Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Asbury Board Chair Jim Smith Installs Kalas

If you would like to hear about 10 minutes of Asbury Board Chair Jim Smith addressing the chapel of Asbury Seminary about the recent crisis and installing Ellsworth Kalas as interim president, you can download the chapel mp3 from

http://www.asburyseminary.edu/community/current_ky.htm

Scroll down to yesterday's chapel, October 24 and then choose either hi or low, depending on your internet connection speed. Warning: I would right click on it and save it to a spot on your computer that you can find. Cursed Bill Gates has these things going to Temporary Internet Folders that are well nigh impossible to find. Who will free me from this body of PC?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reformed and Wesleyan Dialog 2

This is the continuation of a discussion that began with my post, Paul's ordo salutis.
_________________
OAW: Appeal to the Spirit of the living God is an appeal to experience? Well I guess to a hammer everything looks like a nail. This started when you questioned me, “Where does the right worldview come from?” This is basically a question asking, ‘how do we know what we know.’ We are shut up to three basic approaches to this question: reason (with tradition as a subcategory), intuition (mystic approaches), and revelation.

ME: For this comment to make sense in my paradigm, I have to shuffle things a little. Let's say that I am reading the Bible as written revelation. How am I to understand what it says? I will have to reflect and think about it. Thus I cannot know this form of revelation without the use of reason.

Let's say I have a divine encounter in which the Spirit reveals something to me. This is an experience of God. And of course to understand the experience I will need to think about it, which is the use of reason.

In short, there is no revelation that can be appropriated in any individual human's life unless it passes through reason and experience. I will allow for uninterpreted intuitive revelation that has not yet passed through reason.

So I would translate your comment as this claim: "Only God directed reason as God directs it as we contemplate Scripture and experience revelation results in the right worldview."


OAW: I would like to be clear here about how dramatic a difference conversion makes in our thinking and presuppositions. Let’s take a hypothetical Western Pagan Scientist. Before conversion when the Scientist picked up a fossil he looked at it and saw evidence of billions and billions of years driven by godless evolution. Being Elect, our Scientist is regenerated and is given the mind of God and in Sanctification grows in the mind of God. Now our Scientist picks up the same fossil and looking at it see evidence of Creation.

What changed? Well in conversion His beginning point was changed and with his beginning point being changed His Worldview went from the anthropocentrism of Evolution to the Christocentrism of Biblical Christianity.

ME: I'm not clear as to where the actual reasoning process is different in these two. The presuppositions are different, yes. The value placed on various data is different, yes. But in this example I don't see how the logical process is different, the mechanics of reasoning.


OAW: You said that "since among those I would consider genuinely converted we find countless different understandings of the Bible, we are forced to a) deny most of them a true conversion or b) consider the conversion presuppositions very broad indeed."

I would add or we conclude that
c.) Sanctification is a process that requires the continual work of the Spirit of God to bring His people in harmony, and that God has good reasons for not bringing that harmony of thinking about yet.
d.) That there is room for SOME elasticity in a Biblical Worldview. That would fit nicely with the idea that God is both one and many. It would stand to reason that since in God both Unity and Diversity are equally ultimate you would find in Christian World views both a Unity that identifies them all as Christian and a Diversity that accounts for the elasticity.
e.) That an individual’s Theology has not yet caught up to their conversion. I must admit, though that I believe, that many of those who are Christians in an objective sense need to be born again.

ME: This seems coherent, but it amounts to "if a person claiming to be a Christian concludes that the Bible does not contradict evolution and doesn't change his or her mind over the course of his or her life, then it is not likely that s/he is truly elect, truly converted." I do not believe a truly converted heart would be able to maintain this position after sustained exposure over time to truly godly people from diverse Christian groups ranging from Roman Catholics to charimatics even to Seventh Day Adventists.

I don't think we observe a clear "rational sanctification" among Christians, although we should witness a clear increase in the manifestation of love. Your position is coherent, but I don't think it corresponds to reality. It amounts to "anyone who doesn't agree with me isn't elect or isn't as converted as I am." It's a kind of "rational legalism," the Reformed equivalent of the behavioral legalism of the holiness movement.


OAW: when unbelievers get things right in their pagan Worldviews with their microreasoning it is an instance where they have imported Christian Capital into their Worldview in order to get it off the ground. It’s as if they have to sit in God’s lap in order to slap him in the face. Because the unbeliever could only go insane (Nietzsche) or kill themselves (all those who hate Wisdom love death) with a consistent unchristian reasoning and Worldview they import Christian capital into their non-Christian Worldviews. They hence become walking contradictions and it is precisely at those points of contradictions that God honored evangelism can happen.

ME: How is this different from Wesley's idea that God makes possible by his grace the empowerment of the mind (of at least some) to think clearly? My preference would be to say that there is only one right way of thinking for anyone and that we can all fail 1) with regard to our presuppositions, 2) with regard to our knowledge of the data, and 3) with regard to the operation of our logic. Because the Christian's presuppositions are more correct and because we allow for certain data that the non-believer does not (e.g., the possibility of resurrection), the process that issues therefrom is more correct.


OAW: What you do with Romans 1:18-32 or what you do with the reality of the noetic effects of sin? In my humble opinion these seem to be major problems for you.

ME: I'll admit that I don't know what to do with Paul's train of thought here. I think I understand it. Although the invisible things are clearly known by that which is made, humanity has instead turned to make idols, and therefore God has let humans deteriorate into homosexual relationships. There are many passages that I have difficulty knowing what to do with. I think of when Paul assumes that nature teaches everyone that it is a disgrace for a man to have long hair. Or in Galatians 3 when he says that a mediator is not of one yet God is one, and then he asks whether the law was against the promises of God for this reason. Or when 1 Timothy implies that women shouldn't teach men because Eve was deceived and Adam wasn't.

Perhaps it is my unsanctified or unregenerated mind, but it seems to me that sometimes even the arguments of Scripture are incarnated, that is, they are arguments that made sense in the time when the person was inspired to write (Hagar an allegory for the earthly Jerusalem, Gal. 4? Show a cow speckled rods while in childbirth and give birth to spotted cows?). So does every human really consciously choose to reject God and serve four footed beasts? Did all ancient idolaters therefore engage in homosexual activity? Is this the case today?

Maybe I don't understand Paul's train of thought as well as I thought?


OAW: A Christian Worldview-- Epistemology - Revelation – To the law and to the testimonies-- Axiology – God is the ultimate value – All that we do is for His Glory-- Ontology -- Personal creator-- Teleology – Kingdom of God (I prefer postmillennial)Pagan Worldview-- Epistemology – Reason or intuition-- Axiology – Man, individually or corporately, is the ultimate value-- Ontology – Time + Chance + Circumstance / Chaos and Dark night-- Teleology – Utopian or Nihilistic

ME: I smell a Martinite. His schemes always seemed very neat and undertandable. And here I thought God's thoughts would be difficult for me to conceptualize because of how higher His ways are than our ways, and that the complexity of the world was a reflection of His infinite inscrutibility. I'm obviously being somewhat sarcastic here. But seriously, despite how great Dr. Martin and Francis Schaeffer were as men of great spirit and forces for good--much more good than me!--I always have felt that he made God look like a Sunday School teacher, like "Christianity 101." :-)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"OnceAWesleyan's Response to my Comments

I'll post my response to these comments tomorrow, Lord willing

ME: It gives me no end of joy to see a Calvinist point to "experience" as the authenticator of the right presuppositions with which to approach the Bible :-)

OAW2 –Appeal to the Spirit of the living God is an appeal to experience? Well I guess to a hammer everything looks like a nail. This started when you questioned me, “Where does the right worldview come from?” This is basically a question asking, ‘how do we know what we know.’ We are shut up to three basic approaches to this question.

Reason: This is the approach of the Rationalist. Man, starting from himself, can develop the right worldview. (I would put ‘tradition’ as a subcategory here.)

Intuition: This is usually associated with mystical type approaches to truth.

Revelation: This is the reality that before people can have a Worldview that comports with true Knowledge of God. God must crush the unbelievers previous Worldview that is designed for the very purpose of suppressing God. In revelation God make Himself known. People only reason accurately about God once God has revealed Himself to them. They never autonomously reason their way to the God of the Bible. While there is such a thing as Natural Revelation there is no such thing as natural Theology because the unbeliever using his God hating Worldview suppresses the truth from Natural revelation that ontologically he can’t help but know to be true, since he is made in the Imago Dei.

This is standard Christianity. The mind experiences the noetic effects of sin and like the rest of man is dead (I Cor. 2:14, Romans 8:7). In unrighteousness man builds Worldviews that are lies because they are from the Father of lies. Now Christ is not only Priest and King but He is also Prophet, which is to say that He is the chief interpreter of reality. If we would interpret reality correctly we must think our thoughts after Him. The Spirit of Christ has been sent to lead us into all truth. Scripture teaches us that ‘God’s Word is Truth.’ In light of this if you will re-read my original answer you will see that I included all of these in answering you as to where right Worldviews come from.


