29 March 2008


Wish I could be at this conference.


28 March 2008


From D. A. Carson (in this review of Peter Enns' controversial work):

When I was a boy of about nine or ten, my father called me over to listen to him reading an editorial or a letter to the editor (I cannot remember which) in The Montreal Star, one of the leading papers in eastern Canada at the time. The writer was inveighing against all those stupid Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God, when it speaks so ignorantly of the sun "rising" in the east: any schoolboy knows that the sun does not rise, but that the earth rotates on its axis. My father asked me what I thought of the argument. I looked at him rather nonplused. He grinned, and calmly turned to the front page of the paper, and drew my attention to the line, "Sunrise: 6:36 am."

26 March 2008

Luke 1:1 - The Gospel

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished (peplerophormene) among us . . .

The glory of the gospel is this: the very first verse of Luke's Gospel does not open with a statement of those who have compiled a narrative of the things that have prescribed for us, but accomplished among us. Right from the start, Luke is saying: listen to a report, not rules. News, not advice.

Not: Wonderful! Now we know what we need to do!
But: Wonderful! Now we know what has been done for us.

Only the gospel makes the strange proclamation of what God has done to get to us instead of telling us what we can do to get to God. It has been "accomplished among us."

25 March 2008

Lewis: Being Used

We must not fret about not doing God those supposed services which He in fact does not allow us to do. Very often I expect, the service He really demands is that of not being (apparently) used, or not in the way we expected, or not in a way we can perceive.

A good word for me today, and to keep in mind for years ahead.

C. S. Lewis, in a letter to an American woman, Feb 22, 1958

24 March 2008

You Came To My Rescue

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. -Psalm 40

22 March 2008

Vos: Paul's Anthropology

Read this today in Geerhardus Vos. It echoes what I am becoming more and more convinced of as I continue to research Paul's anthropology (i.e. his understading of innate human moral capacity and tendency). Vos notes that as a Pharisee Paul recognized that the law demanded not only outward conformity but an "inward obedience of the heart" (Rom 7 seems to indicate this with its discussion of the tenth commandment, the only exclusively internal comm.). Then he says something that is profoundly right, which I see in myself, and which, in my opinion, is the fundamental oversight of some writers associated with the New Perspective:

The perception of the spirituality of the law's demands may have been a great discovery, but a greater discovery remained to be made. Paul had yet to learn that the entire spirit in which he strove to fulfill the law, both inwardly and outwardly, the fundamental motive which inspired his pursuit of righteousness, was radically wrong because issuing from the flesh, the sinful determination of human nature which makes self instead of God supreme. There is no evidence that Paul made this discovery before the grace of God supernaturally illumined him at his conversion.

--“The Alleged Legalism in Paul’s Doctrine of Justification,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.; Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980), 396.

'I am a great sinner . . .

. . . but I have a great Savior.'

Ever precious words to me from John Newton.

21 March 2008

The Resurrection and Hardship

I was recently watching this video of Tim Keller at Stanford talking to students in a Q+A. In discussing his experience going under for surgery in 2002 for thyroid cancer, he recounts how he came to a deeper awareness of the significance of Jesus' resurrection. A powerful thought.

If the resurrection is true, then the universe is this ocean of glory and joy, and we just happen to be locked in this tiny little speck of darkness for a period of time, just a little speck in this ocean of joy, and it’s going to go away eventually. That’s what the resurrection means. Eventually God is going to end all evil and suffering, and we’re going to have a new universe and new bodies. And as I was going under, I suddenly realized that it didn’t matter if I died or not. My kids are going to be all right. My wife is going to be all right. Life is going to be all right. Everything was going to be all right.

16 March 2008

Justified by Faith, Judged according to Works

I'm thinking through the relationship in Paul between justification by faith and judgment according to works for a doctoral seminar on Pauline justification. So far I have the following 13 ways people are trying to put the two together. Suggestions? Any unfair categories or unfaithful descriptions? Would you add anyone? Any views I'm overlooking?

I recognize it's a bit artificial, etc. (many names could be placed in multiple categories, many categories are not mutually exclusive, etc), but I'm trying to get my mind around the various ways people reconcile these two things. Sorry for the footnotes-in-progress; just ignore them.

