I wrote a couple of weeks back about the close and defining connection in Paul’s thought between sonship and the specific theme of suffering and vindication. Paul appears to make a crucial distinction in Romans 8:16-17 between being ‘heirs of God’ (klēronomoi… theou) and being ‘fellow heirs of Christ’ (sunklēronomoi… Christou). A person is an heir of God or a child of God by virtue of having received the Spirit and being no longer subject to the condemnation of the Jewish Law. A person is an heir of Christ, however, by virtue of suffering with him in order to be glorified—in effect, raised and vindicated—with him.
I thought I had found a nice new label for myself: a ‘postconservative evangelical’. Roger Olson defines the term in Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology and makes reference to it in a post on NT Wright and the New Perspective. Wright admits to being a postconservative evangelical in his book Justification.
But on further reflection, though not having read Olson’s book, I’m not sure about any ‘reformed and always reforming’ part of the definition. Wright may profess to remain loyal to the Reformation, and if that is simply a matter of not ‘smuggling “merit” back into the doctrine of salvation’, as Olson’s post rather suggests, then I have no great quarrel with it. But it seems to me that the New Perspective has the potential to subvert Reformation theologies in much more fundamental ways than this definition implies—that the narrative-historical approach cuts across the dominant paradigms of modern theology at ninety degrees, leaving the whole intellectual framework seriously weakened.
Daniel Kirk has been running an excellent series of posts on Mark 13—excellent in the sense that I agree with pretty much everything he says. For convenience I have listed his posts here, starting with the most recent:
In a chapter in The Deliverance of God exploring the ‘yawning gap between Justification theory’s description of Judaism and the actual nature of of surrounding Judaism’ (124) Douglas Campbell makes the point that by no means all forms of Judaism were preoccupied with matters of soteriology. So the assumption made by Justification theory that Judaism was fundamentally a system that promoted salvation through works and therefore needed to be corrected by a theory of justification by faith is flawed.
Daniel Levy has posed a couple of questions regarding the thesis of The Coming of the Son of Man. Part of my argument in the book is that much of the language of resurrection refers not to a final and general resurrection of the dead but specifically to the resurrection of the martyrs who suffer as a result of their witness to Greek-Roman paganism. This is, properly speaking, an extension of Jesus’ resurrection. He is the firstborn from the dead, who suffered for the sake of the future of the people of God and was vindicated—according to the symbolism of Daniel’s Son of man. The churches were called quite specifically to be conformed to this archetype, to the extent that they would share both in his sufferings and in his glorification or vindication. Daniel’s questions have to do with whether this reconstruction can really be accounted for historically…
Phil Johnson posted a very brief statement about divine foreknowledge on the Pyromaniacs blog today to the effect that Arminians must ‘deny God’s foreknowledge, thereby nullifying God’s omniscience’. The assumption is basically that if God is omniscient, he must also know the future, which means that the outcome of all things is predetermined, to deny which amounts to blasphemy. It was meant to provoke.
The argument has the shape of a formal logic that must leave anyone who dares to think otherwise skewered. But whatever philosophical validity it may have, in a very important sense it misrepresents the nature of biblical prophecy. What follows is a reworking of some observations I offered in this regard, which so far have been entirely ignored, though I realize that may be because they were not very coherent.
Having worked through the first part of Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God I think at least one broad provisional judgment can be made with regard to his general approach. What Campbell has done so far is set out in a very thorough and rigorous fashion what he understands by Justification theory, its multi-layered and extensively ramified shortcomings, and an alternative and clearly preferred theory of salvation drawn principally, or at least representatively, from Romans 4-5. It’s an impressive and, on its own terms, extremely cogent analysis; but it is also a deeply bifurcated analysis, and I really wonder whether it is going to help us make sense of the language of justification in Paul or its relation to other elements in his thought.
Scot McKnight has been looking at Peter Leithart’s book Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom. Scot doesn’t sound too impressed at the outset by Leithart’s thesis, and much of the comment has been from scandalized Anabaptists.
Scot quotes this paragraph from the book, and I have to say that from one point of view at least I think Leithart is absolutely right:
For all its flaws, though, I believe the project of Christendom—the project of seeking to reshape political and cultural institutions and values in accord with the gospel—is a direct implication of the gospel’s proclamation that Jesus is Lord. Yoder, to his great credit, argued that Christians are called to live in conformity with the demands of the gospel here and now, and he even imagined what a more faithful Constantine might have looked like. His imaginary Constantine resembled the real Constantine more than Yoder realized. Christians disagree on how achievable that project [Christendom] is. It is, of course, full of risk and temptation, like everything else. I have a difficult time understanding Christians who object to the premise of Christendom.
In a post on the ‘community of the Beatitudes and the restoration of creation’ I suggested that while the Beatitudes are not universal ‘Christian’ truths but contingent teaching aimed at the formation in Israel of a community of transitional renewal, it may nevertheless make sense to ‘transpose’ them from a minor eschatological key into a major key of creational renewal for use by the church today. Jim Hoag has picked up on that word ‘transpose’ and asks—rather astutely, I think—whether this amounts to a step back in the direction of an old school, undifferentiated, ahistorical hermeneutic. It actually comes as a pleasant surprise to be faulted for hermeneutical inconsistency.