Saturday, April 25, 2009
In this section, Fee comments on 2 Corinthians 5:13, "Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment." (NET)
Again, Fee points out that the "down payment" language is eschatological. The Spirit is evidence that we are living in the "latter days," and it is a foretaste of what is to come.
And here is where our sentence fits in. Whether we die or are transformed, God has fashioned us for this future bodily existence, in which the present mortal body is swallowed up by life. The clearest evidence of for this is the gift of the Spirit, which functions for us as God' down payment that we shall indeed inherit the very thing God has fashioned us for, namely, a new form of bodily existence in a pneumatikon soma ('Spiritual body'; 1 Cor 15:44) or soma tes doxes (a 'body of glory'; Phil 3:21).
Two things need to be emphasized about the second appearance of 'down payment' imagery in the letter: First, as we have already noted on 1:22, this is a case where the Spirit serves as the evidence for Paul of our essentially eschatological existence. We are destined for a glorious future, which is guaranteed precisely because the down payment of that future, the Spirit himself, is already our present possession. In giving us his Spirit, God has guaranteed our future. Thus, we live in the present, 'already' but 'not yet.' (326, Greek transliteration mine)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
He issued a proclamation and said, "In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles--Let neither human nor animal, cattle nor sheep, taste anything; let them not eat and let them not drink water. 8 Let every person and animal put on sackcloth and let them cry earnestly to God, and let every one turn (Hebrew shuv) from their evil (Hebrew raah) way of living and from the violence that they do. 9 Who knows? Perhaps God might be willing to change his mind (Hebrew shuv) and relent and turn from his fierce anger so that we might not die." 10 When God saw their actions--they turned (Hebrew shuv) from their evil (Hebrew raah) way of living!--God relented concerning the judgment (Hebrew raah) he had threatened them with and he did not destroy them. (Jonah 3:7–10 NET)
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not establish it? (Numbers 23:19 NET)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In other news, I am still working on my "New Perspective on Paul in 20,000+ words" series. It's not as clear and to-the-point (which is why I haven't posted it).
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The metaphors in this text also demonstrate in striking ways that the Spirit for Paul is principally an eschatological reality. The presence of the Spirit as God's seal and down payment is the unmistakeable evidence of salvation as 'already but not yet.' The future is already in evidence through the 'down payment,' the present guarantee; but he is present only as 'down payment': the final inheritance, which he guarantees, is yet to be realized. (294)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This time we were asked about converting and baptizing people of other denominations. How do we respond when someone from our church "converts" or gets baptized at another church? Do we try to convert people from other denominations?
The topic came out of one of Michael's recent experiences. A guy who used to be an elder at his church "became a Christian" at another church and was (re-)baptized. Michael says that the guy showed all of the evidences of being a Christian while he was an elder at his church. Is his (second) conversion legitimate? Is what that church did even acceptable?
Define relationship. What are some characteristics of a relationship?
The class immediately shot off characteristics of relationships. We put together a pretty good list. But, when we moved to a definition of a relationship, the room got quiet. Eventually we hammed out something like "Two or more 'things' mutually interacting, connecting, and sharing with one another in varying degrees of commonality."
Fair enough. It's not poetic, but it articulates the main elements of a relationship.
I then asked:
One of the main metaphors for the Christian experience is "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." We often say, "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship." What do we mean by that?
Can our experience of God be called a relationship according to the definition above? I have a relationship with my wife. I have a different kind of relationship with my boss. I use the same word "relationship" to describe my experience with both people. How are they both relationships? How are they different? Can I say that I have a relationship with God? If so, it certainly looks different than my relationship with my boss, not to mention my relationship with my wife.
Given that the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" is not in the Bible, should we abandon the metaphor, or is there a way to justify it?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Wilson says that the main reason he "reconverted" was his dissatisfaction with atheism. As an atheist he found some comfort in the writing of David Hume. But, he now writes, "Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?"
Wilson makes a great point. One of my major hang ups with atheism is atheists. Perhaps they can point out weaknesses in the Christian worldview, but can the offer a satisfying alternative--one that makes sense of the human experience? Wilson writes about them:
I couldn't agree more.
When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
The clip alludes to an earlier appearance of Ehrman on Colbert's show. Here is that interview from 2006:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Monday, April 13, 2009
But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you. (NET)
I have been involved in various conversations about non-violent resistance, and I argue that the command is not absolute. I think that Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek when we are assaulted, but he did not command us to do so when others are assaulted. I typically say, "Turning the other cheek when you are assaulted is non-violent resistance. Turning the other cheek when someone else is assaulted is injustice." God calls us to be concerned about the plight of the poor and helpless. When they are assaulted, we are to rise to their defense.
