I’m happy to be participating in the a relatively new group for SBL–Texts and Traditions in the Second Century. Of course, I’m contributing to what looks to be a great discussion of Paul in the Second Century.

Texts and Traditions in the Second Century
Sunday, 11/22/2015, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Techwood (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Paul in the Second Century

Christopher Hays, Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia, Presiding
John Kincaid, John Paul the Great Catholic University
The Saving Righteousness of God at Philippi: Paul, Polycarp, and the Question of Dikaiosyne (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Ben Edsall, Australian Catholic University
(Not) Baptizing Thecla: Early Interpretive Efforts on 1 Cor 1:17 (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Ben C. Blackwell, Houston Baptist University
Paul and Rome: The Thematic Relationship between the Acts of Paul and Luke’s Acts Reconsidered (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jenn Strawbridge, University of Oxford
‘A Preacher of the Truth’: The Apostle Paul and Irenaeus (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Thomas McGlothlin, Duke University
Resurrection as Conformity to Christ through the Spirit: Second-Century Struggles with a Pauline Motif (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently read Alasdair MacIntyre’s God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition. I noted then how I found several points from the book helpful and engaging, particularly as he questions some of the post-Enlightenment formulations on which modern research universities are based.

A few things seemed puzzling to me, however, in that he seems to play right into the Enlightenment inspired problems that he decries. For instance, by only preferencing a generic theism, I felt his call for a distinctively Catholic voice in the conversation was muted and even deficient. That is, if you almost never talk about specifically Christian doctrine, then how can you contribute a Christian voice to this open conversation? Let me offer a few examples:

  • Key Christian ideas are ignored or only barely mentioned. Based on my e-search through the book, the most distinctive claims of Christianity–Jesus’ death and/or resurrection–are never mentioned. The Trinity as essential to historic Christian faith and philosophy or the role of Jesus as fundamental for forming a Christian anthropology are briefly mentioned in passing, only a couple of times, throughout the whole historical section, which takes up over two-thirds of the book. Yet, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, et al. would have never conceived of metaphysics, epistemology, etc. without reference to the specifically Christian claims and debates related to the Trinity, incarnation and atonement. The generic recourse to “theism” without specific Christian content therefore appears to reflect a post-Enlightenment, least-common-denominator God.
  • MacIntyre regularly speaks of the “secular” world when speaking of patristic and medieval Catholic philosopher-theologians, and this appears to betray a post-Enlightenment dichotomy between sacred and secular. Of course, Augustine can speak of the City of God vs the City of Man, which might seem to allow this, but he and other pre-modern thinkers would have placed all this in an ordered cosmos rather than a flat secular universe (I’m thinking of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, one of my current favorite books). Thus, to separate philosophy into the secular and theology into the sacred would be to demonstrate a post-Enlightenment separation rather than a pre-modern ordered hierarchy of ontology, epistemology, etc.
  • Though he mentions three big issues, he only focus on the second. Thus, the human (rather than God) takes center stage in his discussion. He essentially leaves behind the problem of evil, which would provide a obvious lens on the specifically Christian perspective on this discussion, and he repeatedly returns to the question of human composition, of the relationship of body and soul. This not an unimportant question, but the Christological debates about Jesus’ humanity radically shaped these discussions in the history of Catholic thought. At the same time, the anthropological focus rather than a theological focus reflects a post-Enlightenment perspective rather than one shaped by the Catholic tradition.

Though he regularly notes how the tradition sees philosophy or reason as inadequate on its own, and therefore in need of revelation, his consistent lack of any engagement with what revelation actually has to say (or with how the tradition engages the content of revelation) appears to show that revelation has little or no place in the actual practice of philosophy. That might be true for contemporary post-Enlightenment “Christian” philosophy, but it surely isn’t for Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, et al. who spent as much and even more time writing commentary on scripture as doing philosophy. (This is the exact kind of separation that led Karl Barth to reject a natural theology.)

My critique of MacIntyre is not based on my desire to have one, right, Orthodox Christian voice that only coheres with certain interpretations of special revelation. But to ignore the most foundational tenets of Christianity, much less the specific contribution Catholic Christianity makes, leaves me wondering what contribution does Christianity actually make other than providing some key figures in the history of ideas. I contend that the best conversations arise out of robust discussions, where particularities don’t have to be erased. Thus, a distinctively Catholic Christian voice should have a seat at the table of ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, and it need not denude itself of anything distinctly Catholic or Christian. If our post-Modern context has shown us anything, it is that our particularities make us unique. So, while we can and should have robust conversations with a variety of partners, it need not be based on a bland, least-common-denominator basis, but one that is honest about the history and current position from which one comes. This includes highlighting points of commonality with others, but is therefore not limited to it.

