"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenciticity Conference, Revised Edition

New location for the Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity Conference which was organized by Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne.

It will be held in Dayton, Ohio, on October 4-5 and co-hosted by United Theological Seminary and the University of Dayton's Center for Scriptural Exegesis, Philosophy, and Doctrine.

See Mark Goodacre's post.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Joel Green on Theological Interpretation

Joel Green offers some helpful insights on theological interpretation in his book Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging Biblical Texts for Faith and Formation. In a section of chapter 3 in which he discusses the rule of faith, he states:

"...if we want to affirm that scriptural engagement is inescapable for the Christian community, sola Scriptura can never guarantee that one is Christian. Most of us have our own anecdotal evidence for how a plain reading of a biblical passage has been used to support sheer nonsense...This recommends the practice of theological formation as a prerequisite or corequisite for practicing the craft of biblical interpretation. It also proposes at least two contenders for the title 'The Great Problem Facing the Church': is the church's great problem biblical illiteracy, or is it theological amnesia? (I say both)" (74-75).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John Webster, Christology, Exegesis and Theology

An additional quote from John Webster's conclusion to his essay "Jesus Christ" in the Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology...

"Christology responds to the self-communicative presence of its object in the twofold work of exegesis and dogmatics. Exegesis is not the same as study of the history of biblical literature and religion in their settings. Modern evangelicals have sometimes been bedazzled by the range and sophistication of historical procedures at their disposal, and busied themselves to master them in the hope of outbidding their opponents. But historical studies are the servant of exegesis, not its master. One thing which evangelical doctrines of the sufficiency of Scripture ought to have secured is that the ultimate resource is the text, not what can be reconstructed about what lies behind the text, for the text is an act of God's self-disclosure. The fruits of the immense labors of evangelical New Testament scholars are by no means negligible; but in and of themselves they do not constitute a hearing of the Word, though they may offer much needed preparation for such a hearing. The real test of the utility of historical work is whether it enables exegesis. In a Christological context, this means that there is more to be gained from a potent reading of the Johannine prologue than from the most exquisite dissection of its historical background. Perhaps one of the most significant influences which evangelical theology might bring to bear upon the study of the New Testament would be to recall its practitioners to the task of theological interpretation, that is, reading Scripture as divine address" (60-61, emphasis mine).

Friday, May 18, 2012

John Webster, Jesus Christ, & Evangelical Theology

Continuing through The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology (ed. Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier), John Webster presents a dense and sharp critique of evangelical theology on Christology in his essay "Jesus Christ." Any
evangelical theology of Jesus or even NT study of Jesus should take into account Webster's challenges.

Here are two such comments:

"Contemporary evangelical historians of Jesus and his early followers are certainly more sophisticated then their forbears, and a good deal more relaxed about the need to defend the viability of confessional orthodoxy or the reliability and authority of the apostolic witnesses. What they have in common with earlier work is the fact that their arguments are historical, not theological, and direct themselves primarily to historical reason rather than the judgment of faith. In this sense, they continue the evangelical tradition of Christology "from below" -- not in the sense of proposing a "low" Christology, but in treating Jesus and his human history as apprehensible in relative independence from the dogmatic question of his relation to the divine Logos. This, it should be noted, places them at a considerable distance from one of the primary affirmations of classical Christological teaching, namely that the humanity of Jesus is "enhypostatic" (has its existence in) the second person of the Trinity, and therefore "anhypostatic," that is, possesses no personal center of existence and agency of its own, and so is what it is solely in the Word. If this is so, then Jesus' humanity is not graspable as an historical entity without immediate reference to the Word who assumes it; incarnate humanity is not straightforwardly transparent to historical inquiry. Evangelical New Testament scholars have not so far addressed the adoptionist potential of the methods to which they have committed themselves" (pp. 57-58).


"Treatments of the resurrection are a particularly good register of how dogmatic topics have often been assimilated to historical and philosophical apologetics. Some strands of evangelicalism have long had a stake in existentialist apologetics, and Jesus' resurrection has furnished a test case for the viability of the strategy. In effect, the resurrection assumes a propaedeutic [introductory or preliminary teaching] function: as reason surveys the historical evidence, belief in the resurrection acquires plausibility, and with it the Christological claims of Christian faith. The strategy is only effective, it should be noted, on the basis of a relocation of Christian teaching about the resurrection. Moved out of dogmatics proper to foundations, the resurrection becomes faith's ground rather than its object, and its content has more to do with Jesus' resurrection as past event than with his presence and activity as the risen one. The effect of this relocation has rarely been noted by evangelical systematicians, who have been rather swift to subsume the resurrection within the larger project of demonstrating the objectivity and universal validity of the Christian revelation..." (p. 59).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Origen, Interpretation, & Creation

In David C. Steinmetz's, 1980 essay "The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis" in Theology Today, he cites the Alexandrian church father Origen:

"Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the sun and moon and stars? And that the first day, if we may so call it, was even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, 'planted a paradise eastward in Eden,' and set in it a visible and palpable 'tree of life,' of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life; and again that one could partake of 'good and evil' by masticating the fruit taken from the tree of that name? And when God is said to 'walk in the paradise in the cool of the day' and Adam to hide himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual event."

