volume 44 issue 1

April 2019 / 210 pages

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Themelios Then and Now: The Journal’s Name, History, and Contribution

Brian J. Tabb

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.”


The Continuation of the Charismata

Andrew Wilson

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

It All Depends Upon Prophecy: A Brief Case for Nuanced Cessationism

Thomas R. Schreiner

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

Towards a Definition of New Testament Prophecy

Richard M. Blaylock

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.

The Boundaries of the Gift of Tongues: With Implications for Cessationism and Continuationism

Vern S. Poythress

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.

Biblical Words and Theological Meanings: Sanctification as Consecration for Transformation

Ben C. Dunson

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.

Finessing Independent Attestation: A Study in Interdisciplinary Biblical Criticism

Lydia McGrew

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.

Disputation for Scholastic Theology: Engaging Luther’s 97 Theses

Michael Allen

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.

Book Reviews

Old Testament

New Testament

History and Historical Theology

Systematic Theology and Bioethics

Ethics and Pastoralia

Mission and Culture

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