Today it is very common to hear that such-and-such a topic is “a gospel issue.” We must hold to the eternal generation of the Son: it is a gospel issue. We must defend inerrancy: it is a gospel issue. We must espouse complementarianism: it is a gospel issue. We must be sabbatarians: it is a gospel issue. We must hold to a specific eschatological vision: it is a gospel issue. We must hold to substitutionary penal atonement: it is a gospel issue.
Several years ago I wrote a fairly restrained critique of the emerging church movement as it then existed, before it morphed into its present diverse configurations.1 That little book earned me some of the angriest, bitterness-laced emails I have ever received—to say nothing, of course, of the blog posts.
Not many voices are raised these days in support of individualism. The left will not help, of course, for rugged individualism is associated in their minds with nineteenth-century robber barons and other greedy swine. Goodness surely lies in communitarianism, not individualism. Those like Thomas Sowell who complain that this popular analysis of the nineteenth century does not stand up very well to sober facts are not paid much attention.
Suffering, marginalization, and the abuse of power are now the stock in trade not only of literary theorists but also of many theologians, of whom the Liberationists of the sixties and seventies are but the most obvious examples. Indeed, the influence of such academic emphases now finds its place frequently in the classrooms of Protestant theologians of more orthodox and traditional bent.
Most readers of Themelios will be aware that the word “perfectionism” is commonly attached in theological circles to one subset of the Wesleyan tradition. As far as I can tell, the numbers who defend such perfectionism today are rather depleted. They hold that progressive sanctification is not only desirable and attainable but, borne along by grace, can result in a life of sinlessness here and now...
Most of us have had the experience of drifting, half awake and half asleep, in a gray mist of semi-consciousness, only to be jerked fully awake by some sudden and vivid memory of a shameful thing we have done or said in the past. The action or words are terribly vivid, and we break out in a cold sweat of shame. An inner writhing makes us wish we could relive those moments and behave differently.
During the last couple of decades, I have had occasion to reflect a little on the ambiguities and challenges surrounding what is sometimes called “polemical theology.” From time to time I shall use this editorial column to develop some of these reflections. Here I shall offer five initial observations.
In blogs, journal essays, and books, there has been quite a lot written recently about what “the gospel” is. In the hands of some, the question of what “the gospel” is may be tied to the question of what “evangelicalism” is, since “gospel” = ?????????? = evangel, which lies at the heart of evangelicalism.
The apostle Paul writes, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom 12:2). Elsewhere he tells the Corinthians, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
Other changes, though relatively minor, are more substantive. The new Themelios aims to serve both theological/religious studies students and pastors. There will be no print version. Our hope is to become increasingly international in representation: take a look at the list of Book Review Editors and their addresses on the previous page.
About five years after the Berlin wall came down and the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe had mostly fallen or been transmuted into something rather different, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference for pastors in one of those formerly eastern-bloc countries. The numbers were not large. Most interesting was the way this group of men reflected a natural breakdown.
Almost two decades ago I wrote an essay titled " When Is Spirituality Spiritual? Reflections on Some Problems of Definition ." I would like to follow up on one aspect of that topic here. The broader framework of the discussion needs to be remembered. "Spiritual" and "spirituality" have become notoriously fuzzy words. In common usage they almost always have positive overtones, but rarely does their meaning range within the sphere of biblical usage.
When I was a young man in pastoral ministry, I wrote a book-length manuscript under the title shared with this editorial. I sent it to only one publisher. That publisher turned it down with more grace than the manuscript deserved...
Since The Intolerance of Tolerance was published, readers have been sending me new examples they have spotted-examples of egregious intolerance masquerading in the name of tolerance. Sometimes these examples have been accompanied with a plea to incorporate them in any revised edition that might be called for...
I shall begin with a well-known exegetical conundrum and then branch out to a much larger issue that none of us can afford to ignore. In a context where Paul is talking about "virgins," both men and women, and delivers his judgment as to whether they should get married, he writes, "Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is" (1 Cor 7:26). To what does "the present crisis" refer? The Greek word ἀνάγκη has commonly been understood in one of two ways....
In recent years a number of stances have arisen that have set themselves over against traditional evangelicalism and traditional Reformed thought, not a few of them arguing, in part, on the basis of a particular understanding of the kingdom. These stances claim to be more biblical and thus more faithful than traditional stances. To some extent they overlap; to some extent each is identifiably different from the others. . . .
John complains, “I simply cannot resolve this calculus problem.” Sarah offers a solution: “Let’s read some Shakespearean sonnets.” I’ve got a problem with my car: it won’t start. But no problem: I know what to do. I’ll go and practice my guitar. That will fix it. My cakes always used to fall when I took them out of the oven. But my friend showed me how to fix the problem. He showed me how to adjust the timing on my car engine. Ridiculous, of course. . . .
One of the odd things about the English language is how many words it has. For example, English has about three times as many words as French. That doesn’t mean that the working vocabulary of the average English speaker is larger than the working vocabulary of the average French speaker, of course.
Here in the US, and to some extent elsewhere, we have witnessed a significant movement of (mostly young) Christians who have sometimes been tagged “the young, restless, and Reformed.” In part, this movement is embodied in such organizations as Together for the Gospel, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, 9Marks, and Acts29; in part, it surfaces in many local churches in many countries.
Frequently my computer or “smart” phone autocorrects Themelios to Themeless. The latter would make a rather unfortunate name for an international journal of theology! In this editorial, I will reflect on the journal’s name, its history, and my hopes for its future contribution. We certainly wouldn’t want Themelios to become “theme-less.”
In a recent class on the medieval church, I did my traditional two hours on medieval mystics, covering such personages as Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, and Julian of Norwich. I also included Thomas Aquinas to make the point that mysticism, at least in a medieval context, does not exclude solid theological discussion, biblical exegesis, and propositional truth.
Memory is singularly important. At the personal level, it is a large part of what makes us who we are. Pardon the cheesy wordplay, but who can forget the closing scenes of Bladerunner when Harrison Ford discovers that his memories have all been manufactured and that he himself, a bladerunner, is actually a replicant, a robot?
No doubt my two children would cringe at the title of this short piece. Indeed, I can hear their cries now, ‘Dad, barbers are soooo yesterday. Nobody has one of those anymore. It’s a hair stylist or personal grooming consultant you need today!’ Well, that’s a moot point.
In a conversation late in his life, Goethe commented that the secret of artistic genius lay in self-limitation. One might perhaps apply the same today to theological controversy. Indeed, while knowing one’s limits is important to making appropriate contributions to many areas, it is vital in theology.
The advances of various creationist groups and of the intelligent design movement indicate that Christians are still considerably interested in the creation-versus-evolution controversy. Yet we would be mistaken to think that the advance is on the creationist side only.
It might seem odd to write an editorial for a theological journal on the topic of not doing theology and how important that can be; and, indeed, perhaps it is contrarian even by my own exacting standards. But it is nonetheless important. Let me explain.
Every year a few students ask me my thoughts about whether they should pursue doctoral studies and I respond with what has come to be known as ‘The Speech.’ Essentially, ‘The Speech’ runs something like this: ‘Do not do it if you think you are going to find a job at the end of it; do it for the sake of doing it.
n the lounge next to my office hang the portraits of a number of the founding faculty of my institution, Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. There is one of John Murray, the dour-looking Scotsman with the glass eye. Legend has it that you could tell which eye was the real one because that was the one which did not smile.
