IVP Academic will soon (April 24th) publish a new volume on retrieving the Kuyperian tradition by Craig Bartholomew, H. Evan Professor of Philosophy and Religion & Theology at Redeemer University College. Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction aims to identify “the key themes and ideas that define this tradition, including worldview, sphere sovereignty, creation and redemption, the public square, and mission. He also goes beyond Kuyper to show how later thinkers developed these ideas,” including Bavinck, Dooyewerd, and Berkouwer (from the back cover).
I just received word from Wipf and Stock that my book is now available in Kindle format. I neglected to change my Greek fonts when it was published in print, which is why there’s been a delay with the electronic format. Thankfully I had some time to comb through it last week and get the correct fonts in the manuscript. For those of you who enjoy reading on the digital screen rather than the printed page, you can order the Kindle edition here.
I just sent in a review of David DeSilva’s recent book, The Letter to the Hebrews in Social Scientific Perspective (Cascade Companions; Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012). As the title indicates, it is a social scientific study of Hebrews. In the review I articulated my concern with some fundamental assumptions with this approach to biblical studies, which I’ve reproduced below.
(If anyone knows if quoting my own review on my own blog is copyright infringement, please let me know. I’ll adjust accordingly. I also plan on updating this post with the relevant bibliographic info if/when the review is published.)
. . . the issue is with the broader tendency in biblical studies to make a sharp distinction between what it meant and what it means (xii) and therefore to place the onus of interpretation on reconstructing historical background, from author to audience to cultural influence, rather than on the text itself.
The issue here lies primarily in the idea that the intended audience of the biblical books, and even more conspicuously, the biblical canon, is almost completely focused on first century readers. But this, both for non-believing interpreters and for confessional Christians, is not the case; the biblical authors frequently mention other readers besides the community to which the letter is originally addressed, and, for confessional Christians, the Bible is not only a collection of historical documents but also and foundationally the Word of God for the people of God. That is, it is the Word of God for all Christians, near to the original context and far from it. To thus locate the interpretive crux on reconstructing the context of the original audience seems at best to dichotomize falsely the book’s readership between original readers and future readers; this is neither authors’ intent, human or divine.
Furthermore, this exacerbation of the importance of historical reconstruction often yields little actual benefits. Ironically, this is nowhere a more acute problem than with Hebrews; we are left in the dark, or at least in the twilight, on both authorship and audience. DeSilva cannot escape this despite his best efforts, and is left to generalizations that are of little assistance. So, for instance, on the question of audience, even after a detailed discussion of its makeup, DeSilva is left to this innocuous conclusion: “In all probability, the community was probably composed from a wide range of social strata . . .” (37). Additionally, this approach tends towards valuing cultural background over Old Testament background, and DeSilva does not escape this. A mere page after listing the litany of OT books upon which Hebrews’ author draws (10), DeSilva makes the altogether puzzling comment that Heb. 12:5–6 is much more dependent on Seneca than it is on Prov. 3:11–12, the passage that is directly quoted (11). This sort of baffling retreat to cultural background over explicit OT quotations and allusions is frequent throughout the book, and is symptomatic, in this reviewer’s opinion, of this type of approach to biblical interpretation.
This is not to deny the validity of studying the cultural milieu of the biblical books, or even the fact that at times this study may provide valid insights, but rather to say that I think modern biblical studies overemphasizes it to an unhelpful degree.
Well maybe you live under a rock and don’t know this yet, but NT WRIGHT IS PUBLISHING A BOOK ON PAUL. AND IN IT HE WILL DISCUSS JUSTIFICATION.
I think people’s brains might explode over this, either because of the length of the book or because we’re going to have to re-hash the “justification as declaration” vs. “justification as action” argument for what must be the upteenth time.
