Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fans of Biblical Theology, this one's for you

John Murray again (Highly Quotable Theologian of the Month) writing about Biblical Theology in the article 'Systematic Theology', originally published in '63 in the WTJ, but (since I don't have backcopies) thankfully reproduced in Collected Writings Vol 4:
...this specialized study of the Bible, so far from being inimical to the interests of systematic theology, is indispensable to the systematic theology that is faithful to the Bible. p15

And again, in case you missed it:

Biblical theology is indispensable to systematic theology. p16

Also, these are quite good:

...systematic theology will fail of its task to the extent to which it discards its rootage in biblical theology as properly conceived and developed. p19

...only when systematic theology is rooted in biblical theology does it exemplify its true function and achieve its purpose. p20

SoMT: Student of Mediocre Talent

When you're reading the big guns of the faith, struggling through the pages in preparation for the lecture, sometimes you can get to feel like a SoMT. So, it was good to read the following words from John Murray. I've posted them here for all us theo-SoMTs (and according to Murray there are a lot of us (sic)!). Let's feel a little better about ourselves!
The progressive correction and enrichment which theology undergoes is not the exclusive task of the great theologians. It often falls to the lot of students with mediocre talent to discover the oversights and correct the errors of the masters. In the orthodox tradition we may never forget that there is yet much land to be possessed, and this is both the encouragement and the challenge to students of the wonderful works of God...
John Murray, Collected Writings, V4 p9

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In Connversation with Harvie

I just came across, thanks to Daniel Kirk's blog (Sibboleth - Pronunciations that can get you killed), the blog Conn-versation, dedicated to continuing the legacy of Harvie Conn. I confess to not having read any Conn (woe is me, woe is me), but there's some cracking stuff on there....

The Christian is a new person, living in a new world. Living in the Spirit is not an evangelistic escape from history, but a participation in the new reality of history brought by the redemptive work of Christ and the applying work of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason the New Testament letters are filled with discussions of the spiritual life that interweave the heralding of the good news with topics like racial intolerance, the eating of foods used in pagan ceremonies, the position of women, family relationships, prostitution, homosexuality, the relief of poverty. To equate the spiritual with the nonphysical is completely unintelligible by New Testament standards. To isolate evangelism from the context of the world’s concerns emasculates the one and ignores the other.

Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, pp. 68-69.

If you have any kind of pipe, smoke some more of this. Conn was seriously into Biblical Theology by the looks of things - so that helps to explain the quality of his tobacco. Must read Conn, must read Conn, must read Conn....etc

Friday, February 16, 2007

It's Not About the Ladder

Over at Euangelion, Joel Willets has just posted on John 1: 50-51. This is a bit spooky, because I have been reading around this for a sermon this coming Sunday. It was Carson's commentary that really flicked the switch on this passage for me. Carson sees the importance of the imagery in Jacob's vision in Genesis 28 as being not the ladder, but Jacob himself as the 'target' of the ladder. He argues that the sense of the text in Genesis 28:12 should be that the angels of God were ascending and descending on 'him', that is Jacob, not on 'it', the ladder. Then verse 13 would have Yahweh standing not above the ladder, but above Jacob, speaking to him. To be honest, I've always found the focus on the ladder to be a bit bizarre, especially when coupled with the NT interpretation of Jesus as the Ladder. It just seems to be a metaphor that's out of place. If however, you follow Carson, then the whole emphasis of the vision is that the angels are descending to Jacob - it's about him, not the ladder. This better fits with the reaffirmation of the covenant that follows and the undoubted focus on the land in this reaffirmation. In this light, John 1: 50-51 then points to the Son of Man, not as some kind of ladder, but as the new source or locus of God's covenant people. The vision at Bethel reaffirms Jacob as the locus of a covenant fulfilment that will result in dominion over the land. He gives his new name Israel to the people as a whole, who will occupy that land. Jesus is saying 'you will see me affirmed as the new locus of covenant fulfilment for the fulfilment of the promise of a land'. In this context, Jesus' use of Son of Man is important for the Danielic association of that title with the dominion given by the Ancient of Days. Coupled with Nathanael's use of 'King of Israel', I agree with Joel Willets that Jesus is taking Nationalistic Messianic expectation beyond Israel...
his dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his kingdom is is one which will not be destroyed. Dan 7:14
Check out 'The Gospel According to John', p163 for Carson's argument and his acknowledgement to Ed Clowney for the key to the Genesis 28 vision.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reflections on Pastoral Theology

This is the final installment (you/I might be pleased to know) of reflections on my first semester modules. The module title is a mouthful: Introduction to Pastoral Theology and Preaching. My instinct is that an introduction to preaching should come later in a three year course than the first semester, but that's just me. My 'revelatory' moments are few in this module - sorry! Keeping them short and sweet, we have:
  • Tracing the Pastoral Motif. The Pastoral motif in scripture finds its roots in the OT - analysing these roots was a worthwhile exercise, but we didn't really trace the universality of the motif. Homer uses the appelation 'shepherd of the people' frequently. Apparently, King Hammurabi referred to himself as a 'shepherd'. The pastoral motif is supra-biblical, having a universality over and above Judaism or Christianity. Considering this universality (especially in the context of the Primeval Prologue, the blessing of man and domestic animals, but not wild animals) pastoral theology takes on a wider context, leading to questions of the pastoral role outside, as well as inside, the church.
  • We spent some time looking at postmodern spirituality and gen-Xers. This was helpful: I think that a key part of pastoral theology should be understanding people. We can get some of this from scripture, some from medical science, some from psychologists, sociologists and from our own experience. The attitude that says we just need scripture and that's it to my mind does not tend to lead to integrity in pastoral practice. The thing is - gen-Xers have been superceded by Y-ers/Millenials.

I ought to read (and have been meaning to) Douglas Couplands original Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture and also God and the Generations: Youth, Age and the Church Today from the EA. Perhaps these should be on the reading list!