Some years ago I was asked what I thought of those whose teaching undermined the Reformation position on justification by grace through faith. While I have no recollection of this, I am reliably informed that my answer was ‘I despise them; for that doctrine is often the only thing that gives me the strength to get out of bed in the morning.’. . .
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is remembered today as a saint, scholar, preacher, pastor, metaphysician, revival leader, theologian, Calvinist—the list goes on. However, 'If there is one area of Edwards's life that has been consistently overlooked and understated by contemporaries and scholars alike, it is his role as Indian missionary and advocate for Indian affairs.' It is indeed hard to imagine: a white British colonial Puritan, with powdered wig and Geneva bands, as a missionary to native American Indians. Of course, historically, the issue is not debated.
‘Just right’. This is the key refrain in the Goldilocks story as she tries out the chairs, porridge, and beds of the three bears, whose home she has entered (apparently illegally, but nothing turns on that). ‘Just right’ is also a good summary of a formidable (if not conclusive) apologetic argument for God’s existence...
One of the most unnerving things you can read is John Milton’s great poem Paradise Lost. Don’t mistake me—I do not dislike the work, far from it. I love it and deeply admire it, but it is profoundly unnerving. Let me explain...
As I write this the UK Parliament is considering Clause 1(1) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It reads 'Marriage of same sex couples is lawful'. Aside from all considerations about how Christians should respond to same-sex attraction and see biblical teaching reflected in the law of the land, what intrigues me here is one of the background assumptions, namely, that same-sex marriage is possible...
My guess is that many of the people who read Themelios either are, or have aspirations to be, teachers in the world of Christian theological academia. Thus, it seems apposite once in a while to reflect briefly upon what exactly this calling entails. The first thing to note in this regard is that being a Christian academic is no more virtuous a calling than any other. What makes a calling Christian, first and foremost, is not where it sits in the hierarchy of vocations as perceived by the Christian community.
Readers of the Expository Times were recently encouraged to pull up a chair and eavesdrop as James Dunn and Robert Morgan dialogued concerning faith and history and the "quest for the historical Jesus." Although the discussion centered upon James Dunn's Jesus Remembered, both contributors acknowledged those who had plowed the same field before them.
‘The wisest and the best of men—nay, the wisest and best of their actions—may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.’ Thus comments Jane Austen’s character Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to Elizabeth Bennett. Ridicule is a theme running throughout the novel, and Austen certainly does a fair amount of it herself...
Does someone have the right to harm their own soul? Or if you don’t much like the talk of ‘soul’, does someone have the right to do themselves moral harm? For many years the assumption in the UK has been that the individual does have the right to do themselves spiritual harm. This came to a very visible head in the controversy in the British Parliament this year about laws permitting same sex marriage, but it had been coming for some time. . . .
One of the perils of being a middle-aged parent in England is that you have to attend school plays. By the time your children are in their mid-late teens, they no longer act in dubious juvenile versions of The Lion King, but any sense of safety this gives you is thoroughly spurious: they have been told by their drama teachers to do Shakespeare. . . .
feel honored to be able to give this lecture named after John Wenham. I met John Wenham only once, here in Cambridge, at Tyndale House. My impression was that he was a genuinely humble man who had no idea why I, as a young NT scholar, would be excited to meet him. He also seemed unaware of the significant contributions he had made for the advancement of God’s kingdom through his work for Tyndale House, his work for Tyndale Fellowship, and his published writings.
Is the Reformation over? At first blush, this question would appear to be a rather peculiar one to ask. Of course the Reformation is over—if by that term we mean the particular constellation of religious, political, and social events in sixteenth-century Europe that led to the division of Western Christendom and the renewal of early modern Christianity. In recent years, however, the question “Is the Reformation over?” has served as a placeholder for a different set of issues, addressing the nature of contemporary Roman Catholicism and its relation to historic Protestantism.
This article is written in love and admiration for pastors in North America. It is also written in brotherly concern, because pastors in our culture are frequently subjected to gossip, slander, and malicious speech. You probably do not have to attend church meetings for very long before witnessing this for yourself.
People rightly note the way Christians in English-speaking Western culture have moved in a generation from being ‘moral majority’ to ‘immoral minority’. But I wonder whether that really catches the intensity of the dislike and disdain that I see in the two Western societies with which I am most familiar, the UK and Australia. You see, when I read the Sydney Morning Herald or the UK’s Guardian, what I perceive goes beyond a simple charge of immorality . . .
We often associate atheism with a very high, indeed arrogant, view of what a human being is. Thus, sometimes God is denied because his existence would threaten the overwhelmingly important value of human freedom. So argues nineteenth-century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. Sometimes God is denied because a human being argues that his own exacting criteria of proof have not been satisfied and since he is self-evidently so intelligent that this indicates God is not there.
In recent years a debate has emerged among conservative evangelicals over the “eternal functional subordination” (EFS) of the Son. At the center of this dispute is the question of how we are to understand scriptural teaching regarding the nature of the Son’s eternal relationship to the Father. Is the obedience of the Son to the Father limited merely to the incarnation, or does it also extend to the Son’s eternal relationship with the Father?1 The trinitarian teaching of the church fathers plays a central role in this dispute.
The present age tends to regard polemics, theological controversies, and all-round doctrinal fisticuffs as, at best, a necessary evil, at worst, one of the most revolting aspects of Christianity. After all, while the wider culture is still capable of vicious invective against racists and homophobes, it generally regards disputes among Christians as akin to debates over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin...
New Testament scholarship in its present state is experiencing a time of abundance, especially with respect to biblical commentaries of every shape, length, level of depth, theological persuasion, intended audience, and hermeneutical angle. This is, indeed, of value to researchers and ministers who have a wide selection of options to choose from on almost any given book.
A fundamental requirement in an inclusivist understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions is evidence of God's salvific activity outside of any knowledge of Christ. Evidence for such redemptive activity is commonly identified (rightly) in the people of Old Testament Israel.
C. S. Lewis argues that we should prefer old books over new books because every age has its own outlook. By reading old books, we can learn from the past and possibly correct errors in our own outlook...
In his influential address, “Discourse on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology, and the Right Determination of the Aims of Each,” Johann Philipp Gabler (1753–1826) lodged the programmatic proposal that scholars ought to distinguish between biblical and systematic theology...
I want to argue that there are some important parallels between the scepticism that Augustine encountered and some contemporary ways of handling the Bible. I also want to argue that Augustine has given us something of enduring value in meeting those approaches by his analysis of what it is to make a mistake.
The Human fascination with the heroic is evident from ancient mythology to the heroic epics of modern cinema. Real-life heroes, those deemed morally heroic, are no less fascinating, but arouse unease. What does the heroic have to do with the ordinary? ‘Common sense’ morality defines heroism as beyond ordinary, with minimal moral authority. Meanwhile Christians also feel uneasy. Talk of heroes appears to risk marginalising Christ, the hero of Scripture and history. This essay engages these issues, utilising John Frame’s tri-perspectival approach to Christian ethics, to find that far from resisting the heroic, the gospel would have us both embrace Christ as hero and strive for the unexpected heroism he calls for.
