(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Truly this man was a son of God: Jesus, kingdom and the divinity of Caesar

Theological accounts of Jesus tend to portray him as a divine figure who descended to earth at a certain moment in human history, died on the cross for the sins of humanity, and then returned to heaven. Historical accounts place him firmly within a story about Israel under Roman occupation in the first century.

In the theological paradigm Jesus is the eternal Son of God—or God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. In the historical narrative “Son of God” has quite different connotations, but since Caesar was also acclaimed as “son of a god” or “god”, perhaps it can be argued that history arrives at the theological conclusion by another route.

From Augustus onwards the emperor took the Latin title divi filius, “son of the divinised”, which in Greek inscriptions was translated theou huios. In the Latin West the basic procedure was to divinise an emperor after his death; therefore, his son was the son of a divine person. In the Greek-speaking eastern part of the empire, which is the setting for the writing of most of the New Testament, the tendency was to regard the emperor as theos while he was alive.

13 Jul 2017

I may get into trouble for this, but I want to make a couple of constructive critical points about this quotation from the missiologist Alan Hirsch, posted by communitaseuropa on Instagram.

Communitas is a US-based church-planting organisation that I’ve been involved with for...

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11 Jul 2017

My friend Joel White—well, technically I suppose he’s the brother of my friend Wes, but the brother of my friend is my friend—kindly sent me a copy of an article he wrote on Colossians 1:24 because we had a chat about this once. It’s a pet theme of mine. The article is entitled “Paul Completes the Servant’s...

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4 Jul 2017

What is Christian political witness? In an age of both political upheaval and the headlong marginalisation of the church it’s a good question to ask. In a cogently written piece on Political Theology Today Alastair Roberts argues that:

Christian political witness must be built around and declare...

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30 Jun 2017

This is a knee-jerk, end-of-the-week, dogmaphobic, book-promoting (see below) reaction to a post on justification on the Zondervan Academic site that came up today on my news feed. The post, called simply “What is justification?”, is an adaptation of material from an online course on Romans by Douglas Moo.


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29 Jun 2017

Barney, who is clearly still having a hard time focusing on his PhD studies, sent me a copy of an essay by Wolfhart Pannenberg to read. We will be discussing it tonight over a pint, so I’ve taken the opportunity to summarise it here and present some initial thoughts regarding its relevance for what I am calling the...

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22 Jun 2017

He who asked what happens to us after death has also asked whether I believe in the immortality of the soul. The short answer is no. A slightly longer answer would go something like this….

It’s a generalisation—we always have to reckon with the extent to which Jewish thought was hellenised in the period—but I...

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20 Jun 2017

I happened to hear a point-blank sermon last Sunday about the judgment of God. The gist of it was that just as God punished sinful humanity long ago by means of a flood of water, he will again punish sinful humanity by means of a flood of fire. Come back next week for the good news.

One of the New Testament...

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15 Jun 2017

Tim Farron resigned yesterday as leader of the Liberal Democrats because the conflict between his evangelical faith and the values of a progressive liberal party had become unmanageable. His official statement can be read here.

During the election campaign he had struggled in particular to explain his...

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