(citation p. 29 fn. 6: "Origen, On First Principles, ed. by G.W. Butterworth [New York: Harper and Row, 1966], p. 288.").

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology

This Friday, 18 May 2012, Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto will be hosting the spring colloquium of the Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology. The discussion and papers will be on Pope Benedict XVI's two volume work on Jesus. More details can be found here.
"Engaging and Evaluating Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth"
Pope Benedict XIV’s two-part volume on Jesus, which traces his life “historically” even as it describes him theologically and in a way that is congruent with traditional Catholic dogma, has proven both an extraordinarily popular work and one that has challenged biblical scholars in various critical ways. Several Protestant scholars here work with Benedict’s second volume (“Holy Week”) and discuss it with a Catholic theologian.

Presentations by:
David Trobisch
(Nussloch/Springfield, MI)

Terence L. Donaldson
(Wycliffe College, Toronto)

Joseph Mangina
(Wycliffe College, Toronto)

Gilles Mongeau, S. J.
(Regis College, Toronto)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: à Kempis on Humbleness

"If a man will only be humble about his own short-comings, how little it takes to disarm ill-feeling, how little it costs to put things right! It's humble people God protects and preserves, God loves and comforts; he stoops down and gives his grace lavishly, raising the humble man to heights of glory, as soon as neglect has done its work. Such a man he chooses fro his confidant, beckons to him gently and class him apart. Only a humble man takes it calmly when he is put to the blush; what does it matter? It is God, not the world, that gives him countenance. Never think that you have made any progress, till you have learned to regard all men as your betters."    -- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, 2.2.2

Monday, May 7, 2012

Academic Freedom and Anthony Le Donne

This past week has seen the dismissal of a good scholar from Lincoln Christian University which was going to host a conference in October on the forthcoming book co-edited by Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith, Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. Unfortunately, Lincoln Christian University has received pressure from their constituency and have let Anthony go. You can see the reactions around the biblioblogs: Michael Bird, Larry Hurtado (and the ensuring comments), Ben Witherington, Joel Watts, Jim West, and I am sure many others.

There is little that is known of specifics to bloggers, it appears, but this is unfortunate for academic freedom. Christian institutions have the right within their statements of faith and community life policies to dismiss faculty for doctrinal reasons. This is what faculty sign on to at such institutions; however, I think Larry Hurtado is correct that when such dismissals take place the issues often involve those interpreting the statement of faith, how narrowly the statement is interpreted, and deciding when a biblical scholar or theologian's work crosses the doctrinal line.

My condolences to Anthony.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Quotes from Vanhoozer, "The Triune God of the Gospel"

"The most important task of the doctrine of God is to identify the God of the gospel who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ through the Scriptures. It is therefore surprising that the bulk of evangelical treatments have been given over to discussions of the existence, nature, and attributes of God--that God is and what God is--rather than to God's identity or who God is, even though Scripture itself identifies God by what he says and by what he does: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt' (Exod. 20:2). When it comes to personal identity, actions speak louder than words, even when that word is perfect being."


"As Barth insisted, however, the only God Christians know and confess is the God who has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is not merely the appendix to the doctrine of God, then, but the primary and distinctive way in which Christians should think about God.

"The doctrine of the Trinity is not abstract speculation but the church's response to the revelation of God in history and Scripture. We best come to know other persons not through charts that list their personality traits, properties, or vital statistics, but by listening to stories about what they have said and done or, better yet, by watching them in action. The gospel is an account of something God has said and done. hence the key insight behind the renaissance of Trinitarian theology: God's nature must not be deduced from anything other than the narrative of his won revelatory and redemptive acts."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, "The Triune God of the Gospel", in Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology (Cambridge, 2007), 17-34 at 26.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What is an "evangelical"?

In the introductory essay to The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology (edited by Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier; Cambridge, 2007), Timothy Larsen defines an "evangelical" as:

1. an orthodox Protestant
2. who stands in the tradition of the global Christian networks arising from the eighteenth-century revival movements associated with John Wesley and George Whitfield;
3. who has a preeminent place for the Bible in her or his Christian life as the divinely inspired, final authority in matters of faith and practice;
4. who stresses reconciliation with God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross;
5. and who stresses the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual to bring about conversion and an ongoing life of fellowship with God and service to God and others, including the duty of all believers to participate in the task of proclaiming the gospel to all people.