I’ve just learned that John Webster is leaving the University of Aberdeen for the University of St. Andrews. What a huge move!
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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Sunday, 6 January 2013
A friend of mine tipped me off about a new and helpful work on the Holy Spirit in modern theology: Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit, published with Mohr Siebeck in their newly established series Dogmatik in Der Moderne. Mohr Siebeck kindly offered me a copy of the book to review here.
This engaging and challenging monograph began its life as doctoral thesis submitted to King’s College London, under the supervision of Colin Gunton and later Murrie Rae. The title–God Without a Face?–points to ambiguity most Christians have with regard to the Holy Spirit. God the Father, they understand, and God the Son, but what do we really think about the Spirit? Many think of the Spirit as merely a way of talking about God’s action, and if they distinguish the Spirit from the Father and/or Son, he is merely an “it”, an indistiguishable grey blob of energy (cf. Gordon Fee, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, 24). However, Awad wants the church and the academy to think more clearly about the distinct personhood, or “individuation” of the Spirit, so that one cannot think about God as Father and as Son without at the same time thinking about God as the Spirit.
Awad’s work is a fruit of the return to Trinitarian studies in the 20th century, which was spurred on by Barth but moved beyond him with the work of Moltmann and later Gunton and Torrance and a slew of other contemporary theologians. This movement is not merely centered in Protestant thinking because it is highly influenced by greater ecumenical discussions particularly with Orthodox theologians as well as the patristic resourcement–a return to patristic sources as central to theological discussions. Awad is no different in this, in that his study, is largely focused on patristic debates as means to assess modern Trinitarian constructions. In particular, Cappadocian Trinitarian thinking is central to Awad’s argument. This, I think, is a helpful move for all sorts of areas of theology, as my own thesis work on Greek patristic soteriology as a helpful introduction to reading Paul. Accordingly, before picking up Awad’s monograph, I was already amenable to his methodology.
At the same time, I think the problem that Awad addresses is a central issue within Christian theology. What place does the Spirit have in our theology? Are we truly Trinitarian or do we merely use this language out of habit and out of tradition? When I was in seminary and took my first class in systematics, my prof helpfully guided us into the Trinity as the foundational framework for doing theology. As my essay for that class, I did a brief survey of different Protestant churches asking things about their stated views of God and their practice of incorporating the Trinity into their preaching and teaching. I, unsurprisingly, found much continuity between different traditions about the Father and the Son, but there were wildly different conceptions of the Spirit portrayed. This spurred me on to write almost every optional-topic essay I had in seminary about the Spirit–Spirit in the OT, Spirit in the New Covenant, etc.–so that I could better conceive of the Spirit in the divine economy. I don’t think I personally scratched the surface, but I began to get a better feel for the Trinity. I am woefully conscious of the continued general lack of Spirit-awareness, as my recent post on Christomonism demonstrates.
For my review I’ll do a few more posts as I interact with his helpful volume, so check back for those.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
In the spring I’m teaching NT Theology (undergraduate), and I want to have my students to consider the relationship of the OT to the NT. In particular, I want an essay/article length assessment of Covenant, New Covenant, (Progressive) Dispensational and (possibly) Lutheran perspectives for my students to read. I would prefer an essay that attempts to address each area objectively, but one by a proponent of one area or another would be okay if it adequately addresses the other areas. Again, my preference would be for a journal article or essay from a book rather than a website. Thoughts?
Saturday, 3 November 2012
I picked up Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009) from the college library yesterday, intending to read through much/most of it. I have skimmed bits and pieces of it before – after all, who has time to work through all 1,200 + pages? Well, I’m sure some of you dedicated academics do! But as of this afternoon, after skimming through a few more chapters, I gave up again. I have decided (for now) to spare myself a month’s worth of free time and to settle for reading a couple of published review articles on it instead. So, I started with Barry Matlock’s and will shortly get to Grant Macaskill’s. Both are published in JSNT 34.2 (2011). I have to say, for a quite wordy 35-or-so-page book review, Matlock’s article is thoroughly entertaining. I found myself grinning repeatedly throughout, especially as he critiqued Campbell’s caricature of “Justification theory.” Here is how Matlock summarizes his comments on Campbell’s portrait of Justification theory:
It is the most elaborately constructed straw man I have ever witnessed, and to watch Campbell parry and thrust with it across hundreds of sprawling pages is a singular and uncanny spectacle (137).
