Daniel Treier on Theological Interpretation and Longsuffering Sports Fandom (1.5)

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Daniel Treier of Wheaton College. We discuss longsuffering sports fandom (2:10), the good and bad of theological interpretation of Scripture (3:30), recovering from a house fire (25:00), handling busyness and productivity (33:20), and more.

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.

Lynn Cohick on Women in Evangelicalism and Tips for Male Colleagues (1.2)

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Lynn Cohick of Denver Seminary. We discuss becoming a scholar (5:30), the present and future of the United Methodist Church (9:40), being a female scholar in evangelicalism (14:15), women in the early church (38:30), and more.

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.

Where Are All the Patristics Scholars in Evangelicalism?

During my graduate work at Criswell College, I was fortunate to have a systematic theology professor who had studied patristic theology in his doctoral work, and a patristic theology professor who majored in the discipline and wrote his (now published) dissertation on early Christian exegesis and Irenaeus. I was more spoiled at the time than I realized.

As a Ph.D. student in theology, I’m spending more time than ever reading the patristics, and I’ve begun to realize how little definitive work on patristic theology has been done by evangelicals. Aside from a few notable contributions by evangelicals, the field is mostly dominated by Catholic theologians and the occasional non-evangelical Protestant. (I do think, however, that this is going to change. Evangelical theologians and pastors in my generation seem to care more than ever about patristic retrieval.)

On Twitter last year, Seumas Macdonald tweeted a short thread with some thoughts on why there’s been a dearth of evangelicals working in patristics. That thread is now no longer available, but he wrote a blogpost outlining many of the same thoughts. To summarize the five-tweet thread, Macdonald made the following points:

  1. Some evangelicals act as though church history started with the Reformation.
  2. As such, evangelicals short-sightedly read earlier church history through a Reformation lens.
  3. Most evangelical seminary tracks contain only one early church history course, and there’s likely not a patristic specialist there to teach it.
  4. Evangelicalism, thus, is caught in a vicious cycle of marginalizing patristic theology and thus marginalizes those who specialize in the field.
  5. In worst cases, evangelicals who focus on or fall in love with patristic theology end up leaving evangelicalism for more (perceived) friendly denominational/theological/ecclesiological pastures.

There’s so much more to be said, for sure, but Macdonald is onto something here. I remember during my graduate program, many of the undergrads moved from Baptist or other evangelical churches to Catholic or non-evangelical high church traditions. They did this, largely, because they felt as though evangelicalism isn’t tied to the tradition of the church, and so they were unable to connect with Christians of the past through evangelical ecclesial structures (or lack thereof).

I can’t say I blame them. I was tempted at times myself. But—sorry for the shameless plug—but this is precisely why we founded the Center for Baptist Renewal. The Baptist tradition and other similar evangelical groups are not—or at least should not be—disconnected from the great Christian tradition. I’m thankful, however, that some Baptists are trying to retrieve the Tradition. And personally, I’d rather be a catalyst from within than a critic from without.

The “allegorical” readings of the Patristic Fathers, the Catholic flavor of the first thousand or so years of church history, etc. are not reasons to abandon pre-Reformation theology. And yet, so many evangelicals immediately bristle at this notion on the principle that we should care more about the five solae of the Reformation. These five truths recovered the gospel in many minds. I recently wrote a study on the five solae, so I understand this sentiment and greatly appreciate the correctives that came with it. The Reformation was an act of God—I truly believe that—but we should consider two things.

1. Primarily, we should be willing to learn from those in the midst of the expansion, canonization, and creedal development of Christian orthodoxy. If we’re truly orthodox Christians, then we affirm major creeds like the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. The affirmations forged and fought for in these creeds are essential to Christian faith and practice, and yet we take for granted the time and context in which these theological foundations were laid. We act as though we can take the creeds and leave everything else; however, the creeds didn’t happen in a vacuum.

