The Southwest Commission on Religious Studies (SWCRS), i.e., the regional SBL/AAR/etc. gathering, has posted its Call for Papers for the 2017 meeting a while back, but it’s always worth noting since the deadline is coming up. The deadline for paper proposal submission is Oct. 15, 2016.

As usual, the annual meeting will be held March 10-12, 2017 at the Marriott Hotel, DFW Airport North in Irving, Texas.

And, if you don’t have much of a reason to go, I (Ben) will be providing the Presidential address for the regional NABPR meeting. My guess is that it will be about justification (or perhaps theosis), or maybe both.

On March 2-4, 2017 the Department of Theology at HBU, in conjunction with Lanier Theological Library, is hosting the conference How the Bible Came into Being. The conference will consider the formation of the biblical canon, the literature included and excluded, and its theological significance. Our keynote speakers are James Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Lee McDonald (formerly of Acadia Divinity College). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

We also invite proposals for short papers from scholars and graduate students from a wide array of topics related to how the Bible came into being, for example:

  • The formation of the canon (including its establishment and later discussions)
  • The canonical process of individual texts
  • Comparisons of canonical traditions
  • The theology of the canon
  • Canonical criticism

Anyone who is interested should submit a 300 word abstract on any relevant topic by December 8, 2016. Papers should be 25 minutes long with 5 minutes for questions. Decisions will be announced in late December. Send proposals to Daniel Streett.

We will be publishing some of the conference papers. If you would like your paper considered for inclusion, please indicate this on your proposal. You must also provide a full version of the paper at the time of the conference.

You can find out more details and register for the conference at the Theology Conference webpage.

This year’s conference is partially sponsored by Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible software. At the conference they will give a demonstration of the Logos software and offer significant discounts on purchases.

When ruling out transformation as part of justification, he gives his best short summary:

‘Justification’ is the declaration of the one God, on the basis of the death of Jesus: this really is my adopted child, a member of Abraham’s covenant family, whose sins are forgiven. And that declaration, in the present, anticipates exactly the final verdict which can also be described as ‘adoption’…. Whichever way you look at justification, whichever Pauline context you line up beside it, it always retains this character: the ultimate future brought forward into the present, and the two have joined hands by the spirit. (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 958-59)

My only beef with that, in light of my larger project, is that Paul so directly connects justification with new life, that the new life is not just at the resurrection but starts now. So, while justification is a new status it is also eschatological life–both now and the future. It is not based on works, but the life given now is the ability to love and serve God through the Spirit as God’s new creation act in us, that is through his justification of us. And, with Wright, this justification will ultimately entail resurrection from the dead.

You may be interested in a nice summary here as well: What N.T. Wright Really Said

Though this blog is usually about New Testament and theological topics, I (Ben) found out a tax trick related to investing that I’d never heard of, so I needed to post it somewhere. Every semester I give a lecture on retirement investing (moral of that story: start saving when you are 22!), so perhaps at least one of my students is reading this. If not, then you might benefit anyway, unintentionally. Plus, since theologians don’t make much money, we are more likely to benefit from this tax arrangement.

Basically, the story is this: if you fall in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, any long term capital gains are taxed at 0%! Taking you through several scenarios, this blog post explains the Mechanics of the 0% Long-Term Capital Gains Tax Rate.

Speaking of avoiding taxes, let me also remind readers of a great tip I received when I was heading off to PhD studies: convert any 401ks, 403bs, or IRAs to a Roth IRA while in school and you have little to no income, and that money will never be taxed.

