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Paul's Argument in Galatians 6:11-18

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
In his conclusion to the Galatians Paul takes up the pen in his own hand, not so much to underscore authenticity as to draw attentio…

Movies of the Year: 2011

I've started watching more movies over the past year, so I thought that I might put together my list of movies of the year. Much like my books of the year post it's a list of the best movies I watched this year, regardless of release date.

5. A Serious Man
This Coen brothers' film definitely has a niche audience, but I have to agree with some of the critics who thought that this movie was better than No Country for Old Men. It weaves together popular wisdom and biblical themes into a rich tapestry on which to explore the question of suffering.

4. The Silence of the Lambs

I do not like horror movies, but this movie and Hopkins performance are as good as advertised.

3. Sucker Punch

This may be the most misunderstood film in a long long time. Not only does it not suck, like it's critics claimed, but it's a phenomenal film and brilliantly told if you'll take the time to dig your teeth into it after you're done watching it. See my review and defense of the film her…

Books of the Year: 2011

This was the first full year of my daughter's life. Probably unsurprisingly, it also was probably the year I read the least. I still read enough quality, though, to have what I view as a strong list. As always, the rule here is that I must have read (finished) the book in 2011 and have not finished it in a prior year.

5. Women in the Hebrew Bible ed. Alice Bach


This book is a collection of 'greatest hits' of feminist OT scholarship. It was a delight to read. Virtually every article was interesting even if not persuasive. One essay in particular stood out, 'Genesis 22: The Sacrifice of Sarah' by Phyllis Trible. It was one of the two best essays I read all year.

4. One.Life by Scot McKnight


Scot McKnight is one of those people who I consider a mentor through their writings. This is a great little book on discipleship for teenagers up through people in their early thirties. I was particularly impacted by the stories he told about his interactions with students. It gave …

Book Review: A Community Called Atonement

Last year I reviewedInhabiting the Cruciform God by Michael Gorman at great length. For as long as this blog is kept running, I want to do the same for one book each year. This year's review will be of A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight. If you have any requests for next year's book, leave me a comment and we can have further discussion.

It's important to read the prologue of this book. Here McKnight lays out his major goal, to which he constantly refers throughout the rest of the book. He likens our atonement theories and metaphors to golf clubs. When you play golf you need more than one club if you're going to be successful, and the Bible uses more than one image to describe the atonement. We need to find a golf bag in which we can fit all of our atonement clubs and we need to know what the purpose of each club in that bag is (xiii). In the following pages, McKnight lays just that out.

McKnight begins with the claim that the atonement is the good news of t…

Correcting Erring Saints, In Canonical Context

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do …

Galatians winding down, next up?

There's now one section left to cover in Galatians to finish up the letter. A while back I had mentioned that I would be tackling John next. Well plans have changed. I've decided that I want to start a long term research project that you'll probably read a lot more about in the future on this blog (if you keep reading it of course). The next book up will be Song of Songs.

I'm just starting a study sexual ethics, particularly focusing on the relationships between sex, identity, and power. This will probably be a long study that will take years if the Lord gives me the energy and desire to see it to completion. To start I'll have a dual focus. First will be to look at how the Bible gives positive shape to our understanding of sex, sexual ethics, and sexual identity. Song of Songs becomes an obvious starting point here. The second starting point will be to seek to gain a better understanding of gender in the Bible. How 'gendered' are the biblical texts and how…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 6:1-10

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do …

Top 10 Burger Toppings

Long time readers of this blog will remember some of my prior top 10 lists. I'm going to try to bring them back, but rather than doing them monthly, I'll aim for quarterly. This quarter's top 10 list is the top 10 burger toppings. In the past the lists have been the compiled results of one to three of my co-workers. This time around, because the topic was so important, I pooled together the responses of eight individuals (including myself) to make it so that one person's preferences don't skew the whole list.

10. Mustard (19 pts): When combined with the right other toppings mustard gives a burger some good zip. McDonald's has perfected the use of mustard on a burger.

9.Avocado (20 pts): Sliced avocado is a nice topping on high quality burgers. It's mild flavor doesn't draw attention away from the meat.

8. Pickles (23 pts): Pickles are a must have on all fast food burgers (and Chik-fil-a sandwiches).

7. Lettuce (24 pts): Lettuce (along with cheese) was the i…

Book Review: The Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Thanks to Zondervan for supplying me with a review copy and a slot in their blog tour.

Christian spirituality is an interesting topic to devote a dictionary to (and Zondervan isn't the first to do this). The church has historically pursued spirituality with intellectual vigor. Unfortunately, it seems to me that this is not the case as strongly as it was before. We have a bifurcation, spirituality as dissected in the academy and a pragmatic spirituality of the churches (at least in American low-church Evangelicalism). The goal of The Dictionary of Christian Spirituality is to provide an accessible resource that draws upon the rich spiritual history of the church as well as the advances in understanding that academic study of Scripture, theology, science, and other disciplines have brought.

