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


Review of Matthew Bates, Gospel Allegiance. How does allegiance save?

The second part of chapter two of Matthew Bates’ important book Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ considers the means by which the “gospel of allegiance” saves people.

He sums up the argument so far: “The gospel in Romans 1:1–5 is about the incarnation and enthronement. It is purposed toward the allegiance of the nations to Jesus the king” (73).

Review of Matthew Bates, Gospel Allegiance. What is faith?

Chapter two of Matthew Bates’ Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ sets out his understanding of the Greek word pistis. In the first part he explains why he thinks that “allegiance” is a better translation of the word than “faith”. In the second part he asks how “allegiance” saves people. I’ll just look at the first part here.

The argument of chapter one was that mainstream conservative-Reformed pastor-theologians have quite seriously misrepresented the gospel. The gospel is not that Jesus died for my sins but that Jesus is king.

Review of Matthew Bates, Gospel Allegiance. What was the gospel?

I have spent way too much time finding fault with Matthew Bates’ argument that Paul alludes to the pre-existence of Jesus in Romans 1:3. Now to get on with the substance of Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ. It might be a bit ambitious to take this one chapter at a time, but let’s at least begin with the crucial first chapter on the gospel.

Are Ignatius and Irenaeus reliable interpreters of Romans 1:3?

Well, we’re still not quite done with the purported incarnational christology of Romans 1:3. Matthew Bates makes the claim in a brief section of his excellent book Gospel Allegiance (51-52), and at greater length in a 2015 CBQ article (117-21), that in this verse the aorist participle genomenou means not simply that Jesus was “born” a descendant of David (for which Paul would have used the verb gennaō), but that he “came into being” in the flesh, having previously existed in heaven.

Gospel allegiance: coming into being bodily

There is much that is good about Matthew Bates’ Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ, which is the follow-up to his highly successful Salvation by Allegiance Alone. I plan to review it in some detail over the next few weeks, all being well, and hope to recommend it as a clear and accessible presentation of a workable narrative “gospel.” It seems to me that the “missional” church in Europe, and no doubt elsewhere, is crying out for a solid, coherent and properly biblical alternative to the mainstream conservative-evangelical salvationist “gospel.” Bates’ work is a significant contribution to the task.

From theology to history: Oliver Crisp on the temptations of the Christ

Here’s my working assumption. From the second to the twentieth century Christian “truth” was sustained by a theological superstructure or scaffolding. Recently, that superstructure has begun to look unstable, indeed liable to collapse. If Christian “truth” is to survive into the age to come, the theological framework needs to be dismantled and replaced with a historical or narrative-historical framework. The only Jesus who can save the church is the historical Jesus—the Son who was sent to the vineyard of Israel, in the infinite wisdom of God, to proclaim the coming of a new regime, who was killed, who was raised from the dead, who was exalted to the right hand of God to reign as king over both God’s priestly people and the nations throughout the age to come.

What about the resurrection of the martyrs? When was that supposed to have happened?

So my argument is that the best way to make sense of Paul’s teaching about the parousia of Christ is to identify the apocalyptic event with the conversion of the nations of the Greek-Roman world through the faithful witness of the persecuted churches. Paul told the story looking forward, drawing on the largely symbolic language of Old Testament prophecy; we tell the story looking backward, using historical methods; and it seems to me that the two accounts line up pretty well. But how does the resurrection of the martyrs (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 20:4) fit into this bi-narratival arrangement? Does it belong to the symbolic discourse of prophecy or to history? Or to both?

Would it bother Paul that Jesus still hasn’t come again two thousand years later?

A good friend of mine has written a simple story in which the apostle Paul is transported to the twenty-first century and is disturbed to find that Jesus still hasn’t come back. It’s clear from his letters that Paul expected Jesus to return within his lifetime, or soon afterwards. But here we are two thousand years later, and there’s still no sign of him. No wonder people are walking away from Christian faith. To the rational mind, the whole notion that Jesus could, at any minute, descend bodily on the clouds of heaven just seems absurd.

David Bentley Hart on the age to come: when, where, and who would get in?

Hart’s second meditation, on eschatology, in That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, & Universal Salvation, ends with a discussion of the distinction between the present age and the age to come. There is some vacillation here, it seems to me, as he shifts between theological and exegetical registers. Or perhaps it comes down to a lack of terminological clarity. A lot gets lost in translation. Or perhaps I just haven’t read the section carefully enough.


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