1) Justification is by faith, and referring to judgment according to works is strictly hypothetical, putting oneself in the shoes of one’s interlocutor (Lietzmann,[1] Waters[2])

2) Justification is by faith, and reference to judgment according to works, though not hypothetical, serves mainly to awaken sinners to hopelessness in final judgment apart from grace (Conzelmann[3])

3) Paul is downright inconsistent (Kuula,[4] Wrede[5])

4) Judgment according to works excludes legalistic works, not works per se; it is indeed the “doers of the law” (by divine grace) who will be justified (Snodgrass,[6] Berkouwer[7])

5) Justification by faith refers only to the inauguration of salvation; final judgment will be the result of the works produced thereafter (Sanders,[8] Donfried,[9] Rainbow[10])

6) Judgment according to works refers not to each individual deed but to a judgment rendered on the basis of the consistent pattern of life, in accordance with Sanders' covenantal nomism (Yinger[11])
7) The judgment according to works motif is an unfortunate retention of Jewish belief that Paul ought to have left behind but was not adequately jettisoned (Weiss,[12] Braun[13])

8) Judgment according to works refers not to eternal damnation or salvation, but relative degrees of reward; judgment is an event subsequent to final justification (Filson,[14] Devor,[15] Mattern,[16] Vos,[17] Ladd[18])

9) Judgment according to works applies only to faithful Jews; gentiles, on the other hand, are justified by faith (Gaston, Gager)

10) The judgment according to works motif simply serves Paul’s rhetorical purposes (drawing on preexisting materials: Synofzik[19]; the relationship between the two motifs is dialectic and must not be conceptually or dogmatically integrated: justification teaching is directed toward the despairing, judgment teaching toward the morally presumptuous: N. Watson,[20] Joest[21])

11) Justification is apart from Jewish works of Torah, but in accordance with obedience more broadly conceived; there is thus no tension with a judgment according to moral works; justification is, however, by faith (Dunn, Wright, F. Watson[22])

12) As in the preceding view, it is the ethnic/ritual works that are abrogated in light of the Christ event; yet justification is not by faith; rather, God’s “grace” is simply a way of denoting the way in which God has placed an earned salvation within reach of humans. Thus judgment according to works is the very core of NT soteriology (Haufe[23])

13) Judgment according to works is neither theoretical (on the one hand) nor contributory to final acquittal (on the other) but organically connected to justification sola fide in that justifying faith is the same faith by which one is united to Christ and his lordship—a union from which fruit will inevitably grow (Calvin,[24] Schlatter,[25] Ridderbos,[26] Cranfield,[27] Käsemann,[28] Gaffin, O’Brien,[29] Bird[30])

Such a list is, of course, necessarily artificial to some degree; each of these positions must be elaborated to get the full flow of the writer’s argument. And there is certainly overlap between the categories. Some, moreover, could be placed in more than one category—Wrede, for example, not only sees Paul as inconsistent but also believes Paul “never entirely escaped from” his Jewish background.[31] Sanders, too, could be added to the “inconsistent” group.[32] F. Watson at times sounds as if he ought to be placed in the “hypothetical” category.[33] Nevertheless I have sought to distill the core of each writer and categorize accordingly.

