John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) interviewed my friend and mentor, Donald Hagner, on various issues related to New Testament history. The interview has been chopped up into smaller bits each aroundÂ 4 toÂ 8 minutes long.
The interviewer was well prepared and asked excellent questions. He interacted with Donâ€™s areas of expertise (theÂ rabbinic modelÂ of oral tradition, the Gospel of Matthew, the apostolic fathers) andÂ proposed questions that gave him an opportunity to answer commonÂ skepticalÂ objections toÂ the historicity of Jesus and the Gospels.
It will be evident, as you watch the interview, that Don does notÂ subscribe toÂ a doctrine of inerrancy such as that enshrined in the Chicago Statement. And yet he adopts a believing posture toward the New Testament as historically reliable and apostolic in origin.
First Things has published a thoughtful article by Peter Leithart regarding missions and culture. I encourage everyone interested in understanding how missions should be done in light of various cultures to read this article. It addresses the issue of compromise and the gospel and much more. Enjoy!
Time was when Christian missions occurred â€œover there.â€ Every now and then, the missionary would show up at church dressed like a time traveler, to show slides of exotic places and to enchant the stay-at-homes with tales about the strange diet and customs of the natives. Foreign missions still happen, but that model seems like ancient history. With the new immigration and the increased ease of travel and communication, the mission field has moved into the neighborhood, and every church that has its eyes open is asking every day how to do â€œforeign missions.â€
That poses a problem. Missions has always been the place where the bookish question of â€œChrist and cultureâ€ turns practical. Now, at the same time that missions has become a challenge â€œright here,â€ multiculturalists question the very legitimacy of missions. Since the gospel always comes clothed in culture, how, on the premises of multiculturalism, can missionary work be anything but a veiled form of cultural imperialism? From Chinua Achebeâ€™s Things Fall Apart to Barbara Kingsolverâ€™s Poisonwood Bible, missionaries are depicted as tools of Western hegemony. But, if weâ€™re all missionaries now, are we all cooperating in genocide?
Under the regime of multiculturalism, mission efforts face a cruel dilemma. Either missionaries can preach an uncompromising gospel that will cause everything to fall apart, or they can soft pedal the gospel of Godâ€™s judgment and grace in order to permit non-Christian cultures to survive. But is the situation as dire as this? Does the Bible perhaps offer a model for re-conceiving the question in a way that avoids the unhappy choice between compromise and cultural cataclysm?
N.T. Wright: â€œWhen Paul talks about â€œthe gospel,â€ he means â€œthe good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and therefore the Lord of the world.â€ Now, thatâ€™s about as brief as you can do itâ€ (Interview with Trevin Wax).
Martin Luther: â€œThe gospel is a story about Christ, Godâ€™s and Davidâ€™s son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshellâ€ (Martin Lutherâ€™s Basic Theological Writings).
Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents view
You seem to be most closely aligned with the Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents view, a view defended by Darrell L. Bock in the book â€œThree Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testamentâ€ (edited by Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde, Nov. 2008). This view affirms the singular nature of the meanings intended by the OT and NT authors when OT texts are cited in the NT. In spite of this essential unity in meaning, however, the words of the OT authors frequently take on new dimensions of significance and are found to apply appropriately to new referents and new situations as Godâ€™s purposes unfold in the larger canonical context. Often, these referents were not in the minds of the OT authors when they penned their texts. For more info, see the book, or attend a special session devoted to the topic at the ETS Annual Meeting in Providence, RI (Nov. 2008); Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Darrell L. Bock, and Peter Enns will all present their views.
You have probably seen by now one of the ads for Bill Maherâ€™s new documentary â€œReligulous.â€ If you havenâ€™t seen it, itâ€™s a movie that was produced for the expressed purpose of denigrating religion. The fundamental point seems to be that having faith in any religion is ridiculousâ€”thus â€œReligulous.â€ In the trailer for the movie, the following exchange takes place between Maher and a person dressed up like Jesus.
Maher: Why doesnâ€™t [God] just obliterate the devil and therefore get rid of evil in the world?
Jesus Impersonator: He will.
Maher: He will?
Jesus Impersonator: Thatâ€™s correct.
Maher: Whatâ€™s he waiting for?
The whole point of the exchange is to show how ridiculous it is that the Christian God will not do anything about evil in the world even though Heâ€™s supposed to be both good and all-powerful. Even though itâ€™s delivered with sarcastic humor, Maher is asking a serious question. At bottom the exchange is really about the classical question of theodicy, and the whole thing is framed in a way to discredit the Christian faith.
