Saturday, April 28, 2007

More UK vs US PhD Advice

This time from Mark Goodacre.

Wright on Penal Substitution

If you haven't seen it, Tom Wright has been getting grilled in the blogosphere again, this time over the issue of Penal Substitution. In the process of the discussions, some have been concerned that Tom denies the doctrine himself. However, the following resources have been pointed out in his defence both here and here.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Still Not Afraid :-)

As I've made more progress into my new read pictured a post or two back, I've discovered two things: 1) The book probably isn't as "laymen" friendly as the author would like to think (in the first few pages alone, he uses the terms zeitgeist and demythologize--but hey, PCA laymen are probably more broadly read than most). And 2) Where my affinity for postmodernism came from - namely, presuppositional apologetics. Smith argues that this approach to apologetics rests on an epistemological approach that is shot through with pomo (i.e. no such thing as a brute fact, all evidence is interpreted, etc.). I couldn't figure out why or where I began to enjoy postmodernism rather than decry its evils. Smith helped me to see that I began the postmodern turn back with my boys Bahnsen and Van Till (who are both likely either rolling over in their graves or rejoicing in the presence of angels as I type this). Anyway, the more I read, the more I commend the book!

Friday, April 27, 2007

On Giving to the Poor

Great resource from the iMonk on "giving money to people on the street who ask for it" here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not Me

Once again, Cokesbury has some great deals, this time topping out at 90% of the original price. I accquired 9 books for under $20 one of the best deals being Harrington's commentary on Matthew in the Sacra Pagina series. Originally $40 I got it for $4. Not bad for a hardback with over 400 pages. However, of the batch, I think my favorite is the little paperback pictured below. Who's Afraid of Postmodernism is just over 100 pages of a PhD from Villanova (now on faculty at Calvin) wrestling with how postmodernism should and does intersect with the church, all the while writing for laymen and pastors. So far it's been a page turner and I might actually finish this one, as that's exactly the sort of question I've been wrestling with recently a la the emerging church conversation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Carson on Wright

If you haven't seen it yet, you can read D.A. Carson's review of Tom Wright's Evil and the Justice of God here. While I haven't read it all yet, I read the conclusion posted on Justin Taylor's blog here and think I may understand the gist. Just as a further teaser, here's the opening paragraph:

"Tom Wright has done it again. He has written a book characterized by his usual verve and 'big picture' thinking. He says some things so wonderfully well one cannot but be greatful for his contribution. And, as usual, he reserves a place for a few things that are doubtful, mistaken, or (at best) out of proportion, or just plain annoying."

Ouch. I'm starting to think Carson has a beef with Wright. But hey, It's nice to see I'm not the only one who can't resist cheesy puns with Wright's name :-)

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Jesus Comes Back and We Win

To date, the title of this post is about the only part of my eschatology that hasn't come into question. I have been discussing Isaiah 65 with several friends the last few days and I thought I would extend the conversation to any still reading this blog.

Isaiah 65 is a passage often associated with the blessings of the millenial kingdom - the lion laying down with the lamb sort of stuff. I never gave it much thought until I noticed that the words that open this section (v. 17) are:

"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered..."

And I thought to where have I heard that before? Placing the "millenial blessings" after Revelation 21:1 certainly has some complications for the premill position that I have so long embraced. Nevertheless someone did once advise me that once you let go of a pretrib position, it's a downhill slippery slope (which I did not believe at the time, though I find myself slipping and sliding frequently these days). To be sure, this text isn't the end all of the discussion, nor my own wrestlings, as it is difficult to account for how death could exist after Revelation 21:1 (see Isa 65:20). Any thoughts? Even so come Lord Jesus...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sola Scriptura

I'm still plodding through The Drama of Doctrine and loving every minute of it. Granted, I can go several pages at a time withouth knowing what Vanhoozer's saying, but when I hit the occaisional page I do understand, it makes it all worth while. He has some interesting things to say about the idea of sola scriptura, particularly as it relates to authorial intention (i.e. the intention of the reformers who coined [Luther] and used the phrase).

"Sola scriptura is not the answer to the question 'How many sources should one use in doing theology?'" (p. 232).


"Sola scriptura is the answer to the question 'Where can we find the supreme norm by which to measure Christian deeds and Christian doctrine?' Construed positively, sola scriptura indicates how the church is to practice divine authority. Stated negatively , 'sola scriptura is the statement that the church can err'" (p. 232-233).

"Sola scriptura is not a protest against tradition as such, but against the presumption of coincidence between church teaching and tradition" (ibid).

"The Reformation emphasis on the priesthood of all believers has mutated in modernity into the notion that individuals can interpret the Bible for themselves, without the benefit of church tradition. The danger in such individualism, however is pride, yet another 'presumption of coincidence,' this time between one's own interpretation and the word of God. What one discovers in tradition is that Christianity is far rich than one's own personal and ecclesiastical experience" (ibid).

