Friday, November 26, 2010

My SBL Purchases (minus Eerdmans books)

The Eerdmans books will be posted, and I am awaiting:

- Fundamentals of New Testament Greek by Stanley E. Porter (together with the workbook)
- Thinking in Tongues by James K A Smith
- Reconciled Humanity: Karl Barth in Dialogue by Hans Vium Mikkelsen

And I am eagerly awaiting the publication of the following:

- Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? by Anthony Le Donne
- Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary by Arland J. Hultgren
- Introducing Romans: Critical Concerns in Paul’s Most Famous Letter by Bruce W. Longenecker
- Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong by Conor Cunningham

I am slobbering all over the floor just thinking of these babies!

Note the Pahl book, a fellow blogger - and it looks like a real gem.

No idea yet what to make of the resurrection book, but it is going to be a key book to engage with, whatever one's perspective.

The Nienhuis book has been on my list of 'to gets' for a long time, so I decided to take the plunge. He makes a fascinating case that the Catholic Epistles were written, some time mid to late second century, to provide a canonical counter balance to Paul, using the names of key apostles.

I have heard so many good things about Kavin Rowe (genius - remembers almost all he reads type of person), and I need to brush up on my Gospel christologies (hence the Mark book too)

The Disciple's Jesus speaks of a Christology that is reconciling behavior. My own work on paul has led to a similarly radical redefinition of what it means to speak of Christology, though I prefer a slightly different answer. A key book for me to read, anyway.

Given my field of interest, the Hurtado book was a must.

The John books (mostly penned or edited by Anderson) are fuel for some hair-brained theories I am presently playing with. More on all that in due time.

Goldongay's book grabbed me instantly. I love everything that guy writes, and here he answers a set of questions in the order of "what does the first testament say about ..." (sin, God's foreknowledge, prayer etc.)

I wondered a while about the Copan book as my initial read made me wonder if I was dealing with simple apologetics. But a closer read revealed some gems that may be of real value in my classes.

Paul's New Moment - cos all that high falootin stuff fascinates me, for some reason.

Witherington's volume 2 to complete the set (I have the first volume on kindle).

Bob Jewett's Romans commentary! At last! I miss my copy in Tuebingen, so now, at a 30% reduction,was time to grab it. Surely the king of all Romans commentaries.

I was perhaps most excited about Allison's book, constructing Jesus which is making a lot of sense to me, right now (apart from his treatment of early Christology which leaves some huge questions, to my mind, unanswered)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A lesson from the "hard" sciences

“[W]e need to take the approach that all of our serious and well-intentioned efforts are steps along the way toward better understanding. There is a saying in the hard sciences that a negative result is also a result, because it indicates a direction not to follow”
I just read this line in Stanley Porter's new book, Inking the Deal (Baylor, 2010), p. 162, and it occurred to me that this is the perfect disclaimer to cite in the preface to my thesis when it is finally published! Of course, I happen to think I am right about my major claims concerning Paul's divine-Christology, but such feigned vacillation can't hurt one's image! 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A theological critique of the "Quest for the historical Jesus"?

John Webster writes:

'Knowledge of Jesus Christ is possible and legitimate because of his antecedent, gratuitous and utterly real self-presence. Setting himself forth, expounding himself as the present one who encloses and orders all things, Jesus Christ makes himself known, and thereby excludes the possibility of legitimate, well-founded ignorance of himself. He is, and therefore he is present, and therefore he is known. There is a negative inference to be drawn here, namely that this given presence of Christ excludes ways of approaching the task of Christology in which there lurks the assumption that Jesus Christ is not, or may not, or cannot be present to us. Jesus Christ's givenness sits I'll well with, for example, those Christologies which make historical scepticism or probabilistic reasoning into the first principle of the knowledge of Christ ... Because he is who he is, and because he acts as he acts in his majestic self-presentation, he cannot be "sought". That is, he cannot be approached as if he were an elusive figure, absent from us, locked in transcendence or buried in the past, and only to be discovered through the exercise of human ingenuity ... All such strategies, whether in biblical scholarship or philosophical and dogmatic theology, are in the end methodologically sophisticated forms of infidelity. Their assumption is that he is not present unless demonstrably present - present, that is, to undisturbed and unconverted reason' (John Webster, "Prolegomena to Christology: Four Theses", in the utterly brilliant Confessing God. Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (T & T Clark, London, 2005, pp. 136-38)
If Webster is right, then what is the place for certain issues raised by NT study, such that it can be reasonably doubted that Jesus did or said 'such and such' in John or the Synoptics. How would such historical findings shape the fundamentally given nature of the knowledge of Christ? Could it? Does Webster's position ultimately make study of the NT, in so far as it raises christologically-relevant questions of historicity, redundant?