ME: I accept the strong possibility that there are clear presuppositional leanings a person will likely have after conversion that they might not have had prior to conversion. But I have two or three serious questions.

OAW: I would like to be clear here about how dramatic a difference conversion makes in our thinking and presuppositions. Let’s take a hypothetical Western Pagan Scientist. Before conversion when the Scientist picked up a fossil he looked at it and saw evidence of billions and billions of years driven by godless evolution. Being Elect, our Scientist is regenerated and is given the mind of God and in Sanctification grows in the mind of God. Now our Scientist picks up the same fossil and looking at it see evidence of Creation.

What changed? Well in conversion His beginning point was changed and with his beginning point being changed His Worldview went from the anthropocentrism of Evolution to the Christocentrism of Biblical Christianity.


ME: Since among those I would consider genuinely converted we find countless different understandings of the Bible, we are forced to a) deny most of them a true conversion or b) consider the conversion presuppositions very broad indeed.

OAW: Or we conclude that

c.) Sanctification is a process that requires the continual work of the Spirit of God to bring His people in harmony, and that God has good reasons for not bringing that harmony of thinking about yet.

d.) That there is room for SOME elasticity in a Biblical Worldview. That would fit nicely with the idea that God is both one and many. It would stand to reason that since in God both Unity and Diversity are equally ultimate you would find in Christian World views both a Unity that identifies them all as Christian and a Diversity that accounts for the elasticity.

e.) That an individual’s Theology has not yet caught up to their conversion. I must admit, though that I believe, that many of those who are Christians in an objective sense need to be born again.


ME: I think I can follow the reasoning of the Reformed epistemologists. They seem to be using the same sort of "microreason" that people use every day in all sorts of different contexts, from blog discussions to scientific laboratories to choosing jello. These are rules of logic like a=a, if a=b and b=c then a=c, and so forth. The difference seems to be in the presuppositions, what possibilities are allowed (e.g., are miracles possible? can someone rise from the dead?).

OAW: Actually, I’ve always thought of Biblical epistemology to be of the ‘macroreason’ variety. Biblical epistemology does not compartmentalize reality and so seeks to see the whole and how the parts inner-connect. For example, Biblical epistemology understands that there are distinctions between History and Literature, and Economics but we them all as but subsets of Theology.


ME: There is some level on which the reasoning of the converted and the reasoning of the unconverted seems to be the same basic micro-reason and experiential reasoning. I can account for Reformed epistemology simply by saying the presuppositions are different without saying the reasoning is different.

OAW: OK… this makes sense. Surely you must admit that the reasoning is different. Someone who is reasoning while suppressing the truth in unrighteousness is surely going to be reasoning differently then somebody who isn’t. Now clearly when unbelievers get things right in their pagan Worldviews with their microreasoning it is an instance where they have imported Christian Capital into their Worldview in order to get it off the ground. It’s as if they have to sit in God’s lap in order to slap him in the face. Because the unbeliever could only go insane (Nietzsche) or kill themselves (all those who hate Wisdom love death) with a consistent unchristian reasoning and Worldview they import Christian capital into their non-Christian Worldviews. They hence become walking contradictions and it is precisely at those points of contradictions that God honored evangelism can happen.


OAW; I really don’t know what you do with Romans 1:18-32 or what you do with the reality of the noetic effects of sin. In my humble opinion these seem to be major problems for you.


ME: What do the two worldviews each look like specifically?

OAW: What, you want me to write a book on your blog?

Briefly – Very briefly, Seed of the serpent vs. Seed of the woman, the antithesis – another Christian 101 doctrine.

A Christian Worldview
-- Epistemology - Revelation – To the law and to the testimonies
-- Axiology – God is the ultimate value – All that we do is for His Glory
-- Ontology -- Personal creator
-- Teleology – Kingdom of God (I prefer postmillennial)

Pagan Worldview
-- Epistemology – Reason or intuition
-- Axiology – Man, individually or corporately, is the ultimate value
-- Ontology – Time + Chance + Circumstance / Chaos and Dark night
-- Teleology – Utopian or Nihilistic

The Christian worldview coheres because it corresponds to reality. The pagan worldview and putatively Christian worldviews that are laced with pagan presuppositions are full of contradictions and do not cohere because they do not correspond to reality.


ME: The words of the Bible make an aweful lot of sense when we look at ideas and concepts we find in the writings contemporary with each individual book.

OAW: Surely if the World is the way that God made it we can expect cultures that have deviated from the word of God to still retain vestiges of the rejected authority of God in their culture.

As I said earlier, it is impossible to have a pagan worldview without some Christian capital in it to make it successful. Therefore, given that, I would contend that where we find Hittites with certain habits concerning covenants or where we find similar flood accounts (Gilgamesh epic) or where we find patriarchy being shared what we are seeing when inspired writers appeal to the same sort of thing are not examples of shared constructed reality but rather what we are seeing is non-Christian cultures maintaining their defiance of reality by incorporating enough of real reality in order to make sure the wheels of their psuedo-realities don’t fall off.

So if the biblical writers are in dialog with their own worlds and if they share many elements with it is because, in the end, the World they all live in is God’s world. They have, at the same time, everything in common and nothing in common with pagans. They have everything in common because it is God’s world and pagans can’t get away from that. Real reality is what it is. but they have nothing in common because the pagan is by means of his fallen epistemology is denying what ontologically he can’t escape, while the believer’s epistemology is seeking to re-interpret God’s reality after him and so is complimenting his confessed ontology.


ME: It won't help my PR to mention Bultmann at this point, but there seems to be some truth (to put it in my words) to the idea that we can't rationally use cell phones, lap tops, and believe the Space Shuttle really flies and then arbitrarily reject the micro-reason that has brought these things in some other area of our thinking.

OAW: LOL. Those things would have never come into being were it not for a Biblical Christian Worldview where the belief obtains that God is a God of order. The rise of Science is beholden to Christianity and in cultures where Christianity goes into eclipse you can look forward to the kind of Science that we find in Huxley’s BNW or in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, or you can look forward to the eclipse of Science.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reformed and Wesleyan Dialog

This is the continuation of a dialog between "OnceAWesleyan" and me under the comment section of the previous post.
____________________

Question: Where does the biblical worldview come from?

OAW: The mind of God, by the procession of the Holy Spirt as He runs along the tracks of Scripture. It's called conversion and ongoing sanctification. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Be not conformed to this World but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Conversion and then progressive sanctification is what changes our Worldview so that our interpretations increasingly reflect the mind of God.The existence of the God of the Bible and the verity of His Word thus becomes the axiomatic presupposition upon which our Worldview rests. God is the necessary pre-condition for intelligability but it is a pre-condition that only God can give in conversion.

ME: It gives me no end of joy to see a Calvinist point to "experience" as the authenticator of the right presuppositions with which to approach the Bible :-)

I accept the strong possibility that there are clear presuppositional leanings a person will likely have after conversion that they might not have had prior to conversion. But I have two or three serious questions (and here I will not say I represent my tradition):

1. Since among those I would consider genuinely converted we find countless different understandings of the Bible, we are forced to a) deny most of them a true conversion or b) consider the conversion presuppositions very broad indeed.

2. I think I can follow the reasoning of the Reformed epistemologists. They seem to be using the same sort of "microreason" that people use every day in all sorts of different contexts, from blog discussions to scientific laboratories to choosing jello. These are rules of logic like a=a, if a=b and b=c then a=c, and so forth. The difference seems to be in the presuppositions, what possibilities are allowed (e.g., are miracles possible? can someone rise from the dead?).

3. There are points where this microreason and experience seem overpowering over the most faith-filled unless they are highly unstable mentally. So if I believed God was telling me that I had to believe that my car was purple to be saved, could I? If I tried would I not find myself on a path to lose my faith?

My point is that there is some level on which the reasoning of the converted and the reasoning of the unconverted seems to be the same basic micro-reason and experiential reasoning. I can account for Reformed epistemology simply by saying the presuppositions are different without saying the reasoning is different.

Wesley, who for good or ill was at least in part a child of the Enlightenment, saw this basic ability to reason as a product of God's prevenient grace. God has partially fired up the engines of all humanity's fallen natural image so that we can micro-reason correctly.

Now I'm sounding very modernist here, and there are a number of "after-modern" footnotes I think, but this line of thought seems to "work."


OAW: In the end, there are only two Worldviews.

ME: What do these each look like specifically?


Question: What is the source of this authoritative worldview?