"The Reformation was not a matter of Scripture versus tradition but of reclaiming the ancient tradition as a correct interpretation of Scripture versus later distortions of that tradition. The Reformers regarded the early church councils by and large as true because they agreed with Scripture, not because they had authority in and of themselves" (ibid).

The last two quotes in particular still ring true today in somewhat of a parallel scenario. One could substitute Calvinism in for 'tradition' and the false dilemma masquerading in the name of Biblicism could be equally undone by Vanhoozer's critique. I hope I haven't worded that too subtly.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Paul's Literary World

I recently came across this essay by Porter from the SBL Paul and Scripture Seminar home page. He addresses the socio/cultural environment of Paul's day with special attention to his geographical context (both Tarsus and Jerusalem). His primary purview here is engaging this topic as a means to the end of understanding Paul's implementation of intertextual practices. While it's useful for this purpose, it's also just plain fascinating for illuminating the world of the First Century (I actually finished the whole thing before posting this!). There's also a fantastic bibliography on Paul and Scripture here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thomas Has Nom de Plume?

Congratulations are in order for Adam Thomas of Thomas Colloquiums -- apparently the first of my buddys to get published, albeit under an apparent pen name. Okay, maybe not, but when I saw this volume at Barnes and Noble today, Thomas was the first thing that came to my mind :-)

First Century Christianity vs. Contextualization

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently regarding the desire to be biblical. I have frequently heard people say that they want to reproduce New Testament Christianity in their churches or have a church like that of the first century churches. While I understand the gist of what's being said here, I'm not sure that's exactly what we should be aiming at. What most people mean by such an assertion, I assume, is that they want to be faithful to the Scriptures and faithful to Jesus -- to be biblical.

The issue I'm raising is that sometimes being biblical may not look too much like a first century church. Contextualization is what's at stake here: seeking to incarnate the Gospel in our culture, not trying to reproduce the culture of the past. Paul couldn't employ podcasts, Peter never pondered a combustion engine, John never dreamed of the internet (despite how some dispensationalists may interpret Revelation). However, it's easier to try and study and reproduce a previous culture than it is to engage one's own; easier to memorize lines than to improvise. Sadly, many parts of the church have failed exactly here: whether it's perpetuating the high church culture of the 19th century or the nostalgic americana church atmosphere of the '50's - we've neglected to exert the effort it takes to read our contemporary culture and engage it with the Gospel. Ultimately, it's not First Century Christianity we should aspire for, but rather Twenty-First Century Christianity.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Gospel: What are we saying?

I haven't been online much lately (small surprise here) and it's difficult getting the momentum back up to post. However, I've been mulling over some things about the gospel lately and it's leading me into a post or two...maybe a mini-series. Here's the bottom line:

I struggle with evangelism at times because I feel like I don't know where to start. Sure, I get past it and realize that you just have to start somewhere, but that's not my point. My point is what is it exactly that we're to communicate? Sure, 1 Cor 15:1ff the life, death, ressurrection and lordship of Jesus, but how does that fit to contemporary culture. What is the point of contact to be made in contextualizing the Gospel for the 21st Century? I'm not sure I'm articulating the question I'm wrestling with clearly here, so rather than keep trying, I'll press on.

Vanhoozer's book The Drama of Doctrine has been helping me here (I'm still reading, I didn't meet my goal for a full book in March). He argues that the Christian life is performance; not in the Jerry Bridges sense (Bridges argues God doesn't treat us on the basis of our performance) but in the theatrical sense. It's an extended metaphor - the Bible is the Script, the Spirit the director, we live out the Christian life by "improvising" in a way appropriate to our Script. The Christian life is not just about knowing the right things, but ultimately living those truths out well. The Christian life is in this sense a performance of the Gospel. Thus, the message we are communicating in evangelism is the Lordship of Jesus over all of life (this last point is my own inference, not a proposition from Vanhoozer) or living in such a way that demonstrates the Lordship of Christ and evangelism is calling people to such a lifestyle. At this point, I'm inclined to weave in an inference from Wright on Renewed Humanity (see my previous posts here). In calling people to live out the Lordship of Christ in all of life we are calling them to be truly human, that is to image their Creator -- back to the image in which they were created.

All right there maybe some logical leaps here, I'm thinking out loud and not putting all my thoughts down. But my point is, as I thought through some of the implications I started to see parodies and perversions of such a life all over the place. The things that drive people are urges to fulfill some aspect of living well, acheiving success at being human, yet falling short of what is attempted. Hedonism, materialism, asceticism, egotism, all attempts at fulfillment of some urge that miss the mark of being truly human and ultimately end up in self-destructive lifestyles. The Gospel is a call to true humanity - renewed humanity. Enough rambling, I'll try and flesh this out in some ensuing posts, but these are not my final words on the matter; I'm still working through these things and would love some help.