Saturday, May 30, 2009

Inaugurated Eschatology

"Eschatology must be defined by what has arrived in the first coming of Christ rather than what is relegated to the second coming of Christ."--Richard Gaffin Jr. Lectures Acts and Paul 4/15/04

Armor of God

"Ephesians 6:10-20 shows in connection with 1:20-23 that the lordship of Christ over the world has in principle been secured. In the present age, however, in which the evil one is still active, the cosmos must be recovered for the lordship of the Creator through the deployment of all the gifts of the Spirit...Behind this, therefore, is not the Greek concept of the "battle" of the ascetic self, but the apocalypitic hope of the powerful triumph of the kingdom of God, manifest already now, according to Ephesians 6, in the baptized believer's earthly struggle of faith." (EDNT, vol3, p.10 "panoplia").
Ironically, this morning in the shower I was just thinking, if Paul's theology is centered in apocalypticism and Ephesians portrays a clear apocalypticism (e.g. Eph. 1:20-23, 6:10-13ff, et al), I wonder if this bolsters a case for Pauline authorship. More precisely, I wonder if those who defend Pauline authorship against detractors have made the case that the underlying theology is the same even if Ephesians avoids concepts like 'justification'.

Either way, there is a clear apocalypticism going on in the armor of God passage. This of course connects to the idea that Paul does nothing other than preach what Jesus called 'The Kingdom of God' (cf. Ridderbos quote here).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kyrios & Jesus

One of the most important titles for Christ in the New Testament is Kyrios or Lord. It is important because it is a title that relates to the exalted state of Christ and the fact that he is a reigning king/Lord who has triumphed over sin and death. He now exercises rule. It is equally important because it comes as indication to us of Christ's eternal deity. It is connected to the Old Testament in numerous key places so that when the title is attributed to Christ, Paul, in particular, is quite clear that he is connecting Jesus Christ to the divine identity/name of God of the Old Testament.

Larry Hurtado writes:

There are thus three main types of Pauline contexts in which Jesus is characteristically referred to as Kyrios: (1) In hortatory statements and passages Jesus is the Lord/Master whose teaching and example are authoritative for believers. (2) In references to eschatological expectations, Jesus is designated the Lord who will come again as agent of God. (3) In formulae and passages reflecting actions of the worship setting, Kyrios designates unequaled status given to Jesus by God and is the characteristic title given to Jesus in teh worship practices of early Christian circles." (Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, 117)

One cannot get around the title of Jesus: Lord. One cannot get around the Old Testament uses verses that reference YHWH and make the clear referent of the passage Jesus. Couple this with the devotional patterns of the first Christians, which Hurtado has clearly shown numerous times over that devotion typically reserved for God alone was giving to Christ by the first Christian, and we begin to see even more clearly the truth and effect of the confession of Jesus' divinity by the very first Christians.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Internet Inerrancy Debates

Call them debates or dialogues, I don't really care. There have been some discussions about inerrancy on the internet lately. I thought I would link to a few of them and make couple of comments. I fully believe in the inerrant Word of God. It is possible to be overly consummed into defending this position that we fail to listen and evaluate. I think there are issues to evaluate and weigh as to the historical complexities of the Word of God. We should seek to faithfully interpret and follow the Word of God and so I offer these thoughts on the Internet Inerrancy Debates.

Introductory Dangers
First, like so many internet debates out there it is again amazing how many of the discussions proceed as if one party is the expert and the other party does not know what they are talking about. While there are many sincere people involved in the discussion, it is too easy to become too convinced of one's own side without examining the evidence and the issues. For example, it is too easy to throw out a whole bunch of research and quotes so that it quickly becomes apparent one has really only read one side of things. It is likewise easy to say "Scripture says" without engaging the concerns of "How does Scripture say what it says."

The third danger is the danger of novelty. It is a common assumption that inerrancy is a novelty steming from Warfield or others. This argument can then become an attempt to use "history" to trump historic defenses and definitions. The third area of novelty is the danger in assuming new "historical" information into ancient research should trump the clear assertions of Scripture. I believe that historical study is invaluable for Biblical studies. Indeed, it often shapes and nuances our understanding of Scripture and informs our interpretations. But the authority of Scripture is not the background behind it (real or imagined), the background is crucial--even indespensible--for good hermeneutics but the authority of Scripture is Scripture itself. Of course Scripture must be rightly interpreted. It does little good to have an inerrant Word if we don't actually listen to what it says and pay attention to how it says what it says.

