One of the great things about my experience of Durham was learning about all the excellent scholars that had shaped the university’s past. In fact, I knew of many of the names of the scholars there, but never associated them with Durham before I arrived. Of course, one the influential NT scholars there of the past generation was Charles Cranfield, whose passing we were just notified about. I had the pleasure of having coffee with him, and following in my friend Nijay’s steps, I’m posting the summary of my time with him here.

Coffee with Charles Cranfield (23 June 2008)

At CK Barrett’s 90th birthday last year, someone mentioned that they were sad that Charles (aka C.E.B.) Cranfield wasn’t able to make it.  He’s just a year or so older than Kingsley, but can’t make it around as well.  John Barclay mentioned that Professor Cranfield does like to have students over, so I finally got around to asking for his info to have coffee.  He was kind enough to invite me over, and we had a nice chat about my studies and his thoughts on theology, plus I asked a few questions offered up by readers here.  He is quite candid about his opinions both theological and political, especially on points of disagreement.

As to his background, he mentioned that he originally studied classics and later did theology at Cambridge.  (His language ability is hard to believe…from memory he quoted John Chrysostom in Greek and later Aquinas in Latin.)  He spent the summer of 1939 in Basel, Switzerland but had to leave because of the beginning of WW2.  He was later an army chaplain and worked with the German Confessing movement after the war as well as with the World Council of Churches.  He came to Durham in 1950.  He was raised Methodist but noted switching to the reformed church because, among other things, of their reading of Rom 7 as applying to a Christian, which is no surprise if you’ve read his commentary.

For being 92 (almost 93–so that puts his birthday in 1915, Mike) and failing eyesight, he’s quite sharp and still well read, for instance he mentioned going through Watson’s Hermeneutics of Faith and Jewett’s Romans commentary.  Speaking of Romans commentaries, he noted several recent ones but seemed to have a critique for each one in some way or other.  I think Käsemann’s came off the highest.  He commented in particular that he wasn’t a fan of the New Perspective, so he thought Dunn’s commentary was off target in those areas.  He didn’t go into it in any detail but it didn’t seem like he thought there was a need to find a way forward.  (Regarding his own commentary, he mentioned that he would have made some changes but unfortunately didn’t elaborate further.  Though, on the ‘too reformed’ aspect in the questions, he noted he’s a good Calvinist, but with the ‘necessary’ revision of election offered by Barth.)  He noted particularly the commentaries of John Chrysostom and Aquinas as excellent but often overlooked, and that Pelagius’ commentary is quite helpful at times.

I asked him what 5 books or so a theologian would need to read in order to not be ‘uneducated’.  He offered these: 1) Barth’s original commentary on Romans because of its historical importance,  2) Shakespeare and John Milton, and 3) Greek writers: Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Aeschylus, and Euripides, and 4) the commentaries of Calvin and Luther.

Douglas Moo Douglas CampbellIf you live in Chicago-land, you may be interested in the debate, “Paul on Justification: Is the Lutheran Approach to Pauline Justification ‘Justified'”?, between Douglas Campbell and Douglas Moo. The free event is being organized by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding and will be held 7:00-8:30pm, Thursday, February 12th, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s ATO Chapel. Here is the official add:

Martin Luther and other reformers viewed Pauline justification as primarily, if not exclusively, a forensic matter between us and God. We are justified before God, through faith in Jesus Christ, according to his finished work on the cross. If one believes the gospel message, then one is justified before God. Reconciliation (with God and with other humans) is a necessary implication of justification but is not part of justification as such. New perspectives on Paul have challenged this account of justification (both historically and exegetically). Rather than being merely a forensic matter focused on human salvation and its relationship to divine satisfaction, this approach suggests that Pauline justification is essentially about human liberation and the reconciliation of people one with another. On this view, Pauline justification means that Christians are justified when they participate in a realized eschatology within Christ, through the Spirit, working out their salvation within the empirical context of a life ministry of reconciliation with other humans beings. Supplementary questions of the debate include “What is justification according to Paul?” “How does it fit into the rest of Paul’s theological understanding?” and “Is a ministry of reconciliation essential to or consequential of Pauline justification?”

 

 

The Department of Theology at Houston Baptist University is pleased to host a conference on “The Church and Early Christianity” on April 16-18, 2015. Our keynote speakers are

John Barclay (Durham University)

Everett Ferguson (Abilene Christian University)

Ben Witherington (Asbury Theological Seminary)

You can find out more details at hbu.edu/theologyconference.

