A quick note on the nature of the canon

A few years ago, when I took a serious inventory of my beliefs, I had to answer the question of canon. How did it come to be, what justifies the selection and what is its purpose? Continue reading “A quick note on the nature of the canon”

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Reading the Biblical Story

The Bible contains diverse forms of literature but by the numbers narrative is the largest genre. For the last three years writing on this platform I have repeatedly been referring to the story of the Bible in various ways. I have called it the grand/controlling/central narrative. My favourite term is metanarrative because it means the story of stories and as a conceptual tool it is very useful. The one thing I have failed to do is actually point out which narratives come together to form the metanarrative. If you wanted to know the biblical story, which books of the Bible should you read? Continue reading “Reading the Biblical Story”

How long did it take for God to make the world?

The folks over at BioLogos explain here how long a day is in Genesis 1 and what those days means.

What about Life After Death?

Examining 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 for an intermediate state

Does the Bible teach there is an intermediate state between death and resurrection? Biblical scholar J. Richard Middleton takes on a popular proof text for this belief.

CREATION to ESCHATON

The core hope of New Testament eschatology is the resurrection of the body and a renewed earth. This is the central argument of my book A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology.

But there are some New Testament texts that seem (on the surface) to contradict this holistic vision of redemption. So I devoted two chapters in the book to addressing such “problem texts.”

In previous blog posts I examined two such texts (1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24), both of which are typically thought to teach the “rapture” of believers to heaven at Christ’s return. I concluded that neither text actually teaches this idea.

But my examination of “problem texts” led me to wonder about the so-called “intermediate state” (or “interim state”), the idea of a temporary period between death and resurrection when the righteous (or their “souls”) are with Christ in heaven, awaiting resurrection.

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A Crisis of Biblical Proportions

About 3 years ago I read Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham which got me interested in biblical literacy. He talked about how oral cultures preserve and transmit tradition. Even though in the ancient world literacy rates were extremely low (not more than 10% according to most scholars but it is very hard to determine) they could be very familiar with texts. This phenomenon is known as textuality. A text could be publicly read and repeated so many times that those who are illiterate actually know the text very well even though they have never read it. It’s like a popular film you have never watched but because it’s so much a part of pop culture, being referenced and alluded to in many different ways, you already know the story without having read it. What really inspired me about Bauckham’s work is that no matter how educated you are, everyone can be taught scripture to a very sophisticated level. Looking at how great the challenges were in the 1st century, biblical literacy still happened which means for the post-Gutenberg, social media generation, we really do not have an excuse. Continue reading “A Crisis of Biblical Proportions”

Allegiant Orthodoxy

In a previous post I spoke about how Matthew Bates‘ proposal for allegiance in the New Testament rehabilitates the contemporary meaning of faith for Christians. He argues, and I agree, that “faith” in modern usage as a macro-term no longer captures the full import of the Greek word group “pistis” that it traditionally translates in the New Testament. He suggests “allegiance” better captures the scope of meaning of pistis. Faith in contemporary English has many meanings. However when we narrow them down, there is overlap with a certain meaning of the pistis word group present in the New Testament which is “mental assent.” When it comes to saving pistis, faith as cognitive affirmation of certain truth claims, is the first step of three towards total enacted allegiance to King Jesus. The subsequent steps, which are also meanings of pistis, are sworn fealty and then embodied loyalty. This three tier proposal for saving allegiance in the New Testament I think can also be applied to help solve the theological problem of how orthodoxy, the creeds and praxis (Christian living) ought to relate to one another.

On the surface the connection is obvious and in many ways it is. However, the difficulties arise when you apply them to real world problems. Continue reading “Allegiant Orthodoxy”

Raised to Rule

About a month ago I took a look at the excellent work of Dr Matthew Bates in his book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. In it he brilliantly and persuasively argues we have misunderstood what the Bible means by faith. This has implications for how we understand the gospel, which he explains, should climax in Jesus’ ascension.

In the past I have focused on the resurrection, which Bates explains is an essential element of the gospel, because there was a wrong emphasis on the cross. One of my earliest posts was that we should see the cross from the side of the resurrection. This allowed me to develop a theological understanding of the cross that did not screen out the resurrection. The cross remained pivotal but pivotal because it no longer bore any dead weight. Seeing the resurrection as the crux of the matter made me hesitate a little when I saw Bates’ proposal for the climax to be the ascension.

Dr. Bates’ work was exegetical rigorous so I had to deal with it because that is what the New Testament actually indicates. I therefore quickly made peace with it which helped me recognise there was harmony between this newer observation and my previous observation.  The resurrection as the fundamental turning point in the Christ event is actually not in competion with the ascension as the climax for central importance because the turning point in a narrative is not the same as the climax. (The cross was the moment of crisis where the plot conflict finally came to a gruesome head.)

What helped me embrace Bates’ insights even more easily was a much earlier observation I had made about the connection between the resurrection and the ascension. As the title of an earlier post explains, Jesus was Raised to Ascend. Resurrection and ascension vocabulary are closely intertwined in New Testament language. Theologically speaking in the New Testament, ascension implied there was a prior resurrection while resurrection implies there was a subsequent ascension. In other words Jesus could not have been installed as king if he had not been raised from the dead. The resurrection powerfully vindicated Jesus claim to kingship and the ascension was his coronation. Just as the resurrection couldn’t happen without the crucifixion, he was raised to rule and he rules because he was raised.