His own understanding about the role of Jesus in revelation sounds remarkably Johaninne, yet apart from the growing number of scholars such as Paul Anderson, most would still prefer the synoptic presentation of Jesus. As E.P. Sanders writes, for example, in The Historical Figure of Jesus:
'[F]or the last 150 or so years scholars have had to choose [between the Synoptics on the one hand, and John on the other]. They have almost unanimously, and I think entirely correctly, concluded that the teaching of the historical Jesus is to be sought in the synoptic gospels and that John represents an advanced theological development, in which meditations on the person and work of Christ are presented in the first person, as if Jesus said them’.
If historicity is vital (and the Word, as John puts it, did become Flesh - not a text), then is there not a problem for Christology, even one that simply sits humbly before the canonical texts, because of the sometimes either-or nature of Christology in terms of the John vs. Synoptic differences?

Surely somebody out there can cleverly illuminate my thinking!

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 12

A summary review PART 12
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

We continue our overview of DC’S list of Justification Theory’s intrinsic difficulties

4) Anthropology. ‘Justification theory presupposes in humans an inherent ability to deduce and appropriately fulfil the truth of certain axioms and, at the same time, a profound universal sinfulness – that is, fundamental and simultaneous capacity and incapacity’ (44). This say it all, really! Strategies which seek to evade this point, by proposing dualistic metaphors (mind / body, inner / outer etc.) fail as they need to be understood literally, not metaphorically, to actually work (I would add: how often popular apologetics works on the understanding that human reason, on the basis of universal foundations, should lead to Christian faith. For some, there can even be a hint of 'you must be stupid not to be a Christian')

5) Theodicy. ‘Justification theory posits a God of strict justice who holds all people accountable to a standard they are intrinsically unable to attain, and this seems unjust’ (45). In accordance with the theory’s first phase (or ‘vestibule’), it is those who are not perfect (irrespective of whether they generally live their lives at personal risk for the sake of others, and likewise claim no perfection) who will be judged. Surely one could ‘lower the bar’ and relax the demand for perfect obedience? However, JT best works when this first phase is entirely rigorous as it aims to drive sinful humans to embrace the gospel.

Linked to this point, Is it just that one’s own deserved punishment is transferred to Christ, a transfer accessed by faith? Does not retributive justice demand that sinners themselves be held accountable and punished? Is justice really satisfied on this count, as JT claims, if somebody else, an innocent, is punished for another’s sin? So DC writes: ‘Justification theory is not just, even though it claims to be’ (49).
When, at this point, DC refutes a strategy to mask this particular intrinsic difficult with JT, something struck me. I personally think it at least likely that Luther suffered from a religious expression of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and that his understanding of God’s grace was something of a cure for him, as it was, in different ways, for John Bunyan and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (cf. Ian Osborn, Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2008]). While it is evident that the pious and confessional frame of 'confession of sin' is usually enough to justify notions of personal sinfulness (it is right to acknowledge our sinfulness before God), a problem can exist here. ‘[I]n so reasoning, Justification advocates have essentially repositioned a legitimate Christian activity in a location that renders that activity incoherent and, moreover, calls God’s character radically into question’ (47). Yes! Here is a question that I hope will help sufferers of religious variations of OCD, to rethink some of there practices (nothing like a bit of cognitive-behavioural therapy in the middle of a book review!): Is the context of your personal sin-confession God’s own gracious ‘yes’ to us in Jesus, or rather a ritualistic and self-atoning mechanism by which God’s holy justice is appeased? The difference here is considerable. It is the difference between Justification Theory and the apocalytpic gospel DC will suggest Paul truly advocates.