Archive for the ‘NT Wright’ Tag

Christological Monotheism

In doing some research to preach on Colossians 2:6-7, I have consulted some great resources for Christological monotheism. The idea that Paul was placing Jesus into the identity of YHWH, by using his name “Lord”, was a real epiphany for me during seminary. I get so excited about the profound christology embedded in this now empty and rather pedestrian phrase—Jesus is Lord!

Communicating the insights of Christological monotheism and their implications for the church has been a struggle and a joy. I was surprised to discover two missional books take up CM. Missiologist Alan Hirsch devotes an entire chapter to it in his book The Forgotten Ways, drawing out the implications for following Jesus in all spheres of society (echoes of Kuyper). In Promoting the Gospel, John Dickson refers to CM as “the Bible’s most basic doctrine.” He reminds us that because Jesus is Lord our mission is doxological and our doxology should be missional. Indeed, the fact that Jesus is Lord affects the whole of the christian life and mission of the church in the world! What would our churches, our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries look  like if we began to grasp the all-encompassing, integrative, redemptive, implications of the lordship of Jesus Christ?

Here are some helpful resources on the topic of Christological Monotheism:

Hermeneutical Method for Biblical Theology

Richard Hays’ pioneering work in narrative theology, especially in Paul, has proven to be a massive contribution to Biblical Theology. Hays’ had a significant influence on N.T. Wright’s hermeneutic. In Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Hays outlines seven helpful criteria for detecting intertextual echoes:

  1. The text echoed must be available to the original recipients/readers.
  2. A significant volume of intertextual echo should be present, determined by repetition of words, syntactical patterns and general prominence in author’s overall thought.
  3. Recurrence, how often does the author cite or allude to the scriptural passage?
  4. Thematic coherence, does the alleged echo square with the author’s argument?
  5. Is the allusion historically plausible, could the readers and hearers have understood the allusion?
  6. Does the interpretation align with the history of interpretation?
  7. Does the allusion provide a satisfactory explanation with the other six criteria, illuminating the surrounding discourse?

It is rare that all seven criterion will apply in any given allusion or echo. Moreover, shades of certainty vary with the number and degree of criterion which are met. However, as Hays points out, texts are not inert and can not always be contained by our hermeneutical methods. Nevertheless, these seven criterion are valuable–critical–hermeneutical guide in doing Biblical theology

The Old Testament & Politics

Commenting on the complexity of Old Testament political postures, N. T. Wright says:

At points like these we realize how inadequate our left-right specturm is for understanding how the Jewish poeple thought about earlthly rulers. Radical subversion of pagan political systems does not mean support for anarchy. The Jewish poitlical belief we find in books like this was based on a strong theology of creation, fall and providence: the one God had in fact created all the world, incliuding all rulers,  and though they were often exceedingly wicked God was overrruling their whilsm for his own strange and often hidden purposes, and would judge them in thier turn. – Paul: A Fresh Perspective, 66

Suggested Systematic & Biblical Theologies

Here are some recommendations on Systematic and Biblical Theologies:

Systematic Theologies

  • Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology - Berkhof offers a classic Reformed systematic. His older language is worth the wade, as he addresses the attributes of God with a sense of reverence that is often missing from contemporary systematics. His section on the immensity of God is especially good.
  • Lewis & Demarest, Integrative Theology- This theology integrates historical, systematic, biblical theologies and apologetics all in one volume. The strength is its well rounded approach; however, at times it is too scientific in methodology and explanation.
  • John Frame, Theology of Lordship series – Frame is among the most cogent and clear systematicians. His triperspectival lens offers a unique perspective on systematic theology.
  • Tim Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity- Tennent offers a global perspective on systematic theology, presenting various systematic doctrines from diverse cultural voices, i.e. Christology from an African perspective. Tennent is a consummate missionary-theologian.
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology – lucid, readable, accessible, worshipful. Contains hymns and questions and a glossary at the end of each section. Contains a rare systematic treatment of Prayer, Spiritual Warfare.

Biblical Theology

  • N.T. Wright, History of Christian Origins Series, - an incomplete, multivolume work of remarkable scholarship, both in theological depth and historical breadth. Though demanding, these books are very rewarding.
  • Charles Scobie, The Ways of Our Goda massive treatment of major biblical themes gathered around four primary concepts (God’s Order, Servant, People, & Way) and one primary methodology (promise-fulfillment-consummation).
  • Hafemann & House, Central Themes in Biblical Theology- an oustanding collection of essays that offer various thematic studies as well as two excellent essays on overarching frameworks for BT by Hafemann and Ciampa.
  • Marvin Pate, The Story of Israel - traces the story and reconfiguration of Israel around Jesus throughout the whole Bible, paying particular attention to the role of covenant blessings and curses.

Paul Against the Empire?

Earlier I posted on some of the emerging scholarly debates regarding a counterimperial impulse in Paul’s writing. Of late, I have been reflecting on this theological trend. Why such a preoccupation with counterimperial theology? Is this a product of anti-American sentiment? Perhpas a resurgence in Greco-Roman backgrounds for NT scholarship? Or maybe a political hermeneutic? I suspect all three are at play and that there is no consensus explanation for the spate of literature on counterimperialism in Paul.

