Monday, January 29, 2007

All Together Now: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History

This post is really more for my benefit than anyone elses. I finally finished the fifth and final part to my miniseries on the Bifurcation of Faith and History, my (somewhat) brief take on how fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have come remarkably close to (and occaisionally been guilty of) the sort of inappropriate division between the Jesus of Faith and the Jesus of History sort of thinking old line liberals were guilty of. I wanted to put all of the posts together in one spot for easy access in case I ever wanted to refer to them in the future. So here it is: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Are You Cool?

You've engaged in the one book meme. You've tried the theologian test and come out Barthian (or in Baylor's case Finneyish). Here's the next step: see if you're cool.

Dangerous Devotions: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 5


Just by employing such a subtitle, I run the risk of losing protestant readers, many whom have been brainwashed to think that such deutero-canonical books are tainted by with catholic residue. Yet, for those who continue reading, let me suggest that such a mindset is evidence of yet another underlying conservative bifurcation between faith and history. Of course the academicians realize this, even most of the conservative ones; yet somehow these documents have been alienated from the laity and many pastors. I remember back in Bible College hearing various dorm room discussions about the best study Bible out there: MacArthur, The Reformed Study Bible, Zhodiates Greek Study Bible, and yes, even an occasional champion for good ole Ryrie. You want to get a good study Bible that will help make you a better interpreter of Scripture? Buy an NRSV (with apocrypha) or RSV if your conscience hasn’t been educated in favor of dynamic equivalence. Reading historical documents like Maccabees or Wisdom literature like the Psalms of Solomon will do more to help you become a good interpreter than cheating from someone else’s study notes. It will give you a better understanding, first hand of the cultural, social, historical milieu of the day and help you to come to grips with the fact that the genre’s used in the Bible are largely not sui generes. God did not drop the Bible out of the sky in finished form; He gave it to us employing literary and historical forms of the day. If you’re looking for helpful notes, you owe it to yourself to consult a good commentary anyway, rather than just reading a blurb or two in a footnote.

Just an example or two of ideas I’ve picked up from 1 Maccabees. First, when we read the name Judas in the Gospels we automatically think – the bad guy. This is with good reason…while Peter, Paul and John (you were expecting Mary?) have been names frequently employed through the centuries, you don’t hear about too many newborn bundles of joy being named Judas. Not so in the First Century. Why? Because Judas “The Hammer” Maccabeus was considered a heroic Jewish warrior of great valor and almost messianic significance. Any First Century Jewish reader of the Gospels not aware of the life and death of Jesus (which may or may not have been likely) would not have had the same premonitions about Judas that we would. A name like that would have had the impact on a First Century Jewish boy as that of say, Jason Bourne (I wanted to say George Washington or Douglas MacArthur, but my confidence in the literary/historical consciousness of today’s young people is less than optimistic). We’ve already “read the end of the story” so to speak, when we begin the opening verses.

Second, why did the First Century Jewish-Christians (or perhaps Judaizers) get so hot under the color when Paul minimized the need for circumcision? After all, it’s not the greatest way to woo converts…but maybe that was just it…maybe Paul was into easy believeism….sort of a proto-Ryrie. Well, while many seem to think Paul was a dispensationalist, he’s certainly no proto-Ryrie. However, I would suggest a few lines from 1 Maccabees might help the reader get a better grasp for why it was such a big deal. When Antiochus Epiphanes came to town, those who wanted to remain faithful to Torah by maintaining the sign of the covenant came under heavy fire:

1 Maccabees 1:11-15 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, "Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

They were encouraged to abandon their own customs for the sake of unity (1:41-49) particularly leaving their sons uncircumcised. For those who disobeyed:

1 Maccabees 1:60-61 According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, 61 and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers' necks.

So when Paul came on the scene removing the need for circumcision, one can imagine the faithful Jews saying something to the effect of: Not this again. Not on my watch. We remember what happened last time; let’s squelch this apostate before things go any further. No wonder his teachings were considered subversive and received with hostility. No wonder the issue came to a head in the early church (Acts 15). Reading up on the intertestamental history (1 Maccabees) helps to heighten our understanding of why such issues were so crucial.

