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The battle between theology and history for the soul of the church: 24 antitheses I keep coming back to this. There are people out there in the church—perhaps not very many—who think more or less the same way that I do. We may not agree on the details or the degree, but we are oriented in roughly the same direction. But there are a lot of good people out there in the church who... (5th Mar. 2013 | 22 comments)
Reading the Old Testament as a Christian I am preparing a piece for a theological forum in a couple of weeks on reading the Old Testament as a Christian. I will probably make two main points. The first is that the traditional approach needs to be reversed. We usually read the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament: on the one... (1st Mar. 2013 | 3 comments)
A missional understanding of justification by faith (by way of Isaiah) Isaiah is on the defensive. He hears a word from the Lord and he has to speak it. He does not disobey, nor does he contradict God. As a result, he gets scourged, beaten, and spat upon. But he can endure all this abuse from unrighteous Israel because the Lord is his helper. He has not been disgraced... (21st Feb. 2013 | 9 comments)
Eternal life and the story of Israel I got a question from someone recently asking about the meaning of “eternal life” in the Gospels. He takes it that the expression “age to come” refers to the time after either the collapse of national Israel or the collapse of the pagan oikoumenē. That is also my view. But at the end of the story... (13th Feb. 2013 | 8 comments)
What is the basis for the mission to the Gentiles? As a thoroughly Gentile church we take the logic of a mission to the Gentiles for granted, but it’s not as obvious or inevitable as we might think. Jesus appears to have been almost entirely occupied with a mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6; 15:24; cf. Jer. 50:6) and,... (8th Feb. 2013 | 7 comments)
Eschatology, mission and the theological formation of the church I spent a day this week with a group of leaders from a network of churches in the UK who were discussing how best to teach theology across the movement. They went about it with a refreshing candour: “We have an anti-intellectual history—we need to embrace learning.” The discussion revolved around... (2nd Feb. 2013 | 7 comments)
Misreading the parable of the minas from the post-Christendom margins There is a strong dissident view that the nobleman in Jesus’ parable, who gives ten minas to each of his servants to “do business with” before travelling to a far country to receive a kingdom, is an unjust rather than a just “lord” and that his “kingdom” is quite antithetical to the kingdom of God... (28th Jan. 2013 | 6 comments)
Review: Richard Horsley, The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel (part 2) In the second part of The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel: Moving beyond a Diversionary Debate Richard Horsley first discusses a number of methodological issues, then outlines his view of Jesus as a prophet leading the renewal of Israel against the rulers of Israel. I will give a quick... (26th Jan. 2013 | 0 comments)
Review: Richard Horsley, The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel (part 1) I have read a fair bit of Richard Horsley’s work on the social and imperial background to the New Testament. It’s always been interesting stuff, but my impression is that he has been more interested in the critique of political and economic injustice in the abstract than in the particular Jewish-... (21st Jan. 2013 | 0 comments)
Jesus as judge of the living and the dead in the Apostolic Fathers I recently outlined what I see as the apocalyptic Christology of Acts and suggested that most of what is said about the post-Easter Jesus in the New Testament needs to be interpreted within this narrative framework: Jesus was unjustly killed by the rulers of Israel and the Gentiles; he was raised... (14th Jan. 2013 | 4 comments)
The parables: Jesus was just being obtuse It’s remarkable how pervasive the assumption is that Jesus told stories for the same reason that aspiring preachers and teachers today are urged to tell stories—to get people’s attention, entertain, illustrate the point in a homely and accessible fashion, provide vividness, bring clarity, and so on... (11th Jan. 2013 | 1 comment)
The christological narrative of Acts The book of Acts tends to get overlooked when we try to explain who Jesus was and why. We go to the Gospels for an account of Jesus earthly existence and to Paul and Hebrews for an account of his heavenly existence—an approach that reflects the fact that we have been conditioned by later... (8th Jan. 2013 | 5 comments)
Are we religious, spiritual, or something else? Most of us will have observed that in the western context religion is out and spirituality is in, and we may well have adjusted church life, preaching styles, and mission strategies with that observation in mind. Religion is institutional, spirituality is personal; religion is controlling,... (4th Jan. 2013 | 3 comments)
Review: Naomi Alderman, The Liar’s Gospel I read Naomi Alderman’s book The Liars’ Gospel: A Novel because a friend was trying to get her to speak at a debate in Westbourne Grove. Sadly, he failed, but the book, for all its profound Jewish distrust of the madman Yehoshuah and the unfriendly religion that his followers devised, is worth... (29th Dec. 2012 | 0 comments)
Some dull but seasonal reflections on the historical context for the fulfilment of the Immanuel prophecy These notes are an attempt to clarify, for myself at least, the historical setting for the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, following the helpful feedback given to yesterday’s post: Are Immanuel and Wonderful-Counselor-Mighty-God-Everlasting-Father-Prince-of-Peace the same person? Thanks to all... (21st Dec. 2012 | 4 comments)
Are Immanuel and Wonderful-Counselor-Mighty-God-Everlasting-Father-Prince-of-Peace the same person? When Matthew applies to the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit the words of Isaiah that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”, he is not saying that Jesus is God incarnate. The meaning of the allusion derives from the story that is being told in... (20th Dec. 2012 | 6 comments)
The conception of Jesus, Trinity, and the search for an appropriate metaphysics: it’s nearly Christmas, after all In a recent blog post entitled “Avoiding Trinity” Dave Bish discusses Christian squeamishness about sharing Jesus with Muslims using John’s Gospel on the grounds that it is too Trinitarian. He suggests that such a strategy of avoidance betrays two assumptions—first, that we think that the doctrine... (18th Dec. 2012 | 9 comments)
What is the benefit of Jesus’ death for the Gentiles? I have been asked “how the death of Jesus (instead of the Maccabees, for example) had the effect of abolishing the law which divided Jews and Gentiles”. (It’s what the contact form is for. Feel free to use it.) This seems a fair question. The deaths of the Maccabean martyrs were thought to have... (14th Dec. 2012 | 7 comments)
Forgiveness of sins in Romans The thesis I am exploring in these articles on the forgiveness of sins is that Jesus is primarily understood to have died for the redemption of Israel, as part of a corporate and political—rather than a personal and existential—narrative. The diagrams in this post illustrate the distinction. Jews... (11th Dec. 2012 | 5 comments)
Sweet and Viola’s a-historical kingdom of God In Jesus: A Theography Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have attempted to write a different type of book about Jesus. Not a biography but a “theography”: “we are telling the story of God’s interactions, intersections, and interventions with humanity through the life of Jesus”. It runs from... (7th Dec. 2012 | 4 comments)
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