OAW: The B-I-B-L-E Yes, that's the book for me.I stand alone on the Word of God.The B-I-B-L-E

ME: My problem is that my micro-reason has looked into the ancient context of the Bible and noticed a few things about the thoughts in the Bible. I see that Paul says he was taken up into the third heaven. I notice that the Testament of Levi pictures three heavens. I see that God separates waters in Genesis and puts the stars in between the waters. I see that the Enuma Elish has a creator God separating waters at the beginning of creation. I see Paul saying that husbands are the heads of their wives and then notice that Aristotle said the same thing a few hundred years before.

In short, I notice that the individual biblical writings seem to be in a dialog with their own worlds, that they share many worldview elements with their individual worlds. My micro-reason pushes me to wonder whether I do the same thing and often read these words quite differently than the original audiences did.

Take the vapor canopy theory of scientific creationists. A "literal" reading of Genesis places the stars between the waters above and the waters beneath. Is not then the vapor canopy reading an example of a modern scientific worldview directing the line of thought of a fundamentalist?


Question: Are you really going to suggest that in coming to Scripture you do so without biases that affect your conclusions on what counts for evidence?

ME: No, of course I have biases too. I advocate a "faith seeking understanding" model. But I would go insane if I had to continue to hold to various beliefs in the face of overwhelming "naughty data" that didn't fit it. It won't help my PR to mention Bultmann at this point, but there seems to be some truth (to put it in my words) to the idea that we can't rationally use cell phones, lap tops, and believe the Space Shuttle really flies and then arbitrarily reject the micro-reason that has brought these things in some other area of our thinking.

In these thoughts I only speak for myself, not for the Wesleyan Arminian tradition. Wesley's Enlightenment element is probably fair game for inner critique, even if I personally like it.

P.S. Quite funny isn't it, the Wesleyan argument for cognitive integrity, the Reformed person arguing for the importance of an experiential basis...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Paul's "Ordo Salutis"

Paul’s Ordo Salutis

1. God has predetermined
· That those with faith would be resurrected to glory (Rom. 8:29)
· Predestination language highlights God’s sovereignty (Rom. 9:18-21) and the honor of the “elect”
· without contradicting the possibility for any individual to call on the Lord (10:13)
· or the need for human choice
· Paul does not work out the philosophy (e.g., Rom. 11:11-12).
· Paul is focused more on groups than individuals.

2. Gentiles begin “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20)

3. Jews begin “under the Law”
· The Jewish Law
· They don’t keep the Law to “get in” but to “stay in”—they have a covenantal relationship with Yahweh.
· Jews do not believe that “works of Law” ultimately justify them—grace of God, who has set up things like repentance, sacrifice, etc… as a basis for acceptance.
· But works of Law are an essential response to God’s patronage.
· “Works of Law” refer in general to deeds of the Jewish law, but seem to refer especially to the finer points that related to Jewish ethnic boundaries like circumcision, food laws, etc…
· Law confirms to a Jew that s/he is a sinner (Rom. 7:7).
· Law aggravates sin—under the power of Sin makes the Jew even more sinful (Rom. 5:20; 7:8).

4. Sanctification
· Means made “holy,” touching God and thus “watch out; that wire is live.”
· Can be used of unbelievers or children “sanctified” by a believing spouse or parent (1 Cor. 7:14).
· Applies to believers who have received the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), and involves the cleansing of past sins (1 Cor. 6:11)
· Implies a certain care with regard to how we live—you don’t want to get shocked (“this is the will of God, even your sanctification”: 1 Thess. 4:3)
· Demands a complete “purity” (otherwise the water conducts and will shock) (1 Thess. 5:23)

5. Atonement
· Reconciliation with God achieved solely through the offering of Jesus (5:10)
· Satisfies God’s righteousness and wrath (Rom. 3:25)
· Christ died “for us” and “for sin” but not “for our sin” in any legalistic way (2 Cor. 5:21)
· We receive forgiveness and pardon (not prominent Pauline concepts)

6. Justification
· “Initial” justification relates to the non guilty verdict we receive when we trust in what God has done through Jesus Christ and confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 5:1; 10:9).
· The process is exactly the same for both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 3:23-24)
· While Jesus was justified in accordance with his innocence, Jews and Gentiles are only justified because of his faithfulness unto death (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16).
· However, “final” justification before the judgment seat of Christ requires us to remain blameless through the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep by nature Christ’s law, which is the law of love (2 Cor. 5:10).

7. Salvation
· Primarily future oriented for Paul—“having been justified we will be saved”—relates to the Day of Wrath when we escape God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9-10).
· Paul can speak proleptically of it in the present or past tense

8. Glorification
· Paul can speak in the present of being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
· When we are resurrected, Christ will transform our bodies to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:21)
· We will then fulfill Psalm 8 and God’s initial intention for humanity.

Epilogue: Working Through It

I hope you don't mind if I do my therapy in public, but I thought it might help someone else out there like me work through this thing.

Basic Premise: We might differ with this or that board member on this or that issue, this or that decision, but 1) surely the collective board has Asbury's best interest in mind, 2) surely the collective board has a heart devoted to God and His Christ, 3) surely the collective board was over-informed if anything of this situation, and 4) surely the board has some truly insightful, wise, and savvy individuals on it.

Thought 1: Regardless of the past, regardless of the events that led up to this day, I'm going to try to believe that the final decision was the right one for this point in time. This is especially true if a high percentage of the board thought this was the right course of action.
I personally do not believe that there ever was any single, fatal "Weapon of Mass Destruction" found. But I'm going to try to trust that, however we got to this point, this was the right decision for where the seminary was at yesterday.

Thought 2: Even though I've been critical of the way this whole process has been conducted, even though I think there are some changes that can and should be made in Asbury's governance system, I'm going to try to trust that the board will self-correct.

I found nothing out of order in the "We Wonder" series for the way it pointed out irregularities in the way this crisis has been handled. I'm going to try to believe that their voice has been heard. I believe the board values the faculty here and will reach out to them at some point in the near future. I doubt they'll do it as fast as I would if I were on the board :-) But I believe the collective board has and will seriously wrestle with how to honor confidentiality and yet let the faculty know that they have highly valued their voice.

It may take a few years for them to work through what shared governance means and balance of power issues. But I'm going to try to believe that they will.

In a strange way, a way I wouldn't have expected to experience even when I got up this morning, I believe the board will do their best to make this thing right not only in their own minds (I believe they already believe they've done the right thing), but to help the rest of us out here watching as well.

If I and we can manage to be patient, I think God will work all these things to where unexpected good rises from the ashes!

I hope that God will richly bless all of you who have struggled like me through this thing!

New Asbury Beginning from Dr. Kalas

This is the first word from the interim president:

To our dear community,

Asbury Theological Seminary was not born yesterday. For more than 83 years our school has served God -- through the Great Depression, when dollars could hardly be found; through World War II, when the male student body was seriously decimated, and through the raising and the fall of the Berlin Wall -- to name a few historical markers. We have also been through a variety of philosophical and theological challenges, ranging from the Death of God idea to deconstructionism.

Now we are passing through an internal crisis. It isn't simple, but neither is it fatal. It is, however, a time for the people who love Asbury to rally around, forget their personal hurts and prejudices, and commit themselves to prayer and love as never before.

We must do this because God has brought us to the kingdom for such a time as this, and we dare not frustrate God's purposes. I know of no time when a strong, evangelical, Wesleyan voice was more surely needed, and I know of no institution that is better equipped to meet the challenge. Quite surely, hell is against us. This is frightening, but hell doesn't have the last word. It hasn't had the last word since Easter.

I am persuaded that God is spreading before us possibilities and wonders beyond our imagining. I pray that you and I may join hearts and heads and hands in bringing God's possibilities to pass.

Your friend,
J. Ellsworth Kalas

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Greenway Resigns

October 18, 2006
Contact: Tina Pugel, Director of Communications, 859.858.2277

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DR. GREENWAY RESIGNS AS PRESIDENT
Dr. Jeff Greenway has resigned as president of Asbury Theological Seminary, effective October 17, 2006. President Greenway began his presidency in July 2004 after having served as a pastor and District Superintendent of the Pittsburgh East District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church since 1999. He earned a doctorate in ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary. He received his master of divinity from Asbury Seminary in 1985 and has served on the Board of Asbury for a number of years.

"We express appreciation for Dr. Greenway’s leadership. We are praying for Dr. Greenway and his family as he begins a new season of ministry," states Dr. Jim Smith, chairman of the board.
The Board has announced Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas, former dean of the Beeson International Center, currently serving as professor of preaching, as the acting president effective October 18, 2006. After a long and distinguished ministry as a pastor Dr. Kalas joined the faculty at Asbury Seminary in 1993. In the announcement Dr. Jim Smith states, "Dr. Kalas is a well respected member of the community, and is widely known as one of the outstanding preachers and spiritual leaders in the church. We believe he will be an effective interim leader and president for the Asbury community. We are grateful for his willingness to accept this responsibility."