ALRIGHT; I’m done beating the proverbial dead horse. None of this was intended to be exhaustive, but rather representative of some trends I’ve observed. What I found most disturbing as I began to read on liberal scholarship were the subtle parallels that can occur at the other extreme end of the spectrum (namely, fundamentalism/conservative evangelicalism). I would suggest that a similar divide between faith and history has occurred in the church and the academy. And as Wright has observed, it’s time for the Prodigal to return home.


Dangerous Devotions: Reflection on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 4

This was intended to be the final installment of a four part mini-series considering how fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have been guilty of paralleling the liberal division between faith and history (for details, refer back to the first post). However, this post developed into more data than I expected, especially the next segment, so I decided to break it into two more pieces primarily for visual effect (that is, so you wouldn’t take one look at how long the post is and say forget about it). The last two illustrations I want to consider relate to the popular approach to preaching and the way conservatives view the apocrypha.


I just want to touch on this briefly. Much of what I think here has already been marvelously articulated in Barker’s post Preaching Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors (there, I’ve done it; sorry the shout out is several months late J). If you haven’t read it, you should…even the comment section is worthy of perusal. The thrust of my contention here is the Haddon Robinson styled propositional preaching. While I’m not interested in rehashing the debate, I want to make a few quick observations. While it may be appropriate for Pauline rhetoric (at least at times) it may just do violence to other genres of Scripture. Even more pertinent, with regard to the present discussion, is the fact that it can lead to short changing history in the name of faith. In other words, similar to the quibble I made below about the ‘devotional Jesus,’ such an approach is quick to summarize, illustrate and apply what we are to do, though many will leave the church service without being able to articulate from the Scriptures just why they should do it. Thus the proposition comes close to a pontification and insufficient attention has been given to explanation. Explanation is surrendered in the name of application and heart has once again trumped head. As long as we can trust and obey the Jesus of faith, it doesn’t matter if we can understand the text of history (admitted intentional hyperbole simply to drive home the point here).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Choice Words on TDNT

I was thumbing throught the introduction of the latest edition of the NTI by Carson and Moo (a recent accquisition) and came accross these words:

"But the biblical theology movement was remarkably diverse. It included those who held that revelation was borne along on the great events of redemptive history, to which scripture bears witness, and those who produced the magisterial Theological Dictionary of the New Testament with its peculiar theologically loaded word studies. Nevertheless, by the 1960's the movement was largely dead, cut down by critic who dismissed the linguistic naivete of many of its exponents or who argued that the unity they found in the canon was not really there" (p. 51).

Doing a little redaction criticism here, I gather Carson wrote this excerpt (based on the British spelling of "borne" and the use of the word "magisterial" [see his commentary survey]). Thus, while the word "magisterial" may modify TDNT here, I take it to mean "large" rather than "good." This is reinforced by the beautifully accurate phrase "peculiar theologically loaded word studies." Linguistic naivete indeed. I could not have said it better myself; hence, you'll note I have temporarily added TDNT to my sidebar :-)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dangerous Devotions: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 3

Okay, so it’s been more than a few days. The gist of what’s under consideration here is the conservative parallel of the liberal division between faith and history. It may be helpful to read (or at least skim) parts 1 and 2 below to get the flow of thought, but I will not rehash the introduction here. The first area of danger I suggested previously was the head/heart division. Many men in leadership I’ve heard and influential authors I’ve read have suggested that it’s the heart we’re ultimately concerned with; even at upper level academic engagement. To be fair, making such a distinction is entirely invalid to begin with and reeks of a false dilemma. However, since it is often portrayed in such terms, it’s worth consideration. Such a bifurcation is remarkably similar to the liberal faith/history divide. Yes, there are differing starting points. Typically the concern for heart over head among the conservatives grows out of a scriptural desire to avoid the Corinthian error of allowing knowledge to puff up (and frequently, in my experience, such verbage is explicit). Regardless of one’s level of theological acumen, as long as you love Jesus, everything’s going to be alright; that’s what really matters anyway.

