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

Biblical narrative, missional context, and same-sex sexual relations all in the same breath

This may be getting much too speculative for most people’s taste, but I’ll have a go….

It’s basically another attempt to talk about biblical narrative, missional context, and same-sex sexual relations all in the same breath, with an overblown chart thrown in for good measure.

The bit that I’m especially interested in is point 4 on the chart. What does the church in the West represent or stand for or embody ethically in relation to the secular-humanist matrix in which it is situated? I will argue, tentatively, that the church should be a benchmark not of ideals that belonged to the biblical period (though these ideals are not forgotten) but of secular humanism’s own best ethical standards.

The Nashville Statement and the future of the church

The furore surrounding the Nashville Statement may have come and gone, but I have been in a lot of discussions about the missional implications of the LGBT “problem” recently and I feel I ought to make a belated stab at an appraisal.

The Statement is not well written and ambiguous at critical points. It fails to explain its terminology. It makes no attempt to present the biblical, theological, or scientific reasoning behind the terse affirmations and denials. It gains theological focus at the expense of pastoral sensitivity, to put it mildly. It reduces the complex, shifting boundary conditions of human sexuality to a crude moral binary. Taken at face value, it is divisive. The tone is authoritarian, self-important and archaic. The whole idea of signing a statement of this sort seems to me vain and rather pointless.

Who was/is Jesus?

Who was/is Jesus? If we read the New Testament as historical narrative—rather than through later theological grids—the dominant story by a country mile is the one about the man who was marked out at birth, and by his birth, as Israel’s future saviour and king, who was chosen and anointed by Israel’s God to bring a powerful end-of-the-age message to Israel regarding the coming decisive intervention of God in the affairs of his people for better and for worse, who was fiercely opposed by the political-religious establishment in Jerusalem and put to death, who was raised from the dead, who was given supreme authority to rule as Israel’s king in the midst of his enemies throughout the coming ages, and who was eventually to be confessed as Lord by the nations of the Greek-Roman world.

A meditation on narrative for Carnival day

The Notting Hill Carnival kicks off today, so there is no church this morning. The whole of Westbourne Grove has been fenced off, boarded up, covered with tarpaulins. Large numbers of decent people have evacuated the area. You’d think Hurricane Harvey was about to hit west London. But it has given me the opportunity to reflect, in a lazy Sunday morning fashion, on the narrative-historical method—what it is and why we need it.

Not all who say, “Lord, Lord”, know what they’re talking about

What it means to call Jesus “Lord” has been a big bone of contention over the last decade or so. I have had a lot to say on the matter here, there, etc., and on Facebook recently. Many people are convinced by a syllogistic Trinitarian logic: YHWH = Lord, Jesus = Lord, therefore Jesus = YHWH. Others, myself included, think that Jesus is confessed as “Lord” because the authority entailed in lordship has been graciously bestowed upon him by God (cf. Phil. 2:9-11).

This latter ante-Trinitarian line of thought can be made to serve different theological agendas. My own view is that it is not an argument against Trinitarianism (that is, anti-Trinitarian). It is an argument for a narrative-historical reading of the New Testament that foregrounds the kingdom-political significance of Jesus in the first century context. This is not the whole story, but it is by far the most important narrative thread in the New Testament, running from the announcement to Mary that her son would receive the “throne of his father David” (Lk. 1:32) through to the fall of Babylon the great in Revelation 18-19. I think it needs to be better understood—at the expense of the classic Trinitarian paradigm if necessary.

Did God die on the cross? Part 1

This has been giving me a headache.

Luke has Paul say to the Ephesian elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). In a sermon posted last week on The Gospel Coalition site Jason Helopolous insists that the last part means what it says—or, at least, what it appears to say: God saved or preserved the church “through his own blood” (dia tou haimatou tou idiou).

This has to be wrong, surely?

Trump vs. Kim: what does Jesus have to say about it?

In good off-the-cuff biblical language Donald Trump has warned that North Korea’s recent salvo of threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Jesus said that the Roman assault on Jerusalem would result in “such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” (Mk. 13:19). Josephus shared his view: “Accordingly it appears to me, that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were” (War 1.12). Both of them, I imagine, were recalling Daniel 12:1: “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time”.

The centurion at the cross and the lack of a definite article

What did the centurion at the cross believe about Jesus? Did he believe that Jesus was the true Son of God? Did he believe that he was equivalent to the divinised emperor? Or did he merely agree with popular Jewish opinion that Jesus was a righteous man (and not the first), who had been unjustly put to death by the corrupt régime? In other words, why was last week’s post about “a son of God” and not about “the Son of God”?

The problem for interpretation, in the first place, is that in this type of sentence it can be difficult to know whether the Greek phrase huios theou (“son of God”) is definite or indefinite—“the Son of God” or “a son of God”.

When the centurion, who stood opposite him, saw that he expired in this way, he said, “Truly, this man was a son / the Son of God (huios theou ēn).” (Mk. 15:39)

Melchizedek and the Son of God

This is a quick response to Mark Nieweg’s question, following yesterday’s post on Jesus as the Son of God, whether Hebrews 7:13 is an argument for the eternal existence of the Son of God: “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (ESV).

It is, and it isn’t.


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