"We also want to express the board’s appreciation to our senior leadership team for their guidance and direction during this time," states Dr. Smith.

A Prayer for the Asbury Board Today

Father, we pray for the board today as they meet to resolve the crisis at Asbury.

We ask you to give them all extraordinary wisdom, that they may see possibilities unseen
We ask for insight, that hidden thoughts may be seen openly
We ask for objectivity, that biases will yield to truth
We ask for a merciful spirit, that all of us might obtain mercy
We ask for selflessness, that the greater good might be achieved
We ask for courage, to do what needs to be done
We ask for humility, for we are all but dust

We ask for your grace to inundate the mediator, President Greenway, Chair Jim Smith, Vice Chair Dan Johnson, the members of the Executive Committee, and those on the broader board. May they make a sweet smelling savor in your presence today,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Asbury Pre-Board Meeting Statement by Dan Johnson

Dear Asbury Seminary Community,

Greetings and God's blessings to you all. Since my last communication with you about our difficult impasse between the board and the president, much has happened. My main reason for today's update is to urge all of us to be diligent in prayer for the special board meeting on Tuesday in Atlanta. Only the Holy Spirit can provide the wisdom the board and Dr. Greenway need, and only He can bring restoration and peace to our campus. Here are some other updates I believe may be helpful to all:

1. Dr. Greenway has been invited to speak to the full board tomorrow, and he has indicated that he will attend, and share with the full board. He has also sent out a packet of materials to the full board in preparation for this meeting.

2. The "special committee" required by our bylaws (two trustees, one faculty member and one administrator) has been at work, including a lengthy meeting with Dr. Greenway and his attorney and Dr. Smith and the Seminary's attorney. The committee had hundreds of pages of documents to review and is interviewing others. Their report will be given to the board soon.

3. We have kept our two primary accrediting agencies informed and believe we have proceeded through this unprecedented situation in appropriate ways from their perspective.

4. Yes, we have invited a former seminary president (from an institution other than Asbury) to help mediate the situation.

5. Hopefully, everyone appreciates that the issues here are complicated in their detail. There is an obvious impasse. There has been a great deal of "exegesis" and hermeneutical work going on trying to understand. Hopefully, you will allow the process to move ahead with trust that 30+ trustees have much information to deal with and who have the best interest of the seminary at heart.

6. We would anticipate that the meeting on Tuesday will come to a conclusion late in the afternoon, and that we will be able to share something with you at that time.

7. The main thing is to keep our confidence in the Lord, our loyalty to His Word, and our commitment to live in Christian love and grace. These past weeks have been tremendously painful to Dr. Greenway and his family, the trustees, the faculty and all in the Asbury family. May our awesome God see fit to spread His abundant grace and mercy among us in these days. When I was a senior at Asbury College in 1970, God brought a great revival, as you all know. I remember it as a time of great healing and pervasive love. Wouldn't it be a most wonderful thing if God would do it again in these very days?!

Grace and prayers,
Dan Johnson, Ph.D.
Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tuesday Cometh #2

In the Meantime
President Greenway did not resign on September 8, nor on Monday the 11th, the day to which he had asked for an extension. Board Chair Smith set October 17th as the day for the broader board to meet to "act on the employment of our president."

In the meantime we have heard little from the board chair except for a general note of encouragement. Some have explained this silence on issues of confidentiality in relation to President Greenway and have suggested it was even in his best interest not to air his dirty laundry in public. President Greenway has also largely kept silent publicly. We get the impression that individual members of the BOT have received numerous emails from many different directions behind the scenes, including a good number of prayers. We also believe that many board members have emailed among themselves.

As for the faculty, about 2/3 of the tenured faculty issued a series of 11 questions called "We Wonder." These questions largely dealt both with events leading up to President Greenway's evaluation as well as the time subsequent. They wondered whether Greenway would be invited to the meeting Tuesday and why faculty and student representatives were not invited to speak for these interest groups.

As far as the process leading up to the evaluation, they had serious questions about conflicts of interest with the consultant who clearly has stood behind the scenes helping guide the Board Chair. There were questions of how the 360 evaluation was conducted and so forth.

But the most significant wonderings had to do with the authority of the Board Chair as an individual or of the EXCO as a subset of the board to direct the actions of the President. The by laws of the seminary accrediting agency state

"The board shall exercise its authority only as a group" (8.3.1.8).

Similarly, Asbury's own Board Policies state that

"the chairperson has no authority to supervise or direct the President" (Serial No: 2.5, 2b), and

"only decisions of the board acting as a body are binding on the President" (Serial No: 3.1).

If this interpretation of Board Policies and of accrediting agency rules is correct, then the Board Chair did not have the authority to demand any specific action of President Greenway in relation to his evaluation, nor did the EXCO have the authority to place him on leave. In other words, if this interpretation is correct, illegal actions have occurred and President Greenway has grounds to sue the seminary. I trust he would never do this, but it shows the wisdom of the Academic Petition submitted by the vast majority of Asbury's faculty.

On the regular meeting of Asbury's Academic Council on October 9, a proposal was drafted by the committee, then subsequently signed by the overwhelming majority of Asbury faculty, and submitted to the board for consideration. This document seems highly respectful and judicious.

It asks for two things in particular: 1) mediation between President Greenway and the Board and 2) the reinstatement of President Greenway while a new evaluation is conducted by a task force appointed by the board as a whole. This course of action seems beyond reproof and would restore our confidence in the seminary. It is hard to imagine any appropriate basis on which it would be rejected.

But meanwhile, an investigative committee seems to have met on October 10 to make an employment recommendation to the BOT. I do not have certain information about its process or outcome except that I know who was supposed to chair it. I have heard rumors, however, that President Greenway did meet with the committee at length. I will say nothing more except my impression that they have not made a favorable motion to the BOT.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wright's Paul Really 3: Paul's Christology

Discussion of Wright's chapter 4

Chapter 4: Paul's Christology and Jewish Monotheism
In chapter 3, Wright has already shared a couple of key paradigm shifts in relation to what Paul is thinking when he refers to Jesus as Messiah and as Lord.

a. When the Jews thought of a coming Messiah (and it is not clear that all Jews did), they were not looking for a divine being to come to earth (51). The "anointed one" would be a king to rule over a renewed and victorious Israel.

b. I want to go a little beyond what Wright says about the the title "Lord" in Paul, Hebrews, and Acts (drawing chiefly here on James Dunn's Christology in the Making). A number of texts in these writings indicate that many if not most early Christians saw the exaltation as the time when titles like "Lord," "Christ," and "Son of God" most fully applied to Jesus (e.g., Acts 2:36; 13:33; Rom. 1:3; 10:9; Phil. 2:9-10; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). This makes a lot of sense when we realize that all these titles are royal in nature, so we should think of Christ's exaltation to God's right hand as a kind of ethronement as cosmic king over the universe.

Now in chapter 4, Wright explores how Paul might have combined his belief in one God with his belief that Jesus was the Son of God. Here Wright has this claim: "Paul has taken the word "God" itself and has filled it with new content" (67).

Wright broadly falls into the camp of scholars like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado who believe that Paul has placed Christ within the one God in some way. Wright suggests that the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4 forms the basis for Paul's affirmation in 1 Corinthians 8:6 that we have "one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things." The Shema says, "The Lord our God; the Lord is one" Wright suggests Paul thought of the first half in relation to God the Father and the second half in relation to Jesus Christ (66).

I have not yet been able to figure out exactly what they mean, though, when they suggest that Paul incorporates Jesus into God now in some way, as if OT monotheism is about God externally in relation to the world rather than what God looks like "on the inside." There are of course OT models that refer to kings in divine terms, using God language in some extended sense. Since this is the milieu out of which the NT comes, the OT's use of such language in royal terms just seems to me a more likely place to begin understanding Paul's understanding of the relationship between Jesus and God the Father.

I want to be very clear here: I hold to the orthodox belief in the Trinity, that Jesus was fully God, that God exists in three persons despite the fact that He is one substance. However, I wonder if the relationship between what Paul was thinking and what church fathers like Athanasius were thinking is similar to the relationship between how the NT sometimes understands OT passages and the original meaning of those same OT passages.

So as Wright observes, the title "Son of God," which I believe is alluded to in Philippians 2's phrase "form of God," refers in the OT to a human king like David or Solomon. Psalm 45, a wedding psalm, actually shocks our system by referring to the king about to be married flat out as "God" (45:6). Similarly, Isaiah 9:6 in its original train of thought likely referred to the same child mentioned in 7:14, likely some son of king Ahaz (he's the one the sign is for). The implication is that a human king could be referred to in some extended sense as "the mighty God."

