Spiritual gifts have been quite the hot topic in the blogosphere lately. If you’re interested, here are a couple of really good resources that you should check out.
Vern Poythress’ essay “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analagous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology” has gotten a few nods lately as being an excellent resource on the topic. But, if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, check out Matt Perman’s excellent summary.
Don’t forget the continued dialog between Michael Patton and Sam Storms on Why I Am/Not Charismatic.
And, the video below is an interview Doug Wilson did with Mark Driscoll on cessationaism, with particular emphasis on revelatory gifts.
- Thomas Kid discusses How Evangelicals Lost Their Way on Alcohol.
The temperance movement reacted to a real social and medical problem. We should not dismiss it as a product of Victorian prudishness. But then a focus on reducing alcohol abuse morphed into the conviction that it was a sin for any person to take a drink, period. This was a simpler approach, but it is not biblical.
Can a well-placed expletive positively stir the soul? If something is deemed inappropriate for children, should it not be sold through “Christian” distribution channels? Can Christian art impact us positively through things that offend us? Is the act of “offending” a counter-Gospel act?
- C. Michael Patton calls on people to stop saying that “the Holy Spirit changed my lesson at the last minute.“
My basic thesis is this: The assumptions required for such homiletic detours are irresponsible both to yourself and to your audience, and they misunderstand the way in which God works in the life of the church.
- Robert Miller sparked a lively discussion with his argument that human dignity should not be the ground of Christian ethics (see also here and here). I found the discussion particularly interesting for Miller’s argument that main competing ethical systems (utilitarian, deontological, virtue) are incommensurable and that theologians cannot pick-and-choose aspects of each without lapsing into incoherence.
- Michael Hyatt offers Six e-Book Trends to Watch in 2011.
- Thanks to Jonathan for pointing out that Queensland Theological College has a nice collection of lectures and sermons from people like Bruce Winter, Ben Witherington, and Mark Dever.
- And, here’s a list of 10 Book to Kick of the New Year.
- Andy Naselli discusses how to organize your theological library using Zotero. Nick Norelli explains why he thinks it’s easier just to organize your library with a simple MS Word document. Personally, I like a good bibliographic manager, and have been using Endnote for quite a while now.
- Brian LePort points out a new blog project called “Intercultural Theology: Theological Education and Cultural Inclusion.” This should be worth keeping an eye on.
- Brian also has a nice post on the importance of letting Luke’s pneumatology stand on its own.
- Jim West reports that the Dead Sea Scrolls will soon be available through Google Books.
- Yesterday I linked to Michael Patton’s summary of an Eastern Orthodox view of predestination. Today, Joel Watts provides the text of the Confession of Dositheus, in which Eastern Orthodox theologians respond to the rise of Calvinist theology. It’s very interesting reading.
- Grateful to the Dead provides a very nice summary of Luke Timothy Johnson’s defense of the “innovations” in the Nicene Creed and the importance of creeds in general.
- Here’s Skye Jethani’s report on the first day of the Lausanne conference
- And, the word on the street is that Homer Simpson is officially Catholic.
- Dan Wallace discusses the question What Bible Should I Own? (He recommends the NET and ESV.) TC takes issue with one of his comments.
- James K.A. Smith comments on the best graduate schools for studying philosophical theology.
- William Black continues his series on comparing evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with a post on The Holy Spirit in Evangelical and Orthodox Perspective.
- Michael Halcomb points out that College Press has now made their entire commentary series available online for free. He’s also made the download easier.
- David Brooks has a NYT opinion piece on David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.
- The Man Booker Prize 2010 shortlist is out. If you’re looking for something interesting to read, this is often a good place to start.
- And, if you haven’t visited Google.com today, you should check out today’s logo. It’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s only available in the US.
[We’re continuing our series on David Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology.]
With chapter 12, Kelsey is ready to move on the second part of his 3-part approach to theological anthropology. As we discussed a while back, Kelsey takes an intentionally Trinitarian approach to theological anthropology: “It is the Father who creates through the Son in the power of the Spirit; it is the Spirit, sent by the Father with the Son, who draws creatures to eschatological consummation; it is the Son, sent by the Father in the power of the Spirit, who reconciles creatures” (122). Having completed his reflections on God relating to create as Father, he is now ready to move into his discussion of God relating to draw his creatures to eschatological consummation as Spirit.
