Monday, April 25, 2011

Blurb for the Inscripted Project: Tablets

My good friend, Mike Halcomb, has managed to balance the life of a husband, father, budding scholar, and now, add another hat, rapper. I marvel at how he does it all! He has begun a band/project deemed The Inscripted Project. Here is my blurb of his first offering from said project, the album Tablets:

Tablets the new album by Michael Halcomb, aka ‘Halc’, is unlike any Christian rap this listener has ever heard. The style and the beats are not necessarily what make Halc’s creation unique. Rather, it is his ability as a lyricist that has me nodding my head in amazement. Not to disparage other Christian rappers, but one will not find any greater theological depth in the rap game than what ‘Halc’ has set upon the table. In a minute sampling of his tracks, one will come across the names Hillel and Shammai (“Infidelity”), geographic references, Israel and Mesopotamia (“Catch Ya Breath”), Hebrew terms such as Torah and dĕbārîm, (“Family Honor”).

Profound lyrics aside, 'Halc' desires his listeners to hear prophetically.  The vision of "Tablets" is an exposition on the Ten Commandments. While his lyrics demonstrate a deep awareness of the ancient world from which the commandments derive, ‘Halc’ doesn’t strand the listener there. Instead like any good teacher, he unpacks the principles that theses commandments have on 21st century life. So if you are tired of the same shallow lyrics that pervade much of bubble gum Christian music/rap, pick up a copy of Tablets and allow ‘Halc’ to elevate your heart, soul, and mind.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Story of Jesus' Resurrection: Twitter Style

I found this amazing video on YouTube. The creator apparently is unknown, but in the day and age of Twitter and Facebook this is a brilliant and powerful ministry tool that should be shown to as many as possible, especially at this time of the year. Without further ado here it is:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Doug Moo "Justification in Galatians" Essay Available for Free!

Recently around the blogospheres, a few have noted the forthcoming festschrift (Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century) in honor of D.A. Carson to be published by Crossway.  I am happy to note that there is a PDF file that can be downloaded here that includes Doug Moo's essay "Justification in Galatians" (160-195) from this volume! This will hopefully whet our appetites until his Galatians commentary (BECNT) sees the light of day! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Patrick Miller and the Quote of the Day II

Here, once again, is another astute observation by Patrick Miller in his The Ten Commandments, regarding theological implications of the first and second Commandments:
While in some sense everything about the First and Second Commandments is 'theological,' there is a particular way in which it has a theological impact on the life and faith of the community. While the visual and three-dimensional images are in view, it is possible to create divine images with words and thoughts as well. Thus theologians and clergy may be especially susceptible to idolatry by developing images, theological systems, and constructions of God that objectify the transcendent and make us deceive ourselves into thinking we can see God theologically, with our concepts if not our eyes and hands. In the making of mental images, the Puritans saw a violation of this commandment, and while that may go too far, it is proper caution. The Second Commandment relativizes and criticizes every linguistic image of God--not even 'Father'--be absolute and immune from the hammer of the Second Commandment. It is difficult to work without mental and verbal images.  Scripture itself is full of them. Some are more fruitful than others. The danger is in thinking that somehow the image incorporates the reality, or that is immune from critical scrutiny, or that the theological image is a means of getting one's way with the Deity so imagined. The chief divine imagery of Deuteronomy 4 is a warning that playing with divine images of any sort is playing with fire. Theology is a very dangerous game and always teeters on the brink of idolatry, with the tendency, intentional or not, of seeking to get at God for our well-being and program (italics original, 57-58).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quote of the Day: Patrick Miller on the Ten Commandents

I have a feeling that after having only read the 12 page introduction of Patrick Miller's The Ten Commandments, I will be posting several more of these "quotes of the day", as the book is long on wisdom and learning. Consider what Miller states about memorizing the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian:

The Commandments cannot play a role in the lives of Christians unless they are learned and taken to heart. That means then that the long-standing association of the Commandments with the teaching and catechetical traditions of the church needs to be maintained.  They can play no role if they are not first memorized and learned, so that they are held in the mind and the memory of individuals from an early age onward. Here is where the brevity and simplicity of the Commandments-- at least most of them--is a clue to what we are to do with them. Take them to heart and learn them so that they are implanted in the mind and available for guidance. This may happen through learning one of the catechisms, but that is not the only avenue. Catechisms are less in vogue, so the church needs to find places for learning the Commandments in the educational events that it carries on, whether in church school classes or in confirmation classes. Also the family, which was the original context in which the Commandments were first learned and appropriated, is still a locus for learning the Commandments. Memorization of biblical texts is a disappearing practice, but there are some texts, such as the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm, that are still assumed to be held in the minds of most Christians. If one attends to the central place of the Commandments in Scripture and the place they have had in the church's teaching, then they also belong to the enterprise of memorizing and holding texts in one's mind and heart (italics mine; 9-10).
In a word: Wow! I cannot wait to read more. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2011

1 Corinthians Pillar Commentary: An Interview with Roy Ciampa

With commentaries being written at an astonishing rate, count me as one who looks forward to many of the forthcoming contributions. I am not one to bemoan the current state of affairs when it comes to this phenomenon, because I think that the biblical text offers many interpretive possibilities and angles with which to come at the text.

Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner's contribution to the Pillar series on 1 Corinthians is one such contribution. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Roy Ciampa several questions which I hope to post over the next couple of weeks or so. Here is part I of this interview.

1) It is fairly unusual to see a commentary co-written. Your 1 Corinthians contribution is co-written with Brian Rosner. Can you explain how this process began, and how you divided up the research and writing responsibilities?

Brian was originally invited to write the commentary but was finding himself too busy to try and get it done by himself. He had been my doctoral advisor and we had become very good friends and shared similar perspectives on Paul and Pauline exegesis. He got permission to invite me to serve as co-author with him and I was only too happy for the opportunity to work with him on it.

We found our collaboration to be a wonderful experience and now wonder why it doesn't happen more often! 1 Corinthians itself is part of a dialogue between Paul and the Corinthians and our writing of the commentary also grew out of our constant dialogue. While all commentary writers dialogue with what other authors have written, other voices don't get to respond to their arguments until the commentary is published. In our case we were able to dialogue not only with the literature, but with a live co-author that could help sharpen the argument before it was published. We are convinced the collaboration led to a better commentary. Most of we regard of our best insights were sharpened in the conversation.

We had some extended times together to talk through our understanding of the letter as a whole and key issues within it. We came up with an original understanding of the structure and argument of the letter and co-authored an article in the journal New Testament Studies defending what would appear in longer form as the structure for this commentary. We also co-authored the contribution on 1 Corinthians in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker), giving us the opportunity to work through that aspect of the letter together, as a foundation for the fuller treatment in this commentary.

We also went over each other’s work as it was being prepared, giving feedback, suggestions of other sources, arguments or ideas, etc. Whenever one of us completed the first draft of a chapter of the commentary we sent it to the other, who then read it and suggested changes (and caught mistakes). Sometimes we went back and forth several times on a passage or chapter before we were done. Email and Skype make this type of close and constant collaboration between people living on different continents possible in a way that earlier generations couldn’t have imagined! Both of our fingerprints are all over every part of the commentary and we made sure we were both very happy with our material before we felt ready to send it to Don Carson and Eerdmans.

2. In this commentary, your approach is to read 1 Corinthians in a biblical/Jewish manner. Could you first, discuss what makes this unique, and second, how does this differ from traditional approaches to 1 Corinthians?

Previous commentaries on 1 Corinthians have tended to pay close attention to the Greco-Roman backgrounds informing the Corinthian situation (which we also do), but tended to neglect the extent to which Paul’s own biblical and Jewish theological framework governed his response to the problems in Corinth. Our commentary is unique in recognizing the extent, for instance, that the letter builds on biblical and Jewish concerns about sexual immorality and idolatry in a situation where Greco-Roman culture is influencing the worshiping community in dangerous ways.

3. This question probably has some overlap with the one prior, but what issues and vices does Paul confront within the church at Corinth?

The key vices are sexual immorality, idolatry and greed. These are the key vices for which Gentiles were notorious in Jewish and early Christian thinking.

4. Could you speak to the role the ‘cross’ plays in 1 Cor 1-4?

Paul’s apocalyptic theology consists of five elements, so critical to his ethics, has the cross at its center. It consists of five elements, all of which are evident in 1 Corinthians 1-4 with reference to the cross: (1) God’s conflict with enslaving powers, (2) involves a decisive/invasive action in Christ, (3) which issues forth in a judgment that is (4) final and (5) cosmic/universal in scope. According to 1 Corinthians 1-4, the cross signals the end of the world’s puny power, arrogant boasting, fancy talk, shallow wisdom, and so on. The following chapters announce the beginning of a new world marked by sexual purity, mutual love, reconciliation, self-restraint, unity and the like.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Discipleship as Covenant: A Review of Following Jesus, The Servant King

Jonathan Lunde, associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, is the editor of a new series from Zondervan Academic entitled the Biblical Theology For Life. The series aims to answer the question "What does the Bible have to say about that?" More specifically, contributors engage the dual tasks of describing biblical theology and contemporary contextualization with the goal of "accosting the reader's perspective and fostering application, transformation, and growth" (19). The structure of the volumes therefore, proceeds along these lines: The first section, entitled "Queuing the Questions," allows the authors to introduce the main questions they seek to answer. This is followed by the section deemed "Arriving at Answers," where authors develop the biblical theology of the topic they are to address, while "constructing answers" to questions posed in the previous section. The third and final section, "Reflecting on Relevance", is where the theological rubber meets the road of real life, namely, how theology might be lived out in the world today. Along the way, each chapter concludes with "Relevant Questions", encouraging the reader to reflect on what he/she read, and frequent use of sidebars, including quotes, diagrams, charts, etc.