Of the many questions currently surrounding the discussion about justification, the relationship between justification and spiritual fruit merits attention. In particular, once the declaration of righteousness has been pronounced upon the sinner when personal faith is exercised,2 does this reality have any effect upon the lifestyle of the new believer?
he original question I was asked to address was "How does our commitment to the primacy of the gospel tie into our obligation to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith, to serve as salt and light in the world, to do good to the city?" I will divide this question into two parts: (1) If we are committed to the primacy of the gospel, does the gospel itself serve as the basis and motivation for ministry to the poor? (2) If so, how then does that ministry relate to the proclamation of the gospel?
Jesus was a theological educator. He was, of course, much more than that, but certainly no less. He taught the twelve, and he taught the crowds. The Gospels frequently call him ‘teacher’ or ‘rabbi’, suggestive of the popular reputation he gained for teaching. Indeed, more than once he identified himself as a teacher, confirming the assessment of others: ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am’ (John 13:13; cf. Matt 23:10; 26:18). . . .
What is the task and focus of Christian theology? What are the distinctive contributions of biblical theology and systematic theology? In this issue of Themelios, a distinguished systematic theologian (Gerald Bray) and biblical theologian (Thomas Schreiner) address these and other questions. . . .
C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength is often regarded as one of his most bizarre and unwieldy books. There are very few studies of it, and those that do exist tend to focus on its central social critique, leaving its ancillary theological and philosophical themes largely unexplored. This article examines the motif of conversion in That Hideous Strength. It traces out the contrasting conversion narratives of Mark and Jane Studdock, situates them in relation to the larger social message of the novel, and then draws two applications for what we can learn about evangelism today from this book.
One of the deepest impacts of the Reformation on Western Culture arose from the robust rearticulation of the biblical doctrines of creation and vocation. Luther may have captured the combined impact of these neglected doctrines most strongly by rejecting the enshrined sacred-secular divide that was so prevalent in medieval thought. Luther emphasised the ordinary activities of daily life ‘as examples of a Christian’s return to creation and embrace of vocation’. . . .
I would like to consider several elements in reviewing Bray’s work. What kind of systematic theology is this and how did Bray go about the task? What insights are particularly helpful for scholars and pastors? Along the way, but particularly at the end, I will raise a few questions. . . .
The past decades have seen a reawakening of academic and devotional interest in Edwards on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2003, the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Yale University founded the Jonathan Edwards Center and George Marsden published a celebrated biography of Edwards.
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. Firstly, 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. Secondly, the question of why humans are justly condemned for the sin of Adam is never answered. Thirdly, 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.
This essay introduces John Webster’s approach to the work of theology by considering its formal principles and their relation to the material claims of the Christian faith. We pay particular attention to his inaugural lectures given at Wycliffe College in 1995, at Oxford University in 1997, and the University of St. Andrews in 2014, filling out the picture by considering a few other significant essays. In so doing we will sketch three phases of his methodological development, which are meant heuristically to note ways in which his principled approach has been further extended and elaborated over the last twenty years and to note ways in which there have been shifts or developments within his prolegomena (e.g., regarding the nature of Scripture and its properties). Hopefully such a critical introduction then makes possible thoughtful, contextual engagement with and conversation about various elements of his work.
It is not fashionable among Christian philosophers today to be a compatibilist about morally significant freedom and determinism. This essay sketches a case for the reasonableness of embracing compatibilism that involves both theological and nontheological considerations. This is followed by a critique of the most widely recognized challenge to compatibilism, the consequence argument against compatibilism, that attempts to show why such an argument cannot succeed. The essay concludes by noting several implications of the sort of compatibilism defended here for developing a satisfactory moral psychology.
Since the mid-twentieth century biblical scholars have increasingly accepted that the texts of the Bible must be interpreted in terms of their literary genres. Many fine books, ranging from Fee and Stuart’s general primer, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, to Sternberg’s specialized tome, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative, have informed and assisted students and scholars of the Bible in reading according to generic distinctives.
This article critically examines Jonathan Edwards’s doctrine of the Trinity with a particular focus upon his understanding of the person of the Holy Spirit. While his restatement of Augustinian orthodoxy served the church well during a time of great doctrinal heterodoxy, it created some problems of its own. These problems were rooted in his use of philosophical idealism, his reliance upon trinitarian analogies, and his adapted doctrine of perichoresis.
Sports have captured the minds and hearts of people across the globe but have largely evaded the attention of Christian theologians. What is the meaning of sports? There seem to be two polar responses: some dismiss sports as merely a game, while others worship sports as nearly a god. This essay argues that when viewed through the lens of Scripture, sports are more than a game, less than a god, and when transformed by the gospel can be received as a gift to be enjoyed forever.
Claiming to stand on the shoulders of the later Origen, in Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective, Francis B. Watson makes a compelling case that all attempts to address alleged contradictions and establishing historical truth in and between the four canonical Gospels must be abandoned. Watson proposes that the later Origen’s preference for deeper spiritual and theological truth, in the wake of alleged empirical falsehood, should be embraced as a new paradigm and more ‘comprehensive approach’, subverting and destroying previous approaches. In this article, I test Watson’s relevant interpretations of Origen, focusing on his Commentary on John, Book 10 (Comm. Jo.); Against Celsus (Cels.); and On First Principles (Princ.). In addition, I offer evidence challenging Watson’s claim that the later Origen’s return to addressing some contradictions and establishing historical truth in Cels. reflects popular apologetics for the wider public, in contrast to more radical thoughts on hermeneutics in Book 10 of his Comm. Jo. It is argued that a more comprehensive and persuasive understanding of Origen’s approach to Gospel differences and historicity, requires a close reading of his early and later treatises, resulting in a nuanced middle position.
This article explores the function of Paul’s citation from Psalm 44:22 within the rhetoric of Romans 8:31–39. It offers a brief discussion of the meaning of Psalm 44:22 when the verse is read within its original historical and canonical contexts, then a summary and evaluation of the two main answers typically given by scholars to the question of whether and to what extent that meaning is retained in the verse’s new context in Romans 8. The final section of the article argues for a reading of Romans 8:36 in which the psalm-citation retains its original force and meaning as an expression of protest and lament, reinforcing the validity of the question in verse 35 before Paul answers it in verse 37.
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.
The gist of this new book by Peter Enns is that evangelicals should revise their expectations of Genesis and Paul—with reference to Adam and the fall—in order to relieve perceived tensions between Christianity and evolution. This thesis turns out to be controversial...
In one of the chief works produced by the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion set out to reduce the existence of God to an “almost certain” impossibility. While his words are firm and belittling, however, Dawkins fails to cause any legitimate damage to the theistic worldview. This article identifies three reasons why the New Atheist sledgehammer has widely missed its target. First, Dawkins demonstrates a deficient understanding of the God he seeks to extinguish. Second, he is unable to account for certain concepts that he appeals to in his arguments (logical absolutes, the uniformity of nature, and moral absolutes). Third, he repeatedly violates the commitments of his naturalistic materialism, resorting to metaphysical speculation on multiple occasions.
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.