Call for Papers: We are inviting papers representing a variety of approaches from scholars and graduate students in this area of study.  We are particularly interested in the development of early Christian communities within their wider theological and cultural contexts in the first two centuries. This includes theological reflections about ecclesiology as well as social relationships with Second Temple Jewish practices and institutions, relationships within early Christian communities, and the relationship of early Christian communities with the wider Greco-Roman culture. Participants will have 25-30 minutes to present papers (inclusive of Q&A). Please submit a 200-300 word abstract to Dr. Ben C. Blackwell at bblackwell@hbu.edu by February 15, 2015.

I see that the REF 2014 results were released today, so I was very interested to see how the various departments around the UK performed for Theology and Religious Studies. (For those that are not aware, the UK rates the research output for each of the university departments to help determine funding.) For some reason they don’t provide a weighted ranking of the departments, so I’ve done a quick assessment based on the overall percentages given a 0-4 ranking based on the recognized excellence at a national vs international level (see description at the bottom). I was surprised by some of the overall rankings especially given the previous results (see below), but I’ll reserve commentary here and just provide the results. The GPA is the weighted average of the 0-4 ranking. You’ll see that Durham is the top ranked department, just as it was for the most recent previous exercise: the 2008 RAE.

2014 REF Overall Results for Theology and Religious Studies Departments

% of the submission meeting the standard for:
University GPA 4* 3* 2* 1* U/C FTE
Average (FTE Weighted) 2.91 28 40 27 5 0 12.5
University of Durham 3.34 50 35 14 1 0 24.8
University of Birmingham 3.26 51 28 17 4 0 9.0
Lancaster University 3.15 42 33 23 2 0 22.3
University College London 3.15 37 41 22 0 0 7.0
University of Leeds 3.15 33 49 18 0 0 10.8
University of Cambridge 3.12 34 46 19 0 1 24.4
University of Kent 3.11 38 37 23 2 0 7.9
University of Edinburgh 3.09 34 44 19 3 0 26.6
King’s College London 3.08 39 37 18 5 1 26.0
Cardiff University 3.06 33 43 21 3 0 8.6
School of Oriental and African Studies 3.04 29 49 20 1 1 14.3
University of Oxford 3.02 34 38 24 4 0 32.7
University of Exeter 3.01 21 62 14 3 0 11.2
University of Nottingham 3.01 30 44 23 3 0 15.7
University of Manchester 2.97 28 47 20 4 1 14.5
University of Sheffield 2.93 21 51 28 0 0 4.0
University of St Andrews 2.93 31 31 38 0 0 14.0
University of Aberdeen 2.88 29 39 24 7 1 19.0
University of Bristol 2.85 21 45 32 2 0 8.6
Heythrop College 2.82 22 40 36 2 0 15.8
Open University 2.71 18 35 47 0 0 6.0
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 2.64 14 48 26 12 0 8.2
University of Glasgow 2.56 11 44 35 10 0 10.9
Canterbury Christ Church University 2.52 6 47 40 7 0 9.0
Roehampton University 2.47 16 27 45 12 0 6.8
Liverpool Hope University 2.37 9 37 38 14 2 14.9
University of Chester 2.35 8 27 57 8 0 11.1
University of Winchester 2.33 6 36 43 15 0 8.4
University of Gloucestershire 2.21 3 30 52 15 0 5.3
St Mary’s University, Twickenham 2.2 9 26 41 24 0 4.8
York St John University 2.07 2 23 57 16 2 7.0
Leeds Trinity University 1.99 0 34 32 33 1 3.5
Newman University 1.79 0 26 28 45 1 2.0


For a quick comparison, here are the top 5 of the 2008 RAE Results:

% of the submission meeting the standard for:
University GPA 4* 3* 2* 1* U/C FTE
University of Durham 3.00 40 25 30 5 0 19
University of Aberdeen 2.95 15 65 20 0 0 18
University of Cambridge 2.90 35 25 35 5 0 32
University of Oxford 2.90 30 35 30 5 0 41
University College London 2.90 30 40 20 10 0 7.2

GPA – Weighted average of the % of the submission meeting the standard for:

  • 4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • 2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

FTE – Full Time Equivalent faculty members who rated

When working on Romans 7, I struggled to grasp how Paul was conceptualising ‘sin’. I eventually settled on the position that he viewed ‘sin’ as more than wrongdoing and that he was not only personifying an abstract idea. Rather, Paul had in mind something more sinister, more powerful. I adopted the language of ‘quasi-personal being’, which was a compromise but at least indicated that more was going on. How best to understand Paul’s statements, though, has remained a problem for me. Thus, when I saw Robert Moses’ book Practices of Power: Revisiting the Principalities and Powers in the Pauline Letters (Fortress, 2014), I was naturally drawn to it.