Again, to be clear, I have no problem with the use to which the NT puts these verses. But it makes me wonder if Paul's meaning is more subtle than Wright supposes. Their Christian theology is right, but it is not clear to me that their understanding of Paul's original meaning is.

For example, I am willing with Bauckham to see YHWH as the "name above all names" to which Paul refers in Philippians 2:9. But notice the timing. Jesus had been in the form of God earlier. Now, after becoming obedient to death, he becomes "superexalted" with the name above all names. Whatever exactly Paul was thinking, Jesus seems to achieve a status now higher than the form of God he had before, and it is at his resurrection/exaltation that he assumes the name YHWH. In other words, Paul himself seems to be thinking more in terms of an "office" of some sort rather than Christ's inner divine nature. Paul does not contradict the creeds, but he is not discussing the same topic they are.

So it would seem that God used Paul to move the early Christians further along toward the Trinity, but that Paul himself largely thought of Christ as subordinate to God the Father, using God language of him in a highly extended, royal sense. I have no problem believing that, like the anonymous Greek translator of Isaiah 7:26, God was setting up the text for later Christian belief. But we are reminded again that the NT does not yet get us to orthodox Christianity. For that we need the arbitration of the later Christological controversies.

Wright also mentions some quasi-trinitarian formulations Paul uses. For example, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 mentions in succession the Spirit, Christ the Lord, and God the Father. The Spirit is given responsibility for the gifts experienced by the community. The thought of leadership leads Paul to think of Jesus as Lord. Meanwhile God is seen as the ultimate cause behind everything.

Paul's exact conception of the Holy Spirit seems difficult to discern to me. For example, did he distinguish between the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ as something different, or the Holy Spirit as a completely third thing? 2 Corinthians 13:13 again speaks of three, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all." I have not seriously studied the concept of the Holy Spirit in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but it may just be that many Jews already at this time spoke of the Holy Spirit in quasi-personal terms that were distinguished from God himself. If so, then we should probably conclude that the Holy Spirit was distinct for Paul from God the Father and Jesus the Lord.

These are in my opinion very difficult issues in the study of Paul, and this chapter in Wright does not seem to provide as much potential light as the other chapters thus far. We might, however, mention one helpful thing he does say in closing. He points out that to call Jesus "Lord" in the middle of the Roman Empire had subversive connotations. Caesar wasn't too fond of people giving their allegiance to other kings. This is an important factor in our understanding of Paul that we often don't take into account.

One completely unsubstantiable thought, but enjoyable, is that the phrase, "being in the form of God" is meant to mimic Caligula's attempt to set up an image of himself in the Jerusalem temple. Philo remarks, knowing the outcome of Caligula's life (assassination) that "the form of God is not so easily counterfeited." :-) So the Philippian hymn would be saying, "Jesus, who [actually] was in the form of God, did not exploit that authority..." Just a fun unlikelihood...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Proposal to Board from Asbury's Academic Council

Proposal from the Academic Council and Members of the Faculty

We, as faculty members of Asbury Theological Seminary, in the spirit of our Wesleyan tradition, request of the Board of Trustees and President Greenway a course of action that will bring healing and resumption of normalcy to the Seminary at the present time. Such a process needs to be conducted in ways which show full congruence with the standards and bylaws by which the Seminary functions. It needs to uphold the integrity of the Seminary in its life and practice, according to our mutual commitment to the Wesleyan standard of holiness. What is at stake are the Seminary’s programs of education and its Christian witness and integrity in the eyes of its constituency and the larger world. Indeed, we have here been given a unique opportunity to model what it means to live out the possibility of reconciliation and restoration in Jesus Christ.

We, as faculty members of Asbury Theological Seminary, acknowledge our full regard for the Board of Trustees and its authority to act in matters of governance, and recognize that we have no authority to direct or pressure the Board in matters of policy, nor to undermine its authority in conducting its duties. We also acknowledge our obligation, by virtue of collegial governance, to share our concerns with the Board and to communicate our best thinking on the matter at hand.
Consequently, the following course of action is proposed, as an appropriate way to initiate such reconciliation:

1. Mediation: Recognizing the damaged relationships, a third-party mediator will be introduced, who has connections with none who are involved in the present dispute but who is acceptable to all persons therein involved, and who will be charged with helping to identify a course for reconciliation. This mediator will have responsibility for addressing all substantive issues that bear upon a just and redemptive resolution of the matter at hand. It is acknowledged that this will be a complicated and uncomfortable task, involving hard work and sacrifices for all parties to the discussion. In no sense should this mediation be seen as a perfunctory exercise, nor one whose outcome may be presupposed. Rather, we perceive that the traversing together of this difficult path can best serve to reconcile what may otherwise remain as irreconcilable differences.

2. Stability & Process: We respectfully request that while this mediation process is taking place that President Jeffrey Greenway be reinstated with the understanding that a new review task force will be formed, selected by the Board of Trustees as a whole.

In view of the high spiritual and moral standards expected from Asbury Theological Seminary, and as mandated by its ethos statement, a path like the one here proposed would be a remarkable embodiment and witness to Jesus Christ, and our lives in mutual covenant with Him, for the sake of the larger Seminary community and its witness to the world. This course of action could offer an extraordinary model of conflict resolution for the entire community, consistent with the Wesleyan affirmations concerning sin and grace. This pathway would demonstrate that we conduct ourselves in ways that exceed the "business as usual" standards which seem to prevail both in the religious and secular spheres of our culture. It would offer us the finest opportunity to demonstrate our love for one another, as those whose lives are rooted in Jesus Christ, where reconciliation is always an achievable outcome.

Addendum: This document is developed at this time as an official statement of the Academic Council, adopted at its regularly scheduled meeting of 9 October 2006, and presented via email to the faculty to enable their response, prior to the forthcoming special meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The regular scheduling of the Academic Council meeting explains the timing of the presentation of this proposal.

Respectfully submitted, The Academic Council, 9 October 2006
Christina T. Accornero, Registrar
Leslie A. Andrews, Associate Provost and Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Bill T. Arnold, Vice President of Academic Affairs & Provost
David R. Bauer, Dean of the School of Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation
Kenneth A. Boyd, Dean of Information Services
Ronald K. Crandall, Dean of the ESJ School of World Mission and Evangelism
R. Dale Hale, Director of Distributed Learning
Randall W. Jessen, Dean of the Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching & Church Leadership
C. Reginald Johnson, Dean of the School of Theology and Formation
Hugo Magallanes, Assistant Provost, FL Campus
Michael A. Rynkiewich, Director of Postgraduate Studies
Catherine Stonehouse, Dean of the School of Practical Theology

The following faculty members also endorse this proposal:
Garwood P. Anderson, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
Jack Connell, Associate Dean of the Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching & Church Leadership
Allan Coppedge, Ralph Waldo Beeson Professor of Christian Theology
Joel B. Green, Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Charles E. Gutenson, Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology
James K. Hampton, Assistant Professor of Youth Ministry
Anthony J. Headley, Professor of Counseling
Virginia Todd Holeman, Professor of Counseling
Barbara Holsinger, Associate Director of Mentored Ministries, Wilmore Campus
George G. Hunter III, Distinguished Professor of Communication & Evangelism
Eunice L. Irwin, Associate Professor of Mission and Contextual Theology
Beverly C. Johnson-Miller, Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship
Kevin Kinghorn, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Ellen L. Marmon, Diaconal Minister and Instructor in Christian Discipleship
Joy J. Moore, Assistant Professor of Preaching
Tapiwa N. Mucherera, Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling
Terry C. Muck, Professor of World Religions
M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., Professor of New Testament, Chair of NT Department
J. Steven O’Malley, John T. Seamands Professor of Methodist Holiness History [signed as an individual faculty member and not in role as faculty representative to the Board of Trustees]
Christine Pohl, Professor of Church in Society
Lester Ruth, Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship
Stephen A. Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine
Stephen P. Stratton, Associate Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care
David L. Thompson, F.M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies
Thomas F. Tumblin, Associate Professor of Leadership
Jerry L. Walls, Professor of Philosophy of Religion
Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament
Laurence W. Wood, Frank Paul Morris Professor of Systematic Theology

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Book Review: ... Five Views of Sanctification

Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. by Donald Alexander.

This is an interesting book, one of whose cowriters is none other than Asbury's own Larry Wood. The book is divided into five perspectives on sanctification: Lutheran, Reformed, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Contemplative (guess which one Wood wrote). After each writer has presented his view (all the authors are men), the others respond from their point of view.

This is nothing like a formal book review. I will instead be my more usual, colorful self.

The Lutheran Perspective on Sanctification (Gerhard Forde)
I would summarize this chapter as "La, la, la, la, la, la [hands clasped over ears], I'm not listening. I'm not listening."

