Tuesday, June 14, 2016


I am of the opinion that the theme "repentance" is not given enough space in works on systematic theology.

Just look in the index for a paucity of references in a random modern systematics on your shelf, I challenge you.

Perhaps because it is associated with "pastoral theology", not systematics proper? Perhaps because it is seen as rather old-fashioned religious language? Perhaps because it has negative connotations associated with conditionality and contractual theological schemes? Perhaps because it seems too moralising?

All involve misunderstandings.

And it remains true that it was a central theme in the ministry of Jesus. A thesis: it is the misappropriation of the language of "repentance" that has lead to its neglect.

In the above picture, Thomas Söding (in Die Verkündigung Jesu) writes about the nature of repentance in Jesus' proclamation. The coming of the kingdom doesn't depend on repentance. It's the other way around: The necessity and possibility of the repentance and faith depends on the nearness of the kingdom.

This resonates somewhat with Calvin's distinction (in the Institutes) between "evangelical" and "legal" repentance.
"Others seeing that the term is used in Scripture in different senses, have set down two forms of repentance, and, in order to distinguish them, have called the one Legal repentance; or that by which the sinner, stung with a sense of his sin, and overwhelmed with fear of the divine anger, remains in that state of perturbation, unable to escape from it. The other they term Evangelical repentance; or that by which the sinner, though grievously downcast in himself, yet looks up and sees in Christ the cure of his wound, the solace of his terror; the haven of rest from his misery"

Sunday, June 05, 2016

When the Son of Man Didn't Come

“So Christians must choose. Either the NT isn't even somewhat reliable, or Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. In either case this falsifies Christianity ”. So says John Loftus in his conclusion to his essay “At Best Jesus Was a Failed Apocalyptic Prophet”, in The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. 

Got your attention?

June 1st, Fortress released When the Son of Man Didn't Come: A Constructive Proposal on the Delay of the Parousia, by Christopher M. Hays, in collaboration with Brandon Gallaher, Julia S. Konstantinovsky, Richard J. Ounsworth OP, and Casey A. Strine.

Picture from the Fortress webpage
Unsatisfied by Wright's take on "the coming of the Son of Man", perhaps because of Dale Allison's well-known criticisms? Not sure Eddie Adams' work solves all the issues? Wary of Dunn, Allison and others who are quick to say "Jesus got it wrong"? Even more suspicious of those with an ideological chip on their shoulder who want to prohibit any further consideration as mere apologetics? Well, here is a different way forward worth your time and analysis. The argument is one I've summarised for undergraduates for years, so I'm delighted it is finally hitting the printing press.

Chris Hays explains the gist of the volume as follows:
"Jesus did prophesy his return in the first century, and that didn't happen. And that is okay because prophecy is, by its nature, conditional, contingent upon the responses of humans. We argue that is how prophecy works in the OT, that multiple NT authors understood the eschatological consummation in the same way, and that many church fathers thought the same thing. Then we run the argument out in theological terms, showing that this fits with accounts of eschatology in Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. As a consequence, we argue that the timing of the eschaton should be thought of as tied up with Christian mission and ethics. We also include some very nice footnotes"
When I first heard the argument at King's, the brilliant duo, Casey and Chris, made a very thought-provoking case. I am very much looking forward to exploring the details more closely.