While Wright is pegged as the “ecclesiological” version of justification, it strikes me that this is a red-herring. While justification as covenant status addresses the division of Jews and Gentiles, the problem is more basic. Wright sees justification has addressing the human problems of sin, condemnation, and death, and Paul’s discussion of a creational, anthropological, covenantal, and forensic eschatology is described in terms of justification (see the progressive discussion of these framing terms in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 925-37). Ultimately this is all captured in his discussion of final eschatology:

Paul’s vision in Romans 1-8, then, has as its framework the all-important narrative about a future judgment according to the fullness of the life that has been led, emphasizing the fact that those ‘in Christ’ will face ‘no condemnation’ on that final day (2.1-16; 8.1-11, 31-39). The reason Paul gives for this is, as so often, the cross and the spirit (8.3-4): in the Messiah, and by the spirit, the life in question will have been the life of spirit-led obedience, adoption, suffering, prayer, and ultimately glory (8.5-8, 12-17, 18-27, 28-30). This is not something other than ‘Paul’s doctrine of justification‘. It is its outer, eschatological framework.   …   And, to repeat a vital point about the character of Paul’s theology, that integration [of present and final justification] makes nonsense of all schemes that depend on regarding Romans 1-4 and 5-8 as representing two types of thought or systems of soteriology. That division results from failing to notice Paul’s larger controlling category, namely, the covenant promises made by God to Abraham to deal with the problem of the world’s sin and its consequences. Those, Paul insists, are the promises to which the covenant God has been true in the Messiah. The faithfulness of this God is the underlying theme of Romans 1-8… [sic] as it is also the problem, and then the solution, throughout Romans 9-11. (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 941-42)

He later uses the terminology of ‘inaugurated forensic and covenantal eschatology’. “The future verdict … is thus brought forward into the present, because of the utter grace of the one God seen in the ‘faithful’ death of the Messiah … and then at work, as we shall now see, through the spirit in the gospel” (944-45).

Restoring the community, setting it to rights, is important, but in Christ and the Spirit God is setting the whole world to rights, and so to limit justification, for Wright at least, to ecclesiology is to miss his larger picture. That said, he frames it this way:

Once we have worked through the first five preliminary points, we ought to realize that this sixth one is where it has all been going. Those who are declared or accounted ‘righteous’ on the basis of Messiah-faith constitute the single covenant family which the one God has faithfully given to Abraham. (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 961)


Francis Watson frames the basic difference between Paul and Judaism as one of distinct views of divine and human agency. He is clear that it is not simply divine grace vs poor form of Pelagianism. His reading has a payoff value when interpreting the notoriously difficult Romans 2.7-13, regarding those that pursue the good receiving life and those that do the law are justified. He argues:

Belief in judgment by works is indeed an integral part of Paul’s theology…[citing Rom 8.13, Gal 6.8, 5.21; Rom 2.9-10, etc.]…[The “good” that humans do] is grounded in God’s prior saving action, which establishes and enables an appropriately directed human agency. This is not “salvation by works” as commonly understood, that is as a salvation attained by unaided human effort. But nor is is “salvation by grace” as commonly understood, that is as a salvation in which the one who is saved stands in a purely passive relationship to the one who saves. Divine and human human agency do not conexist on the same plane, in such a way that more of one means less of the other. Rather, God’s prior grace works in and through the human agent, whose reoriented and free agency is itself the work of grace. (Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles, rev. ed., 214)

I noticed that John Barclay makes a similar claims non-contrastive agency in his Paul and the Gift about Romans 2:

Eternal life is, for Paul, both an incongruous gift (6:23) and the fitting completion of a life of good work (2:6–7). (466, cf. 464–74)

Great summary statement by Sanders about his view of Paul’s soteriology in Paul and Palestinian Judaism:

Pressed by opponents on on various sides, he [Paul] expounded the significance of the present state of the Christian life in such a way that the simple theology of future expectation and present possession of spiritual gifts was greatly deepened. We could do no better than guess by what chain of reasoning or under what history of religions influence Paul deepened the idea of the possession of the Spirit as a guarantee so that it became participation in on Spirit, or the idea of Christ’s death as cleansing former trespasses so that it became the means by which one participated in Christ’s death to the power of sin, but it is clear that he did so, and that herein lies the heart of his soteriology and Christology. (452-53)


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