Sure. At a certain level I’m inclined to agree with this. Yes, love for Jesus is the end game of Christianity. At another level, though, I’m driven to inquire: Jesus who? The Jesus formed in your image or Jesus Christ (which may be better translated as an appositional genitive – Jesus the Messiah). In other words, while love for God is important, knowing Whom it is we love is also important. Nowadays, as Wright has argued, we can’t just assume we all mean the same thing when we use the word God. While the open theists portray a God who cannot know the future, the conservatives are just as guilty at times of construing God as a 35 year old upper middle class caucasian republican male who hates backbeats and despises alchohol.

Alright, enough talk, time to make the rubber meet the road. Here’s a good test: Would the God you serve ever endorse public nudity? Wow. Where did that come from? My point is many might be quick to answer: NO! Of course not! That would foster lust and other forms of sin. But have we answered that from the texts we know, or from the presuppositions of our 21st Century American sense of morality (which should not be confused with Biblical Ethics, though it frequently is). Maybe some astute thinkers a might consider this a trick question: Adam and Eve right? But of course we’re not in the Garden of Eden anymore. Things are dramatically different today (phew, thank goodness for dispensationalism J). Not what I had in mind. Check out Isaiah 20:1-3 when you get the chance, you might be surprised what God might do. Yeah, there’s disagreement about the translation, but only the NIV can bail you out here and I think it’s wrong.

So what’s my point in this ‘extreme’ example? Let’s be careful not to be so carried away by a concern for reading the Scriptures with an eye to obedience that we project back on to them what we are to obey. Perhaps we need to read them to understand before we obey. Let the Scriptures themselves shape and if necessary, purge our presuppositions that we may know the God we pursue (don’t be confused, this is NOT at odds with Baylor’s great post about Grenz). In avoiding the conservative equivalent of dichotomizing faith and history, we may just have to let our head lead our heart. At the very least, and more likely, we need to hold the two in a sort of symbiotic (mutually dependent) tension.

Up Next: The Bifurcation as it Appears in Preaching and Also in Our Consideration of the Apocrypha. i'm going to try and treat these two together in one post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Things You May Not Want to be Googled For

I checked my sitemeter today and noticed that there were several international hits. I'm always fascinated to see where people are from who come across this blog and how they connected to it. I saw one from Cambridgeshire and clicked on it to see how they came across my blog. Interestingly enough it was from a google search on the phrase "problems with staying faithful." Yes, I'm picked up the post I did on problems with promiscuity (thoughts on never finishing books, but always moving onto new ones). Sound crazy? Google it and check out the eighth hit from the top. Just what I always wanted to be known for...

More Deals on Books

For those in the Tidewater area, there's some decent deals to be found at Harvest Christian Bookstore on Volvo Parkway. They frequently have a table with books for 40% off and I noticed a few good volumes recently. Just a few to illustrate my point: Piper Pleasures of God, Carson Becoming Conversant with the EC, Erickson (something on God's foreknowledge that looked good), Schlatter Daily Readings, Johnstone The Church is Bigger than You Think, Feinberg No One Like Him, and audio drama cd set of the Chronicles of Narnia (only about $50!). Check it out if you're in the area.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Must Read

I recently became aware that Dan Ebert was in the blogosphere. Most of the people I know would know that anything he writes is worth reading, but if there's any doubt, check out his blog here and add it to your blog roll.

(HT: Mike Osborne)

I Haven't Forgotten

If anyone was following the "mini-series" I started on Dangerous Devotions, I haven't given up on it. I'm planning on trying to bang out the next installment this weekend (which for me starts thurs. night). However, I had the same plan last weekend too. I always think I'll spend more time online when I'm not working, but it seldom ends up that way. Typically, the busier I am, the more productive I am; the fuller the schedule, the more I try to squeeze in. On the other hand, when I'm vegging with the fam, it's hard to get the momentum started. Anyway, maybe I'm being overly ambitious, but here's to a productive weekend!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Blomberg's Criticism of Form Criticism

