A sad day for Westminster (Peter Enns)

Peter Enns will be suspended: Conn-versation; Shibboleth; Christianity Today blog [unfortunately, the Conn-versation link had to be taken down – collateral damage.]

For Background: Shibboleth – A Tale of Two Westminsters, Power or Theology, and statements by Westminster church history professors: D. Clair Davis (retired): The Significance of Westminster Theological Seminary Today (long PDF) and Darryl Hart (current): Can Westminster Seminary Put the Genie Back in the Bottle? (A candid account of the competing visions)

Petition in support of Enns (123 comments to date).

**Collected Links, reviews of Inspiration and Incarnation, interviews and both sides of the controversy (Brandon Withrow). This is probably the best “one-stop-shop” for both background and recent updates.

UPDATE (Tues. 1 April 2008): I’m surprised at how many hits this particular posting is still getting, especially since others are far more “in the know.” However, since people are still stopping by, I thought I would add a couple more interesting links that I’ve come across in the last few days.

Westminster’s Board of Trustees comments on situation at their website (here)

B. B. Warfield on the divine and human elements of scripture (reposted by Michael Pahl – Mon 31 March).

Michael Bird on the challenge for Biblical Scholars among Reformed Theologians

there are some theologians who have a system that simply cannot cope with the historical and cultural contingency of the origin and development of the Christian Bible. For them, to use ancient near eastern writings, Greco-Roman texts, or second temple literature to assist in biblical interpretation is supremely offensive. The two issues here are: (1) Do theologians take the historical content and context of the Bible seriously? And (2) what are the boundaries of Reformed confessionalism?

See also: Biblical Criticism and Confessionalism

The Chairman of the Board’s letter (Originally posted by Daniel Kirk, I think).:

March 27, 2008

Thank you very much for your prayers for the special meeting of the Board of Trustees that was held on March 26 to address the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took the following action by decisive vote:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that Continue reading

Doing doctrine (Thiselton via McKnight)

thiselton-hermeneutics-of-doctrine-2007.jpgScot McKnight has a short review of Thiselton’s Hermeneutics of Doctrine. (Click here for McKnight’s full review).

Here are some gems from that.

properly understood, doctrine involves the disposition of belief, which always includes formation and leads on to transformation . . . any piece of theology that does not lead to worship, absorption of God’s work on the cross of Christ, and sanctity in life in community, is not genuine theology.

What does it mean to “believe” a doctrine as true? Belief. . . is “inextricably embodied in patterns of habit, commitment, and action, which constitute endorsement, ‘backing,’ or ‘surroundings’ for the utterance.” To “believe” is to take a stand in the face of opposition. . . act as if it were true.” To believe is “performatory” in character. . . belief in a doctrine involves “communal commitment and communal formation.”

Here’s how I [McKnight] would put it: our beliefs emerge from our community, they reflect our time and our day, and they lead us to live differently.

. . . Formation and the ensuing transformation, then, are not elements of “practical” theology to be explored once we’ve learned the “systematic” (read: impractical) theology.

. . . Theology itself is praxis. . . to confess is to open oneself to be wounded. . .

. . . Genuine community, as Thiselton relentlessly proves in each chapter, involves commitment to listening to the whole Bible and to the voices of the Church throughout church history. Community-shaped theology is not just “my” community, but the community God formed with Abraham and that continues throughout the world to this day.

Evangelicals and Scholarship (Sparks and Olson)

Over at Conn-versation, the Foolish Sage quotes Sparks on four discomforts conservative evangelical scholars have with critical scholarship. sparks-gods-word-in-human-words.jpg

  1. Concerns about how their own honest findings relate to issues of biblical authority.
  2. Pastoral desire “to shield their readers from disruptive, faith-testing bouts with cognitive dissonance.”
  3. Desire to sell books to conservative readers; “serious scholarship does not sell well among Evangelicals.”
  4. Job security.

. . . many evangelical scholars, in their more candid moments, will privately confess that their views are far closer to the critical consensus than their institutions could stomach.”

Kenton Sparks, God’s Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. pp. 167-8.

Separately, Scot McKnight begins his series on Olson’s, Reformed and always reforming.olson-reformed-and-reforming.jpg

Olson finds ten tendencies among evangelicals:

1. Tendency to treat correct doctrine as the essence of authentic Christianity.
2. Tendency to treat revelation as primarily propositional.
3. Tendency to elevate some tradition to the status of a magisterium. This closes off fresh study and theology.
4. Tendency to be suspicious of constructive theology and to be defensive and to patrol evangelical borders.
5. Tendency to see evangelicalism as a bounded set instead of a centered set.
6. Tendency to see the “evangelical tent” as a “small” tent. (Here he brings up inerrancy as one defining line.)
7. Tendency to be suspicious of modernity and postmodernity, even if many postconservatives think they are caught up in modernity too much. Doctrinal pluralism is a threat and here he uses Carson as an example in his The Gagging of God.
8. Tendency to think their theology is uninfluenced by history and culture. They look for the transcultural and see it as permanent.
9. Tendency to remain close to the fundamentalist roots. Many, Olson argues, are moving toward fundamentalism. He says, “I admit this is a matter of opinion.” I agree with that opinion.
10. Tendency to do theology in the grip of the fear of liberal theology.