Some Reading
This list could go on forever, if I did an exhaustive search. Here are just a few. Over at GreenBaggins they've had several posts on the issue, including the first one, which lead to an extremely long (500+ comments) 'conversation'.
  1. Incoherent Inerrancy.
  2. Who ya Gonna Believe.
  3. There's Accomadation and then There's...
  4. UPDATE: Check Your Facts!, God.
On the other side of the issue, Art Boulet, who argues for errancy but defends infalibility, has begun a series:
  1. Consistent Errancy 1
  2. Consistent Errancy 2
  3. UPDATE: Consistent Errancy 3

Outside of the internet, one should be reading the Spring 2009 Westminster Theological Journal some articles on the issues including a Waltke/Enns debate. Waltke shows that Enns' "data" is not nearly as crystal clear as one might think--means there are alternate interpretations that are equally solid (and must be weighed) but those involved in the debate. Enns of course does not go as far as some involved in these internet debates. The Westminster Journal offers two articles by James Scott on the issues. The recent issue of Themelios also deals with the issues. There are of course other places one can track the debate and discussion with varying degrees of quality. The danger is to read the internet to the exclusion of reasoned arguments. There are of course the relevant books too.

There are in a sense almost three positions: Traditional Inerrancy, Modified Inerrancy (Enns and others in ETS who to varrying degrees adopt some [or much] historical-critical methods) and the errantists some who hold to infallibility. This leaves out the strict ends on the right who would be so strict on inerrancy they'd crucify Warfield and the strict left that denies the Bible is even from God.

Let more offer a few brief thoughts and propose a way forward.

First, differing interpretations does not entail a denial of inerrancy. So for example, holding that Job is not a historical story and defending such position on exegetical grounds via an analysis of the genre among other things, does not entail a denial of inerrancy. Let me quote Moises Silva:
"[T]here is a strong current of opinion in evangelical circles that says we need to tie inerrancy down to certain hermeneutical boundaries. But to speak in this way is once again to increase the conceptual confusion. It is of course true that a commitment to inerrancy entails that we will believe such interpretations are clearly demonstratable from the scriptural text, but inerrancy does not automatically settle interpretive debates... ("Old Princeton, Westminster, and Inearrancy" in Inerrancy and Hermeneutics pages 79).
Earlier Silva writes,
The doctrine of biblical infallibility [e.g. inerrancy] no more requires that certain narratives be interpreted literally than it requires that certain prophetic passages be interpreted literally That decision must be arrived at by textual evidence and exegetical argument. Now I happen to believe that the essential hisotoricity of Genesis 1-3 is a fundamental article of Christian orthodoxy...I would want to argue very strongly that the proper interpretation of the Genesis material is one that does justice to its historical claim. And yet I would want to argue just as strongly that such an interpretation is independent of my commitment to inerrancy. These are two distinct questions. Of course, once we have established exegetically that the first three chapters of Genesis teach historical facts, then our belief in infallibility requires us to accept those chapters as factual. But infallibility, apart from exegesis, does not by itself determine historicity. ("Old Princeton, Westminster, and Inearrancy" in Inerrancy and Hermeneutics pages 74-75).
Thus, as Silve concludes holding to inerrancy does not de facto require that we adopt certain interpretations. I would hastily add, as Silva would concur, so far as those interpretations do not clearly contradict what the Bible has declared (of course giving due deference to intent, hyperbole, genre, parable, context, etc. etc.).

I mention this because let's be sure we are clear what the debate is about. This would be, in my estimation a great reminder for the more traditional side that can sometimes defend all the issues on this one issue. However, the 'errant' side would be wise to consider this. For example, it is common to see writer through out the 'raqia' in Genesis one which could be translated 'dome' or 'expanse'. Prefering the former, they then argue the Bible errs because it offers a 'fact' which is clearly not a 'fact'. The argument goes that ancients clearly believed in a literal dome and the Bible reflects this. Despite the debatable interpretation, it is not in and of itself an argument for inerrancy particularly when you factor in genre. I would argue that Genesis 1 has both historical referent and literary structure and verbage. This is, of course, God accomadating to our language.

Which brings us to our second point. The issue of accomadation. I fully believe that God accomadates to speak human language. Calvin held to this as well as the Reformers since then. Warfield and Bavinck even make non-techinical illustration to Christ's incarnation as a similarity. But God's accomadation never brings him to violate his own character. It is too frequent that the oponents of inerrancy who believe the Bible is in some sense God's Word use accomadation as an excuse for justifying human error in the text. This would violate their own defense of accomadation as they connect it to Christ. Christ never sinned or lied. It is not possible for God to err. I know this defense is rather "simplistic" but some things really should be this clear. God clearly does accomadate, all who speach involves condescension on God's part (revelation is ectypal). But breaking it down for us to grasp does not de facto entail allowing it to contain errors because human's have errors. This would violate the 'God-breathed' character of those accomadated words. It violates Scriptures own clear descriptions of God and His Word.

