Monday, March 29, 2010

Galatians 1:18-24: Paul's Honesty and Ours

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24 And they praised God because of me.

I haven't written much about application in the Galatians series yet, but I personally felt conviction in this passage and thought it would be worth while to blog about it. I have to credit McKnight with this basic insight.

Paul's was honest even when it was potentially damaging. As Paul was recounting his story he would badly want to omit his visit to Jerusalem if at all possible, because any visit could be damaging and spun as him having been taught by or under the authority of the Jerusalem apostles. This would be exactly the type of thing that the Teachers would jump on and use for their own devices. It could potentially be damning for Paul's case. Certainly, it would have been easier to omit it, but in a highly selective account, he includes it. Why? Couldn't he have left it out to build as strong a case as possible, especially in defense of the gospel? Honesty is a critical component of Christian witness and being honest, even when it's difficult, is an active expression of our faith in God.

That's a personal struggle for me. I know that I have a tendency to omit relevant facts or stretch the truth to get the best possible result for myself. The desire to have the approval of others is very strong, I have a lot of pride. It needs to be dealt with. It also shows my lack of faith. I need to be in control, spinning the facts. The funny thing is, I probably have hurt myself by trying to make things work for my own good. What lessons of God have I missed by dancing around the truth and avoiding the consequences? I surely would be much holier than I am now.

We need to heed Paul's example in our teaching as well. Let's remember that only the Holy Spirit has the power to change people. He does use us as means, but there's nothing that dishonesty can do to bring real transformation. The Holy Spirit can move and change people in spite of our deceit, but never because of it. All it can ultimately effect is us being discredited when the truth comes to light.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Paul's Argument in Galatians 1:18-24

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24 And they praised God because of me. (TNIV)

In this section Paul continues along in his defense of himself and his gospel. As McKnight notices, this portion of chapter one has essentially the same argument as 1:13-17, it just concerns a different or perhaps more specific set of authorities. Within three years of his call, Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet Peter. The emphasis here is the shortness of his stay with Peter. His reference to being with Peter for 15 days is sandwiched between a reference to three years of ministry prior in 1:18 and 14 years following in 2:1. Paul had already been active prior to meeting Peter and his stay certainly wasn't long enough to have learned his entire gospel there. Paul is stressing that neither Peter, James, nor anyone at Jerusalem was in authority over him or had commissioned him. Certainly Paul and Peter discussed Jesus, and Peter may have even filled Paul in on aspects of the Jesus tradition that he was ignorant of, but Peter was not the source of Paul's gospel.

In verse 20 Paul takes an oath. This reveals two things. First, what he was saying was contested. Other people were saying things that disagreed with the way Paul told his story, otherwise the oath would be unnecessary. Second, taking an oath was serious. Paul's reputation hinged on the truthfulness of what he said. It shows that we need to slow down and really absorb the argument in this part of the letter or we will miss something important.

Paul continues to tell us about his past in the following paragraph. He doesn't go into many details about his time in Cicilia and Syria because his main focus is still his relationship to the Jerusalem church. He was unknown there, and thus clearly not under their jurisdiction.

As Hays points out, not only is Paul silent about control from Jerusalem, but there also seems to be approval coming from them. His meeting with Peter goes off without a hitch and the church in Jerusalem praised God at his conversion and preaching. There seems to be general agreement between the Jerusalem church and Paul. Hence, if a segment of the Jerusalem church is now opposing Paul, it's an about-face on their part not his. Paul's gospel is the constant (as he notes in 1:6-8).

One phrase that we can't overlook is 'in Christ' in verse 21. It's easy to pass over it as a throw away phrase but it's highly significant. In this context it is somewhat polemical. The Jerusalem church was accepting of his gospel, the gospel of Christ through which we become in Christ. Being in Christ is the foundation of Christian fellowship, not adherence to the Law as the Teachers incorrectly claimed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Galatians 1:13-17 and the New Perspective on Paul

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (TNIV)
In my last post I summarized what the New Perspective on Paul is. Here I want to briefly look at one aspect of their claim, that Paul did not convert because of a tortured conscience (we will eventually look at the other major claim of the NPP but not for a while).