However, I am more concerned about hermeneutics than motive. Did Paul intend to convey counterimperial ideas when writing his epistles? Was his word selection based on Greek or Jewish lexicography? Is it an either/or, after all Paul was both missionary and theologian. I engaged some of these issues in my Th.M thesis, Creation in Colossians, and was struck at the time by the hyper-counterimperialism of Walsh and Keesmaat’s Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. At times, they confuse contemporary implication with Pauline meaning. That said, I have room for Pauline contextualization, which is often counter-cultural; however, I have been careful to not confuse his intended theological meaning with his missiological orientation.

Denny Burk has provided some critical reflection on what he dons “The Fresh Perspective,” language taken from Wright’s writings on Paul. In this issue (vol 51) of JETS, Burk published:“Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating the Prospects of the ‘Fresh Perspective’ fro Evangelical Theology.” Although Burk states in anti-imperial thesis up front )(314), he adduces convincing reasons to be suspect of the FP hermeneutic. Here are a few:

  1. Caution of the use of parallels. Just because a biblical word or concept has a Roman parallel use does not mean that Paul intended it to be an anti-Roman polemic, especially when the word or concept has a rich Jewish origin. After all, Paul quotes and theologizes extensively from the Septuagint (Greek version of the OT). Burk identifies the key linguistic issue: “To what extent are teh parallels due merly to the fact that Pal and the imepraci cult were drawing from the common stock of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Roman Empire?” (317)
  2. Caution about the distinciton between meaning and implciation. Citing E.D. Hirsch’s landmark work on interpretation, he writes: “An implication, however, differs in taht it is not a part of the autohr’s conscious intention, even though it is established by a type tha tderives from the author’s willed meaning.” (320)
  3. Caution about the hermeneutics of the FP. Burk points out that much of the hermeneutical ethos of the FP has been generated by the Paul and Politics group from SBL. Richard Horsley, a leading scholar among the FP clearly articulates a political agenda in the fresh perspective of counterimperial studies: “The aims and agenda of the Paul and Politics group are, broadly, to problematize, interrogate, and re-vision Pauline texts and interpretations, to idnetify oppresisvie formulaitlns as well as potnetially liberative visions and values…” And here is Burk’s concern–Horsley’s elevation of the post-colonial readers of Paul to the level of “the text being read in the work of interpretation” in Paul. In other words, by trying to accomodate the political concerns of readers, Horsley and his colleagues give those popular readers’ concerns a prominent place in the interpretive task.

Helpful Books in Determining the Meaning of Gal 3:10-14

The New Perspective debate rages on, but there are few exegetical resources or arguments floating about the blogosphere (but plenty in print). I recently preached on Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,” which demanded deeper research than I had previously done in Galatians. The meaning of Gal 3:10-14 is hotly contested including debate over the meaning of “works of the law,” the accuracy of Paul’s Deuteronomic quotation, the meaning of the “righteous shall live by faith,” to name a few. Several resources struck me as particularly helpful in sorting through some of these theological issues, especially as it pertains to working through Wright’s position:

Climax of the Covenant, N.T. Wright

Covenant & Salvation, Michael Horton

Perspectives Old and New on Paul, Westerholm

Presence & Function of Scripture in Galatians 1 & 2, Roy Ciampa

Review of Above

Did the Roman Imperial Cult Factor into Paul’s Letters?

Jim Hamilton interviews Justin Hardin on the Roman Imperial Cult. Hardin’s doctoral work was done in Galatians under John Barclay, who opposes the notion of the Roman Imperial cult as a presence in Paul’s polemics. N.T. Wright has written extensively on this, in support of a Pauline Imperial Cult polemic. Hardin sides with Wright.

Wright Well Interviewed

The guys at Said at Southern conducted an outstanding interview with N.T. Wright. In it Wright clarifies his thinking on a whole host of issues ranging from personal conversion to interaction with Piper’s The Future of Justification. Here are some notable quotes:

On the Gospel: “When Paul talks about “the gospel,” he means “the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and therefore the Lord of the world.”

Timing & Terminology of Justification: “Let’s be clear about this because many Christians in the evangelical tradition use words like “conversion,” “regeneration,” “justification,” “born-again,” etc. all as more or less synonyms to mean “becoming a Christian from cold.” In the classic Reformed tradition, the word “justification” is much more fine-tuned than that and has to do with a verdict which is pronounced, rather than with something happening to you in terms of actually being born again. So that I’m actually much closer to some classic Reformed writing on this than some people perhaps realize…But the word “salvation” and the word “justification” are not interchangeable.”

Evangelicals as Liberals in Selective Pauline Interpretation: “It’s interesting that many evangelicals have done implicitly what liberal scholarship has done explicitly and put Ephesians and Colossians in a kind of sub-category and elevated their reading of Romans and Galatians to a primacy. Now, the liberal scholarship has said, “Well, Ephesians and Colossians were written later. That’s sort of deutero-Pauline.”

But many evangelicals have actually held that view as well. Because Ephesians and Colossians have a very high view of the Church, which many evangelicals have been suspicious of, and it’s actually often ecclesiology which is driving evangelicals to be suspicious of the New Perspective.”

N.T. Wright on God and Politics

Read Lee Irons (former student of Meredith Kline and Ph.D candidate at Fuller) post on NT Wright and Politics.

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