Moses’ study, though, is not like the typical investigations of Paul’s principalities and powers language. Rather than focusing primarily on the question of what Paul meant by this language, Moses turns his attention to how Paul instructs his congregations to act (the ‘practices’) in regard to the powers. This shift in focus is a breakthrough in the discussion of the powers, undercutting a good deal of the discussion. To be sure, Moses realises that one can’t discuss how a person should act toward the powers without some assessment of how Paul conceptualises the powers. His second chapter surveys four common approaches to the topic:

Clinton Arnold: Personal Spiritual Beings

Rudolf Bultmann: Demythologizing and Existentialist Interpretation

Hendrik Berkhof: Structural Interpretation of the Powers

Walter Wink: Invisible Interiority of Material and Outer Materiality

He highlights a variety of problems with these approaches, but more significant is his contention that the missing element in these discussions is Paul’s account of how the community acts with regard to the powers. He writes, ‘Whatever we may consider to be Paul’s theology of the powers, his understanding is embodied and social, disclosed by practices he performed or advocated for the early believers’ (p.39). Moses’ proceeds to discuss key sections of Romans, 1& 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Colossians. He highlights practices that not only remove humans from the control of the powers (such as baptism in Romans), but also ones that place humans under their control (such as idolatry in 1 Cor 8-10 and Galatians). The discussion is exegetically sensitive, and he often highlights how Paul’s arguments are influenced by the Old Testament. He offers several interesting and new arguments in support of standard views as well as his own solutions to longstanding problems.

To highlight one point where I think more could be said, I would like more discussion of exactly how the practices guard or expose humans to the powers. That is, given the exegetical work, some theological reflection is now needed. For example, Moses rightly identifies the crucial role of baptism. The discussion could be extended by engaging with the theologians on what is happening in baptism. This isn’t a weakness in Moses’ study; rather, it is the opportunity for someone to develop his insights into the practices further.

The book concludes by ‘applying’ Paul’s language about the practices of power to the African context. Unlike modern Western (scholarly) society, the African religions have a robust view of ‘powers’ and have devised a variety of practices to counteract them. The chapter is a fascinating case-study of how to apply Pauline theology to the real world. The chapter is also a strong critique of Western scholarship which discounts or re-interprets Paul’s powers language based on myopic views of truth and reality. However Moses intended the chapter to function, it serves as a call for scholars to see beyond our own culture and let others give us a wider view.

Overall, I think this book has a lot to contribute to the discussion of Paul’s view of the powers. It isn’t the last word, as Moses himself acknowledges, but I think he opens a new door that can help us in the task of understanding Paul’s theology and applying it to our own contexts. If you have any money left over after SBL or are looking for a Christmas present, Moses’ Practices of Power would be worth considering.

We are growing our student numbers and graduate programs here at Houston Baptist University, so we have just posted an open rank position to begin in the Fall of 2015. Check out the full ad at HBU’s website, but here is the key information:

The successful candidate will have appropriate academic (PhD or terminal degree) and professional experience in a field related to one of the programs in the Department of Theology. The candidate will provide documentation of an excellent teaching record and evidence of scholarly interests and achievements. Candidates should have a strong research record. In addition, candidates may be considered for the role of Director of one of the graduate programs in the School of Christian Thought.

A few notes,

  • We particularly are interested in deepening our faculty representation in Old Testament and/or Historical/Systematic Theology, though we are not limiting applications just to those areas.
  • We will likely start an MDiv program in the fall of 2015. A distinctive aspect of the program is that it will be intentionally ministry focused, with internships throughout the program rather than just as an afterthought at the end of one’s coursework. If the candidate serves as the director of that program, s/he would coordinate the student interns and our relationship with partner churches.
  • We have intentions to strengthen our academic offerings further, so the strong research record is important.

Do send in your application or pass the word along to those whom you think may be interested and qualified.

I totally stole this post from Michael Barber, but who could resist. Plus, I want to all of you to be saved from academic marginalization…

If you are a serious Pauline scholar, you apparently know what he looked like.

Michael Bird, Chris TillingNijay Gupta, Ben Blackwell, Nathan Eubank–take note. If you decide on using a different picture of the Apostle on your future books on Paul, be forewarned that you will risk being marginalized. Go the safe route. Go with the majority opinion. Don’t question the emerging consensus on Paul’s appearance and opt for a more controversial position.
You’ve been warned. Your academic credibility is on the line here.

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