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

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Could you please help me understand the practical consequences…? “Could you please help me understand the practical consequences of the narrative-historical approach?” The question was put to me by a student at a conservative theological college. I realise that most of what I write here is of a “theoretical” nature, but I have tried occasionally at least to... (17th Jan. 2018 | 5 comments)
The doctrine of the Second Coming and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel According to Luke, when Jesus is taken up with the clouds into heaven, two men in white robes are watching on. They ask the disciples why they are still gazing into the empty sky. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the way that (or simply ‘as’: hon tropon) you saw him... (10th Jan. 2018 | 22 comments)
Should we “water down” the doctrine of the Second Coming? The Second Coming of Jesus is a classic Christian doctrine. The Nicene Creed says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. The Basis of faith of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK affirms belief in the “personal and... (9th Jan. 2018 | 12 comments)
New year, new attempt to explain what this blog is all about The argument runs something like this….The church began as a movement within first century Judaism. Like any other historical movement, its character and purpose were shaped by its historical circumstances. It was a product of its time and place. It was part of an ancient story.The church... (3rd Jan. 2018 | 9 comments)
What Christmas teaches us about the gospel Jonathan Leeman has weighed into the debate about whether the gospel has to do with personal salvation or social and cosmic justice. Or both. Or neither. He takes Tim Keller’s side in this week’s little well-mannered twitter spat, and zealously raises the banner of “inseparable asymmetry” in the... (22nd Dec. 2017 | 7 comments)
When is a dichotomy not a dichotomy? Tim Keller vs. Rachel Held Evans This little well-mannered twitter spat illustrates what seems to me to be a basic theological flaw in the modern church.Tim Keller tweeted:Rachel Held Evans replied, somewhat circumspectly, but we know where this is coming from:Various people pointed out—including Keller himself—that Keller was not... (19th Dec. 2017 | 1 comment)
The doctrine of the Trinity: less than the sum of the parts Fred Sanders appears to be the go-to evangelical academic for a defence of Trinitarian orthodoxy these days. In a post last week on the Zondervan Academic blog he asks ‘Is the “Trinity” in the Bible?’ In it he sets about defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the perennial protest that it... (18th Dec. 2017 | 9 comments)
The parable of the good Samaritan and the plight of Israel Alex notes that a corollary of the narrative-historical approach is that “Jesus’ primary ethical concern centered around the survival of the covenantal communities he was forming—communities that he believed would face violent opposition”. That is well stated. Jesus taught his disciples how to... (14th Dec. 2017 | 6 comments)
Off the map of the biblical narrative Here’s a diagram (click for a larger version) to accompany last week’s post explaining how I think the biblical eschatological narrative takes us beyond the violence of God.1. The diagram starts with the mission of Jesus and his followers as a continuation of the story of Israel.2. This... (11th Dec. 2017 | 2 comments)
Unbelievable? Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet? Matthew Hartke & Andrew Perriman The podcast I did with Justin Brierley and Matthew Hartke for Justin’s Unbelievable? show is now available on the Premier Christian Radio site. Matthew and I agree that Jesus has to be understood as an apocalyptic prophet—his mission was defined by a searing vision of Israel’s future. We disagree... (9th Dec. 2017 | 3 comments)
Do not lead us into temptation: a mistranslation according to the Pope The Catholic Church is unhappy with the line “lead us not into temptation” (mē eisenenkēs hēmas eis peirasmon) in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13; Lk. 11:4). The problem is that it appears to attribute responsibility for a person falling into temptation to God. Pope Francis has said: “It’s not a good... (8th Dec. 2017 | 2 comments)
Beyond the violence of God: a narrative-historical perspective What I rather grandly call the narrative-historical method works on the assumption that the Bible is essentially a story told by a people about its historical experience and should be read from that perspective. The historical existence of this people was not merely religious or spiritual; it was... (6th Dec. 2017 | 8 comments)
The “historical” Jesus is anything but gentle, meek and mild With all due respect to those who think that Jesus was a kindly, loving, unworldly pacifist who rose above the Old Testament logic of sin and violence, I think that this is a serious misreading of the Gospels. The “historical” Jesus—by which I mean the Jesus who makes sense in the context of first... (1st Dec. 2017 | 21 comments)
Is “kingdom” in the New Testament the same as “kingdom” in the Old Testament? I suggested in a recent post that the biblical “kingdom” paradigm was put in place when the people of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king because they needed someone 1) to judge them and 2) to lead them out against their enemies (1 Sam. 8:20). Theologically, therefore, “kingdom” is YHWH dealing... (28th Nov. 2017 | 17 comments)
Phyllis Bird on the authority of historical testimony Earlier in the week I was in Billingham on Teesside where I gave a talk on narrative-historical theology to the super Galilee Network and friends. In a typically overloaded (when will I learn?) introduction I used this image—one which I have used before on this blog—to make the point that what we... (23rd Nov. 2017 | 3 comments)
Digging for deeper meanings that don’t exist Jerel Kratt has been making a vigorous case against my suggestion that Isaiah 60-66 describes an enhanced but essentially historical future for Israel that was not fulfilled, either in the decades after the return from exile or in the events narrated in the New Testament.He thinks that Isaiah was... (18th Nov. 2017 | 8 comments)
Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: the eschatology of Isaiah 60-66 In “21 reasons why the coming of the kingdom of God was not the end of the world” I stated that “There is no new creation in the Old Testament…, only kingdom.” There are, however, two explicit references to new creation in the Old Testament, both in the third part of Isaiah: “For behold, I create... (17th Nov. 2017 | 15 comments)
21 reasons why the coming of the kingdom of God was not the end of the world I recently took part in a recorded conversation with Matt Hartke for Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? programme on Premier Christian Radio. It will be broadcast and made available on podcast some time in the next few weeks, I believe.Matt has been on a long journey of faith and theology. You can... (14th Nov. 2017 | 8 comments)
Signs in the heavens and distress on earth In Matthew and Mark Jesus speaks of events in the heavens prior to the revelation of the Son of Man: the darkening of sun and moon, the falling of the stars, the shaking of the powers of heaven (Matt. 24:29; Mk. 13:24-25). In response to Dale Allison’s argument that Jesus expected a literal... (7th Nov. 2017 | 1 comment)
Dale Allison on Jesus and the end of the world (or not) Shortly before his arrest in Jerusalem, as Mark tells the story, Jesus made a prediction: after a period of severe tribulation the sun and moon would be darkened, the stars would fall from heaven, the powers of heaven would be shaken, people would see “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great... (2nd Nov. 2017 | 1 comment)
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