The Word of God

In this post, I begin to look through the new book Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God by Timothy Ward. Ward’s self-proclaimed task is:

I want to articulate, explain and defend what we are really saying when we proclaim, as we must, that the Bible is God’s Word. In particular, this is how I want to go about this: I am attempting to describe the nature of the relationship between God and Scripture” (11).

Ward categorizes his volume as an “outline,” offering three main “components: First, a biblical outline – a low-flying biblical analysis of the Bible’s own self-description. Second, Ward claims to draw this together into a “theological outline of Scripture in its relationship with God, focusing on Scripture’s role in relationship with each of the persons of the Trinity” (13). Ward warns that evangelicals have treated Scripture as internally unrelated to the doctrines of the Christian faith, and must be located theologically (most specifically in relation to the missions of the Son and Spirit) to remedy that error. Lastly, Ward looks at a doctrinal outline of Scripture, looking at issues of necessity, sufficiency, clarity and authority.

Ward notes four theologians he consistently works his material through (an interesting rhetorical move I suppose): John Calvin, Francis Turretin, B.B. Warfield, and Herman Bavinck. In other words, if you don’t like his view, you evidently just don’t like the Reformed! Continue reading

Apocalypse and Ecclesia – 2008 TF Torrance Lectures in Aberdeen

A couple weeks ago Joseph Mangina gave the T.F. Torrance Lectures here in Aberdeen (details here). Mangina is both an mangina_000accomplished scholar and – gratefully – an engaging presenter. The main purpose of his lectures was to pursue the following question: What would it mean to view the church in light of the Apocalypse? In keeping with the apocalyptic angle, his lectures took the form of ‘notes on scripture’ and followed the text of revelation as a form of theological interpretation of scripture (he has a revelation commentary in the Brazos series coming out in 2009).

While our remarks certainly won’t be comprehensive of Mangina’s lectures, a couple things stood out to us:

Divine Agency - Related to his reflections on the theological interpretation of Scripture and to the nature of the book of Revelation – as the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ – Mangina’s lectures consistently registered the importance of divine agency for a theological account of the church. Mangina contended that the genitive related to Jesus in Revelation 1:1 (‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’) must be read here both as subjective and objective – Jesus is the author and the content of revelation. In turn, this impacts the way the church should read the later ‘scary bits’ in the book of Revelation related to judgment and tribulation. In reading the Revelation, then, ‘It means first’ Mangina explained, ‘that we are dealing with and beholding Jesus and secondarily (only) are we dealing with the prophetic contents of the book.’ Specifically concerning the political implications that could be drawn from Revelation, when Jesus is properly seen as the object and subject of the Revelation, ‘it provokes a horizon of divine action that does not take human politics seriously.’

Concerning the former (theological interpretation of Scripture) he said,

To read scripture theologically is to read it ecclesially, which is to read it typologically. This starts with the assumption that God is the primary author of scripture and most specifically the Spirit and that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ.

Continue reading

Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Daniel Treier. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice (Baker Academic, 2008), 221pp. [review copy courtesy of Baker Academic]

Daniel Treier’s Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice is a timely and largely helpful introduction of the growing, diverse movement to recover a distinctively theological interpretation of Scripture broadly known as ‘theological interpretation’ or ‘theological hermeneutics’.

As a mapping exercise, the book provides a useful orientation to the movement’s dominant trajectories, prominent figures, and to the issues most pressing for evangelicals (e.g. preoccupation with authorial intent).

Because Treier’s primary aims are introduction and mapping, his own constructive proposals for theological interpretation are mostly downplayed. However, in those moments when he transitions from exposition to argument, we get tantalizing glimpses of what will hopefully occupy his full attention in subsequent works. For example, with his evangelical readers in mind, Treier searches for a middle ground between ‘reader-response’ approaches and what sometimes appears to be a complete disregard for the ‘reader’ in evangelical hermeneutics. Following a close reading of Gadamer and some discussion of the appropriateness of the evangelical rejection of relativism, Treier makes a measured argument for ‘interpretive plurality’. ‘One gets the idea’ Treier remarks,

that we would have no need for interpretation in an ideal world. But in some respects diversity is a creational and pentecostal reality: Continue reading

“Deconstructing” Theodicy—the Surprising Utility of Profound Disillusionment

A guest post by Jim Reitman

“Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.” -Alfred Lord Tennyson

Perhaps the hardest interpretive “pill” to swallow in the history of interpretation of Job has been the apparent contradiction between Job’s steadfast faith and God’s blistering sarcasm when He finally appears to confront Job (Job 38-41). Even after Job seemingly bows in deference to God’s challenge (40:4-5), God never explains his suffering and only escalates the irony and sarcasm in his reply (40:6-41:34). What’s up with that?