Forde clearly doesn't think it's a good idea even to write a book like this (one wonders if he signed on under protest). Sanctification is almost unthinkingly equated with holy living, and as such Forde will have nothing to do with it. It's the wrong question. It pushes us to think about works rather than God's unconditional grace.

And so we find the old simil iustus et peccator of Luther fame (we are at "the same time both righteous and sinner"), and we find the Luther idea of justification by faith alone emphasized.

So sanctification for Forde is "the art of getting used to justification" (27). It is thus "anti" moral action. It is the increase of reliance on God's grace, not the increase of holy effort.

Shhh, "Sanctification is God's secret" (30) (to be said in hushed tones). To think about it is to open the door for boasting, for that greatest sin of all, Pelagianism. AHHHHHH!

Of course it was a good presentation of the Lutheran position. The only problem is that the new perspective on Paul, which Wood himself mentions, largely obliterates this interpretation of Paul. This perspective understands nothing of the nature of ancient patronage as foundational to the concept of grace, nor does it read Paul correctly against his Jewish background. In my opinion, the idea of grace with no strings attached would have been foreign to any ancient Mediterranean.

And while we might say that the initial justification that takes place when we receive the Spirit is "by faith" and not "by works of law," action is a part of faith for Paul (he praises the Thessalonians for their "work of faith"). And in Paul's thought we will scarcely be justified before the judgment seat of Christ in the end if we have not remained blameless in the intervening time.

The Reformed Perspective on Sanctification (Sinclair Ferguson)
I actually liked the Reformed perspective in this book quite a lot, believe it or not. I was reminded that Wesley was "only a hair's breadth from Calvinism." Of course I was irritated by the following comment (even though it may be true): "most evangelical theology in the English-speaking world can be see (sic) as an exposition of, deviation from or reaction to Reformed theology" (47). It is an interesting thought--can an self-standing Wesleyan theology really be formulated apart from reaction to these roots?

Sanctification for Reformed theology, again understood in terms of movement toward holy living, amounts to two things, according to Ferguson: 1) union with Christ and 2) new creation. Because we have united with Christ, we increasingly become a new creation.

I have no initial problem with Ferguson's interpretation of Romans 6, for he sees it to mean that the Christian should live above sin. The problem I have is that he ultimately sees the Christian as inevitably locked into two conflicting parts. This is James Dunn's interpretation of this section of Romans: the fleshly part of a Christian remains subject to the power of sin even at the same time that the spirit is subject to the law of God. Ferguson recognizes that he, with Dunn, is in an increasing minority who take Romans 7 as some ongoing struggle Paul had with his flesh. This interpretation has fallen on hard times to be sure.

So Ferguson plays the practical card. Ok, ok, maybe Paul didn't mean that he himself struggled all the time with sin. But let's be honest, eh, eh, what Christian can't identify with "the evil I don't want to do I do"? Come on, de-Nile is not just a river in Egypt.

As I look to distinguish myself as a Wesleyan from Ferguson's Reformed view, I find myself affirming two things. First, I'm way more optimistic about the power of God over sin than this. And secondly, I would agree with Wood that it is ultimately our intentions that are focal in our relationship with God. Ferguson thinks a distinction between unintentional and intentional sin of Wesley's sort is not the way the NT divides up sin (125). It's true that Paul does not use these terms, but he does say that "whatever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).

The Wesleyan Perspective on Sanctification (Larry Wood)
Wood takes a typically "Fletcher" approach to Wesley's Christian perfection in this chapter. By that I mean he sees the Spirit fillings of Acts as incidences of entire sanctification, believing that the disciples were "converted" before the Day of Pentecost. Wood uses traditional Wesley language like "second blessing," "circumcision of the heart," and even adds the imagery of exodus (conversion) and promised land (entire sanctification) in relation to Wesley's "Christian perfection."

On the one hand, I had a flashback to my childhood and earlier years as I was reading. I was actually at Asbury when Bob Lyon was clashing with this understanding of Acts, something I heard Mel Dieter still ruing as recently as two summers ago. But alas, I don't know a single NT scholar in the Wesleyan tradition who interprets Acts this way, let alone any NT scholar outside our tradition. It doesn't do our tradition any good to stake our identity on exegetical unlikelihoods, so Wesleyan NT types have usually reformulated their understandings--sometimes ironically in ways that come closer to how Wesley himself talked about Christian perfection.

One problem I have with the entire book from a NT perspective is that, in my opinion, the idea of holiness is only secondarily about certain behavior. The primary connotation is that of belonging to God, being set apart to God with the appropriate implications of that divine association. So to equate sanctification with a certain kind of living puts the cart before the horse. The living follows from that which pleases the specific God we have in mind--when you belong to the HOLY GOD, you want to be careful to behave in a way appropriate to Him.

I affirm Wood's position in the same way as I critiqued the Reformed position: 1) that it is appropriately optimistic and 2) that it focuses on intent.

1) Wood's chapter is the only one that embraces the "new perspective" on Paul. Ferguson resists the now majority understanding of Romans 7 as the struggle of someone without the Holy Spirit (i.e., of someone who isn't even justified yet). Paul's theology explodes in self-contradiction if Romans 7 is a statement of his current experience. In another place, Ferguson rebuts Wood with a reference to Philippians 3:12, which he takes to be Paul denying his own perfection. But the context strongly points to resurrection as that which Paul has not yet attained here. It is a misreading of Philippians 3:12 to hear Paul saying he's not as good as he might be.

2) Wood/Wesley's emphasis on intention is key I think. It allows us to have a very healthy relational understanding of sin, God, and us. I may wrong my wife in various ways, but usually the ones that are most significant are those with the greatest mal-intent. She is more likely to forgive me if I forget her birthday than if I cheat on her.

Also helpful is Wood's reiteration that perfection for Wesley had to do with quality not quantity. It is not Adamic perfection, angelic perfection, and certainly not absolute perfection. We would best not even use the word perfection in our day and age. It is about "loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

At this point my psychological alarms go off. Human intention is far too complex a thing to shove into these moulds of my past. I am happy with three things: 1) God can empower you to win over temptation, 2) God can make you like it! and 3) Some people come to a crisis moment, a show down where it's God or them. God helps some of these people move to a whole new level in their relationship with God.

The Pentecostal and Contemplative Perspectives
These last two chapters really do something different. The Pentecostal chapter is a lovely and very helpful survey of the movement. But basically, your view of sanctification will depend on which particular subgroup of this movement you belong to: Wesleyan Pentecostals, Reformed Pentecostals, etc...

I don't think the contemplative chapter even mentions the word sanctification. Clearly it's all about growing to love God and growing in unity with him. You can see that it's about sanctification even though it doesn't talk about it, and this I think is probably intentional. It comes the closest to a "catholic" entry in the book in one way.

My Thoughts for President Greenway #3

My thoughts for Greenway thus far have been 1) get to the meeting in Atlanta if at all possible and 2) confess and repent for not returning to the Task Force meeting and for the ultimatum issued to the Task Force. In this last thought on what President Greenway might do to retain the presidency I suggest his repentance should a) go deep and b) include accountability so it won't happen again.

a) It seems clear to me that if there were not long standing issues between certain board members and Greenway, this would not have happened. Greenway himself would not have been this provoked, and the EXCO itself would have overlooked his immediate conduct.

So while the charge of insubordination is the focal charge, it is not the underlying problem for President Greenway.

[As a side note, I believe personally that parts of the board have their own issues that the board as a whole really needs to resolve if Asbury is to remain a credible Christian seminary. There are plenty of secular Methodist seminaries already if someone wants to go to one of them. And I'm not even talking about a truly Wesleyan, warm hearted seminary. How many of those are there around (Duke and who else?). I have great fears for Asbury if President Greenway alone is made the scapegoat for this crisis, if there is no repentance on the part of some on the board, whoever they may be. Those with power may easily win on earth, but power doesn't count for anything in heaven, only foolishness and weakness.

Because of this crisis, several have already questioned openly whether Asbury is a worthwhile place for a warm hearted Christian, particularly one in the holiness tradition, to study for ministry (one graduate soberly announced he was returning his diploma). They have called into question not only the board, but the faculty and alumni like me as well for our part in the crisis. If all that comes out of this is the firing of Greenway, we can smile all we want but Asbury's reputation will be ruined for the near future. Unless there is a broader repentance and/or disciplining, beyond Greenway, Asbury will enter more troubled waters than these days have been.

If any on the board have stumbled on here, I beg the collective board, whether it believes itself to be completely in the right or not, to humble itself and repent as well for its part in the crisis. We can repent for corporate sin even when we don't know of any individual sin on our part.]

But these matters are matters for the board to deal with, not President Greenway. He can only repent of his part in these events. No doubt his failure to return and ultimatum constitute a pattern to those who think he should no longer be president. President Greenway himself will know what particular incidences they might have in their mind.