And, since Kelsey sees each of these three perspectives as different narratives with their own narrative logic, each also serves as a legitimate starting point for a theological anthropology. They are all “equi-primordial” (449). In other words, for Kelsey, you basically have to start the anthropological enterprise over again every time you move from one narrative to another. Having recounted the basic shape of a theological anthropology told from the perspective of creation, Kelsey now wants to narrate a theological anthropology from the perspective of eschatology. Thus, “part 2 promotes an analogous set of anthropological proposals that are held accountable to canonical Christian Holy Scripture’s narrative of God relating to all that is not God to draw it to eschatological consummation.” And, for Kelsey, this means that particular attention must be paid to the role of the Holy Spirit in theological anthropology.
Kelsey argues that a primary function of the Spirit in the NT is to draw humans to eschatological consummation and that this “is an aspect of creatures’ most embracing and most necessary context” (443). As part of humanity’s ultimate context, human persons simply cannot be understood adequately apart form an understanding of the Spirit in his relation to human beings and their destiny. This in itself is notable in Kelsey’s theological anthropology. Many anthropological projects make no effort to reflect on the importance of pneumatology for anthropology. And, Kelsey does more than any other recent theological anthropology that I am aware of to probe what this might actually mean for the shape and content of a truly Christian theological anthropology. Thus, although Kelsey was clear at the very beginning that theological anthropology must be christocentric, it is also quite evident that he thinks this christocentric shape requires a strongly pneumatological emphasis as well. (Indeed, Kelsey’s work serves as a great example of the fact that a truly christocentric theology will always also be both trinitarian and pneumatological. Done well, there is no real tension between these.)
As we’ve noted several times in our discussion of this book, Kelsey is fond of complexity. At least, he’s very comfortable with it, and he feels no need to reduce the complexity by offering systematic ways of organizing complex data. And, this is no exception. So, surveying the NT data, Kelsey concludes that there is no simple way of categorizing the diverse ways in which the Spirit relates to human beings.
New Testament texts, both by the structure of their narratives and by the metaphors they employ, characterize the Spirit’s way of relating to human persons in a wide and not entirely consistent variety of ways. However, a certain bipolar pattern is consistent. The Spirit is regularly characterized both as persons’ environing context always already there and enveloping them, and as intimately interior to them. (444)
This bipolar pattern will guide much of Kesley’s reflections. He reflects on the many ways in which the Spirit serves as one who is always-already shaping our proximate contexts while at the same time shaping us as human persons in the most intimate ways. Thus, unlike other anthropologians who take the time to reflect on the significance of pneumatology for anthropology, Kelsey does not do so by reflecting exclusively on how the Spirit affects the “inner” person. Indeed, Kelsey rejects any such simple dichotomy between inner and outer.
Unsurprisingly, Kelsey argues throughout that this pneumatological approach requires us to see both the “already” and the “not yet” of human being. Although the Spirit is already with us as both proximate and ultimate context, the fact that the Spirit is the one drawing us toward eschatological consummation means that there must always be some element of futurity in the Spirit’s relation to us.
Finally, the fact that the Spirit comes as both gift and promise means that we can rule out any idea that the human person alone has the responsibility to bring about the eschatological consummation through his or her own efforts.
The adventus character of eschatological blessing rules out use of metaphors of human creaturely action to build or co-create the eschatological kingdom of God. It also rules out use of metaphors of a cosmic physical or spiritual evolution into the eschatological kingdom. (453)
We certainly have a role to play in our own development, but the gift-character of the Spirit and the already/not yet nature of eschatological consummation means that we must anticipate the future as gift and promise. Grace is not an addendum to nature, but has been there from the very beginning.
I was recently re-reading portions of Miroslav Volf’s Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work, and I was struck again with his vision for relating human work in creation with the eschatological new creation. Volf devotes considerable attention to rejecting the idea that there will be an eventual “annihilation” of this world following by an entirely new creation. Instead, he contends that a more faithful interpretation of the biblical narrative would be to affirm that this present creation will be renewed and transformed in the eschaton. Thus, the new creation flows from the current creation, rather than being entirely discontinuous with it.
One of his concerns with the annihilation/new creation framework is that it threatens to rob human work of its intrinsic significance. On that framework, any work that we perform with respect to this creation has only an instrumental value insofar as it improves me as an individual or the believing community as a whole. The effect on creation itself has no lasting significance.
In a renewal/transformation framework, though, he contends that we can understand human work has having eschatological significance in that it participates in the transformatio mundi.
