Monthly Archives: August 2017

Conference Announcement

What Erasmus Thought of ‘Lutherans’

“All have these five words always on their lips: evangel, God’s Word, faith, Christ, and Spirit, and yet I see many behave so that I cannot doubt them to be possessed by the devil.” – Erasmus in a letter of 1524 to Theodore Hexius.

 

A Multi-part Interview With Matthew Bates on His New Book, Part One

Q– The tone of your book seems to imply that many have ‘gotten it wrong’ (i.e., salvation) up till now. Was that intentional, or is it merely a byproduct of your emphasis? Or, to put it more bluntly, the way it was put to Luther: do you think you are the only one to understand what salvation ‘is’ and everyone who came before erred?

AThe publication of Salvation by Allegiance Alone should be hailed as the second most important event in history, second by a narrow margin to Jesus’s death. I am fairly certain that nobody was actually saved until my book appeared to straighten this whole mess out. I allow that Jesus is still the Messiah, but I should at least get a prime-time talk show.

Joking aside, I think it may be unfair to suggest in such a sweeping fashion that my book implies that many have ‘gotten it wrong’ till now, for that flattens the kinds of ways the church can ‘get things wrong’.  Do I think the true church (in its full Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant expression) has always possessed the gospel in a saving fashion? Absolutely. So the church has never gotten it wrong in the ultimate sense.

Even when individual theologians, communities, and denominations have slightly (or even quite badly) misarticulated the gospel and/or salvation theory, I think the Holy Spirit was still operative in orchestrating salvation, so individuals could respond with saving allegiance through a tacit understanding of and response to the real gospel. It has been preserved and voiced every time the Scripture has been read down through the ages, and it has also been announced through liturgy and art. But this does not mean that there hasn’t been gospel confusion. A sufficient articulation is not the same as an exact articulation.

Yet, I can see why you might feel I am (overly?) bold, for I do make forceful claims about deformations within past and present soteriology. Salvation by Allegiance Alone develops four theses, the first two of which are relevant (and here I quote exactly from p. 9):

1. The true climax of the gospel—Jesus’s enthronement—has generally been deemphasized or omitted from the gospel.
2. Consequently, pistis has been misaimed and inappropriately nuanced with respect to the gospel. It is regarded as “trust” in Jesus’s righteousness alone or “faith” that Jesus’s death covers my sins rather than “allegiance” to Jesus as king.

Then I go on to assert:

“This inadequate identification of the climax of the gospel and faulty aiming of ‘faith’ is not a new problem. Nor is it a problem specific to certain Christian denominations or subgroups. It has been a norm across the full spectrum of the church for many hundreds of years. In fact, both Protestants and Catholics alike generally were invested in this slightly skewed scheme in the sixteenth century—indeed these problems extend at least in part all the way back to Saint Augustine in the fifth.” (Salvation by Allegiance Alone, p. 9).

So I do claim that my proposal might help correct historic and present missteps with regard to faith, works, and the gospel. I also assert that Saint Augustine injected a number of theological errors into the stream of Western soteriology, and that my book is making strides in the right direction. (On Augustine, see, e.g., Hart, “Traditio Deformis” [https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/05/traditio-deformis]).

Yet, do I think my own thesis is a perfect articulation of salvation theory? Not a chance.

As I am able to build on many scholars and theologians who have labored to articulate salvation theory, I do hope it is nearer the truth than other expressions have been. I also think it is imperative that we re-cover and re-deploy the gospel in every era of church history, so serious attempts are necessary.

Q– The theological topic of ‘salvation’ seems to be making a bit of a comeback among theologians and layfolk. How do you see your book contributing to that discussion.

A- I think interest has been stirred by N. T. Wright’s popularization of elements of the New Perspective on Paul, his novel theory concerning “the righteousness of God,” and the debate this has caused, especially in Reformed circles. One thinks, for instance, of John Piper’s book, The Future of Justification, which has generate buzz among layfolk, and which deliberately responds to Wright’s proposals.

