Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Wright’s new appointment

Thanks to a tip off from Richard Bauckham, I am rather excited to post this scoop (though I have already been beaten to it, looking at my blog roll!):

N.T. Wright has been appointed to a Chair in New Testament and Early Christianity at St Andrews!

The news item tells us that he 'will take up his duties on 1 September 2010' and that 'he will further enhance the long-established reputation of the School of Divinity as a major international centre of biblical and theological scholarship'.

Of course, having studied for my undergrad at St Andrews, I have a real soft spot for the University. Many congratulations to Bishop Wright.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

‘Me and Jesus’? Yes please.

It is no secret that I have enjoyed Tom Wright's many academic contributions relating to Paul and especially Jesus. Yet the recent conference on Wright has given me space to reflect on my own relationship to Wright's theology. And, to be honest, in the past year or so I have started to feel critical about some of Wright's arguments – particularly as they relate to the Apostle Paul (Mike Gorman has done a terrific job gathering some key thoughts, many of which I deeply resonate with). Certainly, his many proposals are an important counterbalance to confessionally motivated eisegesis (as is arguably evident in the Pope's book on Jesus, or perhaps most strikingly in John Piper's recent sermon, which Mike Bird drew attention to – see also Andrew Perriman's reflections on this, who I think rightly speaks of Piper's 'yielding to dogmatic pressure and assimilating the Gospel narratives to a Reformed misunderstanding of Paul'). Yet there is a flip side to this. By protecting NT texts so thoroughly from eisegesis, his presentation of the gospel has sometimes been framed in a way that eclipses the significance of the good news for me. Yea, 'modern individualism' blah blah, but I challenge you to pick up Bultmann's NT theology without finding yourself addressed by a gospel that speaks a clear word of hope to you personally – not just creation generally. More to the point: Bultmann's theology, despite undoubted weaknesses, is constructed in a way to facilitate this encounter. Is Wright's? Why not? I used to wax lyrical in sermons about the gospel not being just about 'me and Jesus', that the Lord's prayer is 'Our Father ... our ... us', not 'me, myself and I'. But somewhere along the way I forgot that the gospel most certainly is also about 'me and Jesus'. And this part must be articulated with utmost clarity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guest Book Review: Coppedge's The God Who is Triune

First, my thanks to the kind folk at IVP for a review copy, and second to Adam for his review. Enjoy his lively comments!

Allan Coppedge, The God Who Is Triune: Revisioning the Christian Doctrine of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007)

The God Who Is Triune is a call to the Church to revise its theology by adopting a theological methodology that gives central place to who God is, as chiefly described in the doctrines of Christ and the Trinity, thus echoing Colin Gunton's project of "doing theology from the Trinity" (The Promise of Trinitarian Theology 2nd ed. [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997], 28.). Accordingly, "This book begins with Jesus, moves to an understanding of the Trinity and then develops the implications of a triune beginning point for understanding how God works in the world." (9) Writing out of an American evangelical Wesleyan context, Coppedge seeks to appropriate the insights of recent trinitarian research by developing what he calls 'trinitarian theism'. This is in conscious self-differentiation from his main antagonist – classical theism (chiefly Calvinism) – on the one side, and open theism on the other. In fact, 'trinitarian theism' is remarkably similar to openness theology, with its emphasis on relational theism, flexible sovereignty and libertarian freedom, diverging only on divine foreknowledge and God's relation to time.

Chapters 1 and 2 competently present the biblical materials on which the doctrine of the Trinity is based. Chapter 3 helpfully provides an overview of how the doctrine of the Trinity developed, chapters 4 and 5 directly address the central facets of the doctrine of the Trinity, and chapter 6 explains the holiness of God. Hereafter, Coppedge's 'trinitarian theism' diverges with classical and open theism. He argues that the latter are insufficiently trinitarian because God's triune nature does not exercise interpretative control over all theologising, in a manner reminiscent of Schleiermacher.

In his discussion of the divine attributes, Coppedge reverses the traditional order by discussing the personal and moral attributes (ch. 7) before considering the relative and absolute attributes (ch. 8). Consequently, in chapter 9 where Coppedge identifies the eight major roles of God, Father is repeatedly identified as the primary role, especially over against sovereign King. The final chapters are devoted to a trinitarian re-working of the doctrines of creation (ch. 10-11) and providence (ch. 12-13).

Throughout Coppedge is concerned to highlight the pastoral and practical implications of his work, highlighting his aim to serve both academy and church. The God Who Is Triune could serve as a useful undergraduate introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is not without problems. Although I am sympathetic to both Coppedge's agenda and theology, the book's chief weakness is the presence of unsupported assertions, assumptions, and over-simplified statements in place of careful theological reasoning. These appear as careless and unnecessary, like loose strands on a carefully woven garment. First, to assert that there are eight major roles of God and six divine purposes for humans (298) appears to be rather arbitrary. Second, assumptions are made in place of careful nuancing and argumentation. It is problematic to assume the validity of the social (as opposed to psychological) analogy of the Trinity, and to assume a model of primary and secondary causation without discussing its perceived weaknesses and viable alternatives. Third, strong claims are made without proper justification or referencing. For example, Coppedge asserts that the theory of evolution led to the Holocaust and slave-labour camps (281), and he claims that "every thinking person at some time asks this question", "Who is Jesus?" (284) Whilst these claims are not entirely false, the lack of qualification and clarification is problematic. Furthermore, some such claims simply appear to be wrong. The claim that, "Logically, those who begin from a trinitarian starting point are indeterminists [vis-a-vis human freedom]" (313) is more closely related to the will to power than to clear theological reasoning, and is contradicted by the theologies of Karl Barth, T. F. Torrance, Colin Gunton, and Robert Jenson. Nevertheless, by engaging in a trinitarian revisioning of the doctrine of God, and by re-centring theological methodology on Christology and trinitarian theology, Allan Coppedge's The God Who Is Triune is a useful introductory text to the doctrine of the Triune God.

Adam Dodds

University of Otago, New Zealand

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Masters 2010 ... and other stuff

21:50 Lee Westwood has just lost his lead ....

C'MON Westwood!

21:53 I'm a little concerned about Tiger's charge. It is nothing personal - I just want others to win.

21:55 Fred Couples is amazing. I never could understand his swing. I managed to copy many other pro swings, like Faldo's, Lyle, Daly, etc., but Couples' evaded my grasp.

22:00 Poor Couples' putting is letting him down. And Westwood. Oh flip.

While I'm commenting on the golf, I just finished Jend Adam's Paulus und die Versöhnung aller: Eine Studie zum paulinischen Heilsuniversalismus. I liked some of his observations on Romans, and how pro-Universalism texts of parts of Romans 5 and 11 are more central to the letter than I would have previously thought. But I tend to think he is rather one sided in his presentation. I.e. I don't think he really appreciates the force of texts in Paul which speak against his position (i.e. a christological universalism)

22:15 OK, also not golf related, but is this one to watch, I wonder?

The Infidel

22:22 Doesn't look good on the Westwood front. Hit a good one on the 12th, Lee.

22:25 Anthony Kim is coming out of the blue ....!

22:26 Woods skied(!) his drive on the 13th (and blasphemed), and Westwood puts his tee shot on the green. Life is good.

22:31 I hae seen some of the best golf of my life in this tournament. Phil Mickelson has just made a birdie at 12th

22:33 Kim gets ANOTHER Birdie!!

22:38 Woods get a birdie on the hole after all. A man who plays well under pressure - no, excels under pressure.

22:42 Mickelson's approach on the 13th is simply brilliant. Amazing shot under pressure.

22:45 Ian Poulter's trousers .... my oh my. Shoot me before I put them on.

22:50 Westwood holes a great put on the 13th, Mickelson misses his eagle chance. Great fun.

22:53 Woods misses a tiny put ... and then misses the tap in. Ooooo, that must hurt.

23:01. OK, Mickelson is going to win this, lets be frank. Actually, I'm cool with that. But C'MON Westwood.

