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Showing posts from April, 2010

Top Ten Sports Rivalries

This month my coworker Brian and I (with an assist from another coworker) decided to tackle the list of the top ten rivalries in sports. This was a bit tough to pull together because rivalries tend to wax and wane depending on the strength of each team in any given year. It's also difficult given that neither of us has ever lived on the west coast. Throw in on top of that the sheer number of sports considered (not necessarily represented, but considered): college football and basketball, and professional baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and golf. I'm sure there are omissions to the list, so let me know what we missed!

10. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

This one was tough, do you choose this rivalry or Edmonton vs. Vancouver? When you throw in French vs. English Canada, the Habs and Leafs is the rivalry to choose. This one would have ranked higher, but it cooled in my mind a bit given that they played in separate conferences from 1981 - 1998.

9. Te…

Dating Galatians and Harmonization with Acts

We've gotten to the point where how we date Galatians and where we fit it into the narrative of Acts will affect our interpretation in a significant manner. The first question that we have to address is, which visit to Jerusalem is Paul recounting in Galatians 2:1-10? Is it the famine relief visit of Acts 11:27-30 or the Jerusalem council of Acts 15? First, I think it's worthwhile to point out that it's not all that obvious. Scholars are divided on this issue (even Evangelical scholars).

In favor of the theory of Galatians 2:1-10 referring to the Acts 11 visit are the following:
This visit clearly is prompted by a revelation by the Holy Spirit.The Acts 15 gathering seems to be a public gathering, where the one described in Galatians is private.Paul never alludes to a letter sent to the diaspora churches which could have definitively won the case for him.The issue of food laws was already decided by James. Why would men coming from him in Galatians 2:11-14 be advocating a vie…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 2:11-14

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (TNIV)Here we have the last of Paul's vignettes about his relationship with the church in Jerusalem. Antioch was in Syria and had a very large Jewish population and a significant number of non-Jews who were interested in Judaism and attached themselves in varying degrees to the Jewish synagogues. In all probabilit…

You Need a New Testament Theology

One of the most underrated elements of going to big conferences is the chance to buy books at discounted prices. One of the many books I picked up at the Wheaton Theology Conference was I. Howard Marshall's New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel. I hadn't owned one before and knew that it was a significant gap in my library, but I did not expect it to be as useful as it has been. I can think of at least four very practical ways in which a theology can be used very profitably.

1. As an aid to devotional reading

Are you about to start reading through Mark in your daily devotions? Before you start read the chapter in Mark in your theology. It'll take a little over an hour and it will greatly improve the depth of insight you gain from your devotional time. You'll have a much clearer picture of how the gospel fits together and what the main themes are that Mark was trying to communicate.

2. To provide context before doing Bible study

In our church's small groups…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Wrap Up

Thanks to everyone who stopped by over the last two days to read my posts on the conference. If you want to listen to or watch any of the talks, all but Bockmuehl's are here (hopefully his talk will be posted soon). Additionally, they did not record Wright's response to Hays which I wrote about here.

In reflection I think that there are three major questions that I will be wrestling with:

1. Should we Christians only study Jesus within a confessional framework? What's the right approach to historical Jesus studies, Wright's, Hays', shoudl we be doing a bit of each?

2. How should systematic theology dialogue with biblical theology?

3. Is Wright's understanding of atonement in the gospels sufficiently connected with his understanding of atonement in Paul? His last talk helped here but I still think it needs thinking through.

Wheaton Theology Conference - Wright on Paul

In the closing talk we got the pleasure of hearing Wright give a brief summary of his 'big book on Paul' that he's working on and tentatively suggests could hit bookstores in 2012. My summary again will be brief and just hit some highlights I highly encourage you to listen to the talk when it becomes available.

Interestingly Wright states that he is going to take Philemon as his starting point for Pauline theology. I think that this move is absolutely brilliant! Philemon gives us a bird's eye view of something amazing. Paul is embodying the cross. The cross is where the unreconciled become reconciled. Where slave and free come together in the one new man. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 is the theology underlying Paul's writing of Philemon.

Wright then goes on to look at Paul more broadly. What background do we place him against? He doesn't fit neatly into second temple Judaism, and that's because Jesus has effected a shift. The story of Israel has been fulfilled but t…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Wright and Bockmuehl Explained

This is a follow up on my earlier post summarizing Bockmuehl's talk. I won't attempt to cover all of the ground they covered in their exchanges, some of it dealt with rather technical exegetical issues. Wright did feel that Bockmuehl didn't accurately capture his eschatology. Wright disputes that he implied that the final state is earthly only. Earth and heaven are fused at the end. He also seemed to push back on the issue of whether or not we go to heaven after we die. He doesn't like the language 'heaven' because of the baggage it brings, but he does affirm that we go to an intermediate state where we are with Christ.