Most defenitions of errors in the text are either apparent internal contridictions that can be explained by textual criticism, non-scientific precision, literary style or some other normal discipline for the interpretation of Scripture. Some opponents of inerrancy, and here I think of those radicals who go so far as to deny the Bible is God's Word, go so far to strain that gnat that they violate regular interpretative wisdom and ethics. This is particularly true of the fanged internet athiest who blog more than they read. The second common defense of 'errors' in the text involves the use of outside historical and textual knowledge to countermand what the Bible actual says and claims.

This brings me to my third point. There is a common attempt to use historical-critical fields to be brought to bear against Scripture. I am in no way going to speak against academic study of the text of Scripture and the ANE. Indeed, background studies is indespensible. However, there is a tendancy by the novices who use historical-criticism to defended limited errancy to treat these results as a sort of brute fact with little or no interpretive difficulty. There is a further tendancy to look down the nose as evangelical responses and interpretation as inferior and less studied as these assured results from the real masters of the discipline.

We cannot treat the historical evidence of the ANE as a sort of "brute fact' that is just there. Indeed, when one uses such evidence to reshape what one thinks about Scripture, one is making an interpretation (of Scripture) based upon what one thinks of an interpretation (of the ANE documents). This can quickly become a long path of intepretations of interpretations of interpretations which means it is not clear cut and dry as some would have us believe. I wholehearted affirm that scholars, especially envangelicals, should deal with these issues. Yet we need to be extremely careful about the bald assertions that the new evidence reshapes everything we know about Scripture.

Our understanding of the depth and background to Scripture will forever grow as our historical knowledge expands and comes to light but this is a far cry from redefining whole doctrines based upon questionable historical backgrounds. This is of course a 'messy' complex field of studies that we cannot delve into in one blog post, and I myself fully admit I am no expert in the field. Yet while the Word may be brought to light by historical studies (again: they are essential), the authority of the Word is the Word (which needs to be interpreted with hermeneutics). All to say: to allude to Van Til, Christianity provides the roof for the evidences not evidences for Christianity. How you interpret historical details and the conclusions one reach are not merely neutral assertions based on unbiased historicism. So the so called assured results of history can be driven by anti-God assumption which should causes us to question how the pieces are put together, especially when we use part of the puzzle to overturn the rest of the puzzle.

Finally, historical complexities are not neccessarily 'messiness'. It is common to speak of the 'messiness' of the Bible. I myself have used the term and heard it used. We really should be more clear. There is a difference between historical complexity and error laden messiness/dirtyness. I fully affirm the historical complexities of the Bible, its origins, the canon formation and the textual preservation. I am in no way ashamed of the Scriptures in these matters. The issues are not 'cut and dry', the complexities of history are messy in this sense. We cannot put God and the Bible in a box about how God gave it to us and say "it must be done like this, clean and easy." It has not come that way to us. However, and please hear me carefully, this is not the same as saying the messiness makes it error laden or reshapes how or what parts it is the Word of God. This is not messiness and historical complexity, this is rebellion and overturning the authority of God and his ability to use historical complexity to speak clearly and purely. To often evidence of the former is used to argue for the latter which is a clear category error.