Commenting on verse 14, Dunn claims that, 'Not least in significance here is the fact that Paul recollects no pangs of conscience or Luther-like agonizings for peace prior to his conversion. The talk of 'my people' confirms that Paul's audience consisted (predominantly) of Gentiles, but confirms a further reminder that he spoke as an insider to those attracted by that status' (59-60). I think that Dunn is exactly right here. If Paul had been a legalist who had been striving to do good works to earn right status before God, you would expect a different spin here in verses 13-17. It seems that Paul's opinion of himself is that he was doing well! It's almost the opposite of a guilty conscience! Verse 15 gives on the impression that Paul would have happily continued along his way if God didn't intervene.

This, though, leaves me with a major question. If Paul wasn't looking for a problem for human sin when Christ revealed himself to him, what are the implications? Was Sanders right in suggesting that Paul worked from 'solution to plight?' Or should we think that Paul did work from plight to solution but from the plight of the people of God to the solution of the people of God? Or is there another perspective that I am overlooking? Does anyone know how Thielman handles this question in From Plight to Solution? It's been a long time since I've read it and I don't own a copy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What is the New Perspective on Paul?

In a previous post I mentioned that Galatians 1:13-17 had implications for the debate surrounding the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Some of you are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about as I’ve made glancing reference to it several times during this series. Today’s post will examine what the NPP is and in a future post I will look at how Galatians 1:13-17 impacts our assessment of it. This explanation will be a bit simplistic, but please keep in mind that this is a blog post that’s meant to be accessible to lay people and not an academic paper.

Simply put the NPP is an attempt to understand Paul as fully as possible against his Jewish background. This means that to understand Paul, one must understand the Judaism of his day. This is attempted through analyzing Jewish writings contemporary to the New Testament, as well as those from previous generations that were still of great influence (of which the writings of the OT were some among many). The NPP is not only a new perspective on Paul, it’s a new perspective on Judaism. E.P. Sanders, in his massively influential work, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, overturned (in the opinion of many, not just those who hold to the NPP) the prevailing understanding of Judaism as a legalistic religion that was devoid of grace. He claimed that the Jewish ‘pattern of religion’ was ‘covenantal nomism,’ which basically means that you enter God’s covenant by grace and you stay in it by keeping the Torah. Thus grace does play a major role. Also, the works that you do which keep you in the covenant were seen as a response to grace not a legalistic attempt to maintain covenant status. Sanders additionally demonstrated that Jews saw God as merciful and more than ready to forgive when one took advantage of the means of atonement provided in the Torah. In the end, only the Jews who rejected the Torah and the means of atonement provided in it were seen as outside of the covenant. Gentiles could become God’s covenant people by following Torah.

Clearly this can impact the way we understand Paul and his letters. For example, it is no longer commonly held that Paul converted to Christianity because of a troubled conscience that saw no hope of salvation because he had fallen short of the perfection demanded by Judaism (because Judaism didn’t demand perfection). Where it gets more controversial is in the discussion of what Paul is opposing when he opposes justification by works of the law (Torah). Traditionally, Paul was thought to be opposing legalism as understood as being able to achieve right standing on the basis of your own works. Against this Paul is understood to proclaim that we are justified by faith in the work of Christ. Proponents of the NPP would argue that if Judaism wasn’t legalistic, then it doesn’t make sense for Paul to be opposing legalism. He must be opposing something different. They notice that Paul tends to pick out circumcision and kosher food laws as his points or critique. Those were boundary markers that separated Jews from others. Thus, what Paul is opposing is Jewish ethnocentrism. Paul’s point then is that you are part of God’s people, Abraham’s family, by faith, not by ethnic identity.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Top Ten Crops to Grow in Your Garden

This month's top ten list is the top ten crops (not just vegetables) to grow in your garden. For this month's list, I decided to expand the pool of contributors, so it's now three of my co-workers and I making the list, rather than just one. Thanks to them for participating, it made for some fun debate!

Our criteria was a weighted average between taste, versatility, and cost effectiveness. All three were rated on a five point scale.

10. Carrots: Versatility - 3.25 Taste - 4 Value - 3

I consume more carrots than any other vegetable. I'm not a huge fan of cooked carrots, but I do enjoy raw baby carrots. I have them every day with my lunch (which is peanut butter and jelly with chips).