One of the features of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement is the use of the rule of faith in biblical interpretation. However, a comparison of evangelical scholars in this movement shows that there are significant disagreements on the concept of the rule and its hermeneutical role. The present study attempts to clarify these disagreements and briefly analyze them. This article suggests that an engagement with Cullman’s notion of apostolic and post-apostolic traditions and with aspects of Irenaeus’s concept of rule of faith might be helpful for the understanding of the concept and role of the rule of faith.
Many churches seem to have lost the art of singing lament. This article urges a recovery of this forgotten practice, firstly, by demonstrating from within the Psalter itself the importance of singing the psalms (including the laments) and setting them to music; secondly, by exploring some of the obstacles to singing in times of distress; thirdly, by examining the way in which lament enables a singing of pain and sorrow; fourthly, by investigating what can be known of the manifold powers of music and song (for proclaiming and recalling God’s word and consoling and uniting God’s people); and, finally, by articulating something of the important relationship between lament and praise.
Listening to or reading the reflections of others on preaching is, for most preachers, inherently interesting and stimulating (whether positively or negatively). These reflections then are offered in the spirit of the Golden rule and only because the Editor is a long-standing friend!
This article analyzes the theological premises of the popular T4T model for evangelism and discipleship. The analysis argues that the T4T scheme largely depends on several false dichotomies that do not engage the Scriptures except in order to proof text and it regularly excludes the middle area that conveys the biblical balance. The result is an overly rigid methodology that undervalues the influence of context in cross-cultural communication. Rather than a theological vision that holds in biblical tension both truth and context, T4T sanctions an inflexible evangelism scheme that is more conducive to receptive audiences and a discipleship model that is more conversant with what is expedient than what is biblical.
Psalm 90 tells us that our lives are ever so brief and it also tells us why. It is the result of God’s just judgment on us. In light of these realities we are instructed, somewhat paradoxically, both to “number our days” and “be glad all our days.” How is this possible? Ultimately Psalm 90 points us to the God who out of his “steadfast love” has done something for his people that reverses the judgment and enables us to live with an abiding, in fact an eternal, joy.
He was the youngest son of elderly parents. His childhood was secluded and unhappy, which might in some measure account for his lifelong melancholy. He studied theology but never proceeded towards ordination. He became engaged but never married. His works were sharp and penetrating, which he described as a "bit of cinnamon." He has been designated as the "father of existentialism," both Christian and secular, and his influence is still widely felt today. His name, of course, is Søren Kierkegaard.
Jesus and the authors of the New Testament consistently link how Jesus’ followers are to live (ethics) with when they live (eschatology). Yet again and again in modern theology, this link has been severed. Eschatology has been reinterpreted, discarded, or demythologized. This article shows that, surprisingly, the severing of ethics and eschatology is present in the work of Albert Schweitzer. Further, it is argued that no one is better placed than evangelical pastor-theologians to recover and proclaim the New Testament’s fruitful, hope-giving connection between the Christian’s eschatological identity and moral life. This is a matter of great importance for the church.
The Eastern Orthodox Church claims that their practices have been preserved unaltered from the early church, thus making them the pristine church in perfect continuity with the apostolic church. Eastern Orthodox Apologists use this claim to offer potential converts certainty amid competing truth claims. In particular, they claim that the early church venerated images (icons) in the liturgy just as the Eastern Orthodox (and often Roman Catholics) do now. However, a careful examination of the evidence, both archaeological and written, reveals that despite the claim to continuity with the early church, the Eastern Orthodox practices of iconography directly contradict the consistent teachings of the early church. The early church, with only varying degrees of vehemence, strictly prohibited icons. This article engages typical Eastern Orthodox Apologists’ strategies for dealing with the evidence of the early church while maintaining their claims to continuity and argues that there is no evidence for the use of icons in the early church.
Why are we talking about preaching with power? Because of what Christianity is. Christianity is “a divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul by the Spirit of God.”2 It is the living God coming down through the gospel of Jesus Christ to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Real Christianity is pervasively miraculous.
The account of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac has been and will likely continue to be violently applied so long as the dominant misunderstanding of the text prevails. The first section of this article argues that the Abrahamic narrative has been dangerous and has been used to promote unhealthy decision-making. The second section reconsiders the logic of obedience presented in Gen 12-22. The text has a dangerous reception history, in part, because many preachers, authors, and congregants have misunderstood the rational grounds given in the text for Abraham's faith in Gen 22. The primary error is in separating the supreme act of faith (Gen 22) from the uniquely miraculous life of faith (Gen 12-21). The danger is not in the text itself but in the prevailing interpretation and application of the text. The third section gives five guidelines for preaching and applying Gen 22. These guidelines are more faithful to the entire Abrahamic narrative, and they guard against inappropriate and dangerous applications of this text.
In the twenty-first century the pastor is expected to fulfill an incredible amount of ministry responsibilities. Too often, unfortunately, the proclamation of God’s Word becomes just another duty in an unending list of ministry assignments. In order to counter such a trend, this article looks to the Puritan, John Owen, who reminds pastors that their first priority is to “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). After a brief exploration of Owen’s own pastoral ministry, we will examine a sermon Owen gave at an ordination service in 1682 in order to understand why, exactly, Owen believes everything hinges upon gospel-proclamation. In doing so, we will probe four pillars Owen affirms as indispensable to such a task, as well as identify the specific tools Owen says every pastor must possess and utilize. Whether one is a brand new pastor, a seasoned shepherd, or a professor training others for future ministry, Owen sheds invaluable light upon the most important undertaking in the church, namely, feeding the people of God the Word of God.
The Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal,” has massive implications for human life on earth. Exodus 20:15 provides the necessary foundation for system of private ownership of property, of stewardship and accountability, and of an expectation of human flourishing. This article also argues that “business as mission” is a legitimate calling and that founding and running a profitable and ethical business glorifies God.
In appreciation of the renaissance of christocentric and redemptive-historical hermeneutics and homiletics in our generation, this article selects an OT text, Psalm 15, that appears on the surface to be maximally resistant to a Christ-centered reading and preaching of Scripture. The article makes five overarching preliminary reflections in approaching a text such as Psalm 15 in a whole-Bible way, and then offers several specific observations about the text as an offering of one way to handle a text such as this. The purpose of the article is to encourage readers and preachers to handle every nook and cranny of Scripture in light of Christ, yet to do so in ways that avoid errors such as crass moralizing or strict Lutheranizing.
This article considers the emergence of an evangelical endorsement of the Two-Source Hypothesis as a solution to the Synoptic Problem in the first half of the twentieth century. Conservative scholars such as B. B. Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, A. T. Robertson, and W. Graham Scroggie considered the hypothesis, and its concomitant Q document, to be amenable to evangelical sensibilities. Specifically, the article details how the scholars considered the Two-Source Hypothesis to be a scientific conclusion, and one that presented an early source for the life of Jesus with a high Christology.
In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) passed an overture entitled, “A Call to Faithful Witness.” This overture, while sounding alarms on biblical translations that render the familial terms for God (Son, Father) with less offensive terms in the target language...
John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift is one of the most important books on Paul’s theology in years. By setting Paul’s teaching on grace in the context of ancient conceptions of “gift,” Barclay is able to highlight the distinctiveness of Paul’s teaching while at the same time setting that teaching in the context of his Jewish environment. As Barclay himself claims, then, the book opens the way for a way of thinking about Paul that does not obviously fit in either the “old” or the “new” perspective.