2. Further, we shouldn’t forget that the Reformers relied heavily on the early church, especially the work of Augustine. Not even the Reformers cut themselves off from the great tradition. It’s a common joke to say that all of Western theology is a footnote to Augustine, but it’s especially true of the Reformation.

Denominations are fine, even important at times. They help us build accountability, missional partnerships, and communal identity. But we can’t become so polarized and dichotomized within our denominations that we fence ourselves off from the bloodline of Christianity—the theological heritage of two millennia of Christian thought. Timothy George said it well:

I believe in an ecumenism of conviction, not an ecumenism of accommodation. We do not advance the cause of Christian unity by abandoning our biblical understanding of the church. But how do we hold these together? Three things: First, recognize the centrality of Jesus Christ. The closer we come to Jesus Christ, the closer we come to one another as brothers and sisters in him. Second, study the Bible together. The Bible belongs to the whole people of God, not just to one denomination or church tradition. We can clarify differences and find a deeper unity by going deeper into the Scriptures. Third, prayer. Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father (John 17:21) that his disciples would be one so that the world might believe. We can join our prayer to the prayer of Jesus and in so doing become a part of its fulfillment.

May we continue to recover and retrieve pre-Reformation theology and tradition, keeping our denominational distinctiveness without sacrificing our Christian theological heritage.


Note: If this post looks familiar, it’s because a version of it originally appeared at my old Patheos blog.

TEDS Lecture Series

I think I may be a little late to the party, but TEDS is now posting a series of video lectures by various faculty members, including D. A. Carson on Hebrews and Kevin Vanhoozer on the theologian’s task. The other two lectures on the docket for now are Dana Harris on Luke-Acts and Dennis Magary on Advanced Hebrew Exegesis. The Harris and Magary lectures have yet to be posted, but you can currently access both Carson’s and Vanhoozer’s videos.

Goldsworthy on Biblical Theology

For my Biblical Interpretation class at CBU I am requiring Robert Plummer’s 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan. Although the latter book is technically (and subtitled) “an introduction to biblical theology,” I am requiring it because, as Goldsworthy notes, “biblical theology is essential for hermeneutics” (25). In chapter one, Goldsworthy gives the following reasons why this is the case:

  • “Biblical theology gives us the means of dealing with problematic passages in the Bible by relating them to the one message of the Bible” (21).
  • “Biblical theology enables us to relate any Bible story to the whole message of the Bible, and therefore to ourselves” (22).
  • “Biblical theology shows the relationship of all the parts of the Old Testament to the person and work of Jesus Christ, and, therefore, to the Christian” (23).
  • “Biblical theology enables us to map out the unity of the Bible by looking at its message as a whole” (24).
  • “Biblical theology provides the basis for the interpretation of any part of the Bible as God’s word to us” (25).

What you might notice from this list is that the first four points essentially say that biblical theology enables us to read the Bible as a whole and not just individual parts. This is vital to the task of interpretation, as each passage, chapter, section, and book of the Bible cannot be understood without placing it in the larger context of the biblical canon. This helps interpreters deal with two major roadblocks, namely problematic passages (#1 above) and the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament (#3). It also allows us to read the Bible as a unified story (#2) about Jesus Christ (#3b), which is then the proper way to understand application (#5). Biblical theology, in other words, gives us the context for interpretation (the whole Bible and its story), the object of interpretation (Jesus Christ), and the goal of interpretation (transformation into Christ’s image. Biblical theology could not be more important to the task of interpretation.

Cheaters Never Prosper

The Provost at CBU, Dr. Jonathan Parker, just sent us this infographic about students and cheating. It would be great to be able to say that cheating doesn’t exist or that it’s on the decline, but it appears the opposite is the case.

In my classes, we use something called SafeAssign to detect plagiarism on papers. I also use the time-tested method of noticing changes in font size, font type, or color and Googling the phrase.

If you teach, what methods do you use to deter cheating?