It seems like it's becoming increasingly en vogue to bash form criticism by passing it off with barely an academic nod. And that's not a bad thing...especially from my perspective, in case my post-graduate pursuits end up taking me in the direction of the synoptics. I've begun working through Contagious Holiness (see the teaser below) recently and early on Blomberg lays out the parameters of the discussion. In doing so, he disses the Harvard PhD diss. by Dennis Smith which deals with the Graeco-Roman banquet (known as a symposium) as a communal meal 'model' that Smith argues was pervasive and influential in the first century. Debunking, the proposal, Blomberg observes:

"In both instances, Smith is fairly quickly rebutted. The form-critical analyses assume a fallacious and now outmoded kind of historical research. The very literary-critical approach to which Smith subsequently appeals has demonstrated that one cannot strip unhistorical layers from a historical core of Gospel pericopae, as once was thought..." (p. 22, italics added)

Sweet. Bultmann is likely turning over in his grave (or perhaps twitching in the flames?).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Good Stuff Around the Blogosphere

Two interesting posts I wanted to point out for any who haven't seen them yet: Justin Taylor interviews Jonathan Pennington here on the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew -- the theme of his recentlyl published PhD dissertation under Bauckham at St. Andrews. Also, Mike Osborne is back to the blogosphere (with a nice new look to his blog) introducing us to what appears to be a sadly overlooked NT scholar from yesteryear here.

Current Reading

Don't let the sidebar deceive you; sure I'm still reading through JVG, but don't think that doesn't mean that I'm not beginning other reading projects I'll never finish. One of the ones I've found most useful in recent days (I'm working through it a page a day...or so) is the two part essay by Darrell Bock entitled Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New. It's an excellent overview and introduction to the discussion, especially if you're trying to get a feel for the parameters. Both Part One and Part Two are available free on the web, courtesy of the guys at Apollos.

(HT: Ciao, babe :-)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Recent Acquisition

Cokesbury comes through again! Every so often we stumble onto a phenomenal sale at Cokesbury (located right behind Hooters on Battlefield for those in VA Beach - yes it's a terrible landmark, but you know right where I'm talking about :-) This time Julie discovered a 50% off inventory reduction sale and was gracious enough to let us know. Ok, I was with her husband when she called, but he could have lied and said he had to tend to a family emergency (I wouldn't put it past him :-) Anyway, this was one of my treasures, acquired for just $10. I couldn't wait to at least page turn through it (the typical fate of most of my books) so I gave it a go yesterday afternoon (which we spent at the beach...I love VA in January!). Suffice it to say, this is one of the first books I've ever come under conviction through from just flipping through the pages and randomnly stopping. I can hardly wait to read the whole thing (silence, you scoffers). Just consider this representative quote from his synthesis:

"Again, Jesus; model of ministering to people of all backgrounds challenges us to cross the culture-gap between the Christian sub-culture of cozy meetings and holy talk and the pagan culture of our local community. The task of identification with and incarnation into our contemporary paganism, of all kinds is one of the biggest tasks confronting the church. If Jesus was right, and the prevailing view in ancient Judaism wrong, so that holiness can be more contagious than impurity, then we need not fear such activity. the sad examples of Christians being corrupted and adopting the sinful practices of their non-Christian acquaintances with whom they associate is a testimony to thier unwillingness to rely on the Spirit's power and not a disproof of the viability of Jesus model" (p. 173).

Now that's not Nate Mihelis talking (though I've been trumpeting the last sentence since I burst the bubble of Bible College after graduating from such a sub-culture), nor is it even Driscoll. It's Craig Blomberg, as a summation and application of 160 plus pages of wrestling with OT, NT and Intertestimental texts! Good stuff, though it's bound to step on your toes. Gotta love those United Methodists (especially their book sales)!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Repentance from What?

I hesitated to post this because I'm embarassed to reveal just how slow my progress in JVG has been. Nevertheless, I thought it was significant enough to bare all. I came across something I strongly disagreed with Wright about...I know, brace's a historical moment. Many thought it wouldn't happen, but here it is.