The picture changes radically with the assumption that the world will end not in apocalyptic destruction but in eschatological transformation. Then the results of the cumulative work of human beings have intrinsic value and gain ultimate significance, for they are related to the eschatological new creation, not only indirectly through the faith and service they enable or sanctification they further, but also directly: the noble products of human ingenuity….will form the ‘building materials’ from which (after they are transfigured) ‘the glorified world’ will be made. (91)
Thus, human work has eschatological significance even beyond its instrumental effect on the person performing the work. Indeed, Volf argues that this gives us grounds for affirming that even the work of non-believers might transformatively carried over into the new creation. Any “noble result” of human endeavor may be judged by God as having value for new creation.
Volf wants to be careful, though, to make sure that we don’t begin to think that we are actually the ones who bring the new creation into being. For Volf, new creation is clearly a work of God, but in a way that retains the significance of human work.
Through the Spirit, God is already working in history, using human actions to create provisional states of affairs that anticipate the new creation in a real way. These historical anticipations are, however, as far from the consummation of the new creation as earth is from heaven. The consummation is a work of God alone. But since this solitary divine work does not obliterate but transforms the historical anticipations…one can say, without being involved in a contradiction, that human work is an aspect of active anticipation of the exclusively divine transformatio mundi. (100)
Drawing largely on the resources of eschatology and pneumatology, Volf presents a compelling vision for the significance of human work and how it contributes to the transformatio mundi, while retaining a clear sense of the divine prerogative in new creation.
To that extent, it reminded me of the semi-apocryphal quote attributed to Martin Luther (at least I can’t find where he said it): “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Given Volf’s framework, this becomes more than rhetorical flourish. Planting an apple tree just might have eschatological significance in its own right. Johnny Appleseed would be so proud.
- Matt Flannagan offers some reflections on three atheist billboards in New Zealand.
- Rod Dreher comments on the University of Illinois professor who was fired for having the audacity to teach (in a class on Catholicism and Catholic morality) that Catholics teach that homosexuality is immoral.
- C. Michael Patton explains why he decided to baptize two of his children at home in his swimming pool. Even beyond his rather low-church approach to baptism, I found his credobaptist reflections on how to determine when a child is ready for baptism to be particularly interesting.
- Brian LePort continues his discussion of Jon Levison’s Filled with the Spirit. And James McGrath is still working his way through The Historical Jesus: Five Views with comments on the chapters by Jimmy Dunn and Luke Timothy Johnson.
- In a shocker, the Church of England’s recent attempt to reach a compromise on the ordination of woman was unsuccessful.
- And, although I refused to comment on the LeBron James fiasco last week, I would like to point out that almost 10 million people watched it. Apparently they thought they had nothing better to do than invest an hour of their lives on this. Though I’m sure that if any of you watched it, you only did so because you were conducting high-level academic research.
- There’s a firestorm brewing in the Church of England over reports that Rowan Williams will now support Jeffrey John as the Church’s first openly gay bishop. At the same time, Stuart points out a good article warning about taking such reports too seriously.
- Justin Taylor links to an article by Vern Poythress that he calls “The Best Essay Ever Written on Spiritual Gifts Today.” According to Taylor, the thesis of the article is: “I maintain that modern spiritual gifts are analogous to but not identical with the divinely authoritative gifts exercised by the apostles. Since there is no strict identity, apostolic teaching and the biblical canon have exclusive divine authority. On the other hand, since there is analogy, modern spiritual gifts are still genuine and useful to the church. Hence, there is a middle way between blanket approval and blanket rejection of modern charismatic gifts.”
- Wired Magazine has an interesting article on the neuroscience of Alcoholics Anonymous and why their approach helps some people, but not others. (HT BoingBoing)
- Larry Hurtado links to an article he wrote on “Freedom in the NT.”
- And, Jim West has declared that he will bravely face the rigors of running the Biblical Studies Carnivals all by himself. So, apparently the Carnivals will return to the blogosphere on August 1.
- Justin Taylor has a very nice interview with Graham Cole on the Holy Spirit.
- Denny Burk comments on feminism, porn, and patriarchy.
- Mark Stevens raises the question of whether pastoral ministry is really worth it, complete with a quote from a pastor friend of his as saying, “There is nothing in this life that makes ministry worth while.”
- Jim West offers yet another example of how archeology can be misused and abused.
- And, Wikipedia celebrates 750 years of American independence on July 25, according to the Onion.