Monday, 15 October 2012
I teaching NT theology next semester, and it’s that time of year to order textbooks around here. I’ve been going through various texts that people here have used and that I’ve got on my shelf, but I’ve not found anything that just clicks for me. The current prof is using Frank Matera’s New Testament Theology, which is what I might default to myself. The biggest problem that I’m finding is that most New Testament theologies are written for seminary level students and are thus detailed and long. I want to kindle a fire of interest in the topic not beat them to death with reading. At the same time, I’m a fan of having outside texts–articles and relevant selections from key works–as assigned “seminar” reading so student learn to analyse and discuss arguments. So, a huge textbook squeezes out the ability of assigning this other reading.
My questions to the blogging world are these: 1) What NT theology(ies) are your favorites and why? 2) Would you recommend it/them for undergrads or just grad students?
Sunday, 14 October 2012
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In response to Krister Stendahl’s salvation-historical reading of Paul, Ernst Käsemann, in his “Justificaiton and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans,” offers the following précis of Pauline theology and of the Christian life:
[T]he apostle does not understand history as a continuous evolutionary process but as the contrast of the two realms of Adam and Christ. Pauline theology unfolds this contrast extensively as the struggle between death and life, sin and salvation, law and gospel. The basis is the apocalyptic scheme of the two successive aeons which is transferred to the present. Apparently Paul viewed his own time as the hour of the Messiah’s birth-pangs, in which the new creation emerges from the old world through the Christian proclamation. Spirits, powers and dominions part eschatologically at the crossroads of the gospel. We thus arrive at the dialectic of ‘once’ and ‘now’, which is absorbed into anthropology in the form of ‘already saved’ and ‘still tempted’. In the antithesis of spirit and flesh this dialectic determines the cosmos until the parousia of Christ. Christians are drawn into this conflict all their lives. Every day they have through obedience to authenticate their baptismal origin anew. The churches, too, are exposed in the same way to the attacks of nomism and enthusiasm, which threaten the lordship of Christ. The church lives under the sign of the cross, that is to say, given over to death inwardly and outwardly, waiting longingly with the whole of creation for the liberty of the children of God and manifesting the imitation of Jesus through the bearing of his cross.
Thursday, 3 May 2012
I am pleased to announce that my Durham thesis is now published. I’ve just received word that the publisher has received the advance copies and that the rest of the stock will arrive at their warehouse very soon. All of this comes some weeks ahead of schedule, which is quite nice, since in my youthful impatience I feel as if the entire process from submission to release, while uncomprisingly thorough, has been rather lengthy!
I’m sure it will take some additional weeks for booksellers to receive their stock, and even longer for libraries to process and place volumes on their shelves. But the book is already viewable on amazon and googlebooks, for those of you who wish to take a peek. It retails at a very reasonable $99 (yikes!). But I guess that’s why we write book reviews.
Thanks are due to Cambridge University Press for their courtesy and professionalism along the way, as well as to my wonderful wife and family for their patience and support since the writing process began back in the fall of 2007 (wow, that seems so long ago now!).
Here is all the relevant data:
John K. Goodrich, Paul as an Administrator of God in 1 Corinthians (Society for New Testament Monograph Series 152; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). xiii + 248pp. Hardback. $99.00. ISBN 9781107018624.