He will need to swallow hard, admit these, and repent of these as a part of his repentance on this occasion. Are there incidences where the board or chair instructed him to do something where he resisted for anything less than "by the book" reasons? He will need to repent of these sorts of things if he is to survive, I believe. Name them (they're thinking them) and say you were wrong. In short, in his repentance of insubordination, he will need to repent deep--he will need to own up to anything even vaguely resembling a weakness he has done these last two years relevant to the charge of insubordination.

b) He will need to show that it won't happen again. He will need to set up some system of accountability to ensure it. Lay out concrete steps he's taking to be different. "Here are five things I'm going to do differently." And make them five really good things.

Maybe he could set up an accountability group made up of individuals who the board respects and trusts to hold him to it. Maybe even invite some of those who don't get along with him on the board to help keep him accountable. If they're worthy to be stewards of Asbury's heritage, they'll be willing to do it.

These are the kinds of things I think President Greenway needs to do if he is to remain President Greenway. And if he can be this Christ-like, surely the board will respond in turn.

A Note from Dr. Jim Smith, Chair of Asbury Board

MEMO
To: Asbury Seminary community: Students, Faculty, Staff and Administration
From: Dr. Jim Smith
Date: October 11, 2006

In light of upcoming events, I want to share some thoughts with you during these difficult times.

First, it is important that you know the Board of Trustees is committed to a fair, due process for our president. I have chosen not to get drawn into a public debate on a confidential personnel matter. While others have discussed their perceptions of these matters, this type of discourse is simply inappropriate for board members to engage in. We respect our students, staff, faculty and administration too much to discuss the personnel matters of the president or anyone in a public forum.

Please understand the board does value the concerns and thoughts within our community. However, we want to find productive ways to engage in conversation so we can both listen and respond constructively. In the days ahead we will try to find ways for renewed dialogue that moves the seminary forward. We will be seeking further dialogue with faculty and staff as we seek to work together with our community to further the growth and vision of the seminary.

Your continued prayers are appreciated in the days and weeks ahead for Asbury Seminary as the board seeks to respond with wisdom and integrity. Personnel discussions are seldom easy, and wise discernment is critical as the board seeks to make appropriate decisions.

The board and our leadership team remain focused on continuing the vital work of Asbury Seminary. We are committed to fulfilling our mission and purpose of training men and women in service to Jesus Christ. We are indeed experiencing a difficult time, however, we should not let this deter us from being committed to doing Kingdom work with God’s purpose in mind.

We continue to seek your prayers as we move forward in the days and months ahead. I will continue to share information with you as it is appropriate to do so. I thank you for your patience during this process and your commitment to Asbury Seminary.

My Thoughts for Greenway #2

The reason for meeting on October 17 is ostensibly to act in relation to President Greenway’s insubordination. I do not know all the details behind this charge. I know that it at least involves 1) his failure to return to his evaluation on October 31 and 2) apparently he issued a number of strong demands regarding the governance of the chair and other trustees.

My second recommendation for President Greenway is that he fully and sincerely "repent" of these actions.

I believe he has already apologized to the board. He stands no chance if he cannot convince the board not only that he is sorry he did these things, but that he will never do them again. It seems difficult to do this if he is not there in person.

Believing that the board understands mercy and not only justice, they would surely be willing to forgive Greenway of his failures in these areas if they had reason to think 1) that there were mitigating factors and 2) that he had learned his lesson. It is difficult to see how it would serve Christ's kingdom or Asbury's future to "make an example of Greenway." We are all about redemption and forgiveness. There are consequences, and those must be taken into account to be sure. But Christ's way is to pardon whenever possible.

I trust that the board believes this way as well, that the charge of insubordination in itself is not sufficient Christian grounds in this case to fire Greenway. In my limited opinion, it is only if these actions play into much broader issues that they would merit his firing.

1) With regard to mitigating factors, if in fact he had legitimate concerns about the way he was being governed, this is irrelevant now as far as his actions now are concerned. He will have to rely on sympathetic board members to raise these issues on his behalf. He cannot. The faculty have already raised a number of mitigating factors and the board already knows them.

2) What is the lesson? That there are channels of authority and protocols to be followed (even when you believe those channels are unjust and are abusing their power). There is a time to stand up for what is right, but this was not the time. There are processes that can be used to address such concerns. This was a "sheep to the slaughter" moment, not a "fight for freedom" one.

He should have submitted to the Task Force. Greenway likely could have survived the evaluation process with ease if he had submitted to the process until it came before the broader board.

So all that he can do now is make clear that he knows he messed up big time. If I were him, I would send a letter to the board asking if he can be invited to the meeting to publicly ask their forgiveness for causing this crisis and to tell them the steps he is taking so that he never does this again. Maybe he already has.

I think that letter must 1) go deep into the underlying issue of his personality and leadership style and 2) must include steps of accountability for the future. More on these to come.

My Advice to Greenway #1

We now enter the final week of the conflict at Asbury.

As far as I know, Greenway continues to believe that God has not yet released him of his call to Asbury. Anonymous, who I take to be a board insider, suggests that Greenway's presidency simply cannot be saved. But I do not know this for certain. And I have not heard a single item of evidence that would merit in itself his termination, although I have pursued several with individuals who I would expect to know. If the argument is from the cumulative effect of individual faults, such a conclusion will be by its very nature debatable.

So in my next two or three posts I want to suggest how, if I were Greenway, I would go about trying to win the board over to my continuation as president.

First, I would make sure that I am invited to Atlanta to appear before them.

This is of course something outside Greenway's power, although forums like this one can have an impact in Greenway's favor. Dr. Smith told the trustees that he was going to ask President Greenway to "set aside" this coming Tuesday (17th) so that he would be available to meet with the BOT. However, Smith also implied that it might not be necessary for Greenway to meet with the BOT on the 17th, depending on the outcome of the investigative committee meeting.

I am of the impression that the investigative committee did meet yesterday. On the assumption that it did,

Is Smith now going to invite Greenway to the BOT meeting in Atlanta this coming Tuesday for sure now?

Although I do not know the intimate details of the supposed failures of Greenway, the rightness of letting Greenway appear before his accusers is obvious. So at this point of the conflict, this question becomes the first order of business.

Even if it is simply for good show, there is no imaginable reason not to invite Greenway.

If Greenway doesn't want to come, then he no longer is thinking of being president. But the only reason not to invite him at this point seems either bad judgment or a desire to stack the odds against him on the 17th. Neither of these are legitimate reasons.

So has Greenway been invited now? Perhaps Dr. Smith has already invited him. I hope so. Does anyone know? Surely it is appropriate for the BOT to tell us this! Surely there is nothing confidential about telling us openly that Greenway has been invited!

Has Greenway been invited?

Asbury Faculty and Administration Wonder #11

The flurry of reports and narratives dating from 1 September 2006 has shed light on and generated heat regarding the critical situation in which Asbury Theological Seminary now finds itself. We are left with a number of questions. This is the eleventh.

We wonder why the administration, faculty, staff, and students were told that President Greenway’s failure centered on his polarizing the Seminary community through his alleged dictatorial and autocratic leadership style, why this indictment was dropped in favor of a charge of insubordination, and why the focus seems now to have been redirected toward issues of President Greenway’s performance.

On the one hand, the charge brought against President Greenway has the appearance of a moving target. On the other hand, each of these charges raises questions of its own. A charge of dividing the Seminary seems difficult to sustain, at least in the case of the faculty, given the overwhelming support given President Greenway in the Faculty Resolution of 5 September.

The charge of insubordination, at least insofar as this might be grounded in the events reported of 31 August — 1 September, seems difficult to sustain, given the nuanced understanding of the Board’s authority outlined in both accreditation standards and ATS Board Policies [see "We Wonder... (#10)"].

Finally, the nature of President Greenway’s performance is precisely what the review process was supposed to have examined — not with reference to the continuation or termination of President Greenway’s contract (since this was not the formal, third-year review) but with reference to President Greenway’s growth as the Seminary’s chief executive officer. The shifting nature of the charges leveled against President Greenway raises for us the question what is really at issue in the present impasse between the Executive Committee and the President.