9. Green Beans: Versatility - 3 Taste - 4.5 Value - 3

Green beans are pretty tasty. They do especially well in Asian stir-fries because they take on a little bit of soy sauce flavor without being overwhelmed.

8. Potatoes: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 3.5 Value - 2

Potatoes are one of the most versatile crops you can grow. They can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried, and deep fried. They absorb other flavors well making them the perfect compliment for strong tasting foods.

7. Lettuce: Versatility - 3 Taste - 3.75 Value - 5

Apparently, growing lettuce gives you a lot of bang for the buck. It's versatility is often underrated too. It can be eaten in salads (obviously) and also on almost any sandwich. What's often overlooked is that it can be used as a wrap for meat dishes (especially Korean BBQ Yum!).

6. Jalapeno Peppers: Versatility - 3 Taste - 4.25 Value - 4

It seems that everybody on my list likes moderately spicy food (Jalapenos aren't that spicy). It's a staple of Mexican cooking, but I also like to use jalapeno, and other spicy peppers on sandwiches.

5. Garlic: Versatility - 5 Taste - 4 Value - 2

Garlic is the only food to receive a perfect score in either versatility or taste (although our #1 choice should have also received a 5 in versatility). Whether you're cooking Chinese, Italian, or American your recipe very well may call for garlic. It's downside is that garlic is relatively cheap to buy, and also is supposed to be difficult to grow. One of my favorite ways to eat from the garlic plant is to eat the stem. We don't really consume it in the US, but Koreans do, calling it 'manul jong.'

4. Bell Peppers: Versatility - 4.25 Taste - 4.25 Value - 4

I eat these more than any other cooked vegetable. Usually I steam them, but they can also be consumed raw and in a number of prepared dishes. The key is to select the right one for your meal. For saltier meals I often like the sweetness of a yellow bell pepper.

3. Basil: Versatility - 4.5 Taste - 4.5 Value - 4

Basil is often a key spice for much of your finer Italian and French cuisine, but I most commonly eat it on grilled cheese sandwiches. One thing I do have to say is that freshly grown basil is light years better than dried basil.

2. Tomatoes: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 4 Value - 5

Most people would have expected tomatoes to come out on top, but they have to settle for number 2. That's probably because I don't like tomatoes all that much. They're great in sauces and on the occasional sandwich, but besides that I don't eat them that much. My wife, on the other hand, loves tomatoes. She often just eats them like an apple.

1. Bulb Onions: Versatility - 4.75 Taste - 4.5 Value - 4

Nothing is more versatile than bulb onions. They go in nearly every meal I cook. They top sandwiches, are a critical element of good red sauces, and Asian cooking would never be the same without them. But let's not leave out omelets, salads, and most importantly onion rings. Life would not be the same without onions, and hence they win the award for top crop to grow in your garden.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Final Four are

...Ohio St., Syracuse, Kentucky, and Duke, with Syracuse defeating Kentucky 78-74 in the finals.

Of the little bit of college basketball that I've watched this year, Syracuse has looked like they have all the necessary tools to win it all, especially if Wes Johnson is healthy. The game that really stuck out for me was their absolute dismantling of Villanova.

Who did you pick?

After the first game starts you should be able to see my entire bracket here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Galatians 1:13-17: 'Progressing in Judaism'

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (TNIV)
Today my friend with whom I am studying Galatians asked an interesting question. He asked what it meant for Paul to advance in Judaism beyond Jews of his own age (vs. 14). How would one do such a comparison, and was it arrogant to do so? I didn't know the answer and I thought it was an important question, so I thought I'd look into it and blog about it (it's helpful to study in community!). This post will be a bit technical, so those who aren't interested can skip it.

According to Longenecker, προέκοπτον (proekopton), translated 'advancing' originally was a nautical term, referring to 'making headway in spite of blows' and in religious and philosophical writings it came to refer to 'the process of moral and spiritual development.' It's in the imperfect tense, which stresses that it's an action in the past that happened over a period of time, i.e., it was a process (29).

So Paul had some sort of standard that he used to measure his own performance and growth against that of his contemporaries. To do so and render a positive verdict certainly does strike one as arrogant. Dunn agrees. He notes that while the verb itself is neutral, it often does carry arrogant overtones, and that the sense of superiority becomes strong when combined with 'beyond.' Dunn comments that, "Whether Paul's attitude at that time was overt or conscious or not , the effect was to downgrade in status those who had not progressed so far. Such is the danger of a spirituality of 'progress.' To those in Galatia who thought their positive response to the other missionaries was an advance on the gospel as preached by Paul it was a timely reminder: Paul had not abandoned such ideas because he had been a failure in his own response to them; on the contrary he had outdone most of the rest of his contemporaries, including, by implication, these very same missionaries who now preached this message to the Galatian churches" (59).

I think that this verse has interesting implications for the debate surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, which we will look at in another post (hopefully) this week.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paul's Argument in Galatians 1:13-17

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (TNIV)
In this section, Paul continues to set the record straight. It seems that he had never told the Galatians about his calling to apostleship. The Teachers had, though, using their version of Paul's story to undermine the gospel that he preached. This necessitated that Paul correct their understanding of his past. The second half of verse 13 and verse 14 tell of Paul's life in Judaism prior to coming to faith in Christ. Many commentators point out that it is very possible that Paul was inspired by the story of Phineas in Numbers 25, believing that these followers of Jesus were polluting Israel by not strictly observing the Mosaic Law.

In verses 15 and 16 Paul tells of how his transformation from persecutor to promoter took place. It happened through two means. First God called him from before his birth. Here Paul is using language that echos Jeremiah 1:5, stressing the special nature of his call by God and putting himself on the same plane of authority as Jeremiah (Dunn p. 63). The Teachers were trying to undermine Paul's authority but Paul would have nothing of it.

The other agent of transformation was the revelation of Jesus Christ to him (here I am following the NRSV, Martyn, and Hays) on the Damascus Road. He had an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed him forever. The important point for Paul's argument, though, was that it was with the resurrected Jesus that he received the gospel, not through human preaching (contra The Teachers).

Paul's calling had a purpose; he was called to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. This happened at day one. Perhaps the Teachers had told the Galatians about Paul's commissioning in Acts 13:1-3 and claimed that that was when Paul originally received his commission to preach to the Gentiles, and that he was sent under the jurisdiction of the church at Antioch. Paul again rebuts that claim denying any human origin for his calling. His call came much earlier and it was from God through Jesus.

It's interesting to notice that Paul's focus at the end of this section is on what he didn't do. The only explanation is that he is correcting inaccurate stories that The Teachers were telling about him. He was called and set apart by God, and received his gospel directly through a revelation of Christ. No human on earth played a roll in Paul's formation of the gospel. This leaves one open to wonder then, does this emphasis imply that Paul believes that he's the only one who got the gospel right? We'll look at that question when we get to the next section of Galatians.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Lenten Reflection

I’ve recently started reading The New Testament and the People of God by NT Wright, a book which I am long overdue to read. I don’t dare attempt a review of it, but I will post snippets here and there and provide a little commentary from time to time over the next few weeks or however long it takes me to finish the book.

I felt that this first quote, in addition to being insightful, was also particularly appropriate to ponder and expand upon during lent.
The Christological question, as to whether the statement ‘Jesus is God’ is true, and if so in what sense, is often asked as though ‘God’ were the known and ‘Jesus’ the unknown; this, I suggest, is manifestly mistaken. If anything, the matter stands the other way around (xv).
The Jesus we see in the gospels is the clearest and most tangible presentation of God that we have. The goal of the Christian life is to be conformed to God, to bear his image as purely as possible. Jesus lived and died to redeem others. He died for you, he died for me, and he died for millions around the world. This is the image that we too should reflect. While our life and death cannot be redemptive in the same way Jesus’ was, it still can and must be redemptive. We must be willing to lay down our lives in our local communities for others, inside and outside the body of Christ, to display what God looks like and ultimately help them (and us!) move closer to God.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom

(Thanks to Adrianna from IVP for providing me with a review copy)

The New Studies in Biblical Theology Series (NSBT) is a one of my favorite series of monographs. Previous titles published include, Original Sin by Henri Blocher and The Temple and the Church's Mission by Greg Beale, so it was with great anticipation that I selected Graham Cole's book, 'God the Peacemaker.' I was not disappointed.

Cole proceeds from plight to solution, beginning by diagnosing the problem, namely, evil, and God's answer for it, the atonement. Our sin has caused a rupture in our relationship with God, others and the world, and the atonement repairs that rupture, hence the title of the book (22). To flesh that out a little, 'the divine atoning project...is nothing less than to secure God's people in God's place under God's reign living God's way enjoying God's shalom in God's loving and holy presence as both family and worshippers, to God's glory' (25).

I found the first main chapter, which starts with God, to be one of the most helpful sections of the book. Cole begins by attacking the idea that we can understand God as love alone, or make love the controlling attribute of God through which we understand the rest of his attributes (33-37). He uses Barth as an example. Barth broke the attributes into two kinds of divine perfections, perfections of divine freedom (such as omnipresence, eternity, and glory) and perfections of divine loving (such as grace, mercy, righteousness, and holiness). However, Cole points out that Barth's theory was too restrictive, for divine holiness is not a perfection of divine loving in any obvious sense (36-37). What Cole opts for instead, is to break Barth's perfections of divine loving into three: love, righteousness, and holiness (37). In the subsequent pages (38-46) Cole fleshes out these three and makes a few helpful points along the way. One is that righteousness and holiness sometimes result in wrath and other times result in salvation (43). The implication that he later draws from this is that wrath and mercy are not essential divine attributes (the way holiness and love are essential to God's being), but are expressions of essential attributes like holiness or love (51-52).

The next two chapters delineate the problem. To use the title from chapter two we are 'the glory and the garbage of the universe.' Some may find that language to be a bit extreme but I think that Cole's point is sound and needs to be heard. We are created in God's image, but then we have the fall, or as Cole prefers 'the rupture' (56). Because of sin, we have a rupture in our relationship with God, each other, and the cosmos. 'Any account of human beings that doesn't reckon with this paradox is flawed' (66). We are capable of both great good and great evil. As Cole goes on to discuss in chapter three, this fall has left us with a great need, for peace with God, each other, and the cosmos, a relational peace (67). Sin caused a problem for us, because of it we have to face God's wrath (here Cole makes a helpful distinction, wrath is anger, not a temper-tantrum 72-73) and judgment. Again, though, it is not just our relationship with God that was affected, our relationship with others have been tarnished. Strife has been inserted. As Cole notes, it's very significant that the first sin after the fall is Cain's murder of Abel (78). Our account of sin isn't complete, though, until we also see that sin brings bondage to the devil, and he must be defeated and we must be freed (80-82). Not only we are in need of freedom, but, drawing on Romans 8:20-22, Cole also notes that all of creation needs to be freed (82-83).

What was God going to do about all of this? In chapter 4, Cole goes through and follows the plot line of the Old Testament showing how God laid the foundations for the atonement in the protoevangelium, the Abrahamic covenant, the story of Israel (especially focusing on sacrifice and the Day of Atonement), and the Servant Songs in Isaiah - which were particularly significant because we see the idea of one suffering to atone for many (101).

In my opinion, the fifth chapter was Cole's best, where he discusses Christ's faithfulness in his life and death. Jesus came as both the new Adam and the new Israel and, 'In his humanity he is all that Adam should have been and the embodiment of all that Israel's covenant faithfulness should have been' (107). This is seen in both Jesus life and his death. Even the chief priests saw how faith-filled Jesus was in his death when they say in Matthew 23:48 that, 'He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants...' (109). Jesus life was a life of his trust in God. Cole gets into the pistis Christou debate, and while attempting to be non-committal, he seems, in my opinion, to ultimately favor a subjective genitive reading (113-115). Why does it matter that Jesus was faithful? In a word, imputation, which Cole sees as a result of our union with Christ (118).

Chapter six deals with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here we reap the benefits of this being a study of biblical theology as opposed to systematic theology. When we look at the atonement in the big picture of what God is doing to bring about redemption, we see that we need to combine more than one model of the atonement into our theory. Cole does this as he combines both Christus Victor and substitution into his model, and (I think correctly) makes the Christus Victor primary with penal substitutionary atonement paradoxically being the means of the victory (130). The atonement brought satisfaction, satisfaction of God's holiness (132-134), God's righteousness (134-141), and God's love (141-143). The last of these is sometimes overlooked in studies of the atonement, but Cole helpfully reminds us by quoting of Van Dyk that, 'In this dramatic self surrender, God's love finds its fullest satisfaction and expression' (143). Cole closes the chapter by discussing the necessity of the resurrection, which he sees functioning as God's approval of the work Christ had done (154).

