Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Goldsworthy on the Role of Biblcal Theology in Hermeneutics

From Graeme Goldsworthy's latest book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 262:

"The major hermeneutic role of biblical theology is to determine the theological meaning of the parts and the whole. It cannot do this without determining the structural matrix of revelation. It thus helps prevent the short-circuiting of texts and reminds us of the centrality of the gospel as the interpretive norm. Readers short-circuit texts when they ignore the structure of biblical revelation and treat all texts as being essentially on the same level and in the same relationship to the contemporary reader."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reflections on Attending "The Gospel Coalition"

I returned yesterday from attending The Gospel Coalition Conference at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. For those who were unable to attend, Justin Taylor has provided relatively detailed notes from the main sessions:

Session 1: What is the Gospel (D.A. Carson)

Session 2: Gospel-Centered Ministry (Tim Keller)

Session 3: Passing on the Gospel (Crawford Loritts)

Session 4: What is the Gospel Coalition (D.A. Carson) (These notes were provided by Justin Buzzard, not Justin Taylor)

Session 5: The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth

According to Carson, in about three weeks the Gospel Coalition website ( will be up and running, complete with FREE downloadable video of these main sessions. When it is up and running, I will pass along the word.

Now for my own reflections:

1. The size of the conference (300-400) allowed for terrific interaction with others, and a chance for me to see a number of dear gospel friends. In fact, the opportunity to renew gospel friendships and make new ones is one of the most important benefits of such a conference. After all, for most conferences if you are interested solely in the content you can either download or purchase the audio and listen from the comfort of your home, car, etc. But there is no replacement for renewing gospel friendships and making new ones. These events always renew my vision and excitement for what God is doing around the nation and the world through his people. One of the dangers of ministry can be isolation, in which our horizon of what God is doing is limited to our specific context. Satan often uses this to provoke either pride or despair, depending on how one perceives their local context.

2. Carson helpfully addressed the relationship between The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. There is a lot of overlap between the two, and they share a similar desire to form broad partnerships around a robust and right understanding of the gospel, not simply a lowest common denominator. The driving question of the Gospel Coalition is ""What can we do to promote a robust, gospel-centered evangelical center in our increasingly diverse country, particularly for the arising generation?" As it stands now, the Gospel Coalition intends on holding a national conference in mid to late April of odd number years; this will compliment the Together for the Gospel conferences that take place the same time of year but on even numbered years.

3. I found Tim Keller's session on gospel-centered ministry particularly helpful. The phrase/concept is thrown around a decent bit, but Keller's message put flesh on those bones. I was especially encouraged to hear him contend for the centrality of proclamation within the larger context of gospel ministry. One of the dangers I perceive in parts of evangelicalism is that in the rush to care for people and live out the gospel that the proclamation of the gospel is lost or ignored. At its heart the gospel is a message to be proclaimed.

4. Piper's message on the new heavens and new earth was a combination of careful preaching of the text with soul-stirring passion for the glories of the realities he was preaching. I am now even more eager for God to consummate his redemptive purposes!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Beale Reviews Hays' Conversion of the Imagination

In the latest issue of JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; not available online to my knowledge), G.K. Beale reviews (190-94) Richard Hays book The Conversion of the Imagination. Hays' book is in large part of a collection of several previously published essays collected in one volume, with the addition of an introductory chapter of reflecting on his own work. Beale focuses his review on the methodological and hermeneutical issues in the book, some of which I will breifly highlight here.

First, Beale wonders why Hays feels the necessity to use the term "metalepsis" to refer to Paul's practice of citing or alluding to OT texts in such a way that he intends the original context of the OT citation/allusion to be accounted for as well. Beale notes that this claim goes back at least as far as C.H. Dodd.

Second, Beale questions the use of the term "imagination," noting that Paul wanted the conversion of the entire mind, not merely the imagination. He acknowledges that Hays probably includes this "broad" sense of the imagination, but rightly worries that the term "imagination" could be misunderstood in the sense of a "fanciful creation of images that is more in the realm of artful possibilities than of absolute redemptive-historical realities that should shape people's thinking" (191).

Third, Beale affirms Hays' claim that although Paul appears to creatively develop an OT text, it retains essential conceptual links to the original intent of the passage. Such developments are made in light of fulfillment in Christ and the notion of progressive revelation.

Fourth, Beale expresses appreciation for Hays' criteria for detecting scriptural allusions and echoes that have become somewhat of an "industry standard" in the study of the OT in the NT.

Fifth, Beale affirms Hays' contention that Paul's recipients were every bit as sophisticated readers of the Bible as contemporary ones (a claim disputed in NT studies). Beale goes on to qualify this by stating that one must at the same time acknowledge different levels of readers among the recipients; some would have caught the more subtle allusions and echoes on a first read that others may have missed. Beale also rightly recognizes that the repeated reading and teaching of the letters would have allowed even the least biblically literate to recognize the subtle appropriations of Scripture present in the letter.

Sixth, Beale affirms Hays' conclusion that Paul's exegetical practices are sufficiently distinct from his Jewish contemporaries to warrant special investigation. On this point they are in contrast to the conclusion of (among others) Richard Longenecker in his work Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period.

