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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:

My Many Conversions

I have had many conversions since I was converted to the lordship of King Jesus at age 6. Here are a few:

  • Conversion to Missions
  • Conversion to Sexual Purity
  • Conversion to the Doctrines of Grace
  • Conversion to Christian Hedonism
  • Conversion to Kuyperian Thought and Practice
  • Conversion to Renewal as a Way of Life (Richard Lovelace)
  • Conversion to Biblical Theology
  • Conversion to knowing the Trinity
  • Conversion to Church Planting
  • Re-conversion to the Church

Have You Been Converted Twice?

I briefly argue for two conversions here. Those with some ecclesiological acumen could really deepen this conversation through comments. Hope I get some bites.

Colossians and Missiology

My reflections on the missiology that can be learned from the historical setting of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae.

New SBTS Journal free

Adorare Mente is a new academic journal from the students of SBTS. The articles are up and downloadable for free. Here is a list of the first round of offerings:

Hyun-Gwang Kim, Imitating Christ: An Exegetical Study of Philippians 2:5-11

John Meade, The Meaning of Circumcision in Israel: A Proposal for a Transfer of Rite from Egypt to Israel

Blake White, Christ as the Last Adam

Trevin Wax, The Centrality of Christology in the Marburg Colloquy

Nathanael Copeland, Pastoral Presuppositionalism: Lessons from the Life and Work of Francis Schaeffer

Adorare Mente, Volume 1 (complete issue as a PDF)

HT: Blake White

Rob Bell, Ben Witherington, & Re-Judiazing Jesus

Time magazine ran a piece on the differences between Rob Bell and Ben Witherington’s understanding of Judaism and Jesus called “Re-Judaizing Jesus.” It’s a confusing piece, but the main point is that this pastor (Bell) and scholar (Witherington) disagree on how Judaism should influence our understanding of Jesus and the New Testament. For some, this may seem like an esoteric discussion, but if it is entirely esoteric and academic, why would Time magazine pick it up as a Top Ten of future revolutions for 2008?

I tend to agree with Witherington’s conclusions and critique of Bell. At the end of the day, many of Bell’s re-interpretations of the NT rely on unreliable primary and “scholarly” sources, drawing from a Judaism that was not contemporaneous with Jesus’ time and teaching. This is anachronistic. However, it is highly commendable that Bell is trying to discern the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament upon the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. In this, he is exemplary. Witherington writes:

At times Rob seems too uncritical in his reading of sources like the truly dated works of Alfred Edersheim, and apparently he spends too much time listening to folks like Ray Vanderlaan, a local teacher in the Grand Rapids area who doesn’t really much understand the differences between medieval Jewish rabbis and the context and ethos of teachers in early Judaism of Jesus’ day. Rob needs to read some viable sources on early Judaism, for example some of the work of Craig Evans or George Nickelsburg or Jacob Neusner if he wants to paint the picture of the Jewish Jesus using the right hews, tones, and features.

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.

Gunton Lives On

Here is some info on a conference that attests to the ongoing influence of Colin Gunton.

Following Up the Future of Justification

2 Corinthians 5:21

My questions lie with some of our exegesis in determining just how God reconciles us through Christ. 2 Cor 5.21 is not loaded with legal language stressing the objective work of Christ, but is highly ontological stressing the subjective work of Christ, first upon himself as one who was made sin, and second upon us as new creatures. An imputation framework seems very foreign to the text, though it may be present in other texts. I find it odd that in all the responses to my point on the blog, only one person was willing to acknowledge the significance of verbal difference. Most sought to harmonize Paul’s word choice. This is, perhaps, due to a theological motivation to retain a double imputation reading.

As I see it, there are three main issues that need to be better addressed when interpreting this text:

  1. What are we to make of the verbal difference between Christ being “made” sin and our “becoming” the righteousness of God? If Paul had a double imputation framework in mind, it seems that he would have made this crystal clear by using the same two verbs to connote the same legal action—imputation of sin to Christ and imputation of God’s righteousness to us—but he did not.
  2. What is the function of iva (so that) connecting the two propositions? Most double-imputationists assume that it introduces a result clause; however, it is also possible that it is functioning to introduce a purpose clause. He who knew no sin became sin with the purpose of our becoming the righteousness of God. This is different from reading it as Jesus was imputed sin so that we could be imputed righteousness. The idea of a great exchange seems foreign. Rather, what Paul seems to emphasize is that Jesus was made sin for the purpose of making us actual, righteous people perhaps, as Scott Hafemann has put it, “to make us new covenant keepers of the law, enabled by the Spirit.”
  3. What does the “righteousness of God” mean? This is, of course, what has been hotly debated. Piper makes some keen observations about Wright’s conception of the righteousness of God (keeps covenant promises, judges impartially, deals with sin, advocates for the helpless). Piper points out that Wright’s definition is restricted to action, what God does as righteousness. Instead, he avers that we should be first concerned with what righteousness is, not what it does. In classical Piperian form, he doxologically points us to the fact that God is righteous because he is committed to his own glory. However, this division between what righteousness is and what it does is, perhaps, too Greek in interpretation. After all, isn’t God’s commitment to his own glory foundationally a promise that he keeps? Righteousness is the action of God’s covenant commitment to his own glory among Father, Son and Spirit.

The Gospel and Justification

I am not a staunch advocate or opponent of the NPP, rather, I am simply trying to raise exegetical points that I rarely see addressed. Part of my concern, moreover, is that too many folks demonize views that do not agree with the Lutheran interpretation of justification/2 Cor 5.21, announcing that variant interpretations are an abandonment of the gospel. Many Reformed folks continually say that Justification is the gospel, and that to reconsider the Lutheran interpretation is to lose the gospel. I disagree. Justification is and always will be by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone, regardless of whether this text is interpreted as double imputation or new covenant promise keeping.

However, if the gospel is multifaceted, then justification is not the gospel alone. Perspectivalism is a helpful corrective here: Justification (normative), Adoption (existential) and kingdom/new creation (situational). Though each metaphor is not part of the gospel, to reduce the gospel to justification alone is to overstate the biblical-theological case. On this, Keller agrees:

We need all three perspectives, though each perspective is not simply a ‘part’ of the gospel. For example, the ‘kingdom’ perspective contains the other two. If God is king, then salvation must be by grace, for if we are saved by works, something else will be our Lord an Savior. Or if we have a new identity in Christ by sheer grace, then we must not look down at anyone else, and self-justification is the basis of racism and injustice. If you go deep enough into any one perspective you will find the other two.

The multifaceted wonder and truth the Gospel of Christ should be held up for the light of the glory of god in Christ to shine through, refracting his multidimensional glory for us to see and savor–the gospel of adoption, the gospel of new creation, the gospel of justification.