- Blog post title of the day: I Read Dead People, from Skye Jethani.
People ask me all the time, “Who do you read?” In most cases they’re looking for book recommendations. (Some people, particularly Calvinistas, are trying to determine if I’m safe–are my ideas and my theology grounded in what they see as credible sources.) But my answer usually surprises them: “I read dead people.”
- Mike Bird addresses the question, When Did Jesus Become the Messiah?
One of the problem in the origins of christology is the question, “When did Jesus become the Messiah?” Scholarship has often assumed that Jesus’ life was non-messianic, not only that, but Jesus in fact repudiated the messianic role.
- Jeff Dunn talks about Our Intimate God and our problems with grace.
I refuse. I absolutely refuse to go back to a god who is only interested in what I do, not who I am. I have no interest in a god who keeps score, who I have to appease by doing good things and avoiding bad things. A god who is more interested in institutes and forms and structures than he is in relationships.
- Jerome Wernow responds to Michael Jenson’s post on suffering, arguing that suffering does have inherent value.
To sum, I appreciate his provocative introduction of the subject but find his primary notion that “suffering has no inherent value in biblical faith” seriously wanting
- Mark Goodacre offers a couple of good videos from E.P. Sanders and John Dominic Crossan on the historical Jesus.
- And, here’s a list of 10 Things You Might Not Know about Xena Warrior Princess
- William Black reflects on his experience of teaching systematic theology in Africa.
The theology that is taught in almost all theological institutions around here is an ill-fitting version of Christianity that simply does not work here. The Christianity that results is not transforming lives or churches or communities or cultures or nations. In that sense, rather than reflecting what is happening theologically, these Western theologies may actually be erecting barriers preventing people here from experiencing the transforming power of the risen Christ.
- Louis McBride comments on the incarnation as an analogy for understanding inerrancy. Citing Kevin Vanhoozer,
“I cannot help thinking that the incarnational analogy may be more trouble than it is worth. Chalcedon was designed to clarify the being of Jesus Christ, not Scripture. Please do not misunderstand: there is nothing wrong with Chalcedon, just as there was nothing wrong with the paper clip I used so cleverly in my skateboard to replace a screw. However, that improvisation ended with a broken arm. I wonder, then, about the wisdom of using language formulated for one truth to express another.”
- Scott Bailey argues that David’s “naked dancing” is not normative for modern worship.
Here’s our context: they are bringing the ark to the house of Obed-edom, the future site of the Temple, and they are sacrificing. The context is cultic. The modern correlation to worship (i.e., singing) is false.
- Joel Watts offers some thoughts on different views of the atonement.
- I forgot to mention earlier, but James McGrath has posted a link to what looks like a really useful set of resources from the Wabash Center for evaluating online resources. If you’re a teacher or student, check these out.
- Brian LePort would like some help figuring out if he’s human. At least, that’s what I think he’s asking for.
- Koinonia is giving away two copies of Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology.
- And, Mashable points out a recent study by Facebook which suggests a very strong correlation between Facebook popularity and recent election results.
- Brian LePort has started a very interesting discussion on how cultural context impacts and shapes theological discourse.
Is Buddha really any worse than Aristotle? Why shouldn’t a theologian from Korea or Taiwan seek to use Buddha or Confucius where the language is suitable and doesn’t contradict the gospel? In this case Moore’s criticism may be spot on. I don’t know. But I do know that we need to realize our own hybridity is as much a concern as someone else’s.
- Daniel Kirk discusses “high” and “low” Christologies in the NT, arguing that we need to appreciate the “low” christological perspective of the Gospel writers.
And, much if not most of the New Testament, develops its theology of Jesus within a framework of low Christology. Low versus high Christology is one of the points of genuine theological diversity in the New Testament, with the Synoptic Gospels in particular (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) telling stories of Jesus as a specially empowered man whom they do not simultaneously depict as God incarnate.
- Richard Beck has an interesting discussion on a theology of monsters.
The monsters of the undead embody our fears of death. In agrarian eras we confronted death more directly. Nowadays we have to wait for the dead to come to our door once a year at Halloween. Or we can go to zombie movies. Either way, we feel a need to use monsters to confront our bodies, their gooshy vulnerabilities, and their ultimate demise. Monsters are existential.
- On a similar note, John Byron points out an important new scholarly work for understanding the Matthean tradition – a webcomic called Zombie Jesus. How is it that no one has written on this vital subject before?
The comic will tell the story of the 48 hours following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which a horde of zombies attack Jerusalem in search of the messiah’s body.
- William Black explains why he thinks that predestination just doesn’t seem to work.
Predestination, as normally taught by all the venerable reformed divines, both past and present, is unstable and unhelpful. In the past, I and everybody else that I have read got around this by employing the very useful term ‘mystery’ to cover the internal contradictions that rip the doctrine apart.
- Michael Hyatt has an interview with Andy Stanley and is giving away 100 copies of his new book The Grace of God.
The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.
- And in the sad news of the day, Paul, the World Cup predicting octopus, died today at the ripe old age of 2 1/2.