In a recent blog post, John Piper answers Maherâ€™s question, though he doesnâ€™t mention Maherâ€™s name. Nevertheless, the title of Piperâ€™s essay reads like an allusion to â€œReligulousâ€: â€œWhy not destroy the devil now?â€ Piper gives an answer that is (as you might expect) grounded in Godâ€™s passion for His own glory. God is most glorified by allowing Satan to remain for a time. He writes:
â€œThe glory of Christ is seen in his absolute right and power to annihilate or incapacitate Satan and all demons. But the reason he refrains from destroying and disabling them altogether is to manifest more clearly his superior beauty and worth. If Christ obliterated all devils and demons now (which he could do), his sheer power would be seen as glorious, but his superior beauty and worth would not shine as brightly as when humans renounce the promises of Satan and take pleasure in the greater glory of Christ.â€
Maherâ€™s question deserved a serious answer, and I am grateful that Piper took the time to write one. You should read the rest.
For Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) â€˜the doctrine of the covenant is of the greatest importance.â€™ Behind the temporal covenants of works and grace stands the pretemporal pactum salutis (counsel of peace/covenant of redemption). The pactum salutis is an intratrinitarian covenant between the Father, Son and Spirit that provides the eternal, inviolable foundation for the temporal covenant of grace (foedus gratiae). The Reformed orthodox in particular, since the sixteenth century, used the pactum salutis as an argument for the ad intra trinitarian grounding for the ad extra work of salvation. Thus, soteriology is decidedly trinitarian, that is, â€˜salvation is an undertaking of the one God in three persons in which all cooperate and each one performs a special task.â€™ Consequently, this doctrine is the starting-point for any Christological discussion of the person and work of the Mediator, Jesus Christ.
In defending and giving expression to the pactum salutis, Bavinck is conscious that this doctrine has a fairly long and illustrious history among Reformed covenant theologians. And though this doctrine is â€˜rooted in a scriptural ideaâ€™, Bavinck suggests that not a few of the Reformed were guilty of â€˜scholastic subtletyâ€™ by quoting various Scriptural passages (e.g. Zech. 6:13, translated by the Latin Vulgate as consilium pacis) that did not have reference to the pactum salutis. Thus, while clearly appreciative of his Reformed heritage, Bavinck is not uncritical of various formulations of the pactum salutis.
In order to understand why Bavinck gives such prominence to the pactum salutis, something of this doctrineâ€™s history must be understood, which will show, among other things, that his theology reflects the broad parameters and concerns of the Reformed interpretive tradition.
As America has seen fit to usher in a man who will act in the ways that will destroy the foundations of this country’s constitution, the rights of individuals and states, and the freedoms that we have enjoyed for so many years… I cannot help but look to God in Jesus Christ for my only hope and joy and comfort!
God’s judgment is being revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness of mankind through the election of Barack Obama as President of the United Stated of America. America and the Church in America will receive the judgment that God sees fit to bring upon it in the coming months and years. Freedoms will be reduced and Government will seek to grow bigger and make more and more people dependent upon it. We can only hope that people will feel in their hearts that freedom and liberty are more important than peace and safety “at all costs.”
May God have mercy upon this country and may God glorify Himself and show forth the rule of Jesus Christ over all powers and principalities that seek to make themselves greater than He.
Thankfully, this is a day of change that will work against the glory of America and work for the glory of God in Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,
Impassibility comes into our language as translation of the Greek word apatheia in the writings of Church fathers, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Apatheia, despite the obvious etymological connection with apathy and apathetic in modern English, (Pelikan) started out as meaning “the state of an apathes” (alpha privative, plus pathos) without pathos or suffering” (Liddell and Scott Lexicon). Among the Greek Fathers pathos or passion was the right word for the suffering of Christ, as it still is. So in theology to be impassible means primarily to be incapable of suffering. Early theology affirmed that in heaven our resurrected bodies will be pathes in this sense. The word came to be extended to mean incapable of emotion of any kind and beyond that, apathes (impassible) in important theological discourse meant without sexual desire (Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, chap. xxxv, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,” edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 1910, ii, 5, pp. 502-504). As applied to God, incapacity for any emotions sometimes is meant. We will return to this. The twelfth canon of the Second Council of Constantinople (553, Fifth Ecumenical) seems to say Christ on earth was impassible in the sense of “longings (passions, presumably sexual) of the flesh” (Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. R. J. Deferrari, Hersler Book Co., 1954, 224).
In this paper I am interested mainly in the question of whether or not the divine nature is capable of emotion, including, in a secondary way, the experience of suffering.
It was a life-changing revelation to me when I discovered that Paul, for example, did not merely make a collection of divine pronouncements, but that he argued. This meant, for me, a whole new approach to Bible reading. No longer did I just read or memorize verses. I sought also to understand and memorize arguments. This involved finding the main point of each literary unit and then seeing how each proposition fit together to unfold and support the main point. (Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Texts, pg. 18, my emphasis)