28 August 2008

The Missing Middle

I was fascinated to hear the following interchange about 13 minutes into the most recent interview posted at 9Marks. Mark Dever is interviewing Os Guinness (who, evidently, is a direct descendent of the founder of Guinness beer).

In speaking of his calling, Guinness asserts that he is "between the church and the world."

Dever asks: "And would be a kind of academic who is not tied to a certain educational institution?"

Guinness: "No. I went ot Oxford to do a DPhil. And there I had a real sense that my calling was not academic. I call it the 'missing middle.' You've got magnificent scholarship in the church. There could be a lot more, but it's magnificent scholarship. And you've got lots of wonderful, faithful people in the church who will do whatever the Lord shows them to do. In many ways there is a missing middle: you could call it the intermediate level of knowledge. So my calling is to make sense of serious scholarship--make it intelligible, make it practicable, to people who don't get into that world. But I am not an academic scholar."

25 August 2008

Hillsong: Stronger

There is love that came for us
Humbled to a sinner's cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious

Faithfulness none can deny
Through the storm and through the fire
There is truth that sets me free
Jesus Christ who lives in me

You are stronger
You are stronger
Sin is broken
You have saved me
It is written
Christ is risen
Jesus you are Lord of all

No beginning and no end
You're my hope and my defense
You came to seek and save the lost
You paid it all upon the cross

19 August 2008

Peace Amid Chaos

Dad has started a new series of posts on how believers in Jesus can learn to live in peacefulness and quiet in the midst of the frenetic lives we live in the twenty-first century West. Very helpful stuff as usual.

18 August 2008

Motives in Preaching

A deconstructive anecdote on our motives when we get up to preach or teach the Bible.

Vanhoozer: Doctrine and Life

Kevin Vanhoozer in a typically inimitable articulation of the necessary conjunction of what we believe and how we live (what I call strawberry-rhubarb theology):

[H]e who is tired of doctrine is tired of life, for doctrine is the stuff of life. Christian doctrine is necessary for human flourishing: only doctrine shows us who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do. The stereotype of doctrine as dry and crusty cuts a flimsy caricature next to the real thing, which is brave and bracing. Doctrine deals with energies and events that are as real and powerful as anything known in chemistry or physics, energies and events that can turn the world we know upside down, energies and events into which we are grafted as participants with speaking and acting parts.

--The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, xiii.

No. 26

Volume 26 of the Yale critical edition of Edwards' works is out.


Another Exciting transition

Another man I love is moving back into pastoral ministry, at this church.

15 August 2008


Today through this weekend, no thoughts or quotes or links or reflections or news. Just gratitude for these two, my two favorite people in the universe: my wife Stacey and son Zachary Edwards.
The worst part of my day: leaving in the morning to walk to the library to study all day. The best part of my day: walking home.

14 August 2008

Searchable Edwards Imminent

The JE Center at Yale announces the impending availability of full online search capacity of the Yale critical edition of Edwards' Works, which right now sits at 25 volumes.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online 2.0 (WJE Online 2.0) is getting ready for the Registered User’s Beta phase. We invite you to participate in a month-long testing of our new release: a fully searchable digital interface through which anyone can explore Edwards' written thoughts.

Thank You

"At 7:15 PM on Sunday, July 13, his heart stopped, and my heart broke."

I have been married to my best friend for seven years. So had this dear sister.

Sobering, heart-wrenching, encouraging, longing-igniting, idol-smashing. Thank you for helping me.

I am currently working on a doctorate in biblical studies.

A PhD does not address this.

Passion Church

Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin are starting a new church in Atlanta.


13 August 2008

Eswine: Pastoring Again

One of my all-time favorite people in the world is Zack Eswine, whom I got to know during my five years (I was a slow seminarian!) at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.

Zack has recently left the seminary context to return to the pastorate: he'll be leading an EPC church in St. Louis: Riverside Church.

God be with you, Zack. I love you.

'What Is Happiness?'

On Dec 19, 1944, in the last letter he ever wrote, imprisoned in the Berlin area, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents:

What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person.

--Letters and Papers from Prison, 3d ed. (1971), p. 419

Tom Schafer

As I listened to John Gerstner's 24 lectures on Jonathan Edwards four years ago, he mentioned one name more than any other, repeatedly drawing attention to the person he considered the definitive Edwards scholar of the twentieth century. That man, Thomas A. Schafer, died last week.