I was pleased to see that Tolstoy addresses this argument head on in his book. He disagrees with me for the following reasons:
- "If every man has the right to have recourse to force in face of a danger threatening another, the question of the use of force is reduced to a question of the definition of danger to another." He cites examples of burning witches because they were a "danger to society."
- If Christ meant to limit his command to "not resist an evil person," he would have qualified his statement. He didn't, so we should take it as absolute.
- "Apologies for violence used against one's neighbor in defense of another neighbor from greater violence are always untrustworthy, because when force is used against one who has not yet carried out his evil intent, I can never know which would be greater--the evil of my act of violence or the act I want to prevent." He cites the example of shooting a ruffian who is harassing a young girl. Do we really know what the ruffian had planned? Could our response have been worse than the evil he had planned?
So Tolstoy says, (1) we will pervert what it means to be a "danger to others," (2) Christ didn't qualify his command, and (3) we don't know the future, but we have clear instructions about our behavior.Are you convinced by Tolstoy, or do you see a difference between forgiving those who hurt us and forgiving those who hurt others?
In the Generations series, we looked at the benefits and challenges of a multi-generational church. Gary taught the first two messages (an intro and a message to the older people) and I did the third message (to the young people). I spoke from 1 Timothy 4 on the need for leaders among the younger generation.
You can listen here.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
In this quote, Fee comments on 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body." (NET)
The message of this text needs to be resounded repeatedly in the face of every encroachment of Hellenistic dualism that would negate the body in favor of the soul. God made us whole people; and in Christ he has redeemed us wholly. According to the Christian view there is no dichotomy between body and spirit that either indulges the body because it is irrelevant of punishes it so as to purify the spirit. This pagan view of physical existence creeps into Christian theology in any number of subtle ways, including the penchant on the part ofFee correctly speaks against the dichotomy between "body" and "spirit." Gad has created us body and spirit and He is redeeming us body and spirit. Thus we can't just talk about "saving people's souls" while neglecting their physical needs.
some to 'save souls' while caring little for people's material needs. Not the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body, is the Christian creed, based on the NT revelation. That creed does not lead to crass materialism; rather it affirms a holistic view of redemption, which is predicated in part on the doctrine of creation--both the physical and spiritual orders are good because God created them--and in part on the doctrine of redemption, including the consummation--the whole of the fallen order, including the body, has been redeemed in Christ and awaits its final redemption. (137)
Friday, April 10, 2009
Ehrman is a graduate of Wheaton College who has since lost his faith. He is now chair of the Religion Department at UNC Chapel Hill. He has written several books on the New Testament and the Historical Jesus targeted at popular audiences. Ehrman admits that his arguments are nothing new. He just wants the public to know what convervative scholarship "ignores."
Dr. Witherington is a top evangelical New Testament scholar, and his critique of Eherman is fair and informed.
Before I worked for Believers Fellowship, my full-time job was to proof read everything coming out of a Christian counseling ministry to make sure we didn't end up on a watchblog.
No doubt it is necessary to discount, or at least to take account of, the 'spin' which Luke puts on his narrative, but the twenty-first century reader (or viewer) of historical studies and portrayals is well accustomed to doing so. It is of first importance in all this that we neither attribute to Luke an unrealistically idealistic quality as an ancient historian nor assume that his mistakes and Tendenzen show him to be unworthy of the title 'historian'. (87)
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
What I am claiming is that the answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is the same when asked concerning God as it is when asked concerning man. Question: 'What is the chief end of man?' Answer: 'The chief end of man is to glorify god and enjoy him for ever.' Question: 'What is the chief end of god?' Answer: 'The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever.' (16)
Contained in these sentences were the seeds of my future. The driving passion of my life was rooted here. One of the seeds was in the word 'glory'--God's aim in history was to 'fully display his glory.' Another seed was in the word 'delight'--God's aim was that his people 'delight in him with all their heart.' The passion of my life has been to understand and live and teach and preach how these two aims of God relate to each other--indeed, how they are not two but one. (28)
It is our human destiny and the goal of our existence to glorify God by our lives. Or sin is withholding from God the honor that is due him as Creator (Rom 1:21). Nevertheless, it is rather a difficult thing to maintain that the basis of God's resolve to create the world was that thereby he might glorify himself. Certainly that work that God created redounds to his glory. We may say this at any rate in the light of the eschatological consummation of the world and in believing anticipation of this future of God, which will resolve all doubts concerning theodicy. Every creature should confess, then, that the world was made for God's glory.
