Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back to the Bible?

The latest edition of Time has as its cover story the topic of bringing the Bible back into the public school curriculum. Good news right? Maybe. I've never been one to push for prayer in public schools and all that stuff. The ten commandments maybe, but in the secular sphere, I'm a little more comfortable with enforced pluralism, lest religious freedom for all be sacraficed on the altar of christian conservativism (here I'm thinking of a political movement more than a theological one).

The irony is that in a postmodern climate, (some may even argue post-postmodern) it appears that not all the vestiges of modernity have been eliminated in the public school system. The article contends that it would not be a violation of the separation of church and state iff (that's not a typo, but "if and only if" for those who may have forgotten stuff from their high school math classes) it is approached in complete neutrality. Sound good? Well beside the fact that most postmoderns have recognized what Bahnsen preached for years: namely, that such neutrality is a myth, there is more dissapointment ahead. The article further clarifys that by neutrality, it is intended that the Bible be approached as "an object of study, not God's received word" (p. 42). Oooops....there goes neutrality. Ironic, isn't it; scary even. The only thing more dangerous that presuppositions is blindness to your own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

McGrath Takes on Atheism

If you haven't seen this yet, it should be worth watching: Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, debating Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, well-known atheist and supporter of Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has created quite a stir in recent popular media bringing back the glory days of secular atheism. It's ironic that his modernistic approach (leaning very much on logical positivism from the snippets I've read) gains a hearing in our current post-modern culture. Anyway, McGrath has been an outspoken critic for some time now and it should be interesting to see two Oxford boys going at it. I haven't watched the video yet, in fact I haven't been online much at all in the last week, so I apologize if there are any techincal difficulties, but you can stream or download the video here.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

What's Become of Scotland?

For the last 5 - 10 years, maybe more, Aberdeen has been the place to do Biblical Studies, particularly at the Post Grad level. There NT department in recent years, in particular, has been one of their strong suits. Much discussion has taken place in the blogosphere in the last year or suggesting that Scotland was replacing the "Oxbridge" axis as the place to do biblical and theological studies, with leading scholars like Bauckham and Longenecker at St. Andrews, Hurtado at Edinburough and Marshall, Clarke, Watson, Gathercole and Williams at Aberdeen. Yet with Bauckham stepping down next year and the impending exodus from Aberdeen, things may be tilting bank towards cheery ole England. With Gathercole and Williams going to Cambridge and Watson heading to Durham, it will be interesting to see who the replacements are. In fact, Marshall is already an emeritus professor, so it is open to speculation as to how long it will be before he retires.

I'm always curious about the events that transpire behind the scenes of such transitions. If you haven't heard the story about how Grudem ended up leaving TEDS for Phoenix, you should listen to his audio interview at 9 Marks; it's fascinating...and probably not what you'd expect.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More Good Stuff from Nijay Gupta

I've already linked to a number of good resources from his blog and if you're considering post grad studies, you may as well make his blog one of your favorites. Nevertheless, for ease of my own access, I wanted to point out two more great posts, from a little ways back:

Suggestions for composing book reviews for publication here and here.

Suggestions for your thesis oral defense here.

It's Here!

For those who haven't seen it, Bock's commentary on Acts in the BECNT series is available on Amazon. A major exegetical commentary on Luke and now's hardcore.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Branding Jesus

No, this isn't another post on tattoos. Branding is something anyone involved in the business world is probably all too familiar with. HSBC is in the midst of a huge branding push, especially here in the US. "Leveraging the brand" is basically making sure that customers get excellent service and (more importantly) know who they're getting it from. It's remarkable to think of just how valuable various brands are: Nike, Coca Cola, Starbucks, etc. The primary thing that makes a brand valuable is the reflex association that comes to mind when someone is confronted with the brand; good association=valuable brand, bad association=worthless brand. Example: Starbucks can get away with charging $5 for a cup of coffee because of what that coffee represents: 1) a great cup of coffee 2) a comfortable atmosphere where you can hang out as long as you like 3) a free drink if yours doesn't come out right or even if you just don't like it 4) a cup that looks so cool, most other coffee shops imitate them. Starbucks is basically selling a lifestyle...and doing very well at it.