[1] Hans Lietzmann, Die Briefe des Apostels Paulus I: Die vier Hauptbriefe (HNT 3; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1910), 13-15. A general theological understanding of judgment on believers being hypothetical is not equivalent to an understanding, more specifically, of “the doers of the law” in Rom 2:13 being taken hypothetically; the first group would be much smaller than the second. Ridderbos helpfully points this out (Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology [trans. John Richard de Witt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], 178-79).
[2] Guy Prentiss Waters, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul: A Review and Response (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2004), 175-77; cf. 209-10. For a fuller list, see Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2007), 159 n13.
[3] Hans Conzelmann, An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1969), 248. See also his A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 83-84.
[4] Kari Kuula, The Law, the Covenant, and God’s Plan: Paul’s Treatment of the Law (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), 136-37.
[5] William Wrede, Paul (trans. Edward Lummis; London: Philip Green, 1907), 77-78. Maurice Goguel, too, sees Paul as inconsistent, but, unlike the other scholars mentioned in this category, does not see this as detracting at all from Paul’s overall coherence. He believes consistency to be an unfair expectation of the apostle in light of his varied contexts (“La caractère, à la fois actuel et futur, du salut dans la théologie paulinienne,” in The Background of the New Testament and Its Eschatology: In Honour of Charles Harold Dodd [ed. William D. Davies and David Daube; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956], 336). Calvin Roetzel, more softly, simply believes that “any attempt to reconcile these motifs may be more of a concern of the western theologian for consistency than a concern of Paul’s” (Roetzel, Judgement in the Community, 178).
Some have placed Heikki Räisänen in this category (e.g. Bird, Saving Righteousness, 158; Jean.-Noël Aletti, “Review of Paul and the Law,” Bib 66 [1985]: 428-29), but this is incorrect. Räisänen understands Paul’s view of the law to be inconsistent, but not Paul’s integration of justification by faith and judgment according to works (see Heikki Räisänen, Paul and the Law [2d ed.; WUNT 29; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1987], 184-85).
[6] Klyne R. Snodgrass. “Justification by Grace—to the Doers: An Analysis of the Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul,” NTS 32 (1986): 72-93. Akio Ito aligns Glenn Davies with Snodgrass at this point, but this is not quite fair (Akio Ito, “Romans 2: A Deuteronomistic Reading,” JSNT 18 [1996]: 22 n7). Davies argues that obedience is crucial to the life of the people of God in both Old Testament and New, yet in both instances obedience is rooted in faith (Glenn N. Davies, Faith and Obedience in Romans: A Study in Romans 1-4 [: JSNTSup 39; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990], 173-75). He does not see doing as leading to justification in the same way Snodgrass does; rather (referring to Rom 2:13), “The doing of the law by these Gentiles witnesses to their justification” (66; emphasis added).
[7] G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification (trans. Lewis B. Smedes; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 103-112. See also Peter Toon’s comments concerning Berkouwer in see also Justification and Sanctification (Foundations for Faith; Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1983), 136-37.
[8] E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 515-18; idem, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 105-13. In this latter work, however, Sanders does at times appear to endorse the “Paul as inconsistent” view; most clearly this can be seen on p. 123: “the treatment of the law in [Rom] 2 cannot be harmonized with any of the diverse things which Paul says about the law elsewhere.”
[9] Karl P. Donfried, “Justification and Last Judgment in Paul,” ZNW 67 (1976): 90-110. Specifically, Donfried proposes a schema in which Paul speaks of justification as past, sanctification as present, and salvation as future.
[10] Paul A. Rainbow, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005), 187, 193-203. D. H. Williams attirubutes a similar view (namely, justification takes care of past sins, but believers are now enabled to obey God, and it is “on the basis of” [Williams’ wording] these works, together with faith, that believers are judged on the last day) to Origen (D. H. Williams, “Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine,” JEH 57 [2006]: 655).
[11] Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism, and Judgment according to Deeds (SNTSMS 105; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 160, 202, 284.
[12] Bernhard Weiss, ________ in Kritisch-Exegetischer Kommentar über das NT (7th ed.; ed. H. A. Meyer; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1886), 113-14.
[13] Herbert Braun, Gerichtsgedanke und Rechtfertigungslehre bei Paulus (UNT 19; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche, 1930), 96-97. Specifically, this study examines the relationship between judgment and righteousness in Paul, not judgment and justification by faith. For a fuller (though dated) list of those who hold to this view, see Watson, “Justified by Faith, Judged by Works,” 220 n8.
[14] Floyd W. Filson, St. Paul’s Conception of Recompense (UNT 21; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche, 1931), 115.
[15] Richard Devor, “The Concept of Judgment in the Epistles of Paul,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Drew University, 1959.
[16] Lieselotte Mattern, Das Verständnis des Gerichtes bei Paulus (ATANT 47; Zürich: Zwingli, 1966), 177-78. For a helpful overview of Mattern’s thesis, see Calvin J. Roetzel, Judgement in the Community: A Study of the Relationship between Eschatology and Ecclesiology in Paul (Leiden: Brill, 1972), 5-7.
[17] Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1930; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 270-77.
[18] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (rev. Donald A. Hagner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 611-12.
[19] Ernst Synofzik, Die Gerichts- und Vergeltungsaussagen bei Paulus: Eine traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Göttingen: Vandenhoech & Ruprecht, 1977). Synofzik calls Paul’s rhetorical use of the judgment motif an “Argumentationsmittel” (105 e.g.).
[20] Watson, “Justified by Faith, Judged by Works,” 214-21.
[21] Wilfried Joest, Gesetz und Freiheit: Das Problem des Tertius Usus Legis bei Luther und die neutestamentliche Parainese (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968), 177-90.
[22] Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 212-13.
[23] Christoph Haufe, Die sittliche Rechtfertigungslehre des Paulus (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1957).
[24] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 3.11.10; 3.11.20; 3.14.21; 3.16.1.
[25] Schlatter, Theology of the Apostles, 234-37. John Owen might also be placed in this category, though the emphasis of his writings is not so much union with Christ fueling works as the evidential nature of works (John Owen, Justification by Faith [repr.; Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace, 1971], 139, 143, 159-60); so also with John Piper (The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2007], 110-11).
[26] Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (trans. John Richard de Witt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 178-80.
[27] Charles E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975, 1979), ____.
[28] Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans (trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 56-61. Kasemann emphasizes the lordship of Christ (56-57), Cranfield the fruitful gratitude of the believers (1:155, 173).
[29] Peter T. O’Brien, “Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, Vol. 2: The Paradoxes of Paul (ed. D. A. Carson, Mark A. Seifrid, Peter T. O’Brien; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 265; idem, “Justification in Paul and Some Crucial Issues of the Last Two Decades,” in Right with God: Justification in the Bible and the World (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 1992), 89-95.
[30] Bird, Saving Righteousness, 176-78. John Owen might also be placed in this category, though the emphasis of his writings is not so much union with Christ fueling works as it is the evidential nature of works (John Owen, Justification by Faith [repr.; Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace, 1971], 139, 143, 159-60); so also with John Piper (The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2007], 110-11); on the evidential nature of works see also Calvin, Institutes, 3.14.18-19.
[31] Wrede, Paul, 137.
[32] As, indeed, he is categorized by Bird (Saving Righteousness, 158). See e.g. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, 124. But see also p. 103, where he argues that it is not inconsistent of Paul to expect right behavior from his readers.
[33] See e.g. Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2004), 352 n57.

