The curse of patriarchy and the hope of new creation

What impressed me most in Daniel Kirk’s discussion of the place of women in the story of God was his argument that the church is called actively and concretely to realize in the present a future new creation in which it will be unnecessary for the man to rule over the woman.

There are two main parts to the argument, and it is interesting that they more or less side-step Paul’s teaching on the matter. Whatever pragmatic reasons there may have been for restricting the activity of women or requiring them to be submissive towards their husbands, they do not invalidate the ultimate and overruling hope, which is that in the new creation the curse of patriarchy will no longer be operative. If that is the case, then the church is under some eschatological pressure to make that a visible reality in the here and now.

The parable of the two houses and the apocalyptic storm

In a brief exchange with Daniel Kirk about the apocalyptic character of the story that is being told in the New Testament I touched on Jesus’ parable of the two houses, which is found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:24-27). We usually understand this passage as a description of the choice that individuals make in responding to Jesus, but I think this misses the narrative and apocalyptic thrust of Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? Chapter 6: Women in the Story of God

Today the Blog Tour for Daniel Kirk’s new book Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? pulls in at Chapter Six: “Women in the Story of God”. In addition to my contribution here, there will be a piece by Julie Clawson, which I am willing to bet will be nothing like as overwrought and self-serving as what follows here.

I want to start by getting my main problem with Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? out of the way. The book argues—rightly, in my view—for narrative continuity between Jesus and Paul, and in this regard it runs much in the same vein as Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel, though it is Tom Wright and Richard Hays who mostly provide the scholarly backup. Kirk then addresses a standard set of contentious ethical issues—gender equality, social justice, sexuality and homosexuality—asking whether the same continuity can be discerned at this level. His overall argument is that Paul does not represent in any way a significant departure from or distortion of the original vision and practice of Jesus.

The fault line between the Reformed and the... er, post-Reformed?

Everyone by now must have noticed that there is a large and unsightly crack running down the middle of that highly vocal and energetic sector of Western Christianity that thinks of itself in the broadest sense as “evangelical”. It is not the only fault line—Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism and what I suppose we must still call “liberal” Christianity (it seems a waste of a good word) are similarly divided from one another and from evangelicalism. But this is the one that I live closest to—actually, very close to at the moment; and I have a hard time explaining it.

On one side of the fault line is a fairly coherent grouping of Reformed churches and theologies, recently reinvigorated. On the other side… well, things are not quite so clear.

Daniel Kirk's Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? Blog Tour

A new book by Daniel Kirk has been released with great fanfare and a star-studded blog tour, to which I will make a contribution next week. The book is called Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? and is basically an attempt to show that Jesus and Paul are on the same page—or at least on different pages in the same story. Here is the product description from Amazon:

Readers of the Bible are often drawn to Jesus’s message and ministry, but they are not as positively inclined toward Paul. What should people who love Jesus do with Paul? Here Pauline scholar J. R. Daniel Kirk offers a fresh and timely engagement of the debated relationship between Paul’s writings and the portrait of Jesus contained in the Gospels. He integrates the messages of Jesus and Paul both with one another and with the Old Testament, demonstrating the continuity that exists between these two foundational figures. After laying out the narrative contours of the Christian life, Kirk provides fresh perspective on challenging issues facing today’s world, from environmental concerns to social justice to homosexuality.

The fog of biblical interpretation

You are lost in thick fog in open country. You don’t have a compass. You have a map but you have no idea where you are on the map and you can see none of the landmarks—a hilltop, a church spire, a radio mast—that would allow you to get your bearings, triangulate your position, move forward in the right direction. You can see the details of your immediate environment clearly enough—the muddy path, the gate in the fence, the cows watching you with bovine amusement from the other side of the fence. But none of this immediate, localized “clarity” is of much use if your intention is to get home in time for dinner.

Free e-commentary from Robert Gundry (and the clash between Christ and Caesar)

Baker Academic is promoting a new series of “ebook shorts” from Robert Gundry by offering his commentary on Ephesians as a free download for a period of 24 hours on Monday 9th January. You can get it from Amazon, CBD and Barnes and Noble. This is what the publisher says about the series:

In these verse-by-verse commentaries taken from Commentary on the New Testament, Robert Gundry offers a fresh, literal translation and a reliable exposition of every book of the New Testament.

Students and scholars will welcome Gundry’s nontechnical explanations and clarifications, and readers at all levels will appreciate his sparkling interpretations. Priced from $1.99 to $5.99 these affordable and convenient resources are available wherever ebooks are sold.

A parable of two sons

There was a man who had two sons. The older son loved to tell stories and would keep the relatives and servants that made up his father’s household enthralled for hours with his repertoire of tales—not all of them believable—from the family’s eventful history. The younger son was of a much more rational frame of mind and couldn’t tell a joke to save his life.

The weapons of our warfare: on the integrity of Christian ministry

This is one of the passages often cited in support of a theology of “spiritual warfare”—an activity popularly understood as one in which Christians engage in combat with satan and his cohorts through prayer, exorcism, and aggressive proclamation of the Word of God. It is not my intention here to deny the reality of spiritual evil or that there is a dimension of spiritual warfare, in some form or other, to the Christian life. But the way in which the New Testament is used to account for the theology and praxis of spiritual warfare is problematic at a number of points.

Interpreters of the New Testament should show more respect for boundaries

My argument about the historical frame of the Christmas stories and of Simeon’s prayer in particular has been subjected to sustained criticism by Peter Wilkinson, who is certain that at least in the latter case there is reference to the salvation of the nations.

Since Peter is unconvinced by the exegetical arguments, it may help to explore what is going here at the hermeneutical level. One way to account for the disagreement would be to view it as a question of how much respect we have for contextual boundaries. Peter takes the popular line that contextual boundaries may be disregarded in order to preserve traditional interpretations. We naturally want the Christmas stories to be about us. We have a hard time accepting the idea that the traditional discourse of Christmas—the carols, the readings, the nativity plays, the evangelistic sermons, not to mention the doctrine of incarnation—is all a massive over-determination of the texts. I take the view, on the other hand, that contextual boundaries should be respected, even if this means that traditional interpretations are weakened, sidelined, deferred or rejected.


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