One indicator of Schafer's love for Edwards and helpfulness to the rest of us: many of JE's manuscripts were undated, particularly pre-1733 sermons. Schafer took it upon himself to meticulously examine the water marks, handwriting, and paper quality of the manuscripts to diagnose their date.

12 August 2008

Addressing the Evil of the Heart

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

--Alexander Solzhenitsyn, quoted in C. Plantinga, Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, 49

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

--The Apostle Paul, Romans 6

In Christ, we have not only been given a chance to destroy the evil part of our heart; our whole selves have been slaughtered and remade. We are statues, as Lewis described, in need not of a bit of sculpting here and a bit of fresh paint there, but of coming to life.

Barclay: Paul's Subversive Theology

I was helped and encouraged by the following statment from John Barclay (Durham) in his explication of the relation of divine and human agency in Paul.

[A]n essential feature of grace in Paul's theology is its inherent subversiveness, its tendency to call into question the normal methods of reward or the expected channels of delivery. This is mirrored in (and no doubt partly based upon) his own life-story. There was none more successfully advancing in Judaism, fulfilling the traditions of the ancestors and excelling in zeal for the law and righteousness, as defined by that law (Gal 1.13-14; Phil 3.6). But his encounter with the grace of God was emphatically not another stage in that advance, a further refinement to the righteousness he found in the law, but a total re-evaluation of all his norms, an act of God which undercut what he had previously held to be the definition of piety. This is nothing less than an experience of death, a co-crucifixion with Christ. . . . Crucified in baptism, believers live only inasmuch as they share the risen life of Christ; 'under grace,' they can now identify the crucial weakness of the law which was fatally exploited by sin. The depth of despair about the self here is matched by the shocking exposure of the inadequacy of the law; the power of the flesh can only be countered by the power of something newly present on the scene, the Spirit of Christ.

--"By the Grace of God I am What I Am": Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul," in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Context (eds. Barclay and Gathercole; T&T Clark, 2006), p. 150

'The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards'

Can't wait to get my hands on this new volume.

11 August 2008

'The Theologian'

I was unaware till today of this online resource, which looks very helpful, particularly for theological students with a pastoral bent. Apparently run by evangelicals in Britain. Lots of good stuff.

10 August 2008

Carson: Is the NT God Nicer?

This weekend I listened to 3 lectures D. A. Carson gave at RTS (Charlotte) on the New Perspective, probably around 8 years ago (thanks for the tip Ben Gladd). It’s a fascinating listen. The way he addresses James Dunn is particularly interesting. The only downfall is that my brain struggles to keep up in listening, so I have to listen a few times to get everything.

Anyway, in the third lecture Carson expounds Rom 3:21-31. Along the way he responds to the common sentiment—it is rarely asserted outright, but you often get the sense this is how people understand the Bible—that the God of the New Testament is a kinder, gentler God than that of the Old Testament. After all, the God of the OT commands his people to slaughter whole people groups.

Dr. Carson responds in a way I had never considered. He says that he would argue that yes, the love of God is certainly “ratcheted up” in the NT. But the wrath of God, too, is ratcheted up. God’s grace and his wrath both blossom into full flower under the new covenant. Jesus himself, after all, spoke more of hell than anyone. And Rev 14 is frightful in its depiction of people being cast into the winepress of God’s wrath.

If this is so, then why does the OT seem so barbaric to so many of us, especially compared to the NT? Here Carson made a fascinating observation. He said he believes that the reason people have more of a problem with the wrath of God in the OT than in the NT is because we don’t really believe in hell. We are far more fearful of war, pestilence, and the plague than we are of hell. As a result, the OT seems more frightening. In fact, says Carson, the horrors of the OT are only a foretaste of the true horrors of hell.

Clarifying, sobering, emboldening.

08 August 2008

Two Edwards Notes

Two notes on my favorite of all skinny theologians:

1) a new dissertation has been submitted that sounds fascinating--hopefully it will be published.

2) two new Piper messages on JE and revival were posted in recent weeks by Desiring God: Part 1 and Part 2; and here's a 1984 interview of Piper on JE done by Preaching Today that I had never discovered till today

07 August 2008

Supreme Irony

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the praetorion; and it was early. And they did not enter into the praetorion, in order that they might not be defiled but would be able to eat the passover.
--John 18:28

The efforts of Jesus' accusers, far from keeping them pure, were not only sinful but also the very thing that led to the ultimate passover sacrifice, a passover that, tragically, did not avail for them - because they were not, by faith in this passover, made pure. It was their wrongheaded attempt to be pure that defiled them.