Kyle Faircloth argues that Daniel Strange’s earlier work on the question of the unevangelised is undermined by his more recent theology of religions, and in particular his theory of a ‘remnantal’ revelation. This rejoinder argues that Faircloth has misunderstood Strange on this point and that his original work on the unevangelised is consistent with later work.
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.
Self-deception is a fundamental experience and the starting point of philosophy since Socrates. This article discusses a few aspects of self-deception as a theological concept. Self-deception is closely related to sin, often creates false assurance of salvation, and is caused by disordered love. Diligent effort to gain self-awareness is vitally important to prevent self-deception. We can counteract self-deception by acknowledging its pervasive and universal presence, opening ourselves to self-examination and questioning, and avowing disavowed engagements. God often uses trials to bring us out of self-deception.
Evangelicals have criticized Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and the idea of strategic withdrawal, with some citing Abraham Kuyper as a model of how Christians should engage the world today. This article argues that the Benedict Option and the Kuyperian tradition harmonize with (rather than contradict) each other in significant ways, including their promotion of cultural engagement in general, their recognition of the need to withdraw from the world in some sense in order to enable the Christian formation that makes robust engagement with the world possible, and their openness to a cultural transformation that is distantly future rather than imminent.
Jonathan Edwards provides subsequent generations of theologians and ministers with one of the most influential versions of the traditional account of hell. However, his account of hell has its detractors. Those who oppose Edwards’s account argue that it is morally appalling and philosophically problematic. As such, I attempt to defend Edwards’s account by addressing one of its most philosophically pressing objections: the issuant account objection. In order to do this, I turn to Edwards’s doctrine of the blessed state of the redeemed in heaven. This is a doctrine the resources of which can help provide a redeemed “Edwardsean” account of hell, one that is both traditional and issuant.
You should not indulge in pornography for at least seven reasons: (1) It will send you to hell. (2) It does not glorify God with your body. (3) It is a poisonous, fleeting pleasure. (4) It foolishly wastes your life. (5) It betrays your wife and children. (6) It ruins your mind and conscience. (7) It participates in sex slavery.
The book of Ecclesiastes diagnoses humanity’s tendency to link the value of human life with permanent accomplishment in our work. As a wisdom text, Ecclesiastes warns its readers that this approach leads to hatred of life as we realize that, from an “under the sun” perspective, we gain nothing permanent in all our labor. The wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes rather associates the value of human life and work in its status as a gift from God, irrespective of what we accomplish. Qohelet also explains why God has so disposed the present order of things that human beings labor much, but without permanent accomplishment. This article attempts to articulate Qohelet’s wisdom for living within the present age so that we can fully engage with and enjoy God’s gifts of life and work.
Possessing a helpful explanation of the slowness of spiritual change can be encouraging to Christians who are not growing spiritually as quickly or consistently as they might have hoped. While the classic Christian obstacles of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” provide general categories for explaining the slowness of change, this article proposes a relational understanding of “the flesh” as resistance to the Holy Spirit that offers an explanatory framework for the gradual nature of sanctification.
We want to understand how the power of God comes into our preaching. It is becoming clear that what ties these studies together is humility. Humility in the act of preaching decides to submerge Self so that Christ crucified is the only object of admiration (part 1).
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a prayer-expert. I’m not. But that’s one reason I find praying Scripture so helpful (more on that later). My argument is simple: You should pray Scripture. Three qualifications . . . .
Though his primary concern was how to persuade people from diverse backgrounds to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 9:12, 23), Paul, nonetheless, embodies a principle common to all who would provide leadership to a community comprised of a multiplicitous collection of rigid truth claims and behaviors. A leader must construct bridges both of understanding and of persuasion in such settings.
Most of us, I suspect, develop fairly standard ways, one might even say repetitive ways, to appeal to the motivations of our hearers when we preach the gospel. Recently, however, I have wondered if I have erred in this respect—not so much in what I say as in what I never or almost never say. What follows is in some ways a mea culpa, plus some indication of why I think the topic should be important for all of us.
This article examines the meaning of blessing as expressed in the structure and narratives of Genesis. After highlighting the pattern of blessings offset by curses embedded within the “generational” structure of Genesis, the nature of blessing is explored in its varying contexts. Given the quantity of blessings in Genesis, it is natural to expect fulfillments, partial or complete, of the blessings; thus, the article considers the degree to which readers are shown fulfillments and the degree to which they are pointed on towards future fulfillments. Finally, the human role in blessing is considered, both the human blessing of other humans as well as the human blessing of the Lord.
The Elizabethan Puritan, William Perkins, is accused of exclusively pointing people inward to signs of repentance or to their sanctification for assurance of salvation. It is assumed that he was bound to this strategy because he affirmed particularism in the atonement. Both Perkins’s accusers and defenders have tended to amass evidence from Perkins’s writings explicitly on assurance and, as such, there is a need to look at his actual practice. While Perkins certainly did point individuals toward themselves in his preaching, this article will show that he also pointed doubters to Christ and gospel promises for assurance.
In recent years, a growing cadre of younger historians has begun publishing significant books on the history of American evangelicalism. Professionally, these scholars have come of age in the shadow of the renaissance in evangelical history typified by historians of the previous generation such as Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, Joel Carpenter, and especially George Marsden. This essay reviews three recent monographs: Steven Miller's The Age of Evangelicalism, Matthew Avery Sutton's American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, and Molly Worthen's Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. These works are representative of the "post-Marsden" historical scholarship that is reshaping our understanding of modern evangelicalism in America.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel (Ezra 7:10).2 To consider Ezra the priest, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the way to begin is by remembering a few of the things that Ezra did and said. In this way, we can begin to appreciate what God did in his life as a scribe and then appropriate what God can do in our own lives as students, pastors, and professors.
In the mid-twentieth century, one could readily find informed Protestant observers acknowledging the Calvinist tradition’s major missionary contribution. For example, in 1950 N. Carr Sargant, British Methodist missionary to India, explored the subject of “Calvinists, Arminians, and Missions” and maintained that these two expressions of Protestantism had served one another well with each goading the other towards foreign missionary effort.
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.
Eric C. Redmond, Walter J. Redmond, Charis A. M. Redmond
The acts of white supremacy that took place in Charlottesville, VA should encourage the church to act aggressively to deter racist ideals within her ranks. Evangelicals, as a whole, must engage white supremacyas a worthy opponent to the mission and message of the gospel instead of acknowledging race-based hate as a minor threat. Failure to do so directly injures the church’s ability to reach marginalized groups who have become victim to rising attitudes of hate and xenophobia. This responsibility falls on both leadership and members alike, to and both assembly ministers and Christian academics. Evangelical thought and action toward white supremacy cannot be a mere afterthought to the Charlottesville, Virginia incidents August 11, 2017 and like events.
Hudson Community Chapel is a suburban church in the Midwest that averages a little over three thousand people each weekend. We were ranked as one of the top one hundred fastest-growing churches in 2007. I think we have done some things well, and I don't think our growth was the result of preaching a prosperity gospel or appealing to the felt needs of people.