This book looks in detail at Paul’s description of apostles in 1 Corinthians 4 and 9 as divinely appointed administrators (oikonomoi) and considers what this tells us about the nature of his own apostolic authority. John Goodrich investigates the origin of this metaphor in light of ancient regal, municipal and private administration, initially examining the numerous domains in which oikonomoi were appointed in the Graeco-Roman world, before situating the image in the private commercial context of Roman Corinth. Examining the social and structural connotations attached to private commercial administration, Goodrich contemplates what Paul’s metaphor indicates about apostleship in general terms as well as how he uses the image to defend his apostolic rights. He also analyses the purpose and limits of Paul’s authority – how it is constructed, asserted and contested – by examining when and how Paul uses and refuses to exercise the rights inherent in his position.
Table of Contents
1. Apostolic authority in 1 Corinthians
Part I. Oikonomoi as Administrators in Graeco-Roman Antiquity
2. Oikonomoi as regal administrators
3. Oikonomoi as civic administrators
4. Oikonomoi as private administrators
Part II. Paul’s Administrator Metaphor in 1 Corinthians
5. Identifying Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians
6. Interpreting Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 4.1–5
7. Interpreting Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9.16–23
Index of passages
Index of authors
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Today was a long but great day having N. T. Wright at Moody Bible Institute. His talks were vintage Wright: very engaging and always with the big picture in view. I don’t think he said anything brand new. His talk on How God Become King seemed, as expected, to be a popularization of his IBR talk last year on the kingdom and the cross, while his talk on Simply Jesus was a summary of the book and a popularization of his Jesus and the Victory of God. As I said before, I will try to obtain the audio recordings of both and upload them soon.
Since Moody is dispensational, the auditor won’t be surprised to find that several questions were asked about how Wright’s Christology and end of exile motif inform his eschatology, especially concerning the millennium. Wright, of course, respectfully dismissed the possibility of a literal, future millennial reign of Christ (can Wright be labeled amillennial? I think so, but a colleague of mine didn’t think so). So, no surprises there. But did you know that Wright’s father-in-law was dispensational, and his mother-in-law (I think that is who he mentioned) applied to Moody (though never enrolled)? Very interesting.
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Never underestimate the initiative of undergraduate students.
Last week one of our students here at MBI noticed that N. T. Wright was scheduled on Monday, Nov. 7th, to give an evening lecture at Chicago’s 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Ave., presumably one of many stops on an American book tour promoting his Simply Jesus and The Kingdom New Testament. Desiring to take advantage of Wright’s timely stop in Chicago, the student contacted Wright directly and invited him also to come to MBI to give not one, but two lectures on his forthcoming books. To my surprise, Wright has graciously accepted and will speak to our students in both the morning and afternoon on Nov. 7th, before lecturing in the evening down the road at 4th Pres. Church. So, my heartfelt thanks go out to Wright in advance for including us on his tour, and to Parker H., a mere student who took the initiative (and indeed had the cojones) to invite such an important thinker as Wright to our campus. The plan is to record both talks, so if possible I will try to obtain and upload them in due course.
Update: Since the event has been moved into Torrey-Grey Auditorium, there should be plenty of seating for both lectures. However, if non-MBI students and staff are planning to attend, I would suggest calling the institute beforehand to ensure you will be permitted to park on campus; sometimes campus security can be rather strict.
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
A friend of mine was asking about Aberdeen, and I happened to visit their Divinity page. While there I noticed that they had finally filled the Kirby Laing Chair of NT Exegesis with Steve Mason, the well-known Josephus scholar. I’m glad they’ve got somebody good for the position, especially since the NT faculty is facing more transition with Jane Heath leaving to fill Durham’s NT opening created by the retirements of Stephen Barton and Bill Telford.
Just as important, though, is the announcement that Tom Greggs was appointed as a systematics professor. I met Tom when he was on a summer sabbatical here in Durham a couple of years ago. He’s definitely a smart chap, reaching the professor position at a young age, but also very approachable. With Webster and Greggs in Aberdeen, I can’t think of a better place to study systematics in the UK.