Let me offer my brief thoughts on the way forward in the inerrancy debates:
  1. The conservative side must do better in engaging in the actual textual issues. We should defend on views of inerrancy and its subsequent entailment through dealing with the actual historical details and facts that 'trip' so many up. One side says 'see we have the evidence' and too often we are apt to say 'but your presupposition'. This second part is a needed element of the debate but we can win more favor if we couple it with the first part. Consider the examples of Warfield, Machen and Stonehouse.
  2. We should be going backward as well as forward. Yes a lot of research has come to light in the ANE. Yet we should understand the tradition and the heritage before we abandon it. Warfield should be required reading. We should understand the history of the debates as they were first undertaken before we cast off the past. Those who have come before us were not as naive as we might think. Let me give one example: Warfield has an excellent essay"The Doctrinre of Inspiration of the Westminster Divines" (The Works of B.B. Warfield, Vol 6 pp.261-333). Particularly interesting is his discussion of Lightfoot's interpretations. I think it would surprise both sides, the ridgedly conservative might be surprised by how Lightfoot interpreted certain passages. Those who opposse inerrancy might be surprised by its pedigre and interpretive intelligence. Some of the reasons for abandoning inerrancy such as 'accomadation' are precisely the things that Lightfoot held without abandoning inerrancy. We might further suggest Silva's articles on the issues.
  3. Going forward does not automatically entail abandoning the historic confessions of the church. So often progress is seen as theological ingenuity. This is true of inerrancy. We should take the ANE context of the Old Testament seriously. Taking it seriously does not (and I would argue will not) entail abandoning inerrancy. The evidence is a brute fact that if properly understood magically overturns inerrancy. That side, the Reformed conservative side should actually be careful to engage and exegetic the text. Historical exegesis will entail relevant historical background and refining our historical methods of inquiry. It may even lead us to interpret a particularly passage differently than are forebearers, but we mean know disrespect. Indeed, we respect them more fully when we deeply dig into God's Word. Digging deeper into God's Word will not undermine confessional evangelicalism or our Christianity. Historical methods are essential and yet we should ask "which historical methods" for these are hardly unbiased tools which is why I say:
  4. We need to realize the issues go much deeper than the issues. This is more than just 'following the facts'. Those zealous defenders of inerrancy need to likewise keep their own pride in check. Further, we must resist the temptation to define inerrancy by the interpretation on takes on this passage or that passage. Granted, one should not take interpretations contrary to the words of Scripture. Yet even within inerrancy there is freedom of interpretation as long as we are properly respecting God's Word.
  5. Keep in mind "Many might not be aware of this, but the inerrancy debate was not a result of the Enlightenment. Even in the seventeenth century there existed the “anti-Scripturalists”, as they were called. ("
  6. Don't loose sight of the Scripture in your zeal to defend Scripture:
I’m concerned that those of us who view the bible as God’s inerrant word do not practise what we preach.

John Biddle was the English champion of Socinianism in the seventeenth century. He is reported to have memorized in Greek vast portions of the New Testament. What this shows, of course, is that you can know a lot of Scripture and still be a heretic. Having said that, I’m not at all confident that the current generation of preachers and seminary students know their bibles all that well. The bar at Presbytery examinations has been set very low. And, judging by many sermons I hear today, a lot of preachers are more comfortable quoting movies, tv shows, and books, than they are their Bibles.

All of this is to suggest that it is not enough to believe in inerrancy and then ignore your Bible. It’s not adequate to spend 2 hours of your day debating inerrancy on a blog and neglecting to read your bible. It’s like someone saying they believe in God, but not worshipping him.(

I am sure I have solved nothing of the debate here. I have not dived into the textual and exegetical issues. My attempt has been to frame some of the discussion, offer my commentary as I study the issues and provide some suggested lines for moving forward. Let us not be consummed by debate and chatter for its own sake. Our pride is not at stake, the debate should be over the nature of God's Word and the authority and clarity of God Himself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Star Trek (XI?) Movie Review

I can't start it any better than by concurring with Thabiti Anyabwile"This movie will give rise to a new generation of Trekkies!" As a Trekkie who grew up watching The Next Generation and hasn't missed a Star Trek since, I thought this movie was excellent. It was a reboot and yet it was faithful to the original vision and even to a degree, to the original canon *spoiler alerts ahead*. This was everything a Trek movie should have been and then some. Quality wise, it was exactly the kind of movie one should expect for Star Trek in the 21st century. It was current, up to date and yet it caught the ethos of the original Trek.

I'll stop gushing now and try to give some examples. *Spoilers ahead*

The Characters
First, what made this movie work was the characters. The characters, as so many review have pointed out, don't do imitations. Yet when you watch some of the actors, particularly those playing "Bones", Scotty and Chekov you can almost see the original characters. Karl Urban does a great Bones that is just as cranky as DeForest Kelley. One plot point that I love, is that McCoy first says he love Spock when Spock and Kirk banter... but then a little later McCoy and Spock have a little verbal tuffle on the bridge and McCoy ends up lamenting the 'green blooded Vulcan'. He can almost see it set the stage for what we see in the original canon.

I love the maturing process that Kirk went through. You can almost see how he will develop into what we have known and loved about Kirk. For me, even though I grew up watching TNG, I remember the first time I saw a rerun of the Wrath of Khan (the same time I saw my first TNG episode) and I loved the character of Kirk more than anything. Minor differences in the character can be resolved to "nurture" while character continuity can be "nature" in the whole "nature" vs. "nurture" debate on humanity.

In the movie, Spock is more of a change from the original. He is more unbalanced between his emotional side and his Vulcan side. In the Next Generation episode Reunion, Spock and Data talk about how Spock has always fled his humanity. The old episode do hint at that emotional tension. Later episodes of the whole Trek have made clear Vulcan have emotions but they bury them. One wonders if the new Trek will explore the complexity of Spock more and have him, in the end, come away more "balanced".