06 August 2008

Exploding Joy

Wow. Needed to hear that.

05 August 2008

Owen: Why I Wrote

I recently was given a copy of Christian Focus' 2007 republication of John Owen's 1657 Communion with God, a 400-page volume explaining how believers can enjoy distinct fellowship with each of the members of the Trinity. I'm not able to work through the book any time soon, but in perusing it as I fell asleep last night I came across the final paragraph of Owen's introduction. Can't imagine a better way to send his readers into his book.

It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication in giving and receiving, after a most holy and spiritual manner, which is between God and the saints while they walk together in a covenant of peace, ratified in the blood of Jesus, of which we are to treat. And this we shall do, if God permit; in the meantime praying the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has, of the riches of his grace, recovered us from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship with himself, that both he that writes, and they that read the words of his mercy, may have such a taste of his sweetness and excellencies in that, as to be stirred up to a farther longing after the fulness of his salvation, and the eternal fruition of him in glory. (pp. 31-32)

Here's another quote that I read about 6 times when I came upon it.

04 August 2008

Bultmann and the New Perspective

It is against the work of Rudolf Bultmann and his theological offspring that New Perspective advocates have directed their most virulent critiques. Some of the main emphases of those associated with the New Perspective—the ample witness to divine grace evident in Second Temple Judaism, the critical role of history in understanding Paul, Jewish rather than Greek thought as that in which Paul is most deeply saturated in his early years and conversion, the importance of corporate categories in understanding Paul, and above all the gospel not as the antidote to the innate human tendency to proudly boast of one’s moral achievement but rather as the good news that God’s mercy extends freely to all, irrespective of ethnicity—find their exact opposites in Bultmann. For him, second temple Judaism is conspicuously infected with self-earned righteousness; existentialist rather than historical categories most ably clarify Paul’s thought; Hellenistic mystery religions explain large swaths of Pauline terminology and concepts more satisfactorily than Jewish thought; the individual and decision (Entscheidung) is preeminent; and the gospel is not mainly a horizontal barrier-destroyer but a vertical pride-destroyer.

For all the anti-supernatual silliness in Bultmann, I am finding that the more I study the New Perspective the more I appreciate him. I'll take the following statement by Bultmann, for example, which NP advocates vehemently deny, over NP soteriology any day.

The basic ideas in [Paul's] polemic against Judaism and Gnosticism are these: the cross is a ‘stumbling block’ and ‘folly’ because in it judgment is pronounced against all human boasting, whether boasting based on the ‘works of the law’ or on human ‘wisdom.’ Only in the cross could God’s grace be revealed, because the original sin of both Jews and heathen is that they do not glorify God but set up their own ‘boast.’ The problem, says Bultmann, is 'human pride.'

--Faith and Understanding (ed. R. W. Funk; trans. L. P. Smith; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 279.

See also this statement.

Schlatter: Doctrine + Ethics

Just read this statement for the first time at the very end of Schlatter's Theology of the Apostles:

The doctrinal formation of the apostolic period remains a closed book if the ethical energy of the message of repentance, and the circumspectness of its didactic labor as it wrestled to arrive at sure knowledge, are considered to be in conflict or to be unconnected processes. The vigor with which evil was repudiated and the vigor with which the divine word was appropriated were mutually productive. (389)

02 August 2008

Schlatter: Joy

One of the ways Adolf Schlatter has helped me is in seeing the centrality of joy in New Testament ethics. In the opening chapters of The History of the Christ, he writes that “it is joy for the community to give up its collective, godless will. It is happiness to do away with its evil.” (56). And at the end of The Theology of the Apostles, amid a discussion of love as foundational to Christ-centered community, Schlatter says:

Luke says regarding the early church that it cherished great joy, and this joy finds expression everywhere in the epistles. Peter expects the church of Asia Minor to be a rejoicing group; John instructs his congregation with a view to completing their joy, and Paul is able to describe his ministry by claiming that he is the one who facilitates the community’s joy (Acts 2:46-47; 13:52; 20:24; 2 Cor. 1:24; 13:11; Rom. 15:13; Phil. 1:25; 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8; 1 John 1:4). That the community consisted of those who exercised repentance and persevered in continual resistance against all evil did not inject into it a lugubrious mood, because it did not transform repentance into a meditation over ethical wretchedness. Liberation from evil remained what it was in Jesus’ proclamation: a joyful work, for it was grounded in the fact that God’s grace is given to man. (399)