Anyway (don’t ever use that transition in a paper, kids), Mike Bird has thrown us all into the deep end with this tantalizing quote from Paul and the Faithfulness of God:
[E]ven though Romans 3.21–31 is part of the same flow of argument as Romans 5—8, and Galatians 2.15–21 is part of the same flow of argument as Galatians 4—6, and even though these two larger arguments do develop a view of the spirit’s work in the transformation of character which can properly be seen both as virtue and as theōsis, this does not take away from the fact that when Paul speaks of initial justification by faith he means it as a very particular, specific claim. This ‘justification’ means that, ahead of any transformation of character other than the bare, initial pistis whose whole nature character is by definition to look helplessly away from itself and gratefully towards the saving work of the Messiah, this person is welcomed into the family on the basis of that confession of faith and nothing else. The inaugurated-eschatological assurance which this welcome provides is thus both forensic (the verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the present will be repeated in the future) and covenantal (full membership in Abraham’s family is granted at once and will be reaffirmed in the resurrection). The two dimensions join up in practical ecclesiology: the mutual welcome which Paul urges in Romans 14 and 15 is the concrete, bodily form which ‘forgiveness’ is supposed to take in the present time.
Bird then asks whether this will assuage Reformed-ish folk and if Wright seems to regard justification as both social and soteric.
I’ll venture a few thoughts:
1) Although the “forensic” language in the quote certainly seems to be a step towards his critics, in that it may suggest that NTW acknowledges that justification has an inherently soteriological significance, it still does not address what, in my opinion, is the crux of the issue. In Justification, as well as in various places in his other works, Wright argues that justification is not a legal action by God on a person that places them in his kingdom, but instead a declaration by God about their continuing status as part of his covenant people. It is, in other words, purely declarative act according to Wright, instead of what has historically been understood as a transformative and saving act. Nothing in the above quote suggests that Wright has shifted on this understanding, and of course nothing suggests that he hasn’t shifted.
2) That brings us to the second point – this quote has no context whatsoever. So, kudos to Mike Bird for getting us talking already.
One thing is certain; the blogosphere is going to explode once we all get a chance to work through PFG.
- Beyond Christian Folk Religion: Re-Grafting Into Our Roots (Romans 11:17-23) by Edward A. Beckstrom
- Impeccable Solomon? A Study of Solomon’s Faults in Chronicles by Yong Ho Jeon
- Rereading the Biblical Text: Searching for Meaning and Understanding by Claude F. Mariottini
- Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3 by Richard E. Oster, Jr.
- A Transformative Reading of the Bible: Explorations of Holistic Human Transformation by Yung Suk Kim
Thanks to Cliff Kvidahl for the head’s up.
For the 3 of you that are interested, my book is now available on Amazon.
Here’s the book description:
In Christ and the New Creation, Matthew Emerson takes a fresh approach to understanding New Testament theology by using a canonical methodology. Although typically confined to Old Testament theology, Emerson sees fruitfulness in applying this method to New Testament theology as well. Instead of a thematic or book-by-book analysis, Emerson attempts to trace the primary theological message of the New Testament through paying attention to its narrative and canonical shape. He concludes that the order of the books of the New Testament emphasize the story of Christ’s inauguration, commissioning, and consummation of the new creation.
Union with Christ is without a doubt a significant aspect of Pauline theology. Over at Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta reviews Con Cambell’s highly anticipated work Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Zondervan, 2012).
Click here to read his review.
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus is the first commentary from the Christ-Centered Commentary Series is now for sale on Amazon. It looks like this volume is written by the series editors David Platt, Danny Akin, and Tony Merida. This commentary series niche is to take large key verses within large chunks of texts and show how they apply to Christ. If you are looking for a commentary that gives you big-picture, Christological landscapes of whole books give this series your attention.
I could not be more excited about this book. Schreiner is an excellent biblical theologian, and *finally* we are seeing a bit more production in the area of whole Bible biblical theologies. I also am excited to see his organization of the book around God, his people, and the land.
The volume is slated for publication in June 2013 by Baker Academic.