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Category Archives: Theology

Sound Exegesis: It Does The Body Good

No purportedly biblical position on any issue is served by sloppy exegesis. Especially when the exegete implies, or downright states, that the possible interpretation he or she proposes is, in fact, the only possible interpretation.

Thus, I commend to you Ian Paul’s “Did Jesus Heal the Centurion’s Gay Lover?” (Spoiler: Maybe, but even if he did, it doesn’t mean what some people want it to mean.)

Twelve Affirmations about the Bible

John Pavlovitz, “5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit about the Bible

Michael Byrd, “7 Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible

What Is the Gospel?

Here is a “TED-style talk” by Michael Bird on recognizing the true gospel.

Sanders Explains Sanders

Not Bernie, but Ed. Here’s a great summary of what E. P. Sanders considered the gist of his monumental Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Astute Bible readers—and students from my CHR 150 classes—will know that this book was a watershed in the history of Pauline research: a study with which one must be acquainted.

I shall now give a summary of the principal arguments, beginning with a negative point:

(1) The book is not about the sources of Paul’s thought. I granted that many or most topics in Paul could be paralleled in Jewish literature, but I was not pursuing an argument about where Paul got his ideas. Failure to note this point has misled several readers, some of whom have criticized me for using Jewish material later than Paul, while some have even imagined that in proposing that Paul had a different “pattern of religion” I meant that he had no connection with Judaism.

(2) In most of Palestinian literature, the “pattern” of “getting in and staying in” is simple: one is in by virtue of the election (or covenant); one stays in by remaining loyal to the Jewish law. These two basic convictions gave rise to the term covenantal nomism.”

(3) In Paul, all are “out” of the people of God and may enter only by faith in Christ.

(4) The two sets of terminology summarized by the phrases “being justified [righteoused] by faith” and “becom ing one person with Christ” essentially mean the same thing: these are the terms that indicate entry into the people of God: one “dies” with Christ or is righteoused by faith and thus transfers into the in-group.

(5) Once in, the member of the body of Christ should behave appropriately. In detail, this usually means the adoption of Jewish rules of ethics and other forms of behavior.

(6) In both Judaism and Paul, people in the in-group are punished rewarded depending on how well they adhere to the standards. Punishment and reward, however, are not “salvation”; people are saved, rather, by being in the in-group, and punishment is construed as keeping them in (as in 1 Cor 11:27-32).

(7) Paul does not accept the adequacy of the Jewish election for getting in; he begins the process of a theological rupture with Judaism by requiring faith in Christ.

(8) Formally, Paul sometimes accepts the whole law,” but it turns out that his Gentile converts do not actually have to keep all parts of the Jewish law, and that sometimes even Jewish Christians should depart from Jewish practice (as in the case of Peter in Antioch).

(9) Consequently, Paul’s “pattern” of religion is not the same as “covenantal nomism.” The efficacy of the election is rejected, and the law is accepted with qualifications.

(10) Paul’s pattern is, however, like covenantal nomism in that admission depends on the grace of God, while behavior is the responsibility of the individual—who, of course, is supported in his or her efforts by God’s love and mercy.

(11) Since one gets in by dying with Christ, and since Pauls outlook is strongly eschatological, I dubbed his pattern “participationist eschatology,” though “eschatological participationism” might have been better.

(H/T: Jesus Creed)

Jesus Our Brother

I don’t know what Oprah said, and I don’t especially care. But I do appreciate Scot McKnight’s defense of the propriety (theologically, biblically, and pastorally) of conceiving of Jesus as “Brother.”

But I would like to defend the importance of seeing Jesus as Brother, even if “Brother” is not a sufficient or adequate christology.

First, she was a young child when she said this and was coming to terms with relations and faith. Children think things like this. I found her sentiments entirely appropriate for a child and the way we would want our children to think.

Second, she thought like this because she didn’t have a father in her life and that’s where pastoral theology enters. We should see in her statements something about how God steps in our lives, in part, to fill up what is lacking.

Third, in the Bible and in the history of the church many have found a theological anchor in Brother-hood with Jesus as a place from which we can pursue some themes. To call Jesus brother is to acknowledge his humanity not to deny his deity; if one think he’s only a brother, then brother is inadequate. But his fellowship with us, his “friendship” with us (Luke 12:4), can be legitimately called brotherhood at some level.

The Orthodox Jew Who’s Staged to Revolutionize Evolutionary Theory

Fascinating article from Meghan Walsh at Ozy.com:

So what does God have to do with all this? In his quest for answers, [physicist Jeremy] England, of course, finds himself at the center of the classic struggle between science and spirituality. While Christianity and Darwinism are generally opposed, Judaism doesn’t take issue with the science of life. The Rabbinical Council of America even takes the stance that “evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator.”

For his part, England believes science can give us explanations and predictions, but it can never tell us what we should do with that information. That’s where, he says, the religious teachings come in. Indeed, the man who’s one-upping Darwin has spent the past 10 years painstakingly combing through the Torah, interpreting it word by word much the way he ponders the meaning of life. His conclusion? Common translations are lacking. Take the term “creation.” England suggests we understand it not as the literal making of the Earth but rather as giving Earth a name. All throughout the Bible, he says, there are examples of terms that could be interpreted differently from what we’ve come to accept as standard.

Historical Criticism and Christian Truth Are Not Enemies, Nor Can They Be

So says Peter Enns, with an assist from German Alttestamentler Konrad Schmid. There’s much to digest here, but let me whet your appetite with Enns’s conclusion:

The bottom line for me is and has always been: the truly historical study of scripture, one that is not dictated by and asked to “serve” theology, will inevitably be in tension with that theology. And that tension must be critically respected rather than cut off or neutralized.

Historically speaking, the Bible we have presents us with some very serious challenges. Good theology will accept the challenge and understand that simple answers are often wrong and that sometimes, whether we are comfortable with it or not, resolutions will elude us.

Good stuff!