Bockmuehl responded by saying that he was somewhat exaggerating Wright's position to prove a point, it was a rhetorical move and it wasn't completely without grounding in some things that Wright had said (he mentioned a Time Magazine interview).

Wheaton Theology Conference - Wright's Non-Answer to the $50 Question

In the Q&A/Response time Wright critiqued Vanhoozer's presentation of justification as insufficiently Jewish. A narrative has to be imparted to Paul because Paul hints at such a narrative (a Jewish one). Our formulation of justification has to be rooted in that narrative. Fair enough. Vanhoozer asked Wright, then (and this is a paraphrase), what role does he assign to systematic theology? How can it dialogue with him more effectively? Wright did not utter a syllable in response. The silence was deafening. It seems that (and I'm not basing this solely on his non-answer here - I get the same vibe in his book Justification) he views biblical theology to be a superior discipline to systematic theology with the former feeding the latter and that's it. There's no reverse feeding.

I am troubled by this. Both Vanhoozer and Wright rank among my greatest influences. I was thrilled when Vanhoozer asked the question because my hope is to see an interchange between the disciplin…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Markus Bockmuehl

Note, that after the question and answer that I realized that I missed an esential element of Bockmuehl's paper, so I added to the third paragraph.

The first talk this afternoon was by Markus Bockmuehl. On a side note, his Philippians commentary needs to get more attention than it does. I think it's the best one on the market.

With that said I found his talk today to be very interesting but also somewhat curious. Either Bockmuehl or I have misread Wright (or I misunderstood Bockmuehl). He claims that Wright would claim that Paul didn't go to heaven when he died. Really? I don't think Wright would say that. I've heard Wright say that heaven is important but it isn't the end of the world. Or say that what he's really interested is in life after life after death. At any rate, Wright will sort out my confusion here in the Q&A. Here's a very short summary of Bockmuehl's talk.

Bockmuehl's talk was fairly straightforward. He attempted to show that we …

Wheaton Theology Conference - Jeremy Begbie

I had told myself that I would only blog on one talk per session, but both talks were so good that I had to break my own rule. Begbie's talk was about the strange relationship between the emerging church and NT Wright. Why would the emerging church like a churchman so much? Begbie proceeded with much pastoral insight by marking out what attracts emergers to Wright, what they still need to learn from him, and finally what Wright could learn from the emerging folk.

A couple of the attractions of Wright's theology are that the church is intrinsic to the purposes of God and to salvation and a 'reverse ecclesiology.' The central work of God in the world is forming a community through the work of his son. Eccelsiology and soteriology cannot be separated. You are saved into a community. Wright gets there in part because he works in reverse. He looks at the final product, the new creation and works backwards to understand what the church should be doing to carry out God's m…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Kevin Vanhoozer

Wow what a morning it was. Vanhoozer's talk was nothing short of spectacular. Both his wit and his learning are hard to overstate. Vanhoozer's goal was to try to show how we might reach a rapprochement between the Old and New Perspectives on Paul. I'll sketch pieces of his argument.

One issue Vanhoozer notes right of the bat is that many Protestants are opposed to doctrinal development, which is strangely un-Protestant. This clearly needs to be addressed. Then he asks the question, 'does being biblical mean attending to the details or the big picture?' His answer was 'Yes.' Wright excels at showing the narrative elements of Pauline theology, connecting textual and canonical dots without having to resort to allegory. Here's where Vanhoozer has a concern. Is Wright guilty of illegitimate totality transfer in his imposition of 2nd temple Jewish categories on Paul. Vanhoozer agrees that context is key, especially canonical context. This laid the groundwork f…

Wheaton Theology Conference - N.T. Wright

The last talk for today was on the importance of historical Jesus studies, especially for the life of the church. Wright spoke at breakneck speed which made taking notes difficult and following him a little tricky at times so I am absolutely certain that my report here will be woefully inadequate. Please listen to this talk (and all of the others too) when the audio becomes available.

Wright began by talking about how we got to where we were in the 1960s with a Christ of faith that had little rooting in the Jesus of history. He pinned it squarely on a Lutheran two kingdoms approach that had a split level view of reality with earth and heaven in separate compartments. This two kingdom approach kept Jesus out of the messiness of politics. The model for this approach was Bultmann.

This created a major pastoral concern. If scholarship says that the gospels are unreliable what does the pastor do? Does he ignore scholarship or does he tell his parishioners that the gospels are unreliable? Eit…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Nicholas Perrin

I had trouble connecting to the wireless at Wheaton in the afternoon so this update had to wait til dinner time. Perrin's talk was very witty and very learned and a little beyond my level of experience at times to fully grasp him so I thought that I would comment only briefly. One of the nice things about listening to Perrin is that you are listening to someone who has made digesting Wright's work a major goal. We is simply soaked in Wright's theology and Wright's paradigm for understanding Jesus.