Lunde as editor of this series, has also managed to contribute a volume to this new series, entitled, Following Jesus, The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship. Lunde's book focuses on answering these three questions:

  1. The “Why” Question: Why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus’ commands if I have been saved by grace?
  2. The “What” Question: What is it that Jesus demands of his disciples?
  3. The “How” Question: How can the disciple obey Jesus’ high demand, while experiencing his “yoke” as “light” and “easy”?
Beginning with the 'why' question (ch's 2-5; 35-110), Lunde does a wonderful job of guiding the reader through the various covenant types (grant and conditional), and how these types are the foundation of the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants. Broadly summarizing, Lunde sees that no matter the covenant type, "the covenants are always grounded and established in the context of God's prior grace toward the people entering the covenant..." (40; italics original).  Another valuable insight for this reader at least, was Lunde's handling of the Pauline material. Chapter 5, seeks to answer the question "How do faith and works of obedience relate to the reception of the blessing of the new covenant?" (91) After surveying the span of the Noahic to the New Covenant's, Lunde makes the observation, that unlike the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant, the New Covenant is lacking any conditional qualifiations, "placing the prophetic emphasis on God's action..." (99). Lunde's conclusion of Paul's stance is striking and worth quoting in full:
The nub of Paul's argument, then, is that those who seek to receive the blessings of the gospel as if they were mediated through a conditional covenant-- conceiving of obedience to the law as the continuing means by which the blessings are received--miss the point entirely. At one level, then, Paul is not rebuking legalistic merit theology so much as a fatal misrepresentation of the New Covenant that leads unintentionally to legalism. In other words, because of the nature of Jesus' fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant, those who treat the law as if it were still in effect place themselves back under the demand of the law and therefore under its conditional curse. This seems to be the way in which Paul is arguing in Galatians 3 (103; italics original).

The 'what' question (ch's 6-10; 115-183) focuses on Jesus' dual role as Prophet and King. Jesus is the culimination of the line of prophets announced by Moses in Deut 18:18-19, but his role here is to be subsumed as the King where he demands that his disciples follow him in ushering in his Kingdom. Lunde explores Jesus' relationship to the law, using three metaphors: Jesus the filter, Jesus the lens, and Jesus the prism. The chapter on Jesus the filter, seeks to explore continuities/discontinuities between the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant. Lunde, correctly highlights that Jesus is the 'culmination' of certain aspects of the law, i.e. the Levitical Laws (sacrifices, food laws, circumcision, and Moses' provision for divorce). This does not however, entail that Jesus has lowered the bar with regard to the law's demand for righteousness. The next chapter, Jesus as 'lens' demonstrates that His interpretations of the law, always reveals the greater scope of the law's commands, allowing Jesus to recover and preserve the law's demand for righteousness. Jesus' identification of the law's intent can be boiled down to the love of God and neighbor (Matt 22:34-40).
 Finally, Jesus is the 'prism' because He changes the trajectory of the law after his interpretation of it. Laws prohibiting murder, adultery, and justice are moved to a higher plane. It is crucial to note, that Jesus "stands before any would-be disciple and conveys commands that cannot be avoided" (165).

The third and final question, 'how,' gets to the heart of the matter, with Lunde calling it the "crux of our dilemma "(185). The question centers on “How is it that we are motivated and enabled to obey all that Jesus commands?” The answer begins with looking for clues concerning the Kingdom of God, namely the "inaugurated kingdom" (already not yet). The covenant blessings have been inaugurated, but the promised transformation of God's people has only begun, and in no way, is complete. In the chapter, "Life in Covenant with God (195-209), Lunde focuses on three main themes, remembering, receiving, and responding. We are to remember God's provisions what God has done for us in redeeming us (e.g., Sabbath), we are to receive grace from God through the Holy Spirit enabling us to respond by living a life marked by faithfulness. In following chapters, Lunde discusses Jesus’ role as our representative (ch. 13), our Redeemer (ch. 14), the restorer of God’s people and kingdom (chs. 15 and 16), and the reigning King (ch. 17). The book closes with a brief chapter which reflects further on practical application.

Although Lunde's volume seeks to see discipleship to Jesus in light of the covenants, and does this exceptionally well, I think an undervalued contribution the author makes is in his lucid discussions of covenant types, as well as the discussions regarding Paul's view of the Law. Regarding the latter, I can envision Lunde's suggestions on Paul and the Law serving as a springboard for future research in the field. For me, these two contributions are noteworthy, and would recommend this text to the seminary classroom, especially a biblical theology course.