The Plot
Second, for me, the plot "work". It was at the same time both 'true' to the canon and original. Of course, time travel lets this work. Star Trek is technical a reboot in a changed timeline. This is positive for several reasons. (1) The writers now have freedom like never before. They don't have to explain an update set and special effects etc. They don't have to worry so much about rabid fans combing the time line for errors (although the fans still will, or they will complain that the timeline isn't reset). (2) This allows a present generations of fans experience ST again for the first time. For the Trekkie, remember how you felt when you first say Trek? There was for many, excitement, delight, adventure. You wanted to know what would happen next. A new timeline can build this excitement once again.

The whole reboot with the original Spock and Nero coming back in time, was in my mind, consistent with the 'old canon'. The original timeline still exists, out of respect to the fans, but the new timeline begins, which allows a voyage into the unknown. As a villain, Nero's character was believable. It remains to be seen if he will be as profound as say Khan, another man driven for revenge. At first, it is a little unbelievable that Nero would wait 25 years to get his revenge but as when discovers, his revenge means little if it does not crush Nimoy-Spock. 

The destruction of Vulcan and death of Spocks mother were bold moves, in my view. Perhaps too extreme, especially given how important Vulcans have been to ST. Yet, it was the right move. It created a sense of urgency. This is a real villain, fighting it out in the "real world" where events have lasting consequences. The death of Spock's mother impact and shapes Spock. The destruction of Vulcan will shape not only Spock and the Enterprise crew, but perhaps the whole Federation. It was not a plot move I saw coming, but a welcomed surprise that creates and urgency when Nero reaches Earth. The only way to be more bold, I think, would have been to destroy earth and save Vulcan. 

The plot ended well. Spock saves earth by luring Nero away. The Enterprise saves Spock and then Kirk offers mercy to Nero. At this point, we see the real conflict of Spock who does not want to give mercy. In the end, the bad guys die, consumed by their hatred, if you will. 

Helpful to the whole movie was the humor interspersed. There was the whole Kirk not knowing Uhura's first name, while Spock, the romantic interest knows it. Scotty and Chekov added a bit of comic relief. Sulu and Pike even have a moment when Sulu forgets to take off 'the parking brake.' The Bones/Kirk relationship lightened the tension at points. And of course, we got to see a 'red shirt' die.

There were part that created tension, like any good action movie. The death of Kirk's father was emotionally gripping. The Enterprise flying through the destroyed fleet and Captain Pike's capture of the Romulan ship heighten things. At many of these points the music, coupled with sudden silence and slow motion was for this audience member, gripping.

The Technology
Lastly, I love the technology of the new/old era along with the 21st century special effects. The speed of the movie was right on pass for a contemporary movie going audience. There was no rush followed by a let down. I mention the key point of silence for effect. I also appreciate the zooming lens, where it waves and then movies in. This feature is common in current Sci-Fi genres, especially in the New Battlestar Galactica. 

The touch pads for interaction coupled with hand controls (like the 'throttle' on the bridge) were a good mix. I love some of the transporter sequences where they showed the complexity of "locking on". This kept the transporter from being the "magic save" button which it has sometimes been. Now, things can go wrong in the transporter, with a greater degree than previously. Again, this adds a sense of danger. 

The Enterprise was gorgeous. Seeing her on the big screen for the first time made me want to breadth out "Theerrreee she's is." (cf. ST:II). I love the pulsating phasers and the speed with which she moved in the battles. The shots of the Enterprise ducking under debris only to have the warp engines scraped were great. One of my favorite shots was the close up of the Enterprise ascending out of Titan, Saturn's moon, as the dust flew off to reveal the hull. Through out the movie one gains a sense of the "bigness" of the Enterprise, even though in space she is small.

One last thing, the industrial location of the bridge and the bowels of the ship, were a great location choice. The ship wasn't a sterile place, rather it was a living, breathing, work zone. One would expect the innards of a ship like this to be dangerous and expansive filled with key machinery. Historically, the engine rooms has been a warp core pipe with panels all around (Enterprise A; E:D; Defiant, Voyager, although the NX-1 was little more cluttered but only slightly). The industrial sights may have saved money, but in my mind, they added a realism not experienced before. (Although one does miss the pulsating of the Next Gen era warp cores).

As a whole, the movie started and it did not let down. I'm sure I have been overly gushing. Watching it again, I'll probably find holes or question. But movies are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. For ST, there was no lull in the action. One scene literally built upon the rest. This is the real genius of the movie, and few movies accomplish it well while at the same time getting in key dialogue and plot background that make for an intelligent movie. This is the way reboots should be done. There was a respect for the original fans, who can at least explain why the new things are the way they are. There was not a baseless appeal to action and the eye-candy of special effects that might insult the viewers intelligence. It was good plot coupled to the most up-to-date special effects. Twenty years from now when the special effects are "old" and "unsophisticated" the movie will remain on its greater strengths plot and characters, this is the enduring value of Star Trek as a whole.