He knows there are varieties and nuances; these are ten tendencies.

Next post by McKnight: the five features in common between conservatives and postconservatives. Follow the series on Jesus Creed.

The extent people will go to keep their books with them

Abdul Kassem Ismael, the scholarly grand-vizier of Persia in the tenth century, and his library of 117,000 volumes: On his many travels as a warrior and statesman, he never parted with his beloved books. There were carried about by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order. His camel-driver librarians could put their hands instantly on any book their master asked for.

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts (Grosset & Dunlap), quoted in Reader’s Digest, June, 1981 [Passed on to me through Association of Christian Librarians.]

The ultimate book on the parables

Last Month, Scot McKnight wrote: “Every now and then . . .

… a book comes along and you make a decision about its importance. This book, you decide, ends the need for a dozen or so other books on your shelves. You go to your shelf, pick up those books, put them in your “To Sell” (or “To Give Away”) stack, and put that one book on your shelf that replace the others. Yes, I’ve got such a book for you:

(read more…)

snodgrass-stories-with-intent.jpgKlyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus“>Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. If you purchase this book, you won’t need another book on parables for at least a decade. It’s available on Amazon right now for almost 40% off. Sure it’s a big book, about 800 pages, but there are 32 parables … and he’s got solid chps on interpreting parables, on parables in the ancient world, and a few charts at the back.

I know Klyne; he’s been at this book for 20 years. He wrote this book for you: for those who want to study parables. It’s not a theory, it’s a handbook. If you want to know:

The parable type
The issues for interpretation
The helpful primary source material (Bible, Jewish sources, Greco-Roman, early Christian, later Jewish — much of it cited right there)
The parallels to this parable (if in the Gospels)
Textual features worth noting
Cultural information worth knowing about
Explanation of parable with options and decisions on the issues
Adapting the parable for today

It’s all here. Helpful, concise, accessible. Did I say I like it?

Saturday, Chris Tilling posted a great review on it Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus.

My favorite part of Tilling’s review was Continue reading

Interview with Beale and Carson on Commentary on the NT Use of the OT

Christianity Today publishes an interview with Beale and Carson about the Commentary of NT use of the Old.

(Scott Shannon just brought me a copy back from the states a few weeks ago, and I’m grateful to have it as a resource.) The whole interview is worth reading, but here are some of my initial reactions.

It’s important to watch how the debate is being framed so that people can be pigeon holed as either for or against. I find the presuppositional need to rescue NT writers from “wild and crazy” Jewish exegetical methods fascinating. To caricature this issue in the simplest terms, it seems to be to be a matter of working hard to make sure that the apostles have the same hermeneutical methods we value. But for the apostles, the heart of the matter is a radical worldview changing encounter with Jesus Christ (thank you Peter Enns, Westminster et al). These events (and the influence and encounter of the Holy Spirit, e.g. Acts 2 and 15) forced the apostles to fundamentally rework their interpretations of the OT. Did the apostles really have more “viable” (read acceptably modern) methods of interpretation while the rest of Judean interpretations were “wild and crazy?” Weren’t they trying (with Divine inspiration of course) to make their interpretation of recent events viable to an audience that needed evidence from their own scriptures to support these interpretations of recent events? (See Carson’s related statement at the end of the interview posted below.)

Another Westminster alum puts it this way. (Daniel Kirk on Shibboleth)

The quick and dirty: the NT writers give new, different, revisionist readings of OT texts to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the narratives, prophecies, covenants, and promises of the scriptures of Israel . . .

(1) the NT writers read the OT the way that they did because of their overriding conviction that Jesus was the embodiment and culmination of the promises of the God of Israel; and (2) the character and identity of God, as well as the integrity of the overarching biblical narrative, is at stake in affirming the NT’s hermeneutical move.

His whole post on “Apostolic Hermeneutics” is worth a read.

Some other highlights of the interview for me: [Keeping in mind that interviews are a writer’s shortened interpretation of the conversation with their own spin.]

Continue reading

The Bible and Poverty in Kenya (New Book)

This looks like an interesting title.

Bible and Poverty in Kenya: An Empirical Exploration (Brill, 2008)
Maurice Matendechere Sakwa
(expected out this month)
Only 89euros ($130) 218 pages. (60 cents per page)

Many strategies have been formulated to reduce poverty, the most recent being the need to include the poor as co-agents in the development process. Culture, understood as commonly shared values, then becomes an important element in poverty alleviation. Likewise religion becomes an important element of culture when the values of that religion are considered as widespread in the society. Additionally, political and economic factors are equally important for poverty alleviation. This work is centered on a conceptual model postulating that cultural attitudes influence attitudes towards ends of poverty alleviation directly and indirectly through political and economic attitudes. The study maps out the paths of influence of cultural (religious values), political and economic attitudes on those towards ends of poverty alleviation.

Sakwa Maurice Matendechere, Ph.D. (2006), Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, is an economist who made himself familiar with those parts of religious studies needed for the research and is currently a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya.