July 30, 2008
Posted by Bobby Rhodes under Scripture  Comments
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways [or, in various parts], God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son.” Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV)
The following is an attempt to help us think about the idea of God’s ‘progressive revelation.’
Consider one of the great masterpieces of Western classical music, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In the first three movements we hear a number of different themes and ideas produced by a variety of instruments. (more…)
July 28, 2008
As many of you undoubtedly know, The Shack is getting a lot of attention. It’s sort of an underdog story: an unpublished salesmen writes a book for his children that was never supposed to be published. When it is published, it is done so on a $300 budget by a small, independent press. Through word of mouth, the book has grown into a best seller.
One of the reasons, I think, the book has been such a huge seller is because of the basic story line: a man endures a tremendous loss, goes into depression, finds “God” personally (and literally), and is restored to a life of joy. This resinates with a lot of people because loss and pain are parts of all of our lives.
Although this book has touched many people and, perhaps, even brought them closer to “God,” there are many people that I would strongly caution before reading this book. Others I would greatly encourage them to read it. I’ll explain my reasoning below.
Before I start, I’d like to point you to some well done (and more in depth) reviews of the book:
—Tim Challies has a free .pdf review that is very in depth and well done.
—Ben Witherington does a nice job balancing the positive and negative.
—Amy encourages people to read The Shack in order to engage critically with the theology presented.
—Steve Bishop calls us to remember the genre of the book before passing judgement.
As a piece of literature, The Shack is pretty much deplorable. The writing is awkward and the entire story line is completely contrived. It seems, at least to me, that Young had (more…)
July 27, 2008
What do we learn about the culture, life, views, thoughts, etc., of early Christians from their non-literary remains? This is an area foreign to many of us Evangelicals. However you approach it, studying the iconography (‘art’) of early Christians somehow sheds light on the life, views, thoughts, and things of importance for early Christians—just as does the study of texts.
I wanted to post the following from Graydon F. Snyder’s monograph Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine. These summary comments might be quite striking to us—
Jesus does not suffer or die in pre-Constantinian art. There is no cross symbol nor any equivalent. Christians did find themselves in difficult circumstances, including death. Yet the symbols show them being delivered from those circumstances, or at peace despite them. Their faith in Jesus Christ [as revealed iconographically] centers on his delivering power (p. 56).
From 180 to 400 artistic analogies of self-giving, suffering, sacrifice, or incarnation are totally missing. The suffering Christ on a cross first appeared in the fifth century, and then not very convincingly (p. 165, pages from 1985 edition). (more…)
July 26, 2008
I was curious if anyone else has read this book. It has been a pretty impressive seller, especially for a Christian novel and, furthermore, by a formerly-unpublished novelist.
I just finished reading it today and have some thoughts that I’d like to post about, if others would be interested in it. I thought it would be profitable to discuss, since it is being read by so many people.
Anyone else read it? Thoughts? Criticisms?
UPDATE: My cousin Amy just posted a great review of The Shack. My review will deal with similar issues that Amy raised.
July 26, 2008
Here is “The Message’s” take on Judges 5:15-16, from the Song of Deborah and Barak. It’s regarding the tribe of Reuben’s relationship to the God-led victory over the Canaanites:
“But in Reuben’s divisions there was much second-guessing.
Why all those campfire discussions?
Diverted and distracted,
Reuben’s divisions couldn’t make up their minds.”
Any commentary? Applications? Just plain honest thoughts that come to mind?
July 25, 2008
On Wednesday Peter Enns and Westminster Seminary posted a joint statement on Enns’ website and the Westminster homepage indicating Enns’ departure from the seminary as of August 1st. In the near future I plan to post a reflection or two about this here on the Connversation blog.
For now, I want to note a humorous online reaction to which I was alerted the other day. This is from the blog of a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Studies at the University of the Pacific. The title of the post is Old Testament Opening at WTS-Philadelphia. This captures some of my thoughts on the situation fairly well…
Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia is seeking an Old Testament scholar to replace the one we just canned (see here) for being a heretic . . . of sorts. The ability to read the Westminster Confession of Faith in its original language is absolutely essential to this position. Knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic is also important. Detailed knowledge of Dutch, French, and English Calvinist Theological Thought since the Reformation and training in Systematic Theology from an approved school is paramount. Candidates who have a strong knowledge, indeed, any interest at all in the history, cultures, and non-biblical languages of the ancient Near East, utilize social and literary theoretical approaches to Scripture, show concern about the so-called “messy textual history” of the Old Testament, seek non-traditional answers to “problems,” which are not problems at all, value independent thinking, and/or have a PhD from a suspect graduate program in America (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Hebrew Union College, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, UCSD . . . any UC, Catholic University of America, University of Chicago, Emory, Princeton, Duke, etc., full list here) need not apply. Only properly ordained ministers or deacons of the OPC or PCA will be considered. So no women, either. If you’re as narrow minded as us, we look forward to reviewing your dossier. (more…)
July 16, 2008
Many who read this blog are familiar with Judges 11 and its narrative of Jephthah, his vow, and his sacrifice of his daughter. For many this stands as one of the more disturbing narratives in the Bible. Phyllis Trible discusses it in her well known book, Texts of Terror.
Some find Judg 11.29-40, and the narrative’s lack of explicit condemnation, so revolting that they argue Jephthah devotes his daughter to perpetual virginity (or something else besides sacrifice). While I do not agree with such a reading (cleaning-up?) of Judg 11.29-40, I understand the drive to find some way to “deal with” such a disturbing text.
As already mentioned, one of the more disturbing aspects of the narrative for many is its (and God’s within the narrative) silence in terms of any explicit evaluative comment on Jephthah’s vow and sacrifice and its relation to the victory the Lord works. Such is typical of how Hebrew-Bible narrative often works. Understanding the function of this story in the flow of Judges, Judges’ presentation/characterization of Jephthah, etc., depends upon the subtle art of reading Hebrew-Bible narrative. But, I digress…
For now, I want to quote from a 1st century CE Jewish understanding: Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities (Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum), an extensive “re-telling” of Genesis through the death of Saul. What does everyone think? (more…)
July 10, 2008
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page article today on Peter Enns getting suspended from Westminster. You can read it online here. (more…)
July 10, 2008
Bruce McCormack has posted a two-part response (1 & 2) to his critics on Art Boulet’s blog. He plans to engage questions and concerns put to him, responding to comments on that blog. This is part of the outcome of the challenge McCormack issued in his open letter to Lane Tipton, which McCormack posted on Art’s blog on June 4th. Though I give some of the background below, at the start of Part 1 McCormack provides some details of his interactions with Tipton and others after posting the open letter.
Back in May McCormack posted a short essay in which he argued the Christology of the HTFC paper was not actually Reformed. Following some internet (blogging and email) activity and criticism, McCormack posted a short reply to R. Scott Clark’s criticisms. Eventually a member of the HTFC was officially heard from when Lane Tipton dismissed McCormack, labeling him a “revisionist,” in footnote 4 of an essay in the OPC’s (usually) monthly journal for church officers, the Ordained Servant (an online version can be found here).
Tipton did not engage any of McCormack’s substantive points either in the footnote or in the rest of the article, one devoted to a proper Reformed understanding of the incarnational analogy. It is quite possible Tipton completed the bulk of the essay prior to McCormack’s original reflections having been made available. At the same time, as McCormack points out in part 1 of his response, “…those responding to my brief analysis of the Christology presupposed in the HTFC report have shown an uncanny ability thus far to shift the ground of the debate from the topics I placed on the table for discussion, changing subjects abruptly, passing by in silence the questions which I posed to them, etc. Dr. Tipton’s ‘response’ to my response to the HTFC report was no different in this regard…”
Along these lines, when McCormack posted his original reflections and also his response to R. Scott Clark, no one among his critics really engaged McCormack’s actual historical and theological points. R. Scott Clark’s post was, in some ways, one of the rare exceptions. Instead, for most, calling McCormack a Barthian and dismissing him as someone who has denied X and Y of the Reformed tradition carried the day. Interestingly, when I did a post on this, McCormack’s critics and the HTFC’s defenders still failed to engage McCormack’s points and/or to recognize the need to do so when responding to him.
Perhaps this time around members of the HTFC, those who agree with the HTFC, and McCormack’s critics, will engage McCormack in honest charitable dialogue, discussing the questions and issues he puts on the table without (1) aggressively misreading him, (2) shifting topics erratically, (3) saying they already know him better than he knows himself, etc.
Even if one disagrees with McCormack, it seems to me we should all thank him for his willingness to devote his well-respected scholarly time and energy to addressing the discussions of the Westminster Theological Seminary community. As best I can tell, McCormack has long sought to cultivate better working relationships between Princeton Seminary and Westminster. Hopefully this attempt of his will spawn an edifying Christian-scholarly interaction with fruitful results for all involved.
July 2, 2008
Posted by Foolish Tar Heel under Biblical Theology
, Paul  Comments
Below I have quoted the ESV of Rom 4.22-25. What is the “it” to which the passage refers? To narrow this down to two possible options, is it, especially the third it, Abraham’s faith(fulness) or “our” faith(fulness)?
That is why [his faith] (it) was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (more…)