I'm a fan, so I'd like just about any Star Trek, short of something that really violated canon and the laws of the ST universe. I think movie exceeded my expectations of what Star Trek both is and can be as if moves forward. I think a whole new series of fans will arise. In my mind, this is nothing but good things for the future of Paramount and the Star Trek franchise. Here's hoping the next movie is even better than this "first" one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun

Check out this dashing logo:
Hmmm... you might be tempted to think this is a new logo as part of Abrams reboot of Star Trek. And you'd be wrong. It is the actual logo of the Chinese National Space Administration. You can see the possible origins are a bit striking:
Right now even Chekov is saying, "I know that logo, it was inwented in Russia."
(HT: InvertorSpot)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama and Original Sin?!

I'm not endorsing the whole speech, nor am I going to make any commentary on the sad hypocrisy of endorsing so called 'rights to choose' while decrying 'injustice'... indeed there is no true justice when we turn a blind eye to the weak and helpless. Of course, the case against abortion is multifaceted, but the issue of the nature of justice is just one element. Instead, I thought I'd just note one interesting irony in Obama's Notre Dame speech in relation to larger theological movements:

Unfortunately, finding that common ground _ recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a "single garment of destiny" _ is not easy. And part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man _ our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin. We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see here in this country and around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times. (Text of the speech)

Wait, did he just say original sin? How about juxtaposing it with this comment by another would-be theologian (himself an Obama supporter) and representative in the Emergent/ing church:

I have come to reject the notion of Original Sin. I consider it neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable. (source)

Never thought I'd see the day where I'd side with a theological statement by President Obama over and against another statement within the emerging church. I'm not saying Obama is emergent or that those in emerging/ent aren't allowed to disagree with Obama. I just thought it is one of those strange ironies of life. Does this mean Obama isn't as progressive as we once thought? Again, just noting one of those ironies of life.

Here's a related post on my blog to issues raised earlier by Tony Jones on Original Sin.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ames on Inerrancy

While the inerrancy of Scripture became a particular hot button issue in the late 19th century through the 20th century, it is not as if it is pedigree before said controversies. William Ames (1576-1633) From The Marrow of Theology [1627].

Holy Scriptures
1. Extraordinary ministers were raised up by God to instruct churches not only orally, but also in divine writings so that there might be a perpetual use and fruit of their ministry in the church even when such ministers no longer remained.

2. Only those could set down the rule of faith and conduct in writing who in that matter were free from all error because of the direct and infallible direction they had from God.

Ames' The Marrow of Theology was probably one of the most influential works in Puritan theology because it was considered the primer on Christian doctrine for pastors. It influence extended in both the Old World and the New World. This work was quoted in the New World more often than Luther and Calvin . It was read in Latin at Harvard and Yale. Jonathan Edwards recounts how it was memorized and repeated by rote. While Ames' work is not an extended treastise on particular issues, for generations it served as the basic introduction to theology for pastors and the Puritans.

While hardly a comprehensive statement or treatise on inerrancy. It is quite clear that Ames held that Scripture by the nature of what it is, is without error. His work would go on to influence generations of pastors so that by the time of Warfield an articulation of Scripture as being without error would be no new thing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Origins of Paul's Theology

In the field of New Testament Studies, there more than a bit of debate about the origin of Paul's theology. What gives birth to it? What is its genesis? One might ask the question what theology drives Paul's theology? Of course, one cannot discount his Damascus Road experience as Seyoon Kim makes clear in his work The Origin of Paul's Gospel. In his follow up work, he makes it equal clear that this drove his missions particular his first retreat into Arabia, which Kim argues was for the purpose of ministry/mission not idle reflection.

Michael Bird has a helpful blog post where he weds missions with apocalyptic theology as the 'mothers' of Paul's theology.

I think mission is the mother of Pauline theology insofar as Paul's call to go and be the apostle to the Gentiles is the central driving force of his theology. What is more, Paul's theology is done on the mission field (not in a seminary, college, university, or academy) and on the move and he has to literally walk and talk his way through several challenges (relating to pagans and Jews) and many crises (Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, Jerusalem).