Nevertheless, the creature was not created in order that God should receive glory from it. God does not need this, for he is already God in himself from all eternity. He does not need to become God through his action much less become sure of his deity in the mirror of creaturely praise. A God who first and last sought his own glory in his action would be a model for the attitude that in us constitutes the perversion of sin in the for of self-seeking (amor-sui). As the activation and expression of his free love, God's creative action is oriented wholly to creatures. They are both the object and goal of creation. Herein is his glory as Creator, the glory of the Father, who is glorified by the Son and by the Spirit in creatures. (56–57)
World government relates to integrating into God's purposes for the world the actual results of the independent conduct of creature, namely, their failures and the evil that these failures cause. The central theme of the divine world government is God's supremacy over the misuse of creaturely independence. It is here that the idea of world government most clearly goes beyond what we find in the concepts of creation and preservation. World government contradicts the claim made by wickedness and evil that they can oppose God's will as Creator. (58)
What do you think about that? Is Pannenberg's view different than the Reformed view? Does the Reformed view make God out to be a model of narcissism? Does Pannenberg offer a better solution?
Monday, April 6, 2009
This sentence in particular, along with Galatians 3:2–5, demonstrates that in Pauline theology, the Spirit is the sine qua non, the absolutely essential, crucial matter, in becoming a part of the people of God. The Spirit--alone--distinguishes believer from nonbeliever. This is why the latter 'are perishing' and consider the cross foolishness; this is why they do not understand the ways of God in Christ. The Spirit differentiates between what is of Christ and what is not. (107)
Saturday, April 4, 2009
By rejecting the concept of an order of nature which lay behind Spinoza's criticism, Clarke in fact went beyond the Christian Aristotelianism of High Scholasticism back to the view of Augustine, who saw no invasion of the divine world order in miracles but related them simply to our limited knowledge of this order. Unusual events do not breach natural laws but manifest the working of hitherto concealed parameters. According to Augustine, the existence of the world and humanity is a much greater miracle than all the spectacular events that astonish us because they are unusual. The only problem is that our minds are too dulled to perceive the miracle of creation in what takes place every day. The contingency of creation as a whole expresses itself in each detailed event. Since every moment and every event is contingent, it is ultimately nonderivable. Its occurrence is thus a miracle.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Gordon Fee is Professor Emeritus of New Testament studies at Regent College. He comes from a Pentecostal background. He also wrote the industry standard on 1 Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament).
After plowing through every mention or hint of the Holy Spirit in Paul, Fee concludes:
- The Holy Spirit is crucial to Paul's understanding of the Gospel and the Christian experience. Christ may be the center of Paul's theology, but the Spirit isn't far from center.
- The Spirit plays a leading role in Paul's eschatology. It is the "down payment" and evidence of what is to come.
- The Holy Spirit is dynamically experienced in the Christian life and in the life of the Christian community.
- The Holy Spirit is God's personal presence dwelling in His people.
- Paul is trinitarian (may sound trite, but a number of New Testament scholars doubt this).
- Salvation in Christ is trinitarian. (By this he means that the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the salvation process. "The effectual realization and appropriation of the love of God as offered by the Son is singularly the work of the Spirit.")
- From beginning to end, the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to the Christian life.
- The Holy Spirit is key to Christian spirituality.
I was introduce to Fee's work through James Dunn's The Theology of Paul the Apostle. When it comes to Paul's theology of the Spirit, Dunn more or less endorses Fee. Indeed, Fee's work fits nicely within the New Perspective on Paul (although I don't know if Fee would call himself New Perspective).
Reading Fee's work has opened my eyes to the role of the Spirit in the Christian life. It's not that I doubted it before, but I don't think I grasped the prominence that the Paul gave the Spirit in his theology. The work of the Holy Spirit in the church and in our lives is the primary way in which we "experience" God today. I don't think that it is inappropriate to say that our faith is in some ways grounded in our experience of the Spirit.
I just bought James Dunn's new book on early Christianity, volume 2 of his Christianity in the Making series. Volume 1 was about "the search for the historical Jesus," and volume 2 is about "the search for the historical early church." I am excited about it.