One very enjoyable aspect of my work at HBU is a reading group that I participate in. It draws primarily from other faculty in other arts and humanities disciplines: history, government, classics, music, honors college, philosophy, etc. We read a variety of texts drawing from diverse genres and time periods–Gilead, Thomas Nagel, King Lear, etc. Tonight we discussed Alasdair MacIntyre’s God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition.

In this short and engaging book, he gives a history of the Catholic philosophical tradition and then proposes a way forward for situating Catholic philosophy in the context of modern universities. The survey of the philosophical quest is appropriately selective, as he explains several of the key figures in the history of western philosophy (including Muslim and Jewish ones) and their contributions. One key theme is the question of the relationship of theology to philosophy, or we might say special and general revelation. He also notes three key issues that will serve as a delimiting lens on the discussion: the problem of evil, the independence of finite beings, and how to speak meaningfully about God. It is the second question that gets most attention as he returns to the question of the relationship to soul and body and to the question of the temporal vs eternal existence of the world.

As a positive contribution, I thought the summary of philosophical history served as a nice refresher on the historical progression. Integral to his argument is that (mono)theistic faith traditions share central common foundations and questions. This, therefore, helps foster conversations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims since we have common concerns. He also rightly argued that religion does not need to be minimized in the questions and research of a modern university. Accordingly, he questions some of the post-Enlightenment formulations on which modern research universities are based.

I’ll comment on my critiques tomorrow.


There are several upcoming events that I want to bring to everyone’s attention.

First, on October 29th at 7:30pm Nick Perrin, from Wheaton College, will deliver this year’s A.O. Collins Lectures. His title is “From Stories to Scriptures: When Did the Gospels Become Authoritative?” Prof. Perrin is an internationally recognized expert in the Gospels. He has written on the Gospel of Thomas and the historical Jesus. The lecture is free and open to the public. (See here for more details.)

Second, we are very excited about this year’s Theology conference: “Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus’ Bible and the Impact of Scripture.” The conference marks the 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ Greek text and the Reformation. Our keynote speakers are Craig Evans (Houston Baptist University), Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University), Herman Selderhuis (Theological University Apeldoorn) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

As with previous conferences, we invite short papers. The call for papers can be found at the Conference webpage: You can also find a schedule and registration information there.

We are seeking to make an appointment in New Testament this year at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago campus). Our primary teaching needs include Greek grammar and syntax, biblical theology, as well as an upper-division English Bible course on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The ability to teach Old Testament Survey is a plus. We are especially interested in diversifying our faculty with respect to ethnicity. Interested persons should send a cover letter and CV to Dr. J. Brian Tucker (brian.tucker[at] For more information, please see the job posting on the ETS website.

The dean over our area has shifted to a couple of new roles here at HBU after doing an excellent job overseeing our School of Christian Thought, consisting of four departments: Theology, Philosophy, Classics and Biblical Languages, and Apologetics. I was tapped on the shoulder to help out, so for 2015-2016 I’ll serve as the interim dean. Of course the transition into this role started this month, as we (John, Jason, and I) were trying to finish up the editing for a volume we put together–Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination. In particular, we had to write the introduction, and I had done less in other parts, so it was rightly my role to fill. It’s almost finished, but after several days of consistent meetings and issues to solve due to the new role, I was reminded of a quip that Richard Hays passed on to me a year or so back that someone told him when he took over the Dean’s role at Duke:

In the first year in administration you cease to write. In the second year you cease to read. In the third year you cease to think.

(My apologies for forgetting the source of the original quote.)

Though I’m only a week or so into the job, I can see how this is true!

Reading Romans in ContextSo our Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism was officially released yesterday. A friend tweeted that it was on high on an Amazon ranking, even beating out N.T. Wright for something. When I first went looking I searched under “Amazon Hot New Releases”. Then I drilled down through various sub-options: “books,” “Christian books,” and then “Bible Studies” to get here. We were sitting at #16 at the beginning of the evening, and already dropped to #19 by last night. Glory is fleeting.

Then I went and looked at the specific page for our book, my heart was elevated again. We were listed as #1 New Release in Paul’s Letters. That was cool and then I even noticed that we’re beating out an N.T. Wright book: Paul and His Recent Interpreters.

So, I learned my lesson. I can be number 1 if I just draw the circle small enough. As I always tell my wife, she is my favorite wife. : )

Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 902 other followers