Signed:
Kenneth A. Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Instructional Design
Allan Coppedge, Ph.D., Ralph Waldo Beeson Professor of Christian Theology
Ronald K. Crandall, D.Th.P., McCreless Professor of Evangelism and Sundo Kim Professor of Evangelism and Practical Theology
Richard L. Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Leadership and Christian Ministry
Joel B. Green, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Chuck Gutenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology
Virginia Todd Holeman, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling
Eunice L. Irwin, Ph.D., Associate Professor: Mission and Contextual Theology
Randy Jessen, D.Min., Dean, Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership
C. Reginald Johnson, Ph.D., Roy and Weezie Anderson Professor of Prayer and Spiritual Formation
Beverly C. Johnson-Miller, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship
Terry C. Muck, Ph.D., Professor of Missions and World Religions
M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Christine Pohl, Ph.D., Professor of Church in Society
Ruth Anne Reese, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Lester Ruth, Ph.D., Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship
Michael A. Rynkiewich, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology
Daryl Smith, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Mentored Ministry and Christian Leadership
Catherine Stonehouse, Ph.D., Orlean Bullard Beeson Professor of Christian Discipleship
David L. Thompson, Ph.D., F.M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies
Thomas F. Tumblin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Leadership
Jerry L. Walls, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy of Religion
Ben Witherington III, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Laurence W. Wood, Ph.D., Frank Paul Morris Professor of Systematic Theology

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Faith of Jesus Christ

This is from a class I'm teaching. Some will know that the expression translated "faith in Christ" in Greek is more usually, "the faith of Jesus" or "the faith of Christ." European scholarship has tended to follow the traditional "faith in Christ" translation (in this corner, James Dunn as the type). American scholarship has tended to follow the "faithfulness of Christ" translation (in the other corner, Richard Hays as the type).

I wrestled with this issue for fifteen years before I had any real sense of what I think. Here's where I'm at.

1. It's clear that Jesus' "obedience to death" (Phil. 2:8) was a significant part of the equation. Hebrews 5:7 speaks of Jesus praying to the one who could save him out of death and being heard because of his godliness. Romans 5:19 speaks of the importance of Christ's one act of obedience and how many will be justified because of it. So it clearly would fit with Paul's theology that we are justified through the faithfulness of Jesus in some way. The question is whether Paul actually used the expression "faith of Jesus Christ" in this way.

2. That Paul could think of having faith upon Christ in some way also seems clear to me from Romans 9:33, "The one who has faith upon him will not be ashamed." The object of faith here is clearly the rock of stumbling, namely Jesus the Lord. We know this from 10:11, which repeats this same Scripture from Isaiah 28:16. The having faith upon him is parallel there to calling upon the name of the Lord, namely, "Jesus is Lord," as in 10:9. Having faith upon Jesus in this context is thus having faith that he is Lord which involves having faith that God raised him from the dead for our justification (4:25).

3. If "faith upon him" in 9:33 broadly means faith on Christ, meaning faith that God has raised Jesus from the dead and established Jesus as Lord, then we can backtrack to 9:32, where Paul says that Israel did not reach the "rule of righteousness" because they did not pursue it "on the basis of faith but on the basis of works." The that the following verse, which speaks of putting "faith on him," refers to faith on Christ implies that the expression "on the basis of faith" here refers to human faith, not Christ's faith. But since this expression is a formula Paul uses over and over, we must conclude that human faith is a major part of what Paul means by the expression ek pisteos, "on the basis of faith."

This would imply that, at best, Hays is only half right to see the expression in relation to Christ's faith. It would seem that Paul uses this expression in relation to a general principle, namely, that God justifies on the basis of faith. Perhaps this is true in relation to Christ as well--who is justified or found not guilty on the basis of a sinless faith rather than, as in our case, a faith in the midst of sinfulness. But at this point I conclude that Dunn is more correct when it comes to the expression ek pisteos, "on the basis of faith," in both Galatians and Romans.

4. The clincher for me on the specific expression "faith of Jesus" was 2 Corinthians 4:13. Here Paul quotes Psalm 115:1 (LXX): "I have had faith, therefore I have spoken. What is Paul talking about? What Paul speaks is that the one who raised Jesus will also raise us (4:14). Here is my interpretation of this passage. Paul is comparing his sufferings to those of Jesus. Here we remember Hebrews 5:7: "Jesus prayed to the one able to save him out of death and he was heard because of his godliness." My argument is that Paul likely read Psalm 115/116 as the words of Christ, as he and other Christians did so many psalms. Thus he sees in Psalm 115:1 Jesus expressing his faith that God would raise him.

My argument is somewhat involved (it comes out in CBQ sometime over the course of the next year) but basically I believe Paul is saying in this verse that just as Jesus had faith (in the God who could raise him from the dead) so also Paul has such faith. This verse was for me the straw that tipped the "faith of Jesus" debate Hays' way in terms of the specific expression, "the faith of Jesus." I believe that the idea of the "faith of Jesus" was thus not only a part of Paul's vocabulary, but even more likely a commonplace in Christian circles. This would explain how Paul can use an expression that seems so ambiguous to us without feeling the need to explain it.

5. So in conclusion, I believe that Paul begins several theological discussions with a commonly understood phrase, "the faith of Jesus" (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16). Note that Jesus is the immediate word following faith in these particular expressions (see also Rom. 3:26). But then Paul balances out the faith of Jesus with the importance of humans having faith (and Paul primarily sees God as the object of such faith, see Romans 4, although he can loosely speak of having faith on him, Christ, as in 9:33). When he finally gets to expressions like "the faith of Christ," then, he has established a general principle that applies to everyone, both Christ and humans. The expression, "the faith of Christ" thus becomes a sort of double entrendre referring to both Christ's faith and our faith in Christ. From then on, the expression "on the basis of faith" comes to refer primarily to human faith in what God has done in Christ.

We might say, therefore, that Paul argues "ek" Hays "eis" Dunn.

Asbury Faculty and Administration Wonder #10

The flurry of reports and narratives dating from 1 September 2006 has shed light on and generated heat regarding the critical situation in which Asbury Theological Seminary now finds itself. We are left with a number of questions. This is the tenth.

We wonder how President Greenway could be found guilty of insubordination, given that the parties to which he has allegedly been insubordinate have no formal authority over him.

According to its memorandum of September 5, 2006, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees determined to offer President Greenway a financial package should he choose to resign and directed the Board Chair to call a special meeting of the Board of Trustees to act on the employment of the president should President Greenway refuse to resign by noon, 8 September 2006. According to this memorandum, the basis for this decision was the Executive Committee’s allegation of Dr. Greenway’s insubordination vis-a-vis the Board Chair-appointed ad hoc review committee and/or selected individuals of that committee.

Had the Board of Trustees itself called this ad hoc committee into being and formally delegated its authority to this committee, Dr. Greenway’s refusal to return to the meeting could technically have constituted insubordination. However, since by accreditation standards and board policy neither the Board Chair nor an ad hoc committee appointed by the chair may supervise or direct the president, we wonder how President Greenway’s behavior could be labeled insubordination.

According to the Standards of Accreditation, The Association of Theological Schools, Commission on Accreditation, "The board shall exercise its authority only as a group" (8.3.1.8). Moreover, according to the Asbury Theological Seminary Board Policies (May 12, 2003), which are defined as having the status of the By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation with respect to institutional governance (Serial No: 2.1), "the chairperson has no authority to supervise or direct the President" (Serial No: 2.5, 2b), and "only decisions of the board acting as a body are binding on the President" (Serial No: 3.1).

Signed:
Kenneth A. Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Instructional Design
Allan Coppedge, Ph.D., Ralph Waldo Beeson Professor of Christian Theology
Ronald K. Crandall, D.Th.P., McCreless Professor of Evangelism and Sundo Kim Professor of Evangelism and Practical Theology
Richard L. Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Leadership and Christian Ministry
Joel B. Green, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Chuck Gutenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology
Virginia Todd Holeman, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling
Eunice L. Irwin, Ph.D., Associate Professor: Mission and Contextual Theology
Randy Jessen, D.Min., Dean, Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership
C. Reginald Johnson, Ph.D., Roy and Weezie Anderson Professor of Prayer and Spiritual Formation
Beverly C. Johnson-Miller, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship
Terry C. Muck, Ph.D., Professor of Missions and World Religions
M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Christine Pohl, Ph.D., Professor of Church in Society
Ruth Anne Reese, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Lester Ruth, Ph.D., Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship
Michael A. Rynkiewich, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology
Daryl Smith, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Mentored Ministry and Christian Leadership
Catherine Stonehouse, Ph.D., Orlean Bullard Beeson Professor of Christian Discipleship
David L. Thompson, Ph.D., F.M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies
Thomas F. Tumblin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Leadership
Jerry L. Walls, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy of Religion
Ben Witherington III, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Laurence W. Wood, Ph.D., Frank Paul Morris Professor of Systematic Theology

Monday, October 09, 2006

Asbury Faculty and Administration Wonder #9

The flurry of reports and narratives dating from 1 September 2006 has shed light on and generated heat regarding the critical situation in which Asbury Theological Seminary now finds itself. We are left with a number of questions. This is the ninth.

We wonder on whose authority the consultant was hired, and how he has been paid for his consultation.

According to the Standards of Accreditation, The Association of Theological Schools, Commission on Accreditation, "an individual [board] member, unless authorized by the board, shall not commit the institution’s resources nor bind it to any course of action, nor intrