Thursday, August 31, 2006

The fruit of dialogue

One of my readers has recently challenged the possibility of dialogue between two positions with fundamentally different ‘frameworks’. Personally, I choose to continue to prioritise dialogue and the sharing of opinions.

But this whole issue reminds me of the famous Newman and Baddiel comedy sketch: ‘History Today’ where two stuffy old history professors attempt to debate a historical theme, a discussion that only ends up degenerating into childish insults against each other, and each other’s mums!

This was the sort of humour I was raised on as a kid – we spent hours tormenting each other in the classrooms with lines like: ‘See that old tissue filled with snot? That’s you that is’.

This embedded video is a nice ‘History Today’ example:

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 2

This post is simply to make concrete some of the definitions in the previous and will not attempt any analysis. Indeed, there wouldn’t be space in a single blog post to go into detail, especially as examples of CZ abound on the internet ranging, as one would expect, from the reputable to the outrageous.

Starting with the more up-market: The CEO of Bridges for Peace, one of the larger organisations with an explicit agenda, claims the following: ‘God’s promises to Israel are being literally fulfilled today’ (here, italics mine)

Representative of smaller organisations is Exobus. On their article page you will find Scriptures being used as proof texts such that the claim becomes ‘it’s the fulfilment of biblical prophecy to help Jewish people back to Israel today’.

You will notice the lead Scripture cited in prelude to their ‘7 reasons why’ justification for Aliyah:
‘“However, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave to their forefathers”’ (Jer 16:14-15)
They proceed to argue that ‘The Word of God makes it clear not only that ‘“He who scattered Israel will gather them” Jer.31:10, but that God will use gentiles to help carry them home (Is 49:22 & Is 14:1-2). Dubbed by some as the Second Great Commission, this mandate to ‘help the Jews home ’ is accepted by increasing numbers of Bible-believing Christians as NOW’.

They go on: ‘The scripture is clear in many passages like Ezekiel 36 & 37 that God ’s programme is physical restoration of Israel, followed by spiritual restoration of Israel and world-wide revival. It is God’s primary intention to bless the Jews in the Land, and from that Land to make Jews a blessing to the whole world, bringing glory to His Holy Name (Ez 36:23)’.

For more claims like this visit the links given here.

Oh, OK, let's bung it in too. For one more particularly timely and bloody silly version, click here. The reasoning as represented on the hyperlink appears to be something like: Isaiah 24:1-6, ergo the world will erupt into nuclear war on September 12th, 2006!

In the following couple of posts I want to submit to you that this sort of thing evidences a mishandling of Scripture and involves i) a misunderstanding of the nature of Scripture, ii) a naïve hermeneutic that hasn’t allowed itself to be shaped enough by the Christ-event, thus betraying the model provided by the early Church, and iii) an inconsistent application of scriptural promises.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Glaubenskrieg" bei ARTE

Yet another critical inquiry into European Fundamentalism will hit the TV screens in September, with reports on expected themes such as evolution and demonic deliverance ministry.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 1

In the next few posts I shall discuss the handling of Scripture in Christian Zionism (CZ). I will suggest it is marked by a proof-texting mentality that not only misunderstands the nature of biblical prophecy, but also displays a naïve and inconsistent hermeneutic. In a later post in this series I’ll also suggest why this subject isn’t merely a theological curiosity – and something best left alone - but impacts world politics. In fact, I suggest it also negatively distracts discipleship to Jesus and thus needs to be challenged. And the use of Scripture in Christian Zionism gets right to the heart of the problem, hence the focus of this small series.

Needles to say I deplore anti-Semitism in all its forms, that is not the question here – so lets be clear about that up-front. Indeed, today I was saddened to hear of the great NT scholar Adolf Schlatter’s deplorable pro-Führer anti-Jew nonsense on Jim West’s blog.

CZ, of course, comes in many shapes and sizes and so I offer a few definitions to lend some orientation.

The Wikipedia definition runs as follows: ‘Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy’ (italics mine).

Mark Calder recently wrote a very helpful analysis of CZ in an undergraduate dissertation at the University of Edinburgh, which he kindly e-mailed me (more from him in later posts). He defines CZ as follows: ‘Stated simply, Christian Zionism is the belief that the Christian Bible justifies Jewish claims to some or all of, or indeed more than, the land of British Mandate Palestine’ (p. 7, italics mine).

The major work on Christian Zionism from a critical perspective is Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? He suggests the most basic of frames: ‘At its simplest, Christian Zionism is a political form of philo-Semitism, and can be defined as ‘Christian support for Zionism’ (p. 19). If flesh is hung on this frame, in practice this invariably means ‘Christian Zionists are therefore also defenders of, and apologists for, the state of Israel. This support consistently involves opposing those deemed to be critical of, or hostile towards Israel, but also leads to the justification of Israel’s occupation and settlement of the West Bank, Golan and Gaza on biblical grounds’ (pp. 20-21, italics mine).

I’ll return to these definitions later, but first to some practical examples of CZ and especially the handling of Scripture therein.


NT Christology reading lists

Derek Brown offers an excellent ‘list of the most important works (excluding journal articles and essays) on NT Christology’. I suggested in the notes that he missed Hengel’s Son of God, and thinking about it, W Kramer’s titular study (Christos Kyrios Gottessohn) should also get a mention. Actually, now I’m pondering it, perhaps mention could be also made of Richardson’s Paul’s Language about God, Thüsing’s Per Christum in Deum, Kreitzer’s Jesus and God in Paul’s Eschatology, de Jonge’s various works, Harvey’s Jesus and the Constraints of History, Harris’ study of the title Theos and Capes’ work on YHWH texts and Christ. To be fair, Derek’s list was meant to be ‘brief’, and it is an excellent list, and some of my suggestions are focused on Pauline Christology, rather than NT Christology generally, so this isn’t meant as criticism of Derek’s list.

UPDATE: Derek has since added a few more to his list!

Perhaps there is no more fascinating a subject of study as Christology, especially NT Christology. In my opinion, Pauline Christology is the most fascinating of all, especially given modern debates surrounding the question as to whether it is divine. But then I would say that I suppose.

Oh, also be sure to have a look at Stephen's posts on annihilationism (1. God's love, 2. The justice of God a and b and 3. The Wages of sin).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Entirely appropriately ...

In light of my last post, do have a read of this amusing list.

Censored Blogging

Unless something urgent comes up, in my next posts I'll be looking at the question of Christian Zionism. Until then, a question:

Do any of you write posts for a blog and then think: ‘That’s way over the top, surely I’ll unnecessarily offend some poor soul with this one’, and so never actually post it?

I do.

But these days my gentle deference to theological sensibilities has evolved into obedience to the mantra ‘what the hell’. So today I offer a post from my forbidden vaults – something I wrote about 10 months ago for my old blog. If you’re Lutheran, you may want to skip this one.


In the light of the 31st October (Reformation Day) I've come to a conclusion:

A new 95 theses is needed.

And all the more so as Luther's list is, well … past its sell by date. In fact - I think all will agree - its in desperate need of a modernising revamp.

Besides, I don't think Luther even used a King James Version to support his points which is really careless. Plus he was a bit ugly. I'm not trying to offend any of you Lutherans out there; I'm just stating a fact. His facial features look like they were put on in the dark in a rush, then rearranged by some proto-Picasso medieval plastic surgeon. But then again, I'm not one to harp on about looks so I'll shut up before this one boomerangs on me. Its what's inside that counts.

And what is more, today one is simply spoilt for choice as to the number of potential doors to start hammering a list on. But a new list is needed nevertheless. One that wont just make the selling of indulgencies look stupid.

Henceforth, and in true ecumenical spirit, I will be posting a new 95 theses, one by one over the next few months [present day editorial comment: naturally, having given up on the first post, I didn't bother continuing this series]. I wont be starting off with the most important ones - more like using them to get warmed up for the biggies. And, admittedly, they will not all be entirely serious. But whatever, consider them nailed on your door.

So now is time (drum roll in background), for the very first of the New International 95 theses Version.
1. The use of bad words like 'shit', 'tit', 'bollocks', 'arse', etc. is not clever, not funny nor grown-up. OK, maybe a bit funny. If someone says 'such and such' has gone tits-up then that can be mildly funny, and I'm not really sure what it means so it’s probably a bit clever too. But its not grown-up. So don't do it.


Mike Bird and Joel Willitts, who run one of my favourite blogs, have moved to a new web address:

Be sure to update your blogrolls.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Faber hymn

I love spending time meditating on the words of this great old hymn, to aid me to ‘gaze and gaze on’ the glory of the Triune God till my heart burns hot within me. Beautiful stuff.

(1) My God, how wonderful Thou Art,
Thy Majesty how bright!
How beautiful Thy mercy-seat,
In depths of burning light

(2) How dread are Thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
by prostate spirits day and night
incessantly adored!

(3) How beautiful, how beautiful,
the sight of Thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power
And awful purity!

(4) O how I fear Thee, living God,
with deepest, tenderest fears,
and worship Thee with trembling hope
and penitential tears!

(5) Yet I may love The too, O Lord,
almighty as Thou art,
for Thou hast stopped to ask of me
the love of my poor heart.

(6) No earthly father loves like Thee;
no mother, e’er so mild,
bears and forbears as Thou hast done
with me, Thy sinful child

(7) Father of Jesus, love’s reward,
what rapture will it be
prostrate before Thy throne to lie
and gaze and gaze on Thee!

- Frederick W Faber (1814-63)

Christian Art

'Crikey' was the word that came to mind when I saw this:

(Found on Hal Lindsey Oracle Cartoons where there are many more)

Blasphemous? That’s probably going too far (I try not to take the opening ‘Only’ too seriously but merely put it down to a typical American language 'exageration' tick). But it is at least theologically short sighted. Not that I know too much about American foreign policy, but I'm taken aback that people can so casually mix and match the American empire and Christianity like this.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I spent a lovely evening with friends on the river Neckar tonight, drifting on a Gondola (Stocherkahn) past such sites as the Melanchton plaque, the Evangelische Stift (where Hegel studied and Strauss wrote his Leben Jesu) and the Stiftskirche in which the likes of Jüngel and Moltmann sometimes preach. And the clear night air was scented with the smell of freshly grilled meat from the small portable BBQ we took with us. Delightful!

I’ve received e-mails from some of my readers recently about studying in Tübingen and I’m trying to say something to you: ‘What are you waiting for?!’

On the way back, as darkness fell, I walked through an area of Tübingen I’ve never seen before and knowing I was not in London - and thus have to fear the likes of dangerous gangs of hoodies -, I wondered, given the nature of the town, if any of the gloomy alleyways were hiding gaggles of dangerous theologians banding together to wait for the likes of us to walk by ...

‘God cares for each individual creature’
-- Pannenberg, Systematic theology, 2. 35

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wright on Israel in Rom 11

‘So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”’ (Rom 11:25-26)
Verse 26 in the Greek is: ‘kai. ou[twj pa/j VIsrah.l swqh,setai( kaqw.j ge,graptai\ h[xei evk Siw.n o` r`uo,menoj( avpostre,yei avsebei,aj avpo. VIakw,b’.

Of the ou[twj Tom Wright famously claims:

‘Despite repeated assertions to the contrary, the meaning of ou[twj is not ‘then’ but ‘thus’, ‘in this manner’. Paul’s meaning is not temporal sequence – first the Gentiles, then the Jews. Rather, it is the interpretation of a particular process as the salvation of ‘all Israel’. And in this context ‘all Israel’ cannot possibly mean ‘all Jews’. It is impermissible to argue that ‘Israel’ cannot change its referent within the space of two verses, so that ‘Israel’ in v.25 must mean the same as ‘Israel’ in v.26: Paul actually began the whole section (9:6) with just such a programmatic distinction of two ‘Israles’, and throughout the letter (e.g. 2.25-9) as well as elsewhere (Philippians 3.2-11) he has systematically transferred the privileges and attributes of ‘Israel’ to the Messiah and his people’ (The Climax of the Covenant, 250) – though to clarify I should point out that later Wright is clear to rule out a straightforward ‘replationist’ theology (253).

Speaking for him is that this interpretation helps 11:26 sit more comfortably in a otherwise problematic context. In fact, others have tried to resolve the apparent tension by proposing that 11:26 be understood a mere Pauline inconsistency, the outburst of an unthoughtout apocalyptic fantasy (Bultmann), while others explain it away as a later unPauline gloss. Not only that, Wright’s whole scheme in these chapters (Rom 9-11) helps one make sense of the relations between Rom 1-8 with 9-11 and even 12-16. Perhaps another good thing is that his interpretation flies in the face of Christian predictive Zionism that sometimes understands and reads the bible as if it were a script written by Nostrodamus, but admittedly that is hardly positive reason of itself. OK, maybe it is.

Do you think Wright is wrong or spot on?

Sauerkraut genitives

I’ve found yet another German scholar who prefers the Genitivus qualitatis of ‘evpistolh. Cristou/’ in 2 Cor 3:3. Namely, Franz Zeilinger, in his massive Krieg und Friede in Korinth. It must be in the Sauerkraut. He reasons that God, not Christ, is implied as the author by the nature of the ground texts referred to in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (cf. Vol. 2, p. 72).

Incidentally, as you know, I’ve been talking about the subjective and objective genitive the whole time. But evpistolh. is hardly a verbal noun is it? In other words, we are better of speaking of a genitive of authorship, and a genitive of quality. In fact, I suspect that this genitive in 2 Cor 3:3 conveys not only Christ as content or only as author, but both. In other words, we have a kind of non-verbal plenary genitive (cf. Wallace’s Grammar on the plenary). You know I’m right.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The 1611 only?

For your reading pleasure: some glorious doesn’t know theological arse from elbow madness.

BTW, after extensive internet research it looks very much like the previous video is sadly a fake. It is superb acting to have pulled that off. [Evil Mode On] Personally, I think it would be much funnier if it were genuine but hey, can’t have everything [/E-Mode Off].

Evil interviewer

Totally unrelated to theology or biblical studies, but I had to mention this one.

I'm not a great fan of 'webvideos', but this one had me mercilessly sniggering aloud - I suppose because I knew I shouldn't have been laughing ...

The language is Dutch, but that hardly spoils the effect. The interviewer was apparently tickled by the pitch of his guest's voice, and didn't do a very good job hiding the fact! This was made all the funnier given the sensitive subject under discussion. The poor woman, I presume the high-pitch man's wife (who is in tears), apparently woke up from an operation without the use of her legs. That didn't stop our interviewer, however ... The result is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Enjoy, fellow evil people.

Praying with Barth

I find praying the prayers of others extremely helpful sometimes. I use them to supplement my own prayers and they tend to enrich me very much. I photocopied a collection of Barth’s prayers today. Here are two lovely examples given the title ‘Gib uns deinen Geist – Pfingstfest’:

„Herr, unser Gott! Wir treten vor dein Antlitz in Anbetung vor deiner Majestät, in Erkenntnis unse­rer Unwürdigkeit, mit Dank für alle deine gute Gabe, die du uns an Leib und Seele immer wieder zuwendest. Wir danken dir insbesondere für diesen Sonntag und Festtag, an dem wir dessen gedenken dürfen, daß dein lieber Sohn, unser Herr Jesus Chri­stus, uns nach seinem Hingang zu dir nicht Waisen werden ließ, sondern uns im Heiligen Geist, dem Tröster und Lehrer, der uns lebendig macht, gegen­wärtig sein und bleiben wollte, bis er selbst wieder­kommt in seiner Herrlichkeit. Und nun hilf du, daß wir dich recht erkennen und recht preisen in dieser deiner Wohltat, daß dein Wort recht verkündigt und recht gehört werde an diesem Ort und überall, wo dein Volk dich anruft. Heilige und segne du auch die Feier des Abendmahls, die wir miteinander be­gehen wollen. Dein Licht leuchte uns! Dein Friede sei unter uns! Amen.“


„Lieber himmlischer Vater! Nun bitten wir dich, daß du uns Allen deinen Heiligen Geist gebest und im­mer wieder gebest, damit er uns erwecke, erleuchte, ermutige und fähig mache, den kleinen und doch so großen Schritt zu wagen: aus dem Trost, mit dem wir uns selbst trösten können, heraus und hinein in die Hoffnung auf dich. Kehre du uns selbst weg zu dir hin! Erlaube es uns nicht, uns vor dir zu ver­stecken! Laß es nicht zu, daß wir es ohne dich machen wollen! Zeige uns, wie herrlich du bist und wie herrlich es ist, dir vertrauen und gehorchen zu dür­fen!
Wir bitten dich um dasselbe für alle Menschen: daß die Völker und ihre Regierungen sich deinem Wort beugen und damit für das Recht und den Frie­den auf Erden willig werden möchten - daß dein Wort allen Armen, allen Kranken, allen Gefange­nen, allen Betrübten, allen Unterdrückten, allen Un­gläubigen, durch Rat und Tat recht bekanntgemacht und daß es von ihnen als Antwort auf ihr Seufzen und Schreien vernommen, verstanden und beherzigt werde- daß die Christenheit aller Kirchen und Kon­fessionen es ganz neu erkenne und ihm in neu er Treue dienen lerne - daß seine Wahrheit jetzt und hier schon hell werde und bleibe in all den menschlichen Irrungen und Wirrungen, bis sie endlich und zuletzt Alle und Alles erleuchten wird. Gelobt seist du, der du uns in Jesus Christus, deinem Sohn, frei machst, dies zu bekennen und dazu zu stehen: Wir hoffen auf dich! Amen.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

'Bye bye' form criticism?

I’ve been busy reading Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses tonight as I want to get some questions to him before too long.

Let me just say this: if Bauckham is right I think we can say bye-bye to form-criticism and its key assumptions. This would have considerable consequences for historical Jesus research!

I do look forward to sharing more about this book when the time comes.

On the comatosal front, I mentioned a few days ago something about the modern tendency in German scholarship to read evpistolh. Cristou/ in 2 Cor 3:3 as an objective genitive. However, as I’ve discovered, this is not new to our Wiener guzzling exegetical freinds. Already in 1969 Mathias Rissi, in his monograph, Studien zum zweiten Korintherbrief, argues that the Corinthian church is a letter of recommendation precisely because Christ, not Paul, is its content. Thus evpistolh. Cristou/, so the argument goes, is an objective genitive in 2 Cor 3:3.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The freedom of the Christian

I recently found a great buy in a Tübingen second hand book shop. I always head to the theology section of course, and looking through the Küng books I found one that I not only don’t have, but also carried the famous theologians signature too - all for 8€ which makes me a happy man!

The book in question is one of Küng’s forgotten gems: Freiheit des Christen. In this little volume Küng presses the connection – even the identity – of freedom and being a Christian.

Freedom is a subject that has been exercising and fascinating me much this week, not least because of this little book. To be honest, I feel I have a lot to learn about freedom and the meaning of such passages as the following:

  • ‘... the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (Rom 8:21)
  • ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor 3:17)
  • ‘For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’ (Gal 5:1)
  • ‘As servants1 of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil’ (1 Pet 2:16)

I’d be interested to hear from anyone book or article recommendations on the subject of Christian freedom ...

Homosexuals and Angela Merkel

So much fuss over nothing.

Hades discovered under the sea

I hope I’m at least getting a reputation for running one hell of a blog for this, but today I offer you more ‘proofs’ of Hades for you to enjoy.

These scholars write:

“Do you know why Jacques Costeau [I think they mean Cousteau], the famous underwater explorer, quit deep sea diving sometime before he died? It is said that he stopped because he had heard in one of the underwater caves he was exploring, the sounds of people screaming. There was also another time, when one of his men, who was in a diving bell in the deepest trench at the Bermuda Triangle, also had a similar experience. He signalled to be brought up immediately. After being revived from his shock, he told others of his frightening experience of hearing “screams of people in pain”’
‘Ergo’, so the reasoning goes, ‘hell is proved’.

Utterly convincing, I think you’ll all agree.

Funnily enough, when I click on my favourite EvilDead Death Metal iTunes channel, I hear lots of screams too. Perhaps, ergo, iTunes is also near hell?

Oh, and do visit their webpage here. Not only will you get treated to some real funky music for free (you may, like me, be scrambling to figure out how to turn it off quickly before you start shoving your mouse and keyboard down your ears to block the noise), but you’ll hear about Jesus and the Archangel Michael popping up to tell this Apostolic couple, Elisabeth and Niko (of the punchily named ‘Alpha & Omega Almightywind Ruach Ha Kodesh Wildfire Last Chance Ministry’), all sorts of juicy titbits.

But they excel themselves with the ‘hell song’. Go to this page, and, no, this time you can’t frigging turn the noise off at all. Prepare to get a tad annoyed ...

They present a song sung by ‘a citizen of hell’. It sounds a bit like me on my Grand Theft Auto rampage actually, but they are sure – this is from a vision of hell. Rather alarmingly they’ve even been thoughtful enough to make the following suggestion:
“Would you like a copy of ‘Citizen in Hell’ and the ‘Sounds of Hell’ on CD or tape to share with unsaved family and friends? Contact Elisabeth and let her know ...”!!
Can you imagine it! Inviting Mr and Mrs Cuthbert from next door for a cup of tea, and a rendition of Citizen in Hell (followed with an alter call)!

Reading their Statement of faith it will be noticed that actually, apart from some of their odd language, the strange bit here and there, and the repetition, some of the stuff on this S of F is balanced and gracious, and entirely typical of conservative charismatic American evangelicalism. Indeed, it is a darn site better than some.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The tricky 2 Cor 3:3 genitive again

Dunno if anyone finds this sort of thing interesting, but, well, hey ho: To continue the 2 Cor 3:3 genitive discussion ...

There appears to be a trend among younger German scholars (as opposed to British and American scholars) to understand the evpistolh. Cristou/ genitive in 2 Cor 3:3 as objective, i.e. that Christ is the content, not the author of the letter. Jens Schröter (in Der versöhnte Versöhner) and Bernd Kuschnerus (in Die Gemeinde als Brief Christi) for example. Both are excellent works, btw (the Greek font used is Bwgrkl - see the download button on the right).
‘Die Bezeichnung der korinthischen Gemeinde als „Brief Christi“ markiert vielmehr die Art der Verbindung zwischen Paulus und den Korinthern als eine, die Christus zum Inhalt hat’ (Schröter, 64).
Why Schröter interprets 2 Cor 3:3 evpistolh. Cristou/ as an objective genitive:

First, he tackles the usual evidence cited in support of the subjective genitive reading, namely, the supposed parallel in v. 2 (with h` evpistolh h`mw/n). In this line of reasoning, Paul is understood as the v. 2 letter’s author, thus implying a parallelism such that Christ is v. 3’s author (65, fn. 4 for examples). Against this, Schröter suggests that such a parallelism between the two genitives which presupposes that in both cases the writer of the letter is indicated, is implausible. Rather, God is the author in both cases. In particular, in v. 2 the language suggests that God is the writer (66) given the fact that the letter is written in the hearts of the Corinthians (here Schröter accepts the less well attested u`mw/n). This reasoning, Schröter suggests, is confirmed in 2:14f where the role of the apostle is noticeably passive.

Finally, while remembering the context in which Paul is detailing the Corinthian church as Paul’s letter of recommendation, Schröter argues that this indicates the genitive in question designates the content of the letter, something confirmed by the combination with 2:14: ‘the apostle stands in direct relation to God, and Christ is presented, in a manner of speaking, as the qualification of this relation’ (66).

Why Kuschnerus interprets 2 Cor 3:3 evpistolh. Cristou/ as an objective genitive.

He first argues (163) that God is surely the author of the letter in 2 Cor 3:3 as the thematic parallel of 2:14 makes clear: in 2:14, a verse connected thematically with 3:3, God is unquestionably the subject of the Christ-revealing event. Furthermore, and second, the 3:3 OT verses alluded to make clear that God writes in the heart and is the giver of the Spirit, thus imply that God is also the subject in 2 Cor 3:3. Third, in support of an objective genitive reading is the connection between the Spirit and Christ as it comes to expression in 3:17-18. The Spirit in 3:3 is the material in which the writing is done, and the connection (identification?) of Spirit and risen Lord in vv. 17-18 suggest, in turn, that Christ is the content of the letter, not its author. This reading is suggested also by the fact that, in 3:18, the Corinthian Christians see in each other the glory of the Lord because ‘the life of Christ’ is within them (compare 4:10-12 with 3:6). Christ once again appears as related to ‘content’.

Finally, Kuschnerus pursues this argument in light of his own metaphorical analysis:
‘The extensions (evggegramme,nh) pneu,mati qeou/ zw/ntoj( (evggegramme,nh) ouvk evn plaxi.n liqi,naij and (evggegramme,nh) evn plaxi.n kardi,aij sarki,naij create, when referring to the letter, a semantic tension. It is, however, possible to semantically unite them with the genitive object Cristou/ which qualifies the letter. This will be shown in the following.’ (166).
He goes on: ‘The text itself shows a metaphorical sequence’ (169). However, to be fair it is doubtful that his analysis of the following interplay of metaphorical language and OT allusions is positive evidence against a subjective genitive or for an objective genitive reading as the material cited is rather neutral in regard to the question. Likewise, arguably also the subject-orientated Christology in Paul has been neglected in his analysis.

Actually, I think they are both wrong.

500 free electronic journals

I’ve just uploaded a really useful pdf file with hyperlinks to about 500 free electronic journals in the field of theology / religious studies! The file was sent to me by my librarian ‘from a contact on the board of the AmericanTheological Library Association’. So you have them to thank.

Click here to download a copy.

Not all of the links will be useful, but surely some will be. Either way, this is a great resource for you to have as a list in one file. Enjoy!

Jim is at it again!

Jim West is at it again!

Some will still remember this:

And not to forget, this.

This time, my good friend in America has sent me his duplicate copies of Zwingli’s Hauptschriften (Der Theologe I, II and III). Glorious!

I’ve been building more and more in appreciation for Zwingli, especially in light of sections in Jim’s forthcoming translation of Zwinglis Humor by Fritz Schmidt-Clausing. This little book has been opening me up to the delightfulness of this reformer like none other.

And so I am all the more excited to get these volumes! Thanks so much Jim!

Actually, Anja too was enjoying the reading today on the trip back from the Zollamt. We read from his text on the two natures of Christ (in III), and even there some of his gentle humour was pushing through. Out of respect for Jim, and his favourite theologian, have a read of something penned by Zwingli today!

In the next post, I offer you something that I hope will provide you my readers with your own reading enjoyment.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Don’t bother with this blog tonight, go to Jim West’s to read his fabulous posts in celebration of Adolf Schlatter’s birthday!

And while you’re busy not reading mine, be sure to have a look at this page. It is the entire introduction to J. Gresham Machen’s The Origin of Paul's Religion. He was a contemporary (1881-1937) of Schlatter, and, let me tell you in earnest, he has some important things to say in this book. Some books slip history by, even though they could be more important than those that end up in the limelight. On the ‘list of uploads’ on this page, you will find even more to have a look at. Shane Rosenthal, the webpage owner, tells me that Rudolph Bultmann wrote up a review of this work, but I have no idea where. Anyone have any ideas where?


John Piper has written about Machen here, and Wiki too, has this to say.

John Piper, while on the subject, is someone I used to read loads of. I don’t find him as compelling anymore, as I find him to monovocal, where I think the bible is not. And his recent book on the gospel really doesn’t entirely twang my strings, not to mention his ‘women thing’ with Grudem, but I’ll shut up before I spoil this. He has some wonderful things to say too, not least in his emphasis on the delights and glory of enjoying God.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Guest Post - part 2 of 2

Guest post by Gregory MacDonald, author of The Evangelical Universalist. Part 2 of 2.

“Having laid the foundations ch. 5 takes the book of Revelation as a case study. On the one hand it shows the fruitfulness of the hermeneutic explained in chs 2-4 and on the other it allows us to discuss the two most ferocious hell texts in the Bible. I argue that Revelation invites a universalist reading of those hell texts according to which those in the lake of fire can exit and enter the New Jerusalem. That sets up the discussion of hell passages across the NT in ch 6.

Having dealt with the biblical material I have a final chapter in which I consider additional arguments in favor of universalism (e.g., it helps with theodicy, it has pastoral benefits) and tackle additional arguments against it (e.g., it undermines the seriousness of sin, or evangelism). I conclude with a discussion of whether my view is heretical even if it is mistaken (which, by the way, I don't think it is).

What I hope the book will do is

- present a version of universalism that is deeply orthodox and could even have a claim to be evangelical (true to the gospel and reverent towards God's self-disclosure attested to in Scripture).
- create space for a more intelligent discussion of the issues
- perhaps even persuade some people that the grounds for hope are more solid that they may have ever dared to think.

Gregory MacDonald”

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Guest Post - part 1 of 2

Guest post by Gregory MacDonald, author of The Evangelical Universalist. Part 1 of 2.

“I originally wrote The Evangelical Universalist for myself in order to force me to think through the issues of hell and salvation for my own mental health! I was really struggling with the idea that a God who could save everyone that chose to send many people to hell forever. This idea seemed to throw serious doubt upon the love of God. So I pondered, I read and I wrote. The result was The Evangelical Universalist. It was only later that someone suggested that I send it for publication.

An evangelical defence of universalism may sound like an oxymoron and it is certainly a good way to get oneself in to the black books of certain evangelical people and groups. It seemed prudent to me to write under a pseudonym - hence Gregory (as in 'of Nyssa') and MacDonald (as in 'George'). I have reasons for not wanting my identity known (yet).

To give a basic overview of the book the argument runs as follows:

Chapter 1 is an exercise in philosophical theology with the intention is showing that there are no good defences of the traditional notion of hell and that hell thus constitutes a serious problem for Christian theology. A wide range of contemporary and ancient defences of hell are examined and found wanting. In light of this I suggest we re-examine the teaching of Scripture. The bulk of the book seeks to do that.

Chapters 2-4 provide a grand overview of what I call a universalist biblical theology. It is a constructive theological attempt to see the big picture in a way that fits well with a universalist end to the plot. Chapter 2 takes the theology of Colossians as providing a (deutero-?)Pauline theology that is overtly universalist. This provides the big picture. Chapters 3-4 fill in the details of the universalist metanarrative (ch 3 on OT and ch 4 on NT). Various key biblical texts (e.g., Rom 5, 1 Cor 15, Rom 9-11, Phil 2) are discussed at the relevant places in the metaplot. The hope was to move the discussion away from an eternal (and somewhat dull) battle of proof texts towards a vision of the trajectory of the biblical story. The individual texts are treated as part of that bigger plot”
To be continued tomorrow ...

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Back to Germany

The Portugal holiday was wonderful, beautiful, warm and relaxing – a deeply pleasurable experience for us all. And I learnt a lot from the books I took with me. Among others I read (though didn’t finish), Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine, and the interesting Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. More on those later.

Oddly enough, I’ve only been a week away from a keyboard, but I already feel like I’ve forgotten where the keys are, and how to make a good sentence!

But even worse, I’m afraid, while I was away, not one person managed to correctly guess the mystery author. Dan, again, was closest with his ‘it’s got to be somebody who is engaging with Aquinas’. Clever chap that man. Yes indeed, the author was an Aquinas expert. His name is Josef Pieper, and he wrote the words in Happiness & Contemplation (St. Augustine’s Press: Indiana, 1998 [1958]).

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Thank you all for your excellent and thought-provoking comments on my last couple of posts!

Sadly, I cannot respond to them now (though I’ve read them) for the simple reason that I have been, and will be for the rest of the night, busy packing. I’m off, very early tomorrow morning to Portugal for a week’s holiday!

Needless to say, I won’t be blogging during next week, but I shall return Monday the 14th to continue my universalism series, respond to your comments, and to publish Gregory MacDonald’s ‘Guest post’ introduction and overview of his book.

Until then, I leave you with another ‘guess the author’ question. I am continually astonished that my previous attempts were guessed so quickly, so this time I’ve made it more difficult. Who wrote these words?:

‘The desire for wisdom that philosophy etymologically is is a desire for the highest or divine causes. Philosophy culminates in theology. All other knowledge contains the seeds of contemplation of the divine’
The first to guess correctly will be showered with the usual praise. In fact, I'll even, if you get this one, start a village cult in your honour; and if you're first, I'll name my first-born child after you.

I wish you all a wonderful week.

Universalism - a brief note on my position

And where do I stand on the universalism issue? ‘Stand’ is probably not the best way to frame it, but here goes:

I used to think that exclusivist was the only option, and anything else, compromise. Now exclusivist makes little sense to me, not because of this or that verse of scripture alone, but because of life, the smile of a baby, the groan of an old man, the death of a precious Hindi old lady who’s served her family all her life, and other bigger issues such as what the death of Christ and his resurrection says of God’s character, why he would create only to send most to hell, why the sending of Christ would seem to damn more to hell than save for eternal life, why God is love if most experience anything but love and forgiveness, why God won’t forgive most as we are commanded to in the scriptures, why God would be so interested in the contents of our minds (our doctrinal beliefs) as central to salvation etc.

But I just can’t go universalist, and I’ve been real tempted in the past, primarily because I cannot exegetically justify it. I don’t feel the scriptures enable me to make that jump. Sure, some passages in Paul sound universalist (like Rom 5, parts of 1 Cor 15 and Col 1, Eph 1), but I don’t think Paul himself was a universalist.* I think the most that could be said is that there are seeds of universalist thinking in Paul. A friend of mine in Tübingen is writing a postdoctoral work on this theme, and he is sure, certain, that Paul was a universalist, and I sure hope he is correct, but I doubt it as I think the argumentative structure of Paul’s letters would work very differently were he actually universalist (and cf. also e.g. Gal 5:21, and the recent, and excellent, Gericht und Gemeinde by NT scholar Konradt – mentioned before on this blog, here). But it is the word ‘hope’ from the last sentence I want to pick up on. Universalism is problematic, I think, because it draws into realms of dogmatic assertion, what is arguably at the most a present hope. Who knows what will one day happen? Perhaps I would call myself a ‘hopeivist’, but not a universalist. But, again, I hope I can be persuaded otherwise. For those who don’t live in tight Christian subcultures, the question of the fate of our non-Christian loved ones is extremely important. But I cannot simply brush Scriptures that I feel speak against universalism under the carpet.

*Gregory made some very helpful suggestions in response to this point in one of our e-mail correspondences.


Friday, August 04, 2006

The Evangelical Universalist

Not so long ago, on my friend Jason Clark’s blog, I came across a book recommendation on universalism. Some of you know that Christian universalism is a question that has engaged me on and off, but I was all the more fascinated to read that the author is writing from an evangelical perspective and as a universalist. As an evangelical myself who has spent a considerable amount of time pondering this issue, I wanted to know more.

The book in question: The Evangelical Universalist, written by Gregory MacDonald (a pseudonym).

Not only that, I was amazed to read recommendations for this book written by excellent scholars such as Andrew T. Lincoln and Joel B. Green. Enough to get my serious attention!

For example, Lincoln writes:
“. . . [T]his passionate and lucid advocacy of an evangelical universalism . . . not only engages with key passages in the context of the overall biblical narrative but also treats clearly the profound theological and philosophical issues to which that narrative gives rise . . . readers . . . will find this book an excellent, accessible and indispensable aid in their own attempts to grapple with what its author describes as ‘a hell of a problem’ . . .”
While Green comments:
“. . . I was struck by the persuasiveness of many of Gregory MacDonald's arguments, not least since they rest in an unusually adept interweaving of biblical exegesis with relevant philosophical and theological considerations . . .”
‘An immediate must buy’, I thought!

In the following posts (though not necessarily in this order - and my impending holiday in Portugal will slow things up):

1) I shall briefly present to you my own (developing) position on universalism. I am not dogmatic on this, and by no means at the ‘decided for good’ stage. In other words, I am truly open to dialogue. Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, I’ll share some of my thoughts as I’m not a universalist. I just don’t feel the texts of scripture allow me to take that leap. But more on that later (though I note, I have not yet had a chance to read The Evangelical Universalist to convince me otheriwse).

2) Not only that, but, after contacting the author, he has kindly written a wonderfully helpful introduction and overview of his book for you, my readers. This will tell us why he wrote the book and what he hopes to achieve with it, and so on.

3) When I receive my copy in the post I will get my head down to reading it as quickly as possible, because I also hope to publish on Chrisendom a short interview with Gregory about the book. He has already kindly written some very though-provoking words to me, in dialogue with some of my concerns.

I think this is going to be a fascinating series! I’m especially looking forward to reading his treatment of the book of Revelation, which he tells me is perhaps the most detailed attempt to read it in a universalist way.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Theodicy and Evolution

Given that death is a part of life – always has been, and existed in creation long before the first human, and given that death involves suffering, I think that the problem of theodicy is highlighted. We cannot, then, link suffering straightforwardly to human rebellion can we? Perhaps this question can be fruitfully engaged through a more precise understanding of divine love, one which creates and allows for rejection, suffering and reconciliation (as modelled, for example, in the story of the prodigal son). For this love to find expression in creation, it was necessary for it to contain within itself the possibility of suffering an evil. Then, through risk, suffering, and the chance of rejection, God, in Christ, reconciles all things himself.

One author puts it like this:

‘the creation of such a universe will involve the creation of those negative possibilities of suffering, conflict and destruction, which are conditions of rejection, loss and reconciliation, and thus of manifesting the wholly self-giving love of God’ (Keith Ward’s, What the Bible Really Teaches, 74).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Church Dogmatic delights

More or less every morning, before the day starts, I read a little from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. At the moment I’m working through ‘Die Lehre von der Versöhnung’ (IV, §§ 57-59) and I am finding it to be an utter delight. This is tonic for the soul, food for the mind, and sometimes I have had to put the book down and simply worship. Barth was a man seized by the Word of God in Christ, and reading the CD is as much a spiritual, as it is an intellectual exercise.

In trying to express the freedom of God’s grace, that God’s grace is entirely independent of human worth and thus the expression of God’s free choice, there exists a beautiful example of one of Barth’s ‘soul gush’ moments:
‘Man bedenke: Gott für uns Menschen! Gott in seiner Majestät, Gott der Vater, der Sohn und der Heilige Geist, Gott in der Fülle seines Gottseins, Gott in seiner Heiligkeit, Macht, Weisheit, Ewigkeit und Herrlichkeit, Gott, der sich selbst wahrhaftig genug ist, der keines anderen bedarf, der auch um die Liebe zu sein, keinen fremden Gesellen braucht: keinen, der mit ihm sein müsste, ohne den er nicht vollkommen wäre – Gott für uns Menschen!’ (KD. IV §57, 40)

Adam and the Apostle Paul

I’ve recently been in e-mail correspondence with a real friendly chap, and he asked me whether I thought an historical Adam is important for those who embrace a Pauline theology.

Here is the issue: a) Only by appreciating the importance of Paul’s understanding of Adam can we understand Paul’s theology, especially his soteriology. b) I’m quite sure that Paul thought Adam was an historical and real figure; I see no reason why he should doubt it. However, c) surely the Genesis story is not literally what happened.

So I suggest that, for us, Adam is important for Pauline theology in the role that he plays in Paul’s ‘social construction of reality’ (to use Berger’s language). This ‘social construction’ doesn’t initially need to necessarily be correlated or demythologised for it to become meaningful for us, but first needs to be understood as part of a bigger narrative. Understood in the light of this narrative, I don’t think an insistence on the historicity of elements of this ‘construction’, here Adam, adds much of significance.

Furthermore, if Adam is not an historical character, death need not be straightforwardly linked with sin. I’m thinking of Moltmann’s reference in The Coming of God to the death of the dinosaurs before human sin existed! I would understand the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 to be interpretations of the present (to the author and to us) and sad human state of affairs, which aim to show, among other things, that the presence of sin and death in creation is not God’s ultimate goal, and not the product of divine vindictiveness or darkness.

My friend asked: ‘But does this mean that Genesis is just about the present?’. I answered that I don’t think so. Genesis surely forms a massively important part of the scriptural narrative, and therefore penetrates the question of inner-biblical hermeneutics, and so I wouldn’t want to restrict the matter to existentialism.

These are seriously late night cut and paste ramblings, so I should go to bed and shut up.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

2 Cor 3:3, and some helpful commentaries

Commenting on 2 Cor 3:3, particularly on the ‘written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God’ part, Bultmann wrote the following:
‘Das pneu,mati qeou/ zw/ntoj als die wunderbar wirkende Kraft Gottes wird in dieser Wendung den mit Tinte geschriebenen menschlichen Empfehlungsbrief entgegngestellt’ (Zweiter Korintherbrief, 75)
A ray of light shone upon me today as I read Bultmann’s comments on this and the previous verse. Lovely stuff.

2 Cor 3:3 is a fascinating verse, and its exegetical mysteries shall be keeping me busy for a number of days still, especially as so much literature has been written on it. But gladly I have access to pretty much everything I want in Tübingen library. Incidentally, my copy of Bultmann’s 2 Cor commentary belongs to the library, so I wonder what great scholars and theologians have drawn wisdom from, found critical points in, and wrestled with Paul’s texts together with Bultmann from this very same and well worn book I hold in my hands?

I’m finding Garland’s commentary very helpful, as well as Thrall’s, in fact the latter more than any other. Though on grammatical and textual issues, the new volume by Harris is the best. Not one that many would expect, but I’d also recommend the NIBC volume by James Scott. In terms of thoroughness, it doesn’t match the big volumes at all, but what is included I have continually found very helpful.