Perrin began with a sketch of how we got to where we are today in historical Jesus studies, including the two major schools of thought, one rooted in Bultmann and the other in Dodd. Wright obviously belongs to the latter school.

Next Perrin moves into a time of expounding upon some of Wright's key contributions to the historical Jesus discussion. One was how Wright effectively showed the weaknesses of the methodology employed by many within the 3rd quest (such as double dis…

Wheaton Theology Conference - Wright Responds to Hays

Since Hays had to leave early, they gave Wright an opportunity before Hays left to respond to the criticisms that Hays leveled. First, Wright rebutted that he had created a fifth gospel that replaces the canonical four. He then proceeded to give a bit of personal background.

Wright grew up in a time where the gospels were held to be thoroughly unhistorical, especially the gospel of John. His goal was to go into the home court of his critics and beat them at their own game. He knew that if he substantially used John in his work on the historical Jesus, then liberal critics like Crossan would not even bother with his work. So, he omitted John altogether.

Wright's last response was one that raised some eyebrows. He essentially claimed that the early creeds and confessions of the church got it wrong in that they screened out Jesus announcement of the kingdom and the Jewishness of his Messiahship. Thus, he claimed, that he was more canonical than many of the creeds and thus against Hays …

Wheaton Theology Conference - Richard Hays

Those of you who read my regularly know of my deep admiration for Richard Hays. He has been one of my greatest influences. First I'd like to offer my condolences to his family. His father-in-law passed away and the funeral is today. Graciously he decided to still come and deliver his lecture (though he could not stay for the panel discussion). He spoke on what he saw as flaws in Wright's approach to studies of Jesus. The timing of this talk is impeccable, coming on the heels of the recent debate between McKnight and Wright in CT (which I have commented on).

First, let me note that Hays was extremely gracious in the way he critiqued Wright. If only all Christians could follow his example of God-glorifying disagreement.

It should be noted that Hays is responding to Wright's criticism of him at the 2008 SBL meeting. Wright found the book edited by Hays and Gaventa, Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage, to be too Barthian in its understanding of history.

Hays response to W…

Wheaton Theology Conference

This week has been a virtual week of silence from me. I've been up to my eyeballs in a paper that I'm writing. Look for some posts from me during the next two days, though. I'll be at the Wheaton Theology Conference listening to the likes of Hays, Wright, Vanhoozer, Bockmuehl and may others (woo hoo!), and I'll probably post my reactions to some (I'm sure not all) of the talks when I have breaks. I'll later add in links to the audio as it becomes available. I've posted the schedule of talks below.


Session 1 - Moderated by Grant LeMarquand,
8:15-8:40 AM Introductory Remarks and Prayer
Jeff Greenman and Grant LeMarquand8:40-9:25 AM Knowing Jesus: Story, History, and the Question of Truth
Richard Hays 9:30-10:15 AM The Gospel of John Meets Jesus and the Victory of God
Marianne Meye Thompson10:30-11:15 AM Chapel
N.T. Wright

Session 2 - Moderated by Grant LeMarquand,
1:00-1:45 PM 'Outside of a Small Circle of Friends': Jesus and the Justice of God
Brian W…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 2:1-10

1 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. 6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, w…

McKnight Vs. Wright on the Historical Jesus Explored

The cover article of this month's Christianity Today deals with the question of the historical Jesus. Can we know him and should we try? Scot McKnight takes the line that we can't and we shouldn't. McKnight's main concern seems to be that what historical Jesus studies end up doing is creating a fifth gospel, which selectively draws upon and trumps the four canonical ones. The strong danger is that the historian creates Jesus in their own image. They find precisely the pieces they like to be the authentic ones and the ones they don't like to be inauthentic. The canonical gospels get relegated to a role of less authority, as what really matters is what happened in history. McKnight, correctly sees that this is a major mistake, since the canonical gospels are, after all, the word of God and our scholarly reconstructions aren't.

Another issue that McKnight brings up that's very important follows Dale Allison in, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, w…


As some of you may know, I'm a die hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. Today is a sad day for the franchise. Donovan McNabb has been traded to Washington. There goes any shot at winning a Super Bowl in the next three years. In the NFL you need to win now. McNabb was unquestionably their best shot at winning now. They have the other pieces on offense with McCoy, Jackson, Celek, and Maclin. All they had to do was improve the defense and they were set. Now, the best they can be this year is 8-8. I wouldn't be surprised if they had a losing record. Even if Kolb turns out to be a good quarterback, he will struggle this year. When the other pieces are in place you don't rebuild. To quote John Clayton:

"As for the Eagles, who were 11-5 last season, the pressure falls on the unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb," writes Clayton. "With this being his first year as the full-time starter, we can expect a two- or three-win drop in the Eagles' record because first-year starters …

The Wonderful Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all