Although evangelicals agree the church must be fervent in seeking to reach those who have little or no access to the gospel, this missiological consensus has not led to a theological consensus regarding the salvific state of those whom the church never reaches. Yet Daniel Strange seeks to throw fresh light on the discussion by proposing an alternative understanding of “unevangelized” based on a more nuanced explanation of divine revelation. This article will summarize Strange’s theory and then evaluate his approach by using the doctrinal rules instantiated by the solus Christus, sola fide, and fides ex auditu principles. For however one answers this disputed question in theology, Scripture is clear that salvation is through Christ alone by faith alone and that faith comes from hearing. The hope is that this doctrinal typology will facilitate not only this particular review, but also indicate a common theological environment in which evangelical theories on the unevangelized might be formulated and assessed.
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.
Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.
Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? This “Same God Question” has again captured the attention of the Christian public. Increasing numbers of Christians are now responding in the affirmative, especially as they seek amicable relations with Muslims. This article looks at this age-old question from the Islamic point of view, noting that Muslim scholars have not mirrored their Christian counterparts in moving toward theological reconciliation. Indeed, the foundational teachings and example of Muhammad restrict them from doing so, thus creating a dynamic of “one hand clapping” in interfaith discourse. While Muslim scholars have largely minded their Unitarian orthodoxy, Christians have been much more lax in standing for their belief in one loving God, eternally co-existent as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Encouragingly, the Triune God of the Bible is now drawing Muslims to himself in unprecedented numbers. Christians may enhance this movement by unashamedly proclaiming this unique God to Muslims.
Isaac Watts is well known as a hymn writer, but he also wrote significant works on the place of passion in the Christian life. Writing at a time of ‘cool’ religion in England, Watts aimed to breathe warmth into the religion of his day, while still being aware of the dangers of ‘enthusiasm’. There were significant implications for pastoral ministry along with Watts’s view of praise and preaching. Watts’s context, along with his pastoral insight and practical application, makes his works very helpful today.
This article addresses the question: How does the LXX relate to the Christian Old Testament, and more specifically, what role does the LXX play in Christian biblical theology? The first part of the article is a brief overview of five different approaches to the role of the LXX in a whole-Bible biblical theology. The five approaches are: (1) LXX Priority and Canon, (2) LXX Priority, Hebrew Canon, (3) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Bridge, (4) Hebrew and Greek Are Sanctified by the Spirit, and finally (5) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Commentary. Building on the different perspectives surveyed in this study, it is suggested that that the importance and function of the LXX in Christian biblical theology is at least fourfold: (1) The LXX can function as the source of Christian biblical theology; (2) The LXX is valuable for biblical theology in its role as a commentary on the biblical text; (3) The LXX is a bridge or link between the Christian OT and NT; and (4) The LXX complements the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the current fascination of younger evangelicals with the ethos of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, John Henry Newman (1801–1890) has become something of a ‘poster child’. The autobiographical and polemical writings of this celebrated convert to Rome (largely reflecting the first half of his career) enjoy ongoing popularity; these are taken to ‘define’ the man. Yet what this current fascination tends to overlook is that across the twentieth century Newman has been taken up as the theme of critical and ecumenical inquiry. Critical scholarship stops well short of the overly deferential attitude to Newman, all too characteristic at the present time. This article surveys this ongoing discussion of Newman up to our time.
Most of our readers are theological students and pastors. Most, therefore, have pursued or are pursuing tertiary education, some of it in distinctively Christian institutions, some not. We thought it might be helpful to include the following address by Phil Ryken at his inauguration as the eighth president of Wheaton College on September 17, 2010.
Too often people think of the Reformation in terms of an abstract theological debate. While intensely theological, the Reformation was not merely about ideas; it was about correctly understanding the gospel for the good of people and the salvation of souls. This thesis is advanced by investigating Reformation leaders, primarily Luther, Calvin, and Bucer. As we seek to appropriate lessons from the Reformation for today, we must not miss the pastoral impulse that drove this recovery of the gospel.
We begin with a question of translation. Many translations place a period after the word “conviction” in 1 Thess 1:5: “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Then a new sentence begins, “You know what kind of men we proved to be . . . .” But there is a conjunction in Paul’s text: “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction, just as [?????] you know what kind of men we proved to be . . . .” If we overlook the logical hinge, we miss the force of what Paul is saying. If we include it, the whole passage opens up.
Martin Luther was a pastor-theologian. He worked out his theology in the midst of teaching, preaching, participating in public controversy, and meeting all kinds of pastoral needs. Due to the shape of his life and ministry, his theology has not come down to us in a systematic form.2 We have received his theology through his polemical and pastoral writings as well as his preaching and teaching.
In The God Who Saves (2016), David Congdon seeks an elusive synthesis of Karl Barth’s dogmatics and Rudolf Bultmann’s hermeneutics: he integrates Bultmann’s insistence on the concrete historicity of individual human experience with Barth’s stress on the universal salvific significance of Christ. Despite his “demetaphysicizing” rejection of a substantive God and a Chalcedonian Christ, Congdon propounds universal salvation based on a universal “cocrucifixion” with Christ that may occur in nonreligious experience (e.g., in viewing artwork, watching a baby’s birth, etc.). His intricate argument shows little theological coherence and a lack of grounding in scriptural exegesis or empirical observation.
John Calvin believed that the mind served as the “citadel” to the soul, commanding the seat of conversion whereby God first remedied the noetic effects of sin before liberating the bound will. Therefore the Reformer consigned particular importance to human knowledge in the process of conversion that reverberated throughout his entire Genevan ministry. It is the aim of this article to examine Calvin’s developed hierarchy of faculties, particularly the chief functional status ascribed to the mind, and how this preeminence of knowledge influenced his view of sin, salvation, and Christian homiletics respectively.
John Barclay has written a stimulating and ground-breaking book on Paul’s theology of gift. He situates the meaning of gift in antiquity, noting that a return for a gift was part and parcel of what it meant to receive a gift in the ancient world. Barclay profiles the different conceptions of what it means to receive a gift in antiquity and explores the notion of a gift further in some Second Temple Jewish writings. He also provides a useful history of interpretation, concentrating on key figures. Finally, he explores Paul’s theology of gift, especially in Galatians and Romans. What marks out Paul’s understanding of the gift, according to Barclay, is its incongruity. Barclay’s work is a significant step forward, showing that there wasn’t a consensus in Second Temple Judaism as to what it meant to receive a gift. Different notions of grace and a gift were current. Nevertheless, some questions are raised in the review. Against Barclay, Paul’s theology of gift provides a platform by which other Second Temple notions of the gift can be criticized. Furthermore, evidence for a polemic against some form of works-righteousness is present in Galatians and Romans.
Many have written on the difficulties of pastoral ministry, backed by research into the demise of those who become discouraged in the work. These studies provide useful descriptions and helpful insights into the culture of ministry and how it might be changed. Much of this recent work, however, lacks deeper reflection on the biblical-theological themes that frame life in ministry and provide categories through which its difficulties must be understood. This article explores the framework for suffering in ministry through Paul’s letters, focusing on his correspondence with the Corinthians, with the aim of recovering the rich redemptive-historical narrative of ministry that is grounded in Christ’s death and resurrection.
I want to thank Themelios for the unusual opportunity to interact with two reviewers of my book Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology. An author does not often have the opportunity, not only to join discussion with two reviewers, but also to express and document further some concepts that he may not have expressed as fully as possible in the original work.