I agree with Beale that for those seeking to further understand how Paul interpreted the OT, Hays' book is a helpful window into that discussion. Like both Beale and me, you may not agree with all of the interpretive decisions he reaches, but your thinking will be stimulated. Who knows, not only your imagination but even your entire way of thinking might be changed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Köstenberger Reviews VanHoozer; VanHoozer Responds

Recently Andreas Köstenberger posted a lengthy review of Kevin Vanhoozer's book The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology. Vanhoozer then wrote a lengthy reply, which Köstenberger posted here.

This exchange is beneficial even for those who have not had time yet to read this particular volume of Vanhoozer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Morning Meditation - 2 Peter 1:2-4

In the introduction of his second letter, the apostle Peter says,

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)

Let’s follow the logic here. God’s power has granted to believers everything necessary for life and godliness. In other words, there is no reality we face which we as believers do not have what we need supplied by God's power (the same power that raised Christ from the dead no less!). This divine power is mediated through the knowledge of God, the one who called us by his own glory and excellence (not the techniques of man). By these realities (i.e. everything in 1:2-4), God has granted to us "His precious and magnificent promises." Stop and let that sink in; these promises are a treasure of great value, far greater than anything the world can offer. The purpose of granting these promises is so that we as believer may share in the divine nature, by which I believe Peter means that the Spirit who indwells us causes us to participate in the intra-Trinitarian love and joy that the Godhead has enjoyed from all eternity. This participation is only possible because we have escaped the corruption that is in the world fueled by our sinful desires.

From this rich text I would suggest several brief lines of application:

1. Do we really believe that God has given us EVERYTHING necessary for life and godliness, or merely most of what is necessary? We are all quick to run to the pseudo-wisdom of the world (i.e., psychology, marketing, self-help, etc.) because we often do not believe in the sufficiency of the power of God mediated through his precious and magnificent promises found in his Word.

2. Do we really treasure God promises as precious and magnificent? Do our actions reveal a delight in God and his promises that far outstrips our delight in lesser things?

3. Do we really experience the joy and love that the three persons of the Trinity share with one another on a daily basis? Do we seek this love and joy that the Father has willed, the Son has purchased, and the Spirit applies?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tomb of Herod the Great Discovered

According to this Fox News story, Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer has discovered the tomb of King Herod (aka "Herod the Great"). The tomb was discovered at a site known as Herodium, a site where Herod built two palaces in the southern Judean desert. (For various pictures from parts of the Herodium previously excavated, click here).

Herod ruled over Judea from 37-4 B.C. (not from 74 B.C. as the Fox News story wrongly indicates). He was a "surrogate king" who answered to Rome. He is best known in the NT for two things. First, he began renovating the temple, a project that started in 20/19 B.C. and continued in some fashion until shortly before the start of the Jewish Revolt in 66 A.D. (cf. John 2:19-20). Second, Herod was the king when Jesus was born and before whom the magi appeared (Matt 2:1-8). He was also the king who ordered the slaughter of all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem in order to try to destroy Jesus (Matt 2:16-18).

Herod's significance for the NT period is also seen in that several of the rulers mentioned are descendants of Herod the Great: Archelaus (Matt 2:22), Philip the Tetrarch (Luke 3:1), Herod Antipas (beheaded John the Baptist; Mark 6:14-29), Herod Agrippa I (executed James brother of John & imprisoned Peter; Acts 12), Agrippa II (Paul appeared before him in Caesarea, Acts 25:13-26:32).

UPDATE: More details are available in this story from the Israeli newspaper HAARETZ.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Communion in the Spirit: The Holy Spirit as the Bond of Union in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards by Robert W. Caldwell III

Communion in the Spirit

Jonathan Edwards is one of the most important and influential evangelicals of the past 300 years, and the number of books written about him, not to mention versions of his own writings, signal that importance. Despite this, comparatively little has been written on JE's pneumatology.

Enter Robert W. Caldwell III. In his dissertation, just recently published (2006) by Paternoster in the series Studies in Evangelical History and Thought, Caldwell explores "what Edwards has to say about spiritual union, the Spirit's work as the bond of union and the degree to which there is continuity between the Spirit's work ad intra and ad extra. In response to this inquiry, Caldwell offers the following thesis:

"In the theology of Jonathan Edwards, the Holy Spirit's activity as the bond of the trinitarian union between the Father and the Son is paradigmatic for all other holy unions in his theology. In the personal union of Christ's two natures, the mystical union believers have with Christ, and the union of fellowship believers have with each other, the Holy Spirit works ad extra in a manner that is patterned after his inner-trinitarian work."
Caldwell then proceeds to make a compelling and convincing case that for JE, all of these unions are not merely mediated by the Holy Spirit bu the communication of the Spirit himself. Written under the supervision of the top notch Edwards scholar, Douglas A. Sweeney, Caldwell serves as a helpful guide through the depths of the subject matter and the complexities of JE's thought.

The book is well-written and does not read like a dissertation. And how many dissertations can you say bring you to moments of awe and near worship to God! Caldwell skillfully blends allowing JE to speak for himself while helping you understand what JE means.

I highly recommend this work as both a guide to Edwards thought and a stimulus to your wonder that God communicates himself to us by the Spirit and draws us into the same bond of union that the Father shares with the Son.