13 March 2008

Miraculous Obedience

Excellent word for the "massively ordinary."

Owen: 'He loves life into us . . .'

I have not read much John Owen myself, but I know one of my brothers has benefitted much from him, and Roger Nicole once called him the greatest theologian to ever write in the English language, including Jonathan Edwards. So I found myself leafing through the edition of Communion with God Christian Focus published this past year. In the book Owen explains how we can commune distinctly with each member of the Trinity (!). Though I was only half-awake as I was doing so, two sentences woke me up. Describing the way Christ's love is necessarily fruitful in the life of the believer, he says that

the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he wills to his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven. (p. 112)

Did you hear that? "He loves life, grace, and holiness into us." Succint, pithy, profound, and right. He loves it right into us. I think that gets at the heart of the New Testament. I find myself encouraged, and worshipping.

Lloyd-Jones: Mind, Heart, Will

I was very encouraged, lying in bed last night, to see Lloyd-Jones echo the conclusion I have been coming to regarding the relationship of theology, doxology, and obedience, at the end of a sermon on obedience from the heart (Rom 6:17):

So Paul puts his mighty argument and demonstration and from this I draw my final conclusion, that . . . we must always realize, when we talk to others, that the heart is never to be approached directly. I go further, the will is never to be approached directly either. This is a most important principle to bear in mind both in personal dealings and in preaching. The heart is always to be influenced through the understanding--the mind, then the heart, then the will.

--Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 62

Yes! Now that, in essence, is what I mean by strawberry-rhubarb theology.

(I love that subtitle: Its Causes and Cure, not Its Causes and Cures. It is not 7 steps we need, but the gospel. I'm still trying to figure this out myself!)

12 March 2008

Chandler: Evangelicalism

Excellent message from Matt Chandler at a recent Resurgence conference on Evangelicalism - where it came from, what it now is, speaking the gospel to those today who think they already know it, and the way in which we have become experts in the how of Christian living while losing the why of Christian living. Yes, he talks about how huge his church is and how he doesn't bring that up to boast, which grows wearisome. But I was helped and am grateful for it and for him.