The dictionary is split into two main parts. The first part contains thirty-four essays from four to seven pages in length covering major topics in Christian spirituality. These are wide ranging,…

Pannenberg on Risk, Community, and Spirituality

My review copy of the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality arrived in the mail Wednesday. I was flipping through it and the entry for Wolfhart Panneberg caught my eye. I'll quote a paragraph:

He recognized that those who seek to control their lives and to protect themselves from hurt inflicted by others or by the way the world works actually close themselves off from what God is seeking to do in their lives. Here Pannenberg built on the foundations laid by Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, and Karl Barth, a Reformed theologian. Living as we do in a dangerous world, Pannenberg discerned that safety, or at least the offer of safety, is a great temptation to compromise. However, it is only in "risking oneself outwards" toward the world, and ultimately toward God, that human beings find anything meaningful or worth living for. His writings help to frame the promise of Jesus, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it&q…

Book Review: The King Jesus Gospel

Thanks to Zondervan for a providing review copy and a spot in their blog tour.

For me, this summer has been a summer of reading Scot McKnight. I had the chance to read A Community Called Atonement (review forthcoming) and One.Life. Both of those were excellent books, so I was very excited to check out The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. McKnight is a professor at North Park University and blogs over at Jesus Creed. As both an eminent New Testament scholar, a teacher of undergrads at a Christian university, and a man deeply committed to the church he leads the short list of those qualified to address the most important question that the church faces: 'has the church gotten the gospel right?'

Before jumping into that question, McKnight begins by pointing out that we have a major problem in evangelicalism (this book isn't written solely to evangelicals, but as McKnight is an evangelical, much of it is attempting to correct common evangelical errors). It&#…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 5:13-26

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdo…

Scot McKnight on the Problem the Gospel Solves

But I would urge us to think much more deeply about the problem that the gospel resolved in light of our study so far. If the Story of Israel finds its completion in the Story of Jesus and if that is the gospel, we must find the problem within the contours of Israel's Story and not just in my needs in my story. We need to find the problem behind the solution Jesus offered. Jesus word for the solution is the kingdom, or, if we frame it as John did, eternal life (which, too, is more than personally living forever with God after we die). If kingdom is the solution, the problem was about the search for God's kingdom on earth and the problem was the absence of God's kingdom on earth. If eternal life is the solution, then the problem was death and the absence of God's abundant life and the worldliness of this world (The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited p. 137).  Review coming soon...

Revamping the Masters of Divinity Degree

Seminary is something that I think about a lot. In part because I've done some course work there (at TEDS). In part because several friends have completed seminary, are going through it now, hope to go, or hoped to go. It's a frustratingly long program. Brian LePort's post a few weeks back rekindled my thinking process to the point that I would like to propose what a Master of Divinity curriculum would look like if I were the one designing the program from scratch.

First, I think we can shorten the program a little bit, trimming it down to 78 credit hours. This makes it doable in three years or less for everybody who attends full time. This is largely done by reducing the number of electives, but also by applying some trimming in a couple of places (specifics below). Second, the curriculum hopefully would have a little bit of a liberal arts type of feel. Classes hopefully would be taught and designed to encourage pastors to be life long learners. The biggest challenge is t…

Galatians: Augustine on Fornication and Love

Augustine, commenting on the vice and virtue lists of Galatians 5:
He put fornication at the head of the carnal vices and love at the head of the spiritual virtues. Anyone who takes pains in the study of divine Scripture will be prompted will be prompted to inquire attentively to the rest. Fornication is love divorced from legitimate wedlock. It roves everywhere in search of an opportunity to fulfill its lust.Yet nothing is so rightly suited for spiritual procreation as the union of the Soul with God. The more firmly it adheres, the more blameless it is. Love is what enables it to cleave. Rightly then the opposite of fornication is love. It is he sole means by which chastity is observed (Galatians 85).
I haven't come across any other commentators so far (I've only looked at Longenecker, Dunn, and Martyn) discussing if there's a possible link between the heads of each of Paul's lists in Galatians 5, and I'm curious if there is. I've been wondering why the early…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 5:1-12

1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one …

More Thoughts on the Relationship Between Theology and History

In my last post I asked what the relationship between history and theology should look like. I have two brief points to further that discussion, and neither of them novel (sorry). First, our theology needs to be informed by historical exegesis as NT Wright among others has reminded us. In particular, the church has repeatedly fallen through the trap door of de-Judaizing the Bible. The story of the Bible is a thoroughly Jewish story (and even that's imprecise as it's several Jewish stories from across centuries) and is only understandable as a Jewish story. It also is the story of Israel. If we don't wrestle with those realities then our theology will be (at best) tangential to, rather than reflective upon the revelation of the speaking God we find in the Scriptures.

At the same time, I feel as if historians want to put everybody in a straight jacket. Theology (as Dale Allison points out) has to deal with far more than history or even historical exegesis. History plays a r…

Dale Allison on the Relationship Between History and Theology

I have just finished Dale Allison's latest book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. It is a great book and I'll hopefully write two or three posts reflecting on elements of it. First, I'd like to briefly discuss parts of the last three paragraphs of the book, as for me they were the most significant.
We should be grateful, then, that the so-called historical Jesus is only one of numerous theological resources, and far from the most important. Consider the present volume, which, if the author is any good at introspection, is much more the product of historical curiosity and professional habits of mind than of theological aspirations. Even if, let us say, a Christian reader is cheered by my case that Jesus had an exalted self-conception, christological reflection is much more than what the first-century Jesus is likely to have thought or said about himself. Would that it were so easy. Christology must wrestle with Paul, study the Cappadocians, engage moder…