February 2008

Here are the two abstracts I sent off this morning.  If it’s your first submission it says that you need to send off the paper in advance.  But when you go to actually submit the abstracts, it says that you only have to submit the paper if requested by the chair.  I have both papers already 95% complete, so I guess I’m good either way.  I will say having the papers written did help me craft my abstract more precisely. 

Pauline Epistles: The Motif of Glory (Doxa) in Romans
While glory is often discussed in relation to the Corinthian letters, the motif in Romans is also significant for Paul’s argument, with 22 occurrences of doxa and its cognates. Through social scientific analysis commentators have rightly highlighted the sociological aspects of doxa as a primary term in Paul’s honour discourse. However, Paul also applies doxa language ontologically with relation to the nature of God, the effects of the fall, and the eschatological salvation of believers. Regarding this ontological use, Paul directly intertwines glory with immortality/incorruption language, such that the experience of divine life is the primary referent of doxa language (e.g.. 1.23; 8.21; 9.22-23). Thus, when Paul describes all people as having lost the glory of God, he is primarily referring to their experience of mortality due to sin. For Paul the solution to this problem is justification, which leads to a restoration of life. Accordingly, the glory connection further clarifies our understanding of righteousness as new creation in addition to forensic pronouncement, which provides evidence that Paul does not separate participation and forensic categories. Finally, this human experience of the divine opens doors for discussions about theosis or deification in Paul.
[This horse should be about dead, but I figured I’d beat it a few more times. I hear the odds of getting accepted are about 1/4 in this group so pray for me!]

History of Interpretation: Irenaeus, Psalm 82, and Paul
That the psalmist’s pronouncement “I said you are gods and sons of the Most High” (Psalm 82.6) plays a central role in Greek Patristic views of deification goes without dispute. Irenaeus was not the first theologian to interpret Psalm 82 as describing Christian deification, but the grid he uses to explain the Psalm served as the basis of several later writers. Interestingly, Irenaeus does not refer to Jesus’ use of this passage (John 10:34), but rather he focuses exclusively on texts from Paul’s letters—Gal 4.4-7, Rom 8.15, and 1 Cor 15.53-54. Examining Irenaeus’ four discussions of this Psalm in his Against Heresies, I explore how these Pauline texts fit within his presentation of deification. From his use of Paul we understand that Irenaeus primarily presents deification as a relationship through the metaphor of adoption. Through this deifying adoption, believers are able to partake of the inheritance promised in the scriptures, namely a restored creation and incorruption of the body. This provides further evidence for the growing consensus that Irenaeus’ use of Paul is by choice rather than by obligation to save him from the heretics. Irenaeus’ vision of deification in Paul invites further investigation to Paul’s letters in light of this, particularly for those of us in the western tradition.
[This is a chunk out of my Irenaeus chapter that I have reworked.]

Nijay and I were talking the other day about the different skills that people from evangelical schools bring to the table.  Evangelical schools focus on exegesis, but they don’t do as good a job with history of interpretation and pulling things together.  In other words, they do good with analysis but not with synthesis

I finally got around to reading J. Christiaan Beker’s The Triumph of God.  (I know I should have read it earlier.)  I asked around to the cadre of other NT students and none of us had to read the book (or his larger version Paul the Apostle) in our seminary or undergrad programs.  But there should be a point where students take a step back and look at bigger picture issues and read central books like this.  [By the way, this book is a great summary of the school of thought John Barclay follows.]

Now that I am doing some teaching in a much different setting, it’s hit me even more.  In the UK students receive about 1/3 of the amount of lecturing than in the US.  The emphasis here is on giving the big picture and having the student develop personal critical thinking.  This is at the undergrad level, but even at seminaries in the states the emphasis is upon downloading lots of facts.  For instance, at DTS we had to take some 18 hrs of Bible survey classes.  Only one of those classes was solely focused on methodology.  The rest were mostly a focus on commentary detail.  They could have been so much more helpful and influential had they focused more upon interpretive methodology for the different genres or synthetic studies like Beker’s.  And from talking to other people, DTS is not really any different than other evangelical schools. 

A few of us have started taking out different lecturers for lunch to pick their brains about academic life in the UK and other things.  Last term we had an enjoyable lunch with Prof Robert Hayward, who teaches ancient Judaism and OT. I had the pleasure of sitting in on his Genesis Rabbah midrash reading group last year. 

One of our common questions is what books would one recommend for PhD students, especially for those in biblical studies.  For the most part he didn’t give specific books, but he recommended specific areas of reading.  These are: 1) the main Dead Sea Scroll documents, 2) something on church history, 3) something on enlightenment, 4) something on the development of scientifc thought in late 19th c. and critical methods for the Bible study, and 5) post-modernism.  He thought people should understand the factors that influenced the rise of marxism and fascism in the 2oth c., particularly because their fruit has been so murderous.  It wasn’t what we were expecting, but I thought it was good to have reminder that we don’t need to get so tied up into just one small area of thought and to think more widely about the faith.

Van Mildert Chair of Theology
Professor Mark McIntosh, currently of Loyola University (Chicago, USA), has been appointed to the Van Mildert Chair, a Canon Professorship shared with the Cathedral.