(Though it was a backhanded comment and not the heart of the message, I loved hearing: "Just as dumb as the fundamentalist is, that new breed that we’re getting where you’re a cool pastor if you drink beer and cuss is just as dumb. You don’t have to be that guy to engage culture. Engaging culture has very little to do with beer." Or, on megachurches: "Christianity used to be a small movement that actually affected the culture arond it--now it's a gigantic impotent one." Or, or the worship wars: "The difference is not between contemporary and traditional, but authentic and inauthentic." Or [speaking to Dane Ortlund]: "There is a real arrogance to youth. There really is. And the only one who disagrees with me in here is 20. And you're just proving my point." Or: "We must reaffirm our faith in the sufficiency of Scripture, and not just cling to the integrity and the inerrancy of it. If we believe the Scriptures are sufficient, we won't seek to make it relevant by confusing truth and acculturation." Or: "Let's work like Arminians and sleep like Calvinists.")

10 March 2008

'. . . their joy was like swords . . .'

A great post from Tyler Kenney at DG on what he calls the best paragraph in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Desire + Action: 2 Corinthians 8:10

In an almost backhanded way, in a clause I normally read right over, Paul comments to the Corinthians (as he tries to awaken their hearts and their checkbooks in 2 Cor 8-9) regarding their generosity that "a year ago you started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it" (8:10).

Two things Paul detects in healthy obedience: action and desire.

Action without desire = moralism. Desire without action = antinomianism. Desire + action = gospel obedience.

09 March 2008

Westerholm: Understanding Paul

One of my favorite NT scholars is Steve Westerholm at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (a school to which I applied for doc. work due to his presence--and was rejected!). Though he's a bit "too Lutheran" for me at points, I find his exegesis careful, his humor refreshing, and his historical breadth rare (for a neutestamentler). His Perspectives Old and New on Paul is probably the first mid-level intro to Paul and the New Perspective I would recommend.

Anyway, I just got his little book Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans (2004; previously published as Preface to the Study of Paul, 1997). It's a very short intro to Paul that sets as its template Romans. The last paragraph of the book is:

If human existence is an accident, if the functioning of the cosmos is merely mechanical, if the language of right and wrong is rooted in nothing deeper than human convention, if the world is but the indifferent stage on which we give shape to our lives, then we may as well resent any attempt to curtail our freedom and self-determination. If, on the other hand, human existence is a gift of love, if the functioning of the cosmos is providential, if language of right and wrong reflects our appropriate and inappropriate responses to reality, and human existence--indeed, all creation--has been cursed by human self-assertion; and if, moreover, Jesus Christ represents God's refusal to abandon his willful creatures to their sin; if Christ demonstrates the goodness of a life lived in obedience to God, his self-sacrificial death atones for human wrongdoing, and his resurrection makes possible eternal life in communion with God as a member of his redeemed people: if all these basic convictions of Paul are true, then (perhaps even people today would agree) there can be no prouder title than that claimed by the apostle--a "servant of Jesus Christ."

--p. 162

08 March 2008

Letters to an American Lady

I picked up C. S. Lewis' Letters to an American Lady today (for 25 cents), a book I had seen but never owned or opened. It is not, as I thought, letters to Joy, his future wife, but to a southern aristocrat who had fallen on hard finanical times and suffered from numerous physical difficulties, who remains anonymous, and to whom Lewis wrote over 100 letters despite never meeting her.

A few of my favorite extracts thus far--

Aug 1, 1953, making me long to be happier to the mailman:
How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world's population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year's end?

Aug 10, 1953, expressing such delightful childlikeness:
I'm a panic-y person about money myself (which is a most shameful confession and a thing dead against Our Lord's words) and poverty frightens me more than anything else except large spiders and the tops of cliffs: one is sometimes even tempted to say that if God wanted us to live like the lilies of the field He might have given us an organism more like theirs! But of course He is right. And when you meet anyone who does live like the lilies, one sees that He is.

(According to Clyde Kilby, it was discovered after his death that Lewis gave away more than two thirds of his income.)

07 March 2008

Deliverance through Affliction?

I'm trying to figure out Elihu's role in Job, and the more I consider, the more I think he is a voice of truth speaking into Job's life, not in continuity with but in contrast to, Job's others three "friends." Elihu still, I think, retains some of the problematic assumptions of the other friends--such as in 36:8-9--but in light of 32:1-5 and the fact that he is omitted from God's rebuke at the end of the book, and that much of what he says does seem to provide a healthy corrective to what Job has listened to (and contributed himself) thus far, I do think he is generally a voice of truth, not folly.