Let’s look more closely. The KJV “Behold, I am vile” (40:4) misconstrues the Hebrew-the word translated “vile” is best rendered “insignificant,” and we finally get our needed insight into YHWH’s scathing rhetoric: God has just painstakingly informed Job of His intricate design and care in all Creation, placing man in an exalted position of dominion (Job 38-39, cf. Psalm 8). Accordingly, Job’s retort “Behold, I am insignificant” (40:4) amounts to a bold denial of God’s creative/redemptive character; Job still maintains that God has unfairly confiscated his entire estate as he has contended since Job 29-31. Job’s apparent humble submission is thereby unmasked as obstinate pride.

If we think God’s scathing sarcasm is unfair leverage on Job Continue reading

Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future

Mark Husbands & Jeffrey Greeman eds. Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future. Downers Grove: IVP, 2008. 271pp., $21.86.

The later years of the twentieth century saw evangelical theology beginning to remember the importance of the church’s tradition and, in doing so, to engage in its own form of ressourcement theology (La nouvelle théologie). As Husbands contends,

[I]t is evident that if contemporary evangelical theology aspires to help the church engage the contemporary world in a faithful and persuasive fashion, it would do well to recover the best conversation partners is can find, even if this means reaching back a thousand years or more…Standing in the shadow of Lubac, we believe that Christianity cannot meet the challenges of modernity and postmodernity without returning to the tradition of the early church (p. 12).

In light of this trend, the 2007 Wheaton Theology Conference sought to demonstrate the “viability and promise of engagement with the early church”, and the present volume contains the papers from that meeting.

Rationale and Attendant Challenges

The book is divided into four parts. Part one explores the underlying rationale and attendant challenges of an evangelical ressourcement theology. The essays by Christopher Hall and D.H. Williams are particularly good. Hall’s piece, the keynote address for the conference, argues that the bible must be read with the church fathers based on the substantial difference between the doctrine of sola scriptura and, what he considers, a common “yet confused” appeal to nuda Scriptura,“a view of the Bible in which no ecclesial context is thought to bear on the meaning of the text”. Aware that evangelicals are susceptible to an overly romantic reading of the church fathers, Continue reading

Asking Jesus into your Heart??

Why do many Christians say, “Ask Jesus into your heart”?

I understand what this refers to, a relationship with God through Christ, but find it curious that non-biblical and potentially misleading language is the most important language for evangelism among many evangelical Christians. In a recent blog post, Klyne Snodgrass reminds us that neither Jesus nor the other New Testament writers come even close to saying, “Invite Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven.” He continues,

Paul rarely speaks of Christ in us-at most six times, but at least 164 times he has the Greek expression en Christō or its equivalent, which can express a variety of ideas. Clearly though, being in Christ is a much more powerful image than Christ being in us. Faith is not merely a mental activity. As Sanday and Headlam’s old ICC commentary on Romans put it, faith involves “enthusiastic adhesion” (p. 34). Faith is that which attaches you to Jesus. Nothing less is saving faith.

John’s language focuses too on attachment to Jesus. While he speaks both of Christ being in us and our being in him, he expresses both ideas with the word menein, “to remain.” Christians are people so attached to Jesus that he remains in them and they remain in him. (emphasis mine)

Assuming Snodgrass is right (and I think he is), how could we speak about life with God in ways more disciplined by the Scriptures – ways other than “Ask Jesus into your heart”? For the purpose of this discussion, let’s focus the issue specifically on children for three reasons. Continue reading

On Reading Scripture & Wisdom

What does wisdom have to do with reading Scripture?

Here at Theology Forum, we believe the ability to read and engage theological texts in a judicial and irenic (peaceable) spirit is something to be cultivated. Far too often it seems, readings are done polemically or in ways that harm the Christian community. So, toward opening up irenic discussion and cultivating the theological craft of inquiring honesty and deliberating wisely we are starting a new series.

We will post selections from various theologians from across the spectrum, suggest some questions, and invite your interaction. The goal here is not necessarily critique, but careful reading, irenic dialogue, and the fostering of good theological habits.

‘The specifically theological character of the rereading [of scripture] lies in it being done before david-ford.jpgGod, in relationship with God, seeking in the Spirit to follow the purposes of God in the world and finding in scriptures inspired testimony to what all of that involves. If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” then wisdom interpretation of scripture is done primarily with respect to and for God. The most important thing is to learn to read and reread for the sake of God and the Kingdom of God. This sort of reading is not just a skill to be mastered; it is inseparable from learning to love God, neighbours and enemies, and from transformations of life as well as mind (p. 68)’

- What is the relationship between the (re)reader of Scripture and God? Does this matter? Why?

- How are the activities of the (re)reader and God portrayed? Does one receive more emphasis than the other?

- What can Ford teach us about our reading the Scriptures- individually or corporately?