In dealing with "Stories of the Kingdom" Wright examines Jesus' call to repentance under the heading of Invitation. While I appreciated much of what he says, when he comes down to defining repentance, I had some issues. His approach is mostly inductive, but when he comes out and defines it, he suggests two emphases to Jesus' message of repentance: "returning to YHWH so that exile may come to an end; renunciation of nationalistic violence. It was an eschatological call, not the summons of a moralistic reformer. And it was a political call, summoning Israel as a nation to abandon one set of agendas and embrace another" (JVG, 251). Contextually, he is setting Jesus call to repentance off from the ahistorical, timeless, moralistic call to individualistic piety (all words he uses). The first move is to say it's eschatological (the call to Israel to return to YHWH and bring about the real return from exile) and the second is to say that it's political - the turning from revolutionary violence against Rome and/or Herod.

Here's my beef: On the first emphasis, I am in total agreement with his description of Jesus' call to repentance as being eschatological in nature. Yes, He is calling them to return to YHWH and it most certainly is a historically occaisioned call. The problem I have is that this does not inherently set it apart from a call to individualistic piety; that would be a false dilemma or an either/or fallacy. True, the call may have more nationalistic overtones, but what does it mean for the nation to return to YHWH? Either faith driven Torah observance, or more likely in the present context, adherence to Jesus. No matter how you slice it, this is a call to individual ethical holiness. After all, the New Covenant is designed to foster Spirit enabled obedience, yes for Israel, but Israel, no matter how you define it, is composed of individuals.

However, it is the second emphasis that really got my biscuits burning. Wright suggests that bound up within the meaning of the term metanoia itself, is the idea of "abandoning revolutionary zeal" (p. 249-250). His reasoning here rests heavily on an occurence in Josephus. Josephus says, of a brigand chief whom he discovered was plotting to kill him, "that I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me...; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me. All this he promised..." (Ibid). The form here is actually the infinitive, rather than the noun I mentioned above, but that matters little. Wright points out that many commentators on the synoptics ignore this occurance when wrestling with the meaning of repentance, while he says "It is, I suggest, of considerable significance. This is what those words meant in Galiliee in the 60's [i.e. Josesphus day]; by what logic do we insist that they meant something rather different, something perhaps more personal, inward or religious, in Galilee in the 20s and 30s?" (still p. 250). By what logic you ask? Well for starters, that's NOT what it meant in Josephus day either. In my humble (though it may not sound that way, that's how I mean it) opinion, this is a raging exegetical fallacy.

For starters, metanoia and metanoeo simply mean "repentance" or "turning" and "to repent" or "to turn" respectively. What exactly is to be turned from depends on the context in which it is used. To import what it is that one is turning from in a given context into the lexical meaning or semantic range of the word is just plain wrong. It's sloppy lexicography. Further more, to take that imported meaning and apply it to all other contexts, especially those that clearly indicate something explicit that is to be turned from is even more dangerous exegetically, not to mention theologically. Let me offer a modern day example: Say you read the Mapquest directions that I recently used to get from VA to NH. You would see something to the effect of "turn right off of St. Luke's Blvd on to Great Bridge Blvd." Suppose you wanted to determine just what I meant by "turn." Well, a little historical/geographical research reveals that St. Luke's Blvd is a dead end side street and Great Bridge is a major thoroughfare. You conclude that "turning" is a technical term used for street navigation and is particularly useful in describing the move from a lightly traveled street to a major road. This is fine and good, until you hear someone ask to "turn the light off" or "turn in your assignments" or "tossing and turning" etc ad nauseum.

I don't think this is an unnecessary caricature of what Wright has done here. I grant that he is primarily gunning for existential theologians like Bultmann who demythologize the history right out of the Gospels and turn them into a collection of timeless aphorisms (you would be aware of this too if you read the essay linked to below about Wright :-). Doubtless, he is aware of and not apologetic for the fact that it also steps on the toes of many evangelical interpretations too. Yet, I am convinced that he has swung the pendulum too far. I grant his historically occaisioned appeal, as noted above; in fact, this sort of appeal is one of the things that I have learned most from any and all of his writings. However, I'm convinced his methodology is flawed here and the result is just plain wrong. If Jesus says He's come to call sinners to repentance, then there is substantial reason to assume that they must turn from there sin. Granted, perhaps some of the sin that some of the people (maybe even many of them) needed to turn from was their violent revolutionary zeal; however, for all the times we read Jesus saying "go and sin no more" I'm not convinced every time He was addressing a political zealot. The burden of proof would lie on Wright here, and the various contexts just don't sustain this.