What are the effects of the atonement for us? It brings shalom, a peace that is objective, not subjective (157). First, we as individuals receive peace with God through our union with Christ. Christ is the sphere in which we receive all of the blessings of his sacrifice (158): forgiveness of sins, cleansing, justification, redemption, adoption, and reconciliation (each of which are expanded upon in succession on 158-178). Not only do we have peace with God, but we have peace with one another. Our union with Christ brings unity and should end hostility (181).

Chapter 8 is the last major chapter and it looks at how we should live as a result of the atonement. 'The gospel life is one that refracts the dying and rising of Christ as symbolized in a Christian baptism' (193). Thus it is to be a life of other regard that is a living sacrifice, that gives our all (204). Cole puts some meat on this skeleton by suggesting two ways in which this is to be done. He looks at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and suggests that our primary role is to be merciful and peacemakers. This point is probably my biggest criticism (but not a major one) of Cole's book. Why are these two items selected out of the Sermon on the Mount? He is right in emphasizing that we are called to be salt and light (205), but why are these two the primary way to do that? No rationale is given, and I find the choices to be somewhat curious given their location in the Sermon on the Mount (prior to the command to be salt and light) and their purpose (eschatalogical blessing - as Cole notices! 206). Perhaps his space was limited, but I felt that a much fuller discussion was needed here. Mercy and peacemaking certainly are chief tasks for the Christian, I'd just like to know why he thinks that they stand above the others.

The last two chapters are very brief. In chapter nine he focuses on the goal of the atonement, the glory of God. Here, again I found Cole to be helpful. He understands God's glory as his presence, the totality of who he is (225). The purpose of the atonement is to reveal that glory. At the same time glory, in terms of honor or reputation is also pursued as the goal of the atonement. Here he draws on and sounds very much like Lewis and Piper (227-228).

Cole ends with an appendix that briefly deals with the objections to penal substitution. While he breaks no new ground, I found it to be a good and useful summary of the current state of the question. He's fair to his opponents and heavily footnotes the discussion providing one with ample opportunity to dive into the questions more deeply if they so desired.

In conclusion I would say that Cole's book is an excellent overview of atonement. The strength is its breadth. Every major aspect of the subject is addressed. At several points this reader clamored for more detail, but given the constraints of the book it really wasn't possible. Compared to other books in this series, it was a bit more accessible to a general audience. That's not to say that it was shallow, it just wasn't all that difficult. I think that the ideal audience for this book is in the classroom, whether for an undergraduate course or an introductory level seminary class. Perhaps, too, it could be used with profit in the local church setting as I think it would be helpful for those who want to understand the big picture of what God has done and is doing in the world.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Series of Questions on Soteriology

I have a question that I would like to ask, what is the relationship between justification, salvation, and judgment? Are justification and salvation coterminous, do they occur at the same time, can one be justified and ultimately not saved, does justification affect judgment and if so how? On a related note, what are the grounds of judgment, on what basis (or bases) does (do) one survive the judgment and experience salvation?

I ask these questions because I truly think they're difficult to answer. How does judgment on the basis of works mesh with justification by faith? I think that if we can get clarity on the relationship between justification, salvation, and judgment then this latter question becomes easier to answer (I also ask them because I'm working on a paper on judgment for my biblical theology class).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Galatians: Recommended Reading on Legalism

For those of you who are following along with my Galatians series (and even for those of you who aren't - but especially for those who are) I would like to commend to you a new series that Scot McKnight is starting at Jesus Creed called, 'Liberated from Legalism,' which is based on Galatians and is about how the gospel frees us from legalism. Dr. McKnight has long been a student of Galatians and has written an excellent commentary for readers of all levels, so this new series that he is beginning should be worth checking out.

In this post he begins by defining legalism:
Legalism is any practice or belief that is added to the gospel that compromises the sufficiency of Christ as Savior and jeopardizes the adequacy of the Spirit in moral guidance.

Legalism then is the charge against you or me, often sensed at the deepest level, that we are not accepted by God in Christ and indwellt by the Holy Spirit.
I think that this is an excellent start and am looking forward to seeing how he fleshes this out.