23:05 Woods eagles. Anthony Kim holes to get 65. 65!

23:59 Yep, Mickelson won. He deserved it. Woods came across like an arse in his final interview. Mate, you are good at something - at hitting balls around fields with sticks. Remember that.


Räisänen inconsistencies?

I am beginning to think that Räisänen's "descriptive approach" to early Christian thought (cf. his new book, The Rise of Christian Beliefs) looks ironically pretty similar to the "New Testament Theology" approaches he so vigorously critiques - with a few more inconsistencies to-boot. Yet I am only just at the beginning of his book, so I should better suspend judgment for a while. Actually, I'll just stop typing and go to bed.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Evangelical Universalism Forum

I just joined it – have a look here:


I'm almost through Jens Adam's contribution, Paulus und die Versöhnung aller, and am about to start Janowki's Allerlösung. It's a fascinating debate.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Speaking of profound

... scribbled on a Tübingen University library wall is the following sentence:

'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profundly sick society'

A little research reveals that this originates from somewhere in the sizeable works of Jiddu Krishnamurti, who of course didn't write exactly these letters.

Yes, the delinquents didn't quite cite Krishy correctly, and did indeed write 'profundly'. Evidently these German students thought it would look 'cooler', or perhaps 'profunder', written in English.

What is it with University students and writing platitudes on building walls? Most of them will all be back home now, over Easter, parents washing underwear etc. Sure, perhaps we all need to go through some kind of quasi-intellectual rebel stage. Some don't leave that phase, of course, which is why there are extreme Marxists and other politically charged loons still stalking our land.

Yea, consider this my Easter meditation. Your take-away from my little reflection? Next time you see a student vandalising a wall with spray paint, pelt them with Easter eggs and call the police.

A profound thought

Many take time, over Easter, to think of all the good things we owe to other people – all blessing, from love and time to affection and gifts. Instead, this Easter time, I’ve spent time meditating on all the things people owe me. You know who you are. I’ll be in touch soon.

Friday, April 02, 2010

What Plato really looked like

After years of extensive research, careful reconstruction and painstaking artistry, scholars have finally revealed what Plato really looked like:

West’s messiah complex

Who is depraved now?

Can't say this surprised me ... :-)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ulrich Wilckens on Romans

Any of you clever people have any feedback to offer me on Wilckens', Der Brief an die Römer? They are selling a one volume version here in Germany at the mo, and wondered about getting it.

Eckstein on the implicit canon-hermeneutic of the New Testament

Have you ever wondered why the church kept four differing Gospels when they all claim their attachment to the one gospel of Jesus Christ? Plus four equals one? Have you ever, likewise, considered how the Gospel harmonisation of Tatian (not to mention the use of Mark by Luke and Matthew) does not seem to conform to our expectations about how Gospel tradition should be handled?

To help me think through these issues, I just read Hans-Joachim Eckstein's fine essay, 'Das Evangelium Jesu Christi: Die implizite Kanonhermeneutik des Neuen Testaments' (now a chapter in his new book, Kyrios Jesus: Perspektiven einer christologischen Theologie [Göttingen, Neukirchener Verlag: 2010]). By 'canon' he means, of course, not a formal list of authoritative and recognised books, but the requirements, rudiments and motivations in the transmission of the New Testament texts themselves.

His results won't be easy reading for those who want to equate scripture with the word of God in an undifferentiated sense, but he does helpfully explain the dynamic of early Christian handling of authoritative tradition in a way that exalts the position of Jesus Christ, as well as the way scripture was handled in relation to the gospel message itself. I did not entirely like his recourse to language concerning the 'Person' of Christ, as the centre, unifying point, for the simple reason that the NT texts themselves do not use such 'Person' language. Rather, they speak more of Jesus Christ in relation to his people or at least certain individuals, so his picture may look a little different after this (I think necessary) change is made (plus, I am not too sure about his arrows, and their mostly one directional nature). But his case is well presented, based largely upon the Pauline corpus, which he understands to operate with the following terms and hierarchical distinctions:

Word of God in Paul
(this is adapted from his own graphic representation)