Daily Archives: 5 May 2018
I cannot, therefore, be surprised if a poor little fellow like me is exposed to the gruntings of vile swine who trample our pearls under their feet, when some of the most learned of men, men whose glory ought to have hushed the voice of ill will, have felt the flames of envy. – St Jerome
That means I hit a nerve. That means I’m doing my job.
No one is above public rebuke when they sin publicly. That goes for Gaines’ buddy Paige Patterson. Rest assured, Steve (and the rest of the SBC leadership), if you sin publicly, you will be rebuked publicly as long as I have breath and life. It’s my job as a theologian.
Doris and I moved to Wake Forest, NC so I could start Graduate studies for my MDiv in the Summer of 85. We moved in and when we finished unloading everything we went for lunch at the local fast food eatery (because we were poor). Sitting at the table, a couple of SEBTS students engaged us in conversation.
I had decided to start right off in Summer school and I had signed up for Hebrew (which meant 3 hours each day Tuesday-Friday in class and many hours of study outside of class). When I shared my course choice with our new friends they expressed shock and dismay. ‘Oh’, they warned me, ‘even God couldn’t make an A in Professor Balentine’s elementary Hebrew course’. So naturally I was petrified.
I took the course that summer, both summer sessions (the equivalent of the first year of Hebrew in two regular semesters), and I did quite well. In fact, I earned an A both sessions.
I saw the guys from the fast food place at the end of the Summer and they asked me how I had fared (as they had both taken Hebrew (it used to be required) and had earned a C). I told them ‘I think I did ok, I got an A both sessions’. The looks on their faces were priceless.
When I told that story to Sam Balentine some years later he quipped ‘did you tell them to bow down and worship you?’ I should have, but I didn’t think of it.
I loved Southeastern Seminary. I loved doing an MDiv there and staying around for a ThM. I loved the faculty and the administration (until the days of darkness descended with Lewis Drummond and his ilk). When Drummond drove off the majority of the faculty and replaced them with right wing Fundamentalists, the school, in my mind, died. From then on it was never the greatest of the SBC seminaries (which it, formerly, had been- having the reputation of being the place you wanted to go if you wanted to be the best, most learned, most erudite exegete you could possibly be).
My Profs were the greatest Baptist scholars of their generation. And I miss being with them every single day. I miss our discussions and their lectures and their wisdom and their kindness and their love of God and truth.
Photos from the kindly Christoph Markschies:
The last one, of him as a youngster, is extraordinary. I had never seen a picture of him that early in life. I appreciate Christoph sharing these and I also appreciate that there are others who still find this extraordinary scholar worth reading and understanding.
Once Christianity presented itself in the eyes of the law and the authorities as a religion distinct from that of Judaism, its character as a religio illicita was assured. No express decree was needed to make this plain. In fact, the “non licet” was rather the presupposition underlying all the imperial rescripts against Christianity. After the Neronic persecution, which was probably instigated by the Jews, though it neither extended beyond Rome nor involved further consequences, Trajan enacted that provincial governors were to use their own discretion, repressing any given case,3 but declining to ferret Christians out. Execution was their fate if, when suspected of lèse-majesté as well as of sacrilege, they stubbornly refused to sacrifice before the images of the gods of the emperor, thereby avowing themselves guilty of the former crime. On the cultus of the Cœsars, and on this point alone, the state and the church came into collision. The apologists are really incorrect in asserting that the Name itself (“nomen ipsum”) was visited with death. At least, the statement only becomes correct when we add the corollary that this judicial principle was adopted simply because the authorities found that no true adherent of this sect would ever offer sacrifice. He was therefore an atheist and an enemy of the state.*
You’ll search far and wide for a contemporary scholar who understands early Christianity and the history of dogma better than von Harnack. In fact, to be frank, none exist.
*The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, Vol. 1, pp. 488–489).
At SEBTS (since Baptist seminaries are in the news- mine was brilliant- until the Fundamentalists destroyed it). There’s no way to say how hugely important these people (and John Durham and Sam Balentine) were to me. And others on the greatest faculty in the history of American theological education.
When the earliest Christ-followers were baptized they participated in a politically subversive act. Rejecting the Empire’s claim that it had a divine right to rule the world, they pledged their allegiance to a kingdom other than Rome and a king other than Caesar (Acts 17:7).
Many books explore baptism from doctrinal or theological perspectives, and focus on issues such as the correct mode of baptism, the proper candidate for baptism, who has the authority to baptize, and whether or not baptism is a symbol or means of grace. By contrast, Caesar and the Sacrament investigates the political nature of baptism.
Very few contemporary Christians consider baptism’s original purpose or political significance. Only by studying baptism in its historical context, can we discover its impact on first-century believers and the adverse reaction it engendered among Roman and Jewish officials. Since baptism was initially a rite of non-violent resistance, what should its function be today?
This is the best monograph on baptism that I’ve read since George Beasley-Murray’s. In 11 carefully constructed chapters, Streett lays out his case. First, he defines terms; then he discusses baptism in its historical context. In Chapter three he turns to what is really the skeleton of his thesis: baptism and Roman domination. He then layers on muscle in his examination of John the Baptizer, the baptism of Jesus, baptism and resurrection and restoration of the kingdom, baptism and Pentecost, and baptisms beyond Jerusalem. The skin of his theory is found in the final three chapters, where he discusses Paul’s theology of baptism and baptism in the other letters and the Apocalypse.
Potential readers will naturally want to know if Streett’s argument is correct. It is. They will also want to know if his handling of the evidence is fair and accurate. It is. Does the book inform, they’ll wonder. Yes, it does. It is a volume that I should invest resources and time in, they may wonder as well. And the answer is a resounding yes.
Streett includes a good bibliography, though not thorough; and he offers an index of Scripture.
I am no fan of the recent raft of New Testament studies Malina-esque in character and focusing on ’empire’ (a word so overused now that it has achieved the status of irritant). Streett’s book is not like them, though, in spite of his interest in empire as a topos. He sees baptism in a very interesting way and he sees its function as something more than it is usually understood to be- and I think he’s on to something.
Streett writes ‘The gospel of the kingdom was an alternative metanarrative to Rome’s claims of manifest destiny and its good news of peace (Pax Romana). It was not about individual bliss in the afterlife. The message of the resurrection of Christ in its first-century context was essentially a counter-imperial proclamation that was subversive to the core‘ (p. 157).
Buzzwords like metanarrative and imperial aside, this book is a master course in baptismal theology. Take the course.
Bam. I told you I would never abandon the 2 space rule and I NEVER WILL. So put that in your pipe and smoke it you vile single space lunatics (and people who don’t use the Oxford comma).