In Paul and the Faithfulness of God N.T. Wright locates Paul’s eschatology firmly in a Jewish hope, rooted in scripture, “not just for an individual future after death, but for a restoration and renewal of the whole nation, and perhaps even for the entire created order” (1043). It gives me the opportunity to illustrate some basic distinctions using coloured beads, which can be slid along a thin rod.
A couple of recent tweets from The Gospel Coalition raise the question of the place of suffering both in the New Testament narrative and in Christian experience. The first is an unattributed quotation, though I’m betting it’s John Piper: “Suffering is actually part of God’s plan (and so necessary) in order to bring about these shining riches of praise and glory and honor.” I presume it was from the recent TGC Women’s Conference, which was called “Resurrection life in a world of suffering”.
What is primarily said about Jesus in Hebrews 1 is that he is the Son whom God has “appointed the heir of all things”. After making purification for Israel’s sins—not the sins of the world—he “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”, which of course invokes Psalm 110:1-2 and the assurance that YHWH’s king will rule in the midst of his enemies. He has inherited a “name” superior to that of the angels—presumably the name “Lord” (cf. Phil. 2:9-11). He is the Son “begotten” today, in the language of Psalm 2:7, which means that he has inherited the nations. It has nothing to do with being “eternally begotten” of the Father, which is a totally different ball game. Jesus is the king to whom YHWH says, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14), whose throne will last throughout the ages (Heb. 1:8-9). This is the dominant story about Jesus in the New Testament.
As much out of morbid curiosity as anything, I have been following the intra-Reformed debate over the eternal subordination of the Son rather closely. Posts, counter-posts and counter-counter-posts from some hard-hitting theologians have been proliferating at a great rate. For no very good reason—this is not a topic I would normally have much time for—I have been keeping a list of contributions here. The tally is currently 23, but it certainly is not exhaustive and may well go up. I get the impression that the non-subordinationists are coming out on top, but that may be because I am relying too heavily on Scot McKnight’s updates.
Following on from yesterday’s piece on “The subordination of the Son, and why it has nothing to do with gender”….
In response to accusations that his subordinationist Trinitarianism is a departure from orthodoxy Bruce Ware, who is Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, has published a defence, firmly repudiating the charges. Fair enough. My interest is not in the theological dispute per se but in how it mangles scripture.
There has been a furious flurry of posts (see below) from various directions this week laying into the argument of some neo-Calvinists (Wayne Grudem prominent among them) that the eternal subordination of the woman to the man is directly underpinned by the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. I don’t want to get into the Trinitarian debate here, though I might mention a piece I wrote a couple of years back on subordination, Trinity and gender, if anyone’s interested. But I would venture to suggest that the theological subordinationists are on firmer biblical ground than the theological egalitarians. Up to a point.
Craig Keener, who certainly knows a thing or two, has written a piece on Jesus Creed reaffirming the common egalitarian argument that Paul prefaces the instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33 with an exhortation to mutual submission. I count myself a dyed-in-the-wool egalitarian, but I am still not convinced that this interpretation is exegetically defensible.
We get off to a rather disconcerting start with Keener’s argument that Paul expected masters to obey their servants. How does that work? Well, Paul tells slaves to obey their masters in Ephesians 6:5 and then in verse 9 says that masters should “do the same to them”. In Keener’s view Paul has “expressed one of the most radically antislavery sentiments of his day”.
An opinion piece in the Guardian last week asked, “Is the end of western Christianity in sight?” On the strength of the most recent British Social Attitudes data the article asserted that “No religion” is now by far the largest self-identification in England and Wales, that the mainstream churches are failing to make converts, that religion has come to stand for the opposite of freedom, especially sexual freedom, that it is “hard to see a route back for normative Christianity”, and perhaps surprisingly that human rights “could become vulnerable in an entirely post-Christian environment where the collective memory slips from the old moorings inherited from Christian ethics”.
The world is changing. The Archbishop of Canterbury may be right in thinking that the tide is turning in this country, that the church is entering a new spring at last. He may not be right. Either way, it’s unlikely that the future will be business as usual. New wine always needs new wineskins. Here are some thoughts on narrative and praxis as we walk nervously into the unknown.
Keen to avoid being condemned for the “heresy” of Apocalyptic-Inflationism and to “maintain narrative orthodoxy”, James asks what he should do with passages such as Revelation 21:3-5:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:3–5)
In his Christian Theology: An Introduction Alister McGrath discusses the taxonomy of “natural heresies” outlined by Schleiermacher in The Christian Faith (147-49). Here is the gist of the argument.
1. The essence or basic principle of Christianity is that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ.
2. The rejection of this principle is the rejection of Christianity itself. “In other words, to deny that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ is to deny the most fundamental truth claim which the Christian faith dares to make.”