Now, please don't misunderstand: I still love the guy, I still love Jesus and the Victory of God and I am learning a TON from it. In fact, I wish there were the forum for him to respond to what I've said; he's far more intelligent than I and he may blow me away with additional data I've not considered. However, maximalistic approaches to language (a la TDNT) just rub me the wrong way. I am and probably always will be a minimalist here to the core.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


And to think I almost went to school here. Only click here if you're ready to cry. At least one reason to be thankful for my alma mater (I still don't know if I got that right).

Justin Taylor)

What's Right or Wrong with Wright?

There it is again...another terrible pun. At least I'm predictable. A number of people have asked me what I think about Tom Wright, both on and off of this blog. By now, I'm sure it's more than apparent that I'm a fan, but I've heard various questions about his views in various areas that a general pattern seems to be developing. While I'm inclined to say Wright is like a Glock - you either love him or hate him - the truth of the matter, as is often the case, is probably not so black and white. However, most people who haven't read much by him, often ask one of two questions (depending on what they've read/heard): 1) What's wrong with him? or 2) What's so great about him? How one person can generate such extreme conclusions within so many circles can be a bit confusing, I admit. One of the most helpful "essays" I've read that accounts for this spectrum appeared on another blog a while back. I don't frequent the blog (not because I don't want to but because I already read too many) so I can't preface much about the author, other than to say that what he wrote squared almost perfectly with my experience of reading Tom Wright and his friends and foes. He does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the context in which Wright is carrying on his ministry...after all grammatical historical exegesis is just important with 21st Century documents as it is with 1st Century documents. I've actually linked to it twice now in the comment sections of this blog, but since it keeps coming up, I've been meaning to link it on an actual post. So, check it out here.

***P.S. Do I really need to include somewhere that I don't agree with EVERTHING he says? :-)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dangerous Devotions: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 2

First off, be reminded that blogs post in reverse order listing the most recent post first; in other words, do yourself a favor and scroll down and read Part 1 if you haven’t already. Now to the point: I ended the last post with the suggestion that fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism (the parts of the Body I am most familiar with) have unwittingly been guilty of creating a bifurcation between faith and history not altogether unlike that of academic liberalism, albeit unwittingly and with no ill intent. This expression of this division in conservative circles that I have in mind is the division or distinction between the head and heart or theology and practice or however you may have heard it expressed on a popular level. Such division often comes to fruition in a desire for a devotional reading or approach to the Scriptures…hence the title of this miniseries.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the intentions are all benevolent; certainly we want to read the Scriptures with an eye to obedience and increasing our affections for the Sovereign Lord Whom they reveal. The problem is that at the “devotional” level, a righteous impatience to cut to the chase and find out what it is I am to do or be, often results in an end run around the often laborious exegetical process. Pastorally this may seem great because such believers are following the Lord with zeal, when in reality, this zeal may be no different from that of the Israelites described in Romans 9-11. The result is that the “Devotional Jesus” may bear just as much resemblance to the Jesus of Testimony (i.e. the Jesus of the Scriptures, a la Richard Bauckam) as does the Jesus of liberal protestant scholarship. Likewise, such readings of God may do more to shape Him in our image than to transform us into His. The bottom line is it takes time and effort to read the Scriptures aright and grasp them in their contextual (historical/linguistic/cultural/etc.) setting. If we spend 45 minutes in a given morning, it just might not be enough time to figure out what’s going on in our given text, especially if we’re outside the Psalter or the Pauline corpus. This observation is not intended to deter folks from reading their Bibles, but rather to portray the task as it really is. It will require some holy sweat.
Now, up to this point, I assume the majority of the people who read this blog would be more or less in general agreement with what I’ve said…even those of you who lurk in the shadows and never comment (remember there is a site meter on this blog and it does give a geographical breakdown; not to make you paranoid or anything J). However, in the next segment, I want to give a few specific examples to drive home my point that may be a bit less agreeable (I hope that doesn't sound theatric). Please give feedback if this happens; that’s the whole point of this blog. The areas I plan on sketching out (at this point, anyway) are: 1) the head/heart distinction in a little more detail 2) sermon structure and delivery and 3) popular level views of the apocrypha. Who knows, maybe more will come to mind and there will likely be some concluding thoughts, but that’s where I’m headed over the next few days.