Bede Chair of Catholic Theology
The Department of Theology and Religion have raised £2M to endow the Bede Chair in Catholic Theology. Per the Vice Chancellor: ‘Within the UK this is a genuine ‘Durham first’, along with the establishment this year of the Durham Centre for Catholic Studies.’

Here in Durham, British Telecom (BT) is just about the only landline company available, and the basic cost is about £10/month.  It’s fairly easy to set up, but they’ll want a £50 deposit for new international customers (see more details here).

Local rate/National Rate vs Mobiles(Assuming BT plan 1)
Like in the US, the UK has what are equivalent to area codes. The one for Durham is 0191. Since mobiles are on a different numbering system, the (landline) area codes here cover much larger areas. For instance, I think the 0191 covers most of Newcastle, too.
This totally depends on your phone company and plan, but a typical local rate call costs about 4p/min (6am-6pm) and 1.5p/min (nights) and weekends now appear to be free (see here). Apparently, National Rate (i.e., long distance) calls are the same as local rate. Mobile calls have different costs to each providor (TMobile, Orange, etc.) and by Day-Night-Weekend. A rough average is 15 – 12 – 6 p/min (D-N-W).  Here’s a rate summary.

Instead of you making the equivalent of a long distance call, most national companies provide a 0845 number for you to call, which gets charged at local rate prices.  This can be an issue if the company keeps screwing things up (a la British Gas) and you have to call them repeatedly. This costs you not only time but also money.  Other companies have 0870  (or National Rate) numbers which can cost up to 10p/min.  Very few offer 0800 (toll-free) numbers to call.

It only costs to make calls, not to recieve them. The calling costs vary widely depending on plans and operators. We’ve found T-Mobile’s ‘mate’s rates’ to call in-network to be very cheap for a pay-as-you-go plan; however, most in-network minutes are not discounted nearly as much with plans here as they are in the US–it seems that most don’t discount at all. Most mobile numbers seem to start with 07xx xxx xxxx or above.

Calling from the US: for a Durham number of 0191 384 9999, you would dial: 011 44 191 384 9999.
Calling from the UK: for a US number of 972-387-9999, you would dial 00 1 972-387-9999.

We’re big fans of Vonagefor calling between the UK and England though I don’t think it works on the University network (i.e., in Keenan House). Buy a Vonage router in the US and you’ll essentially have a US phone here in the UK, so you use a regular handset (which you can get here in the UK) and have unlimited calls to US (+60 other countries) if you have the World plan like we do. I’m always happy to do an official referral because we both get discounts if you go that way. Skype is also very popular here, and it works on campus.

St. John’s College here at Durham University is hosting the 2008 Conference of the Society for the Study of Theology, which is meeting 31 March-3 April.  The deadline for the call for papers is 22 February.  The seminar topic is Theology and Politics, and seminar papers are requested for these areas: Ecclesiological Investigations, Feminism and Theology, Theological Ethics, Theology & Philosophy, Theology, Culture & the Arts,  and Trinity & Christology.

Last week I went to Durham’s Religion and Society Seminar and heard Steve Bruce from a sociologist from Aberdeen speak about the ‘Future of Religion in Britain’.  He showed a clear decline in british church attendance over the past 100+ years but no corresponding increase in other religions.  There is some growth, and even a proliferation, of alternative religions, but no popular adoption of these.  The only growth in the UK has typically been only through birthrates, though some new style churches in large urban areas are doing better, but these only represent a very small percentage.  He then offered his analysis of the decline:

His primary thesis is that religion is not innate but rather a cultural construct.  Thus when the cultural supports for Christianity were dismantled due to modernism and post-modernism, Christianity in western Europe began to decline.  In particular, he argued that the egoism, or individual consumerism, that is the basis of the british mind is what is now the context.  This mindset fights against the ‘universal truth’ and institutionalism basis of organised religion.  This is evident from the growing hostility against religion, especially among those that are younger. 

Being a cultural construct, Bruce offered the comparison to that of a people’s language.  When the language is dominant–both parents speak it, the neighbors speak it, the children can easily marry others who speak it, etc.–the language will survive and prosper.  He offered (Welch/Scottish) gaelic as the most dominant parallel.  With English (secularism) as the dominant language, gaelic (Christianity) is increasingly spoken only by those who either 1) live in an isolated area or 2) who choose to.  Eventually, those in group 1 will dwindle and so will those in group two.  Group 2 is what will eventually be where Christianity ends up.  He offered the fact that the US, even with its high egoism/individual consumerism, still has a strong subculture of relgious activity.  He noted particularly, that in the US one can go to fundamentalist education from birth to PhD without any serious interaction with those outside one’s tradition.  With the educational structure in the UK, this would be very difficult. 

This is a difficult pill to swallow, and it comes from a decidedly secularist point of view.  I don’t whole heartedly accept his thesis, but the evidence seems to strongly support it.  It does give one a diffrent view of one’s religion when it isn’t the dominant perspective.  His thesis depends on the egoism of postmodernism remaining dominant, but just as all dominant philosophical paradigms change so will this one.  The question is how long this individualism can survive.  But even beyond that point, I hold a supernatural faith that includes the work of God beyond philosophical worldviews.

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