Madison Pierce and Ched Spellman on Anonymous Authors and Audiences in the New Testament

This episode is a conversation with Drs. Madison Pierce of Western Theological Seminary and Ched Spellman of Cedarville University. We discuss the anonymous authorship and audience of Hebrews (7:50), the hermeneutical effect of anonymous authorship (24:26), the development of the canon and tradition (46:05), and more. Buy Madison’s and Ched’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, on the board of directors for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

My 5 Favorite Books of 2021

It’s become an annual tradition for me and many others to write a post like this. Check out my past lists: 2015 and 2016 lists at my old Patheos blog, and my 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 lists posted here at Biblical Reasoning.

In no particular order, here are my five (six! I cheated this year) favorite books that I read in 2021.

Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? by Thomas H. McCall

This is a classic example of a book I should’ve read years ago—it came out in 2010!—but just never had the chance to, aside from dabbling in a few chapters here and there. In my view, McCall represents the best of the “analytic theology” (AT) movement: the notably logically-rigorous flavor of AT, but rooted deeply in Scripture and the Christian tradition. His critique of eternal subordination of the Son, years before the 2016 debate, is particularly helpful and still relevant.

The Incarnate Lord by Thomas Joseph White

Another book I came a little late to, but am glad I did. Few people have White’s rare ability to engage some of the most theologically and philosophically complex issues with clarity and precision. In this book in particular, he tackles all of the major issues and questions that arise in Christology in general and Aquinas’s Christology in particular.

Faith, Hope, Love by Josef Pieper

After becoming somewhat bored of overwrought, pragmatic books on morality and ethics, I asked a few philosophy/ethics scholar-friends for recommendations. This book by Pieper was the near-unanimous recommendation. I was blown away by his simple, even doxological, approach to theological ethics, which has obviously been fostered over Pieper’s decades of personal reflection and practice.

On the Trinity by Hilary of Poitiers

I’m always reading the church fathers as part of my research, teaching, and personal interest, and it was my goal this year to read the entirety of Hilary’s work on the Trinity. “The Athanasius of the West” did not disappoint; his orthodox Trinitarian formulations are worked out in unique ways, and his framing around Exod. 3:14 is worth the price of admission.

Letters for the Church by Darian R. Lockett

Lockett is one of my favorite New Testament scholars (and all-around human beings). His broader scholarship contributes to two broadly under-appreciated fields: canon and the Catholic/General Epistles. Those two expertises combine into an excellent, accessible volume on the major theological and canonical issues in interpreting these epistles.

The Same God Who Works All Things by Adonis Vidu

Vidu’s work is truly a monumental addition to the field of Trinitarian theology. Simply put, inseparable operations are a crucial piece of the Trinitarian puzzle, and Vidu’s is the first full-scale work done on the doctrine in recent memory. This book has a great combination of exegetical insights, theological imagination, and historical sensitivity.

Thomas Schreiner on Pauline Debates, Parenting, and Being a Hipster

Our debut episode is a conversation with Dr. Tom Schreiner of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We discuss parenting (3:50), becoming a scholar (6:30), the development of Pauline scholarship over the past 30 years (8:30), favorite books on Revelation (29:40), what complementarians get right and wrong (35:40), and more. Buy Tom’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by B&H Academic and the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Is God Going to Go All Death Star on the Earth When Jesus Returns?

Via Google Images

A common view I often encounter is that God is going to completely obliterate the entire physical universe at Christ’s return and basically just start over. It always reminds me of Darth Vader destroying Alderaan in Episode IV.

Alderaan Destroyed

The text most often used in these encounters is 2 Peter 3:1-13, which says this:

3 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The common assumption is that the language in this text about “burning” and “dissolving” and “passing away” means that the physical world will be completely annihilated. There are a number of reasons, though, why I doubt this is the meaning of the passage.

  1.  The meaning of the word “pass away” – In the New Testament, the verb used for the phrase “pass away” in 2 Peter 3 takes on a number of different meanings.
    1. Concerning Heaven and Earth
      1. Matt. 5:18 – “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished”
      2. Matt. 24: 34, 35; Mark 13:30, 31; Luke 21:32, 33 – “this generation will not pass away before these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”
      3. Luke 16:17 – “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void”
    2. Generic sense of walking, going, or coming – Matt. 8:28; 14:15; Mark 6:48; 14:35;  Luke 12:37; 17:7; 18:37; Acts 16:8
    3. Generic sense of time passing – Acts 27:9; 1 Peter 4:3
    4. Neglect or disobedience of a command – Luke 11:42; 15:29
    5. Jesus prior to arrest, “let this cup pass from me”  – 26:39, 42
    6. Mortality of human beings  – James 1:10
    7. Referring to our salvation – 2 Cor. 5:17
  2. Notice that Matt. 24:34, 35 and parallels and 2 Cor. 5:17 seem to indicate that at least part of the “passing away” has already taken place. In other words, this “passing away” in at least those verses is not obliteration but simply the removal of the old and replacement of it with the new.
  3. Use of “melt” and “burn up” metaphor elsewhere in the NT – In at least two places in the NT, fire is used not as an agent of annihilation but as an agent of refining, sifting, and perfecting (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Peter 1:3-9; cf. also James 1, esp. 2-4, for similar language about testing but without explicit use of the fire metaphor).
    Additionally, I cannot think of a place in the NT where fire is explicitly used for annihilation or obliteration.
  4. In the context of 2 Peter 3, perhaps the most important point is that Peter compares this coming judgment by fire with the historical judgment by water in Noah’s flood. The earth was not obliterated during that judgment, but was purged of sin. Peter’s parallel with Noah’s flood points to the fact that they are similar in effect although not in means. The difference noted by Peter is between the different means of water and fire, not between the ultimate effects of either judgment.
  5. Corroborating Evidence
    1. A view of God’s creation as “good” – God creates the world as good, and connects his image-bearers to it by giving them the task of caring for it in the Garden. He does curse it because of Adam’s sin, but it is also clear that the Abrahamic covenant is a reversal of not only the spiritual effects of Adam’s sin but the physical effects of it on the land as well (Gen. 12:1-3; cf. James Hamilton, “The Skull Crushing Seed of Woman and the Promises to Abraham”; Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15). In other words, God cares about his creation – all of it. The obliteration of it would be contrary to his creational and redemptive purposes.
    2. Revelation 21 – The word “new” in Rev. 21:1 is kainos, and denotes restoration, renewal, and freshness, not total “otherness” or distinctness from what came previously. Additionally, the imagery of Revelation 21 and 22 is full of images from the physical creation – a city, streets, gates, walls, rivers, trees, leaves, fruit, etc.

The metaphor of fire, combined with the historical parallel of the purging Noahic flood, a sacramental worldview, and an understanding of John’s use of “new” and creation imagery in Revelation 21-22 points to this coming judgment of fire as a purging judgment, not an annihilating one. It’s purpose is to purge the physical world of the effects of the curse so that God can dwell with his people on it, not to obliterate it completely and start over.

So, God isn’t going to go all Death Star on the Universe. At least not in my opinion.