Dangerous Devotions: Reflections on the Bifurcation of Faith and History - Part 1

It’s hard to read very long under the heading of Jesus/Gospel Studies without confronting the division (okay, I just thought bifurcation was a cool sounding word and wanted to use it) between faith and history, or more specifically the “Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith” also commonly expressed as the “Quest for the Historical Jesus.” The attempt to apply historical critical methods to the Gospels as an outgrowth and application of Enlightenment epistemology led to this division in New Testament studies, especially those in Germany during the last few centuries. This bifurcation has continued into the present in academic NT studies via Bultmann and his successors on the continent and the Jesus Seminar here in the states. Recent fascinations with the historical Jesus have only become more popular due to best sellers like the Gospel of Judas and the Da Vinci Code not to mention the works of Ehrman and others. The ultimate application that comes from many writing from such a vantage point is typically one of two extremes: 1) Reject the Christian faith as historically groundless OR 2) Leave historical inquiry for the academy (the historical Jesus) and cling blindy to the teaching of the “church” (the Christ of faith).

What I’ve enjoyed so much about reading Wright in Jesus and the Victory of God is that he exposes such thinking for exactly what it is…a false dilemma. Christianity has NOTHING to fear from history and historical inquiry. While some “historians” may be overcome by their supposed objectivity that is actually saturated with ignored or suppressed presuppositions, the fact remains, Christianity ultimately rests on historical fact. Faith is not ultimately blind, but instead in historical evidence…namely the revelation of God in the Bible. It is neither contra history nor ahistorical. What does this have to do with the title? Glad you asked. While fundamentalism and conservative evangelicals have always avoided and confronted such liberal assumptions, my concern (and experience) is that they have frequently been guilty of the very same bifurcation via false dilemma…albeit for different reasons and with nothing but the best of intentions. But this post is already long enough, so I'll save that charge in it's specificity and unpacking for Part 2.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mike Bird on the SBC and Fundamentalism

About a year ago now, I researched and wrote a paper on the conservative resurgence in the SBC for Baptist History. My primary motivation was to discover first hand just how conservative the SBC really was. I kept hearing from fundamentalists that the resurgence was largely overexagerated and the majority of the SBC was still liberal. My own exposure to the SBC seemed to suggest otherwise, particularly seeing most of the books I was reading were by professors from within the SBC schools. Having begun to come to grips with the realization that the trajectory I was on would put me outside of the fundamentalist orbit before too long, I was interested in seeing if the SBC would be a good place to plug in. After several weeks of reading and almost 30 pages of writing I came to the conclusion that not only was the conservative resurgence genuine, but perhaps the pendulum had swung a bit too far. I began to suspect that the SBC was moving culturally in the direction of fundamentalism and that a move to the SBC would result in little forward progress. This assumption was largely confirmed when the convention took the unbiblical position on alchohol that exploded in the blogoshpere last year.

While I may not have spent too much time online in the last two weeks, I did make time to keep up with Euangelion and Jesus Creed. Though I recognize the post I'm about to reference is a week old, it's significant enough to point out, especially since I'm assuming that I'm not the only one who was out of the blogosphere last week. As I read Mike Bird's post on Russell Moore's evaluation of the SBC, fundamentalism and evangelicalism I was encouraged (though perhaps ultimately discouraged) to see that my conclusions on the convention were not too wide of the mark (according to both Bird and Moore). You can read Mike Bird's response here if you haven't yet (I reccomend you print it off; it's pretty long), though I suggest you start by listening to Moore's lecture first here.