- Lecture 1: “The Theater of the Gospel: The Stage, the Script, and the Director“
- Lecture 2: “The Company of the Gospel: Rehearsing Improvising, Performing“
- Lecture 3: “The God of the Gospel: Being, Authoring, Dialoguing“
This is a nice addition to the two lectures that Vanhoozer gave at Southeastern Seminary last fall on “Doing Faith: Seeking (and Showing) Understanding in Company with Christ.” (HT Justin Taylor)
PART ONE – The Theater of the gospel: the stage, the script, and the director
Prologue: The pastor-theologian as minister of understanding
I. The stage
II. The Christian control story: theodrama
- The Christian theodrama is eucatastrophic
- The Christian theodrama involves divine entrances and exoduses
- The Christian theodrama is Trinitarian
III. The script
- The nature of Scripture: Spirited discourse
- The function of Scripture: cultivating canon sense
- The authority of Scripture: cultivating catholic sensibility
IV. Doctrine as direction
- Knowing God is itself dramatic.
- Understanding the theodrama: fitting participation
V. The director and the dramaturg
- The dramaturg
- The director
- Church as company of players
PART TWO – Gospel Theater: Rehearsing, Improvising, Performing
I. Role-playing: from Stanisklavski to sanctification
- Doctrine and identity
- The ‘System’
- The disciple’s vocation: being real
II. Discipleship as improvisation
- Accepting and blocking ‘offers’
- Narrative skills
III. “Doing” church: the theater of the gospel
- Performing the Scriptures: the costumed interpreter
- Performing the doctrine of atonement
- A plea for amateur theology: acting in parables
- You win a copy of Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God How the Trinity Changes Everything at Mere Orthodoxy. And Sanders offers a section from his paper “Trinitarian Theology’s Exegetical Basis: A Dogmatic Survey.”
- iMonk has been discussing the importance of community for being truly human. The discussion started with a post on developing community in a technological age. It continued yesterday with a post on extreme community, focusing on Hutterite communities. And, today’s post looks at the myth of autonomy in today’s culture.
- Scot McKnight explains why he thinks that the biblical genealogies do not necessarily support the historicity of the OT narratives.
- R.R. Reno weighs in on the question of what Christians have to offer the university, arguing from the example of Mary that Christians bring a unique set of resources, dispositions, and knowledge that are invaluable for quality higher education.
- Smithsonian.com has an article on how e-readers are changing the way that we read, offering a nice comparison of the respective strengths of book and screen reading. HT
- Roger Olson has some very harsh words for a new book, Beyond Evangelicalism: The Theological Methodology of Stanley J. Grenz.
- And, apparently Ben Quayle, son of former vice-president Dan Quayle, thinks President Obama is “the worst president in history”. Really? Are you sure you don’t want to think about that one a bit longer?
According to Tillich, the task of theology is to correlate the great questions of any age with the answers provided by the Christian faith. I recently ran across an article at the Guardian that exemplified this approach. According to the author,
Theology is at its best when it works in a triangular relationship with scripture, creation and culture, continuously asking how the texts and traditions of the Christian faith are to be interpreted in the light of the questions of our time.
Bonhoeffer takes a very different approach and offers and important warning about the danger of trying to engage the world through the questions people are asking. There is a role for this, but it has the undeniable drawback of making theological dialog entirely self-centered and limiting the Gospel only to the questions that people are actually asking, or that you can convince them they should be asking. As Bonhoeffer says here, God then becomes the deus ex machina who rescues us by addressing our felt needs.
God is being increasingly pushed out of a world that has come of age…and…since Kant he has been releaged to a realm beyond the world of experience. Theology has…accommodated itself to the development by restricting God to the so-called ultimate questions as a deus ex machina; that means that he becomes the answer to life’s problems, and the solution of its needs and conflicts. So if anyone has no such difficulties, or if he refuses to go into these things, to allow others to pity him, then either he cannot be open to God; or else he must be shown that he is, in fact, deeply involved in such problems, needs, and conflicts, without admitting or knowing it. If that can be done – and existentialist philosophy and psychotherapy have worked out some quite ingenious methods in that direction – then this man can now be claimed for God, and methodism can celebrate its triumph. But if he cannot be brought to see and admit that his hapiness is really an evil, his health sickness, and his vigour despair, the theologian is at his wits’ end. It’s a case of having to do either with a hardened sinner of a particularly ugly type, or with a man of ‘bourgeois complacency’, and the one is as far from salvation as the other.
Bonhoeffer concludes this section by arguing that we shouldn’t make our own questions, frustrations, and brokenness the focus of our theological engagement with the world.
You see, that is the attitude that I am contending against. When Jesus blessed sinners, they were real sinners, but Jesus did not make everyone a sinner first. He called them away from their sin, not into their sin. (Letters & Papers from Prison, p. 341)
Instead, we should call people to focus on Jesus himself. In this way we will point people to the one who is not deus ex machina, but just deus.
Here is an abstract of my [Adam Bottiglia] paper Gregory of Nyssa’s Infinite Progress: A challenge for an integrated theology.
One of the greatest challenges to a theologian is to take all of the education in philosophy and exegesis and the finer details of theology and convert them into a digestible and useful form for the church. In Gregory of Nyssa we find a great example to emulate. He is the paradigm of an integrated theology, a theology that has as much to say to the heretic as it does to the devoted believer. In this paper I will be looking at his doctrine of God’s infinite nature in order to show that Gregory had a knack for taking even the most weighty theological and philosophical concepts and applying them significantly to the spiritual life of the believer.