Yet apocalypticism is the mother of Pauline theology to the extent that just about everything in the NT is pervaded by eschatology. Now, when Kasemann said "apocalyptic" he meant the shadow of the parousia casting itself upon the present time. But since Paul believed that Christians were the one's upon whom "the end of ages had come" (1 Cor. 10.11) then this eschatological perspective permeates everything. Now all apocalypticism is eschatological, but not all eschatology is apocalyptic. The apocalyptic aspect of his thinking comes through in Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Romans (and I would even say Colossians). That is defined, chiefly, by a pessimistic view of the current age, a dualism of good/evil and now/then and heaven/earth etc. Paul believed that the God of Israel had radically acted in Jesus to save persons from the current evil age (Gal. 1.4; Rom. 1.17; Col. 1.12; 1 Thess. 1.10 etc.).

There can be little doubt in my mind that the center of Paul's thought is the inbreaking of the age to come in the midst of the present evil age. This centers his view of the what the death and resurrection of Christ entail and accomplish. The effects of this death are thoroughly eschatological/apocalyptic. The arguments about the precise center of Paul's theology or the genesis of his theology will continue, yet for Paul he is content to preach one thing: Christ crucified. That message is itself apocalyptic/eschatological. It is the climax of redemptive history.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Extreme Theology Star Trek Contest

Over at Extreme Theology they point to a little contest to see from Pirate Christian Radio who will preach the first Star Trek sermon on Mother's Day.

Here's the blurb from Pirate Christian Radio:
Do you know a pastor that boldly goes where no pastors have gone before? The new Star Trek movie opens in theaters today and we know that there are a flock of wanna-be “relevant” pastors who are probably tripping over theselves as they flock to the movie so that they can preach a “sermon” or offer a “bible study” based on the movie.

We here at Pirate Christian Radio want to reward such enterprising (pun intended) goat-herders and give them a gift that recognizes their Biblical infidelity and giftedness at itching scratching ears by preaching myths rather than Biblical truth.

Therefore, we are holding a contest. The first pastor that we become aware of that delivers a sermon or Bible study based on the new Star Trek movie will receive a free copy of the book Christless Christianity. (source)

I've already blogged about the problems between Christianity and Star Trek (here and here). Of course the point of this contest is not to endorse preaching about Star Trek but to expose churches that are held captive to the very culture they claim to be reaching. Aside from the fact that it would be tacky to preach or illustrate from Star Trek on Mother's Day (unless you talk about Spock's mother and Kirk's mother, both in the new movie; maybe how Kirk had a mother but his father had died.... hmmm), ok aside from that, there is an obviously bigger issue the contest is seeking to expose: the church is supposed to be preaching the gospel and point to Christ in all its messages. Too many preachers... err, speakers and pastors... err spiritual directors, do not busy themselves with the task of proclaiming the word of the cross which is, as Paul tells us, an offense to those who are perishing.

The next thing I'm waiting for is some hair brained movie review from a 'Christian perspective' that tells us how we see the seeds of the gospel and themes of redemption in the new Star Trek movie. Sheesh, just enjoy the movie for what it is and be clear on what it is not. So keep your Star Trek and just give me the gospel.

Sunday, I'll preach; maybe Monday I'll finally see the movie... but I'd like nothing more than to be a pastor who knows how to keep my Star Trek out of the pulpit. (Ok, I think I have slipped in an illustration once or twice). The bigger question is can I translate the cross into my daily living?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Legacy of Inerrancy

There is a common myth that abounds that B.B. Warfield and the Princeton School invented inerrancy. As near as I can tell the word itself was coined in the early 1800s but the concept with respect to Scripture has an ancient pedigree going all the way back into the church fathers. Granted the debates of the church fathers were hardly as rigorous as those of Warfield or others when they encountered 19th and 20th century liberalism. However it is a common misunderstanding that the rise of such rigorous debate led to a novelty in thinking about Scripture on the part of Warfield and his ilk.

In a recent issue of Themelios, Robert Yarbrough reviews four recent books on Scripture. Commenting on Richard Gaffin's book God's Word in Servant Form, Yarbrough writes:

We find ourselves in ongoing battles over the Bible and proper understanding of it today, as the titles at the head of this essay remind us. There is no easy way out of this. “But,” Gaffin notes, “one thing is certain.” Progress will be possible in agreement on the doctrine of Scripture only “when we share at least a common mind-set concerning the past and what in fact the central church doctrine is” (107). Warfield is among many to have shown that something like what he calls “inerrancy” is the view of Christ and Scripture writers themselves. Woodbridge has shown that “inerrancy” is appropriate to characterize the “central church doctrine” from patristic times forward. Donald Bloesch has noted that inerrabilis (roughly “inerrant”) is used to describe Scripture by Augustine, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus, while both Luther and Calvin “described the Bible as being infallible and without error,” Calvin calling Scripture an “unerring rule” for Christian faith and life. Gaffin’s reconstruction of Kuyper’s and Bavinck’s views—not essentially different from the inerrantist position of Warfield—ensures that their respective (and quite compatible) doctrines of Scripture can be accurately grasped by any with ears to hear as discussions currently underway run their course in days ahead. (Themelios 34.1, p.15-15).