As I felt I had something to say to scholars, pastors, students, and general church-folk, I wrote for as broad an audience as possible. The numerous works of Wright (e.g. Jesus and the Victory of God; Paul and the Faithfulness of God; How God Became King), as well as books by Piper, Schreiner (Faith Alone), Barclay (Paul and the Gift), McKnight (The King Jesus Gospel), Teresa Morgan (Roman Faith and Christian Faith); Michael Gorman (Becoming the Gospel), Joshua Jipp (Christ is King); Michael Bird (The Saving Righteousness of God), and many others helped me refine my own proposal. In articulating my vision of justification, I found myself applauding and criticizing both Wright and Piper at times.

My book seeks to offer something new by reassessing the gospel and ‘faith’ simultaneously. If Jesus’s enthronement and kingly rule is not extrinsic to the gospel, but intrinsic to it, then this colors what it means to respond to the gospel in “faith”. It suggests that allegiance, including embodied obedience to Jesus the king, is essential to salvation.

Note: The other portions of the interview will be posted at the links below.  Those links will go ‘live’ when the interview segment is posted.

Martin Luther – Biographie und Theologie

There are few historical figures in church history whose biographies are so closely linked to their theologies as they are with Martin Luther. Contrary to research at the beginning of the 20th century, recent Luther biographies have tended to loosen the connection between his biography and his theology. Thus the relationship between Luther’s life and work has to be reconceptualized to combine specifically historical and theological approaches. In this volume, leading scholars of the older and the younger generation of Luther research join forces to explore the different views of the reformer in order to establish a more precise picture of this connection.

The second edition of this volume has just been published.

Dead Sea Scroll Sessions From SBL International

Something For the Linguistic Nerds

The Challenge to Diachronic Method From Empirical Models of Ancient Writing.

In looking beyond the Hebrew scriptures to the epigraphic corpus of the ancient Near East, we multiply the data from which to adduce theories of textual development. When biblicists hypothesize theories of textual development, they do so situated in a distinctly modern textual culture and are prone to project anachronistic attitudes and practices upon cultures at a great distance in time and place. Empirical models offer us methodological control as we observe how ancient scribes more closely contemporaneous with the scribes of Israel edited and expanded cherished texts across the centuries.

Read it in Bible and Interpretation.

The Best, Most Accurate Analysis of Osteen, and Politicized Evangelicalism I’ve Seen in a Long Time

It’s right here, in, of all places, Buzzfeed.  You will not regret reading it.  It’s excellent and right on the mark evaluation.

Oh My, The Pentebabbleists Are Angry With The Bee For Its Osteen Satire

Hurricane Harvey has brought devastation to Houston. The National Weather Service called it “beyond anything experienced.” Many were killed, and it will take years for the state to fully recover from the wicked storm’s impacts.

Amid this, some click-bait opportunists are using the moment to attack Joel Osteen—and the mainstream news media is falling for the bait hook, line and sinker.

And on she rambles, angrily, without any sense of wit, humor, or insight into the Bee’s purpose or what click bait or satire are.  But that’s to be expected since she’s a pentebabbleist who claims to have private revelations.

The Babbler continues

Can we get some responsibility in journalism, please? I suppose Joel is an easy target at some level since he’s a happy guy with a mega church and mega prosperity. But the Bible warns against bearing false witness. This was clearly an assignment from the pit of hell to slander him at a time when we should be focused on helping Texas recover.

Newsflash, missy- the Bee isn’t journalism.  And don’t you think the ‘assignment from the pit of hell’ is a bit stupid?  Finally, if our focus should be on Texas, why are you talking about the Bee?

Babbling on-

Fake news stories like these are one of the reasons the Lord put it on my heart to raise up a company of Christian writers. Check out my Writer’s School or my Writer Network.

Oh there it is- pitching herself.  Now her defense of Osteen makes sense- Pentebabbleists of a feather certainly huddle together.

