.

Luke Wesley

Church-State Relations: Lessons from China

This article delineates various biblical principles that circumscribe the church’s relationship to the state. In addition to more general principles, these include the recognition that the mission of the organized church is distinct from that of individual Christians, that political institutions tend to become anti-Christ and oppressive, and that our context will determine the extent to which the church can exercise its prophetic voice. In view of these principles and on the basis of his experience in China, the author highlights five theological truths that will inevitably be challenged by totalitarian governments. Our faithfulness or lack thereof will hinge on our response to these challenges.

Book Reviews

Wednesday 10 August 2022

Ethics in Conversation on Augustine, the Trinity, and the Church

The latest Ethics in Conversation from the Kirby Laing Centre is a review by Matthew Wiley of Adam Ployd, Augustine, the Trinity, and the Church: A Reading of the Anti-Donatist Sermons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). It’s available as a pdf here.

Thursday 4 August 2022

Evangelical Review of Theology 46, 3 (August 2022)

The latest Evangelical Review of Theology, published by The World Evangelical Alliance, is now online and available in its entirety as a pdf here.

Editor’s Introduction

Rupen Das

What the Majority World Is Saying about Mission Today

With the centre of global Christianity shifting to the Majority World, what do church and mission leaders in the Global South think mission should be about today? This article describes the situation through the eyes of some prominent mission leaders from across the globe.

Emmanuel Oumarou

A Strategy for Christian Missions in Primary Oral Cultures

Nearly one-quarter of all people on earth today are illiterate or rely primarily on oral communication. Standard, text-dependent outreach and discipling methods do not work with these communities. This article, based on considerable first-hand experience as well as academic study, describes the distinctive thinking modes of oral cultures and how to reach them effectively.

Daniel Wiley

Moving Beyond the Bounds: A Response to the Segregationist Interpretation of Acts 17:26

Conflicts over Bible interpretation frequently threaten to undermine the evangelical worldview, as sceptics claim, ‘You can make the Bible say anything you want.’ This article resolves a classic conflict that arose when people holding opposite views on racial segregation used the same Bible verse to defend their positions. It provides an excellent illustration of what can happen when we let cultural convictions guide our biblical studies rather than the reverse.

Ron Lindo, Jr.

From Blackpain to Much Gain: A Biblical Reflection on Dealing with Racial Injustice

We are all called to oppose racism, but reconciliation requires both change by the oppressors and victims’ ability to move beyond bitter focus on their victimization. This article finds, in the exodus story and in Deuteronomy, a pattern by which God uses remembrances of past injustices to spur us towards providing justice for all.

Anna Droll

Toward Healing the Cataract of Racial Segregation: Spaces and Places for Spiritual Formation

Notions of race which promote segregation constitute a present-day cataract that distorts the vision for true spiritual formation in the church. The remedy, as presented in this article, is a theology of belonging which contradicts racial segregation by promoting spaces and places where biblical intimacy can be enacted.

Dennis P. Petri

Political Advice from Three Great Christian Political Philosophers

In this essay, one of the world’s leading advocates for religious freedom shares what he has learned from three of modern history’s greatest Christian political philosophers: 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, Dutch lawyer and statesman Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, and British apologist C.S. Lewis. The article offers practical principles with plenty of application.

Leah Farish

By the Same Token: How Communion Can Heal Communities

Every Christian practice, even those that have been long forgotten, had a purpose. This article looks at the historical practice of requiring tokens for admission to communion, encouraging us to recapture the individual and communal benefits of taking communion seriously.

Geoffrey Butler

Building Bridges: Luther, the Lord’s Supper and the Ethiopian Church

Luther and other Reformers, especially Zwingli, had passionate disagreements over the theology of the Lord’s Supper. Surprisingly, Luther seemed to have more in common on this topic with an Ethiopian Christian who visited him in 1534. This article places that interaction in its historical context, suggesting that Ethiopian Christianity in that time period had significant theological similarities with and may even have influenced the European Reformation.

Bruce Barron

Itching Ears and Willing Learners: Balancing the Clarity and Complexity of Scripture

The popularity of the ‘prosperity gospel’, despite its tendencies toward simplistic and unbalanced theology, epitomizes one of the biggest problems in contemporary Christianity: how to provide adequately trained leaders for the global Christian movement, especially in the Majority World. This essay explores reasons why the problem exists, summarizes the contours of what all Christian leaders need to know, and identifies the Re-Forma organization cofounded by Manfred Kohl as a strategic solution.

High-Level Religion Forum Planned Alongside G20’s 2022 Meeting

Book Reviews

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Tim Chester and Ed Moll on Family

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (August 2022) it’s Gospel Centred Family: Becoming the Parents God Wants You to Be by Tim Chester and Ed Moll, which is available in exchange for an email address here.