Anyhow, I noticed the following verse today (from the mouth of Elihu), which, I think, encapsulates the core of the paradox driving Paul in 2 Corinthians. A lesson contrary to the mindset in ancient Corinth, modern America, and one I feel like an infant in.

He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. (36:15)

There is a deliverance in this fallen world that comes not by avoiding or overcoming affliction but by going through it.

The ultimate instance: Christ's cross.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine

05 March 2008

Sayers: Theology unto Morality

Dorothy Sayers on strawberry-rhubarb theology (i.e. recognizing the importance of both getting the [theological] recipe right as well as enjoying, not just analyzing, what comes out of the [theological] oven):

It is worse than useless for Christian to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter: it matters enormously.

--"Creed or Chaos?" in Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World, p. 31

HT: David Calhoun

Schlatter: Gal 1:15

Commenting on Galatians 1:15 ("God was pleased to reveal his Son to me"), Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938), professor of NT at Tubingen for 100 straight semesters and author of over 430 works, writes:

The critical turn came through this, that God called Paul. At this point we must think of the experience on the way to Damascus. There God’s call penetrated into his ear, and what called him was God’s grace. When God directed no word of punishment at the persecutor of his church, but rather the call of invitation, which placed him in peace with him and gave him a share in his free gifts, then and only then was grace free. The root of such a call cannot be in those who ascend out of sheer mercy and for whom divine grace bursts through sin.

03 March 2008

Luke 14 and 16

Luke 14 is about, in a word, invitations. If I were to teach on it in the near future (which I'm not), I think it would look something like:

1) 14:7-11 - cashing in an invitation
2) 14:12-14 - giving an invitation
3) 14:25-33 - the cost of the Invitation

Luke 16 is about, in a word, money. If I were to teach on it in the near future (which I'm not), I think it would look something like:

1) 16:1-9 - the usefulness of money
2) 16:10-13 - the dethroning nature of money
3) 16:14-15 - the irrelevance of money
4) 16:19-31 - the deceitfulness of money

02 March 2008

Arraigned by Mortal Worms

Read this today:

How astonishing is it, that a person who is blessed forever, and is infinitely and essentially happy, should endure the greatest sufferings that ever were endured on earth! That a person who is the supreme Lord and judge of the world, should be arraigned, and should stand at the judgment seat of mortal worms, and then be condemned. That a person who is the living God, and the fountain of life, should be put to death. That a person who created the world, and gives life to all his creatures, should be put to death by his own creatures. That a person of infinite majesty and glory, and so the object of the love, praises, and adorations of angels, should be mocked and spit upon by the vilest of men. That a person, infinitely good, and who is love itself, should suffer the greatest cruelty. That a person who is infinitely beloved of the Father, should be put to inexpressible anguish under his own Father's wrath. That he who is King of heaven, who hath heaven for his throne, and the earth for his footstool, should be buried in the prison of the grave. How wonderful is this! And yet this is the way that God's wisdom hath fixed upon, as the way of sinners' salvation . . .

--J. Edwards, 'The Wisdom of God Displayed in the Way of Salvation'

One of the reasons Edwards helps us so much is that he asks and answers questions most of us would never think to consider. He spends a chunk of this sermon, for example, exploring what profit there is to the angels in the redemption of humans, trying to squeeze out as deeply as possible the unsearchable wisdom of God in the manner of redemption. !


The more familiar I become with Luther the more convinced I am that he has insights into the Bible and the human heart that are more satisfying than many contemporary writers are acknowledging. In the years ahead I want to spend regular time in Luther; I find him both head-illuminating and heart-igniting. Yet today, confessed proximity to Luther by any Paul scholar is one step shy of anathema. It ought not to be.

In his Galatians commentary, for instance, he writes:

There is no difference at all between a papist, a Jew, a Turk, or a sectarian. Their persons, locations, rituals, religions, works, and forms of worship are, of course, diverse; but they all have the same reason, the same heart, the same opinion and idea. . . . "If I do this or that, I have a God who is favorably disposed toward me; if I do not, I have a God who is wrathful."

HT: Steve Westerholm