Free From DeGruyter- Writing Matters: Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The volume is available here.  And note, for the moment the cover to the right is not the one that appears at that link- but the book contents are correct.

The British New Testament Society Annual Conference …

… Meets over the next few days, this year at Maynooth, Ireland.  You may not be able to attend- but you can still follow along on the twitter-  just watch the hashtag – #bntc2017.

It should be very entertaining.

New Books From TVZ

Visit TVZ for these and more.

You Absurd Angry Atheists Need to Stop Your Senseless Whining

The ridiculous whiners at the ‘Freedom From Religion’ cult of ignoramuses are unhappy that Marco Rubio tweets Bible verses.  To them I say, shut up.  You’re as absurd as a Trump speech and less sensible.  Rubio can tweet what he wants, and he has the right to do so.

Stop whining, go get yourselves a job, and get your nasty little shriveled useless selves out of other people’s business.

Truth: The Commentary Turns Heads

Get your copy in PDF format for a paltry $199 by clicking my PayPal Link.

RefoThursday

Check out this week’s essay:

Mark Greene of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity put the issue [of following God in our work and other daily activities] into sharp focus when he spoke to the Lausanne Movement gathering in 2010, the largest global conference of evangelical leaders ever held.

He observed that most Christians think the job of the church is to recruit people to join the church and participate in its programs to spread the gospel. On that model, he pointed out, the 98% of Christians who are not church employees are neither envisioned nor equipped by the church to serve Jesus in 95% of what they do with their waking hours.

Zwingli’s View of the Apocrypha

An interesting proof of the extent of Zwingli’s reputation is a letter written to him from Ghent by John Cousard, who signs himself in Greek, “Bishop of the Brethren of the Common Life,” lamenting that Zwingli wrote so much in German, and asking him to have his writings in that language translated into Latin! Zwingli replied to it on August 31, 1531, and makes these remarks upon the Apocrypha:

“There are certain considerations which you adduce from the Apocryphal Books. These, I concede, contain some things that are worth reading; yet they never attain to that measure of authority that the Canonical Books have. They are more diluted and feebler, so that they appear rather as imitations of the former Scriptures than written in the peculiar fervour of the fresh spirit.”*

______________
*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 339–340.

It’s That Time

It’s Going to be a Fantastic Semester

Trump: Grifter in Chief

“There’s no apparent line for the president on how his office can be used for financial benefit, for profit going into his pocket or money going into his campaign,” said Fred Wertheimer, of the watchdog group Democracy 21. “In essence, he’s now licensing the presidency.”

And

Another watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, found fault with the official photos. Spokesman Jordan Libowitz said, “The White House should be dedicated to the people’s business, not Trump’s business. It is wholly inappropriate for them to promote Trump products, of any kind, at any time.”

He’s a disgrace.

The Bee Stings the #NashvilleStatement Angst on Display

After numerous prominent Christians and everyday believers alike signed the Nashville Statement affirming basic Christian doctrine held with rare exception for 2,000 years, progressives across the nation flooded the internet in droves to voice their horror and disgust at the shocking set of beliefs.

“I can’t believe these people would just come out and blatantly state something Christians have unflinchingly agreed on for millennia,” one liberal Christian wrote on Twitter. “It’s absolutely beyond callous.”

“I literally just can’t even,” she added later.

Secular humanist scholar Zeke Reddington agreed, stating on his Patheos blog that for Christians to publicly affirm historically Christian ideas was “unthinkable.”

“It’s 2017, for crying out loud. I can’t believe we have to deal with people who disagree with us in the current year!” he wrote in his insightful 8,000-word blog post.

At publishing time, the many bigoted backers of the Nashville Statement had still refused to apologize for their horrific act of affirming beliefs that most progressive Christians evolved beyond at least two or three years ago.

It’s funny because it’s true.  And if you want to read my view on the Statement, feel free to do so here.

If You Are in Zürich, You Should Attend This