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

Who are the Gentiles who have the work of the Law written on their hearts?

There is a group of Gentiles in Paul’s eschatological narrative who do not have the Law of Moses, who nevertheless do the work of the Law, and who “will be justified” on a day of judgment and earn “glory and honour and peace” (Rom. 2:12-16). The question of the religious or rhetorical status of these Gentiles came up for discussion at last week’s research conference at the London School of Theology.

Critical scholars mostly think that these are unbelieving Gentiles, which is the view that I took in The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom. The preference of more conservative scholars would be to suppose either that Paul is speaking only of a hypothetical pagan righteousness for rhetorical purposes, or that these are Christian Gentiles who have been regenerated by the Spirit. I’ve thought through my position again in light of the discussion and I’ve come to the same conclusion, with one or two novelties picked up along the way. This is a fairly sketchy presentation of my reasons, beginning with a translation that attempts to show the syntactic structure of the passage….

18 Apr 2018

Very reluctantly, I am going to take issue with Peter Enns here. In a recent “Bible for Normal People” podcast he advocates what is basically a New Perspective reading of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

It’s not about individuals but it’s about a collective. If I can put that a little bit differently...

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13 Apr 2018

By way of an addendum to the previous piece on Jesus’ subversion of the Jewish Gehenna, I want to look briefly at James 3:5b-6, which is the only place in the New Testament outside the Synoptic Gospels where the word geenna occurs. The verse reads (my translation):

Behold, how...

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10 Apr 2018

A major part of my argument against the traditional doctrine of “hell” is that in Jesus’ teaching “Gehenna” is not a place of unending conscious torment after death but a symbol for the devastation and loss of life that Israel would suffer as a consequence of the war against Rome. I think that Jesus has...

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4 Apr 2018

Steve Jacob found my post on annihilationism very interesting and wants to know whether I think “Tim Keller is on the mark in his recent article on hell”. The short answer is no. A longer answer follows. Readers might also be interested in my post “Tim Keller gets a lot right but gets hell badly wrong”.


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30 Mar 2018

Zondervan Academic has just put out a blog post on the resurrection adapted from some online teaching material from Scott Oliphint. Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. I want to consider the piece, first, because it’s Easter, and secondly, because it...

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27 Mar 2018

In an article on “Evangelical Annihilationism” published twenty years ago J.I. Packer respectfully rebutted the arguments made by the likes of E.W. Fudge, John Wenham and John Stott in favour of a more benign understanding of “hell” not as a place of...

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20 Mar 2018

A decent sermon at a well known central London Anglican church Sunday night was spoilt, in my view, by the excited closing announcement that Jesus is coming back soon. Apart from the fact that the dogma is questionable on biblical grounds, which I’ll come to, I don’t understand how or why such a reputable church...

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14 Mar 2018

I have written rather a lot about the doctrine of “hell” on this site, for several reasons. It bothers people. It is one of the least pleasant aspects of conservative-fundamentalist expressions of Christianity. It continues to be misunderstood by its detractors and defenders alike. It draws on narratives and...

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