Romans 4 remains a central text in the debate over the New Perspective on
Paul. This article locates that debate in the context of a wider discussion concerning
the place of justification in Paul’s theology before responding to a fresh reading of
Rom 4 by N. T. Wright. His proposal that Abraham’s belief in the God who justifies the
ungodly refers to God’s promise to include the Gentiles is outlined and critiqued with
the aid of Wright’s earlier and rather different readings of the chapter. In closing, the
article accounts for Abraham’s role within the argument of Romans and the place of
justification in Paul’s theology.
In 1983 the Christian social critic Os Guinness commented, ‘Christians are always more culturally shortsighted than they realise. They are often unable to tell, for instance, where their Christian principles leave off and their cultural perspectives begin. What many of them fail to ask themselves is, “where are we coming from and what is our own ‘context’?” . . .
The summer of 2007 was the wettest in Britain since records began, registering over twice the usual amount of rainfall between May and July. It led to extreme flooding, the most serious since 1947, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Thirteen lost their lives— including a man swept away when crossing a road in Sheffield; another drowned when his foot got trapped in a storm drain in Hull; a teenager fell into the River Sheaf; and a father and son were found dead at Tewkesbury rugby club where they had been attempting to pump water out of the premises but had been overcome by fumes.
Close attention to the content and context of Romans suggests that Paul had three purposes in view in writing the letter—namely, a missionary purpose, a pastoral purpose, and an apologetic purpose. This article explores these three purposes, explains their interrelationships, and considers some neglected evidence.
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.
Whatever 'globalisation' may be, it has been accompanied by insistent and sometimes violent affirmations of ethnic identity. Such a phenomenon may be paradoxical, but is nevertheless comprehensible: the homogenising dynamic unleashed by globalising tendencies, reinforced by the creation of multinational political entities such as the European Union, more or less inevitably arouses a movement in the reverse direction, whose purpose is to reassert and defend traditional identities.
A fundamental requirement in an inclusivist understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions is evidence of God's salvific activity outside of any knowledge of Christ. Evidence for such redemptive activity is commonly identified (rightly) in the people of Old Testament Israel.
Lately there has come out of cold storage a question that has been hibernating among conservative evangelicals for some time. That question has to do with the status of people who live and die without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The question of the precise nature and scope of the church’s mission has been both perennial and thorny. In recent years many evangelicals have made positive reference to Abraham Kuyper’s distinction between the church as ‘institute’, and the church as ‘organism’ noting this is a helpful and necessary way of distinguishing between the organised church with its own particular and specific roles and responsibilities, and the church understood as Christians in the world, living out their God-given vocations in all spheres of life. This article describes and critiques Kuyper’s distinction asking whether it is a help or a hindrance, and offering possible other ways of delineating and distinguishing the mission of the church.
In Genesis 3:15, the Lord announces the future coming of a “seed” (זֶ֫רַע) who will bruise the head of the serpent. While many have long considered this verse the protoevangelium, or the first gospel, others have been quick to doubt its “messianic” intention. However, when one examines Genesis 1–3 in context, an anticipatory expectation emerges as the most viable option. Furthermore, once the interpreter understands the promise God gave to Abraham concerning his “seed” (22:17–18) as a contextual allusion to 3:15, it becomes clear that this verse stands as the fountainhead of the Old Testament’s anticipatory hope. Therefore, although the book of Genesis uses neither the noun מָשִׁיחַ nor the verb מָשַׁח to refer to this coming individual, due to the anticipatory hope found within, Genesis 3:15 is best understood as the protoevangelium.
It must by now be questionable whether the word "mission"retains any residual value for missiology. Humpty Dumpty's approach to language—"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less" —perhaps reflects his creator's diagnosis of a degenerative disease that aï¬„icts some words, a sort of linguistic entropy or inflation. If so, this pathological condition seems to have caught up with "mission,"and perhaps with terminal effect.
Nearly three hundred fifty years after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenburg, Charles Haddon Spurgeon confronted the growing influence of Roman Catholic teaching within the Church of England. Led by Edward Pusey and others, the Oxford Movement called the Church of England to return to her pre-Reformation traditions and teaching. Spurgeon considered this a betrayal of the gospel and, beginning in 1864, would take a Luther-like stand for the truth. This essay will argue that Spurgeon drew from Luther’s model of bold leadership and teaching on justification by faith in his battle against the Oxford Movement.
When I came to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia as a young student in the 1960s, two things struck me. First, under the portrait of one of the founding fathers, the biblical scholar Robert Dick Wilson, was a simple epithet: “I have not shirked the difficult questions.” Wilson was one of the most accomplished biblical scholars of his day.
Wendell Berry’s influence has grown in recent years as many people, Christians or not, have found his agrarian vision a compelling corrective to various modern problems. However, Berry publicly took what we might call a “middle road” on gay marriage. This position surprised (and disappointed) many evangelicals that do not agree. But how does Berry’s position on gay marriage stand up to Berry’s own criticism? Does he agree with himself?
Some of the most valuable and lasting contributions made to the Christian faith have come through Christian scholarship. Indeed, the church has a rich heritage of those we may refer to as writing pastors—those who have served the church through the discipline and ministry of writing...
John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch is clearly the magnum opus of this great scholar’s accomplishments over the last three decades and perhaps a Magna Carta for evangelical interpretation. The book’s title succinctly expresses the thesis. It is about the essential meaning of the Pentateuch, which is not just ancient historical literature but divine revelation.
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.
This article works toward a “theology of writing” in order to inform and encourage Christian writers, helping them to consider not just what they write but why they write, and in whose image they write. The author lays a theological foundation for language and writing in the Trinity, then applies this to human writing. The aim is to show that writing is a Trinitarian, image-bearing craft by which we mark the world with our presence.
This article builds on earlier studies highlighting repentance and return as unifying themes in the Book of the Twelve by developing a pattern of repentance and relapse that emerges from a reading of the Twelve. The recurring pattern of failed repentance explains why exile was necessary and why even the postexilic return to the land did not bring about Israel’s restoration. The hope that emerges in the Twelve is that Yahweh would act at a more distant time in the future to produce the repentance and spiritual transformation in his people that would bring about the blessings of repentance and full restoration.
July 10, 2009 was the 500th birthday of the acclaimed French Reformer John Calvin. For many the mention of his name immediately calls to mind an image of a stern, bearded systematician whose compassionless logic and doctrine of predestination represent all that is bad about theology.
Among the many biblical passages that provoke controversial questions about Christian non-violence and cooperation with the sword-bearing state, perhaps none presses the issue as sharply as Matt 5:38–42. When Jesus prescribes turning the other cheek, giving up the garment, and going the second mile as an alternative to the lex talionis—the eye-for-eye principle of strict, proportionate justice—he addresses a key element of justice not only in the Mosaic law (Exod 21:22–25; Lev 24:18–21; Deut 19:21) but also in the Noahic covenant of Gen 9 and in countless human legal systems, such as the Law of Hammurabi and the Roman Law.
Evaluating a new English translation of the Bible can be extremely difficult. That is due to at least three factors. First, we have such a wealth of options already accessible in our language that any new offering seems superfluous; we are jaded by the abundance. Second, there is a cynical view that attributes all such productions to greedy commercial publishers. Third, translations are often controversial due to theological or social issues.