What does all that have to do with Jesus? Well besides the obvious fact that Jesus, being perfect, probably would have drank Starbucks, there is a parallel for Christians seeking to practice acts of kindness and mercy in Jesus' name. In card services, part of our problem is that the portfolios we carry have different names. We don't want people thinking they're talking to GM when they rave about their customer service to their friends...we want them to know it's HSBC they just spoke with....the world's local bank (sorry, reflex). Yet, the challenge is communicating that without sounding hokie. Here's what I'm driving at: how do you give a cup of cold water in His name without people thinking you're doing it just to be a nice guy? Or even worse, without saying, "I'm doing this because Jesus wants me to" or the like, and sounding like you're only doing it for divine brownie points. My question grows out of a concrete situation - wanting to extend the love of Christ to an unbelieving co-worker. The co-worker is very aware that I'm a believer, but somehow that doesn't seem like enough (t0 me). I want them to comprehend that it is the "love of Christ that constrains me." Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Marital Love vs. Pornographic Lust

Justin Taylor has linked here to an MP3 message by Al Mohler entitled "The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage." Again, I haven't listened to the whole audio file yet, but if it's anything like the extended excerpt he's posted on the blog, it should be great. If nothing else, read the excerpt I've linked to on Justin's blog. Here's a snippet from the conclusion:

These two pictures of male sexuality are deliberately intended to drive home the point that every man must decide who he will be, whom he will serve, and how he will love. In the end, a man’s decision about pornography is a decision about his soul, a decision about his marriage, a decision about his wife, and a decision about God.These two pictures of male sexuality are deliberately intended to drive home the point that every man must decide who he will be, whom he will serve, and how he will love. In the end, a man’s decision about pornography is a decision about his soul, a decision about his marriage, a decision about his wife, and a decision about God.

Piper at Nine Marks

The latest audio interview is up on the 9 Marks website here discussing the NPP and the infamous fifth point with Piper. Though I've yet to listen to it, I will be shortly. Piper's always good and his understanding of the particular redemption (at least as unfolded in his TULIP series) was one of the most helpful I've heard. However, on previous occaisions he has seemed a bit overly critical of the NPP; especially Tom Wright. Either way, with the volume he's doing on Justification, I'm sure his criticisms will be finely honed and ought to be good stuff.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thiselton on the Nature of the Gospel and Preaching

"Paul then proceeds to offer a diagnosis of why these two foundational themes [being in Christ and the cross centered nature of the Gospel] have become obscured. The first concerns the nature of preaching. It is not of such a nature as to invie assessments of competing rhetorics. As such its operative effectiveness depends on the force which it derives from God as authentic proclamation, not on artifices of persuasion or the consumer-oriented goals of rhetoricians. The cross reverses any strategy of manipulatives power. Such a notion of 'power' would prove counterproductive for genuinely christological proclamation since Christ points away from himself to the glory of God and the welfare of others in the cross."

A.C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC, pp. 107-108.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Jesus Tomb and All That.

The Jesus Tomb "documentary" has been all over the news for the past week having exploded in the blogosphere just prior to that. While I was initially inclined to cavalierly dismiss it as part of the shadow cast by Dan Brown, there are those who want to take it seriously and thus it merits attention. However, since men faaaaar more educated than myself have already responded, I figure there's no sense in reinventing the wheel. Hence, you can access a response by Ben Witherington III published as an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal here. Likewise, Richard Bauckham has published a response as a guest post on Chris Tilling's blog here. Both scholars are fantastic, though at opposite ends of the spectrum. BW3 teaches at an evangelical seminary here in the states and publishes 100 or so books a year, all valuable contributions to the scholarly community and writes in a somewhat conversational style. Bauckham, on the other hand, teaches at the University of St. Andrews (in Scotland) and doesn't publish nearly as frequently, but when he out. The work is typically ground clearing and sets a new standard in the field it addresses. And so it goes with these two pieces; BW3's response is brief but poignant, whereas Bauckham's treatment is a bit more lengthy and engages the issues more critically (the differences are largely due to genre). Both are great.