Another helpful book in rooting out this modern day fallacy of inerrancy vs. infalibility is John Woodbridge's Biblical Authority. Certainly over time the nature of theological debates changes. Certain issues rise to the forefront that were not as vigorously contested in previous generations. There is often a danger of both sides marshalling to the past in an attempt to claim "See! They are just like us." It takes careful historical work to make ones case. Often times, when figures in history were deeply contesting other issues, we can only find what they thought of the issue that concern us through careful invesitegation of their whole body of work.

It is two entirely different things to say that (a) ancient writers did not use the term inerrancy and (b) they not only had no concept or inerrancy and would fully agree with the common contemporary understanding that the Bible is full of historical errors and internal contradictions. Arguing the former in no way proves the latter. The latter supposition is entirely false as scholars in historical theology have demonstrated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fans Respond to Star Trek

This is a great satire of Star Trek fans and the nerdiness of Star Trek.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Textual Criticism: Why Bother?

In a recent article published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dan Wallace discusses the challenges to New Testament Textual Criticism. He responds to (a) attempts to move textual criticism away from seeking the original text and (b) a more detailed charge that the notion of an 'original text' is "modern":

When all is said and done, we still must affirm the following as the primary goal of NT textual criticism: the study of the copies of the NT for the primary purpose of determining the exact wording of the autographs.

Further, this is not just a modernist goal, as [Bart] Ehrman claims; it reaches back to Origen, Ireneaus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome and a host of others. All of them spoke about textual variants and they all commented on the priority of the origianal text as that which had authority. That the fathers may not have always executed their approach to the text well does not mean that recovery of the original wording was irrelevant to them. Indeed, it is only in recent times that a new model has been proposed. To speak of the modernist preoccupation with origins is only half true: this was also a concern to pre-modern Christians. Every generation of the church, in fact has been concerned with determining the wording of the originals--until now.

The worst aspects of postmodern textual criticism thus are that it is anchorless, detached from history; it is isolationist, because it divorces itself from the concerns of the community of Christians--a community that has been around for two millennia; and it is self-defeating because it has to presuppose an original text in order to blue the distinction between it and any secondary text. In short, the quest for the wording of the autographa is still worth fighting for. Dan Wallace "Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism" JETS 52.1 (p.85)
Quite frankly, some of what Dan Wallace says could be extend to discussions of postmodern theology and postmodernism as a whole. There is a sense, which some have argued in more detail, that postmodernism is really hyper-modernism. Despite all the appeals to 'community' that we hear coming from within there still remains a lack of deference to a larger community particularly a community that extends back through history.

More to the point, the endeavors of textual critics is important and should not be ignored by those in the church. In fact, later in the article Wallace points out that it is the derth of discussions of textual criticism in the church that have led to popular books like Barth Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus to be a sort of bombshell to far too many. It is unfortunate that so many are unaware of such basic issues within Christianity and that fact that the truth does not undermine orthodoxy as some would have us believe.

Textual crticism has as historic legacy in the church. Indeed, we should all be as concerned with both the makeup and the meaning of the text as men and women have been down through the history of the church. Indeed, the Bible contains nothing less than words of life to us since it is the Word of God. The history of the church has been marked by a zeal for the Word of God. This zeal has laid Christians to engage in study and historical enterprises knowing that we worship nothing less than a God who has stepped into space and time to reveal Himself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ephesians 6:4

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

“If I teach my son to keep his eye on the ball but fail to teach him to keep his eyes on Christ, I have failed as a Father.” Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith, 20.

To train your kids in the Lord takes time and discipline. You have to disciple your children. It will not happen naturally. It takes commitment.

“Millions of young athletes’ families cart them all over town to practice softball, baseball, football, soccer, Tai Kwon Do, and on and on. In fact, this level of commitment and activity is so common that we have a name for women who run themselves ragged making sure their children make it to and from their practices, recitals and games. We call them soccer moms.
Why is it that Christians families think nothing of a lifestyle that demands hours per week traipsing across town, blood, sweat, and tears from our children, and thousands of dollars each year from our bank accounts, but the idea of a twenty-minute daily commitment to family worship immediately strikes them as too much to ask for?” Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith, p.136-137.

Jesus warns us: where our treasure is there is our heart. Why is it that Christian children look no different than the world’s children? Where are parents teaching them to pour their time, treasure and efforts?
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...