One of the most eminent spin doctors of the fourth century, Augustine bemoaned that he was merely a vendito verborum (a peddler of words). After he became a Christian he gave up what he perceived as arrogant rhetoric designed to impress, instead cultivating what he called sermo humilis (humble speech). The secular spin doctor became a Christian preacher.
The present article explores John’s distinct use of “signs” as part of his “theological transposition” of the Synoptic Gospels by which John transforms the Synoptic concept of “miracle” into that of “signs” pointing to Jesus’s messianic identity. The article proposes that Isaiah was the source for John’s signs theology by demonstrating significant links between Isaiah’s and John’s use of signs. In addition, the article proposes that John was led by Isaiah to structure his Gospel according to Jesus’s signs: the first half containing “The Book of Signs,” and the second half conveying the reality to which the signs point.
As Jonathan Edwards’s reputation for defending moderate New Light revivalism grew in the 1740s, others increasingly sought him to preside over the ordination of ministers in nearby churches. Edwards used these occasions to explore the various dimensions of gospel ministry and the solemn responsibilities that both minister and congregation embrace when joining in an ecclesial union. What Edwards took to be the ministerial ideal shines forth brightly in these sermons . . . .
Everyone agrees shame is a pervasive problem; yet, in book and articles, we find writers often talk past one another. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of “honor-shame” cultures. Psychologists describe shame as an individual, emotional experience. Strangely, theologians typically say little about the topic. Christian scholars tend to treat guilt as “objective” and shame merely a “subjective.” This misunderstanding undermines our ability to develop a practical theology of honor and shame. Therefore, this article demonstrates how the Bible helps us have an integrated understanding of shame in its theological, psychological, and social dimensions.
The literary notion of “implied reader” invokes a series of hermeneutically significant questions: What is it? Who produces it? and How can it be identified? These questions naturally lead to a further query: What is the relationship between this implied reader of a text and an actual reader of a text? This type of study is often associated primarily with reader-response theory and purely literary approaches. However, the concept can help uncover an often-neglected aspect of biblical interpretation, namely, the role of the reader. If biblical authors envision certain types of readers, then identifying the nature of this “implied audience” is an important part of the interpretive task. Further, because Christians read the biblical writings within the context of a canonical collection, this concept can be pursued in light of the Christian canon as a whole. Through this literary and theological study, I seek to demonstrate that strategic biblical texts envision an “ideal reader,” namely, an actual reader who seeks to identify with the implied reader.
A great deal of research has been done on the life and theology of Jonathan Edwards. However, there is a dearth of interest as it pertains to Edwards’s ecclesiology. As such, while certain moments in Edwards’s ministry dealing with excommunication have been dealt with, there is a need to look not only at the cases he oversaw, but also the theology that undergirded that practice of discipline. Setting Edwards in his historical context and looking specifically at both his ecclesiology and his doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, this article demonstrates how these doctrines coincided for Edwards to form a practice of church discipline that was exacting and rigorous in relation to many of his contemporaries in whose churches discipline was largely on the decline.
Abstract: Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism, editedby Christopher Hays and Christopher Ansberry, argues that evangelical scholars have failed to embrace historical criticism to the extent that they could and should. This review essay surveys the book’s argument by chapters, asks how its claims should be evaluated, and arrives at the conclusion that while the Hays-Ansberry proposal marks a significant step in discussion of these matters, it is not always a step in a helpful direction.
The relatively recent interest among evangelicals in engaging ancient Christian tradition is without question a welcome development. However, unlike earlier voices that valued the early post-apostolic church’s theologizing within the context of the reformation’s sola scriptura hermeneutic, recent voices appear to assign categories like necessity and normatively to a “patristic hermeneutic.”
Will everyone one day be saved? Is hell only temporary, if it exists at all? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the historic Christian commitment to the conversion of the world to Christ would appear to be somewhat silly. Why go to such effort and expense trying to persuade people that Jesus is the only way if they all will see that eventually anyway? Why risk offending people—especially those who follow other religious traditions . . .
Jürgen Moltmann observes that Christian theology and the Church face “a double crisis: the crisis of relevance and the crisis of identity.” When theology and the Church endeavor to be relevant to the surrounding pluralistic culture, they face a “crisis of their own Christian identity” because they are confronted with conflicting viewpoints.
Within the intra-Reformed debate over baptism, covenant theology is a crucial aspect in determining one's position. This paper argues that a proper understanding of the trajectory of the Abrahamic covenant necessitates credobaptism. In particular it explores the idea of covenant fidelity, noting the requirement and failure under the old administration, and the fulfilment in Christ as he exhausts covenant curses, and fulfils the righteous requirements. As a consequence, New Covenant children of Abraham are born of the Spirit, and trace their Abrahamic sonship through faith-union with Christ. The result is that their covenant status is sure and unbreakable.
Philip Rieff’s sociological analyses explore the implications of Western Civilization’s unprecedented attempt to maintain society and culture without reference to God. He argues that this attempt to desacralize the social order is deeply detrimental and encourages Westerners to resacralize the social order. For Western Christians who wish to help facilitate a “missionary encounter” between the gospel and our secular age, Rieff’s work will pay rich, albeit uneven dividends. His work is most helpful when diagnosing the ills of our secular age but is less illumining in its prognosis and prescription. Thus, a Christian framework of thought must be employed to evaluate Rieff’s work and leverage it for the Christian mission.
Is it stating the obvious to say that a children’s bible is not a Bible? Perhaps. After all, a moment’s reflection reveals they are not the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. They omit entire genres and books, and they add a great deal, not least copious and captivating illustrations. On the other hand the confidence we have in them suggests that we receive them as something like God’s Word.
Despite a small flurry of attention over the past decade, Adolf Schlatter (1852–1938), Tübingen professor of New Testament and author of more than 440 written works, remains one of the most neglected yet illuminating theological voices of the past one hundred years. This paper seeks to be one small window into his thought by explicating Schlatter's understanding of a critical topic in Christian theology and living: the relationship between faith and obedience.
Acts 1:1 opens with a reference to what Jesus "began to do and teach"1 recounted in the Gospel of Luke, indicating that this second volume will carry the narrative of Jesus' actions and teachings forward. The risen Lord spends some forty days instructing his disciples (1:3–8) before he ascends his throne (1:9–10), where he takes his place at the right hand of God and pours out the Spirit upon his disciples (2:1–4, 33).
We cannot overstate how important knowing the context is for understanding the significance of any communication, whether that is a simple word, sentence, paragraph, larger text, sign, photograph, or cultural cue. This is axiomatic for interpreting an ancient document like the Bible. Yet it is not so easy since context can mean many things.
When Christian theology fails to adapt to the cultural context in a healthy manner, it can lead to a loss of cultural relevance. Proper contextualization is essential. This essay argues that ecotheology, which is a form of liberation theology, is an example of a contextual theology that is more closely linked to the contemporary context than it is to traditional forms of Christian doctrine. To argue this thesis, the essay will first provide an overview of ecotheology, demonstrating its consistency with praxis theology using an ecocentric hermeneutics of suspicion. Then the essay will offer critiques of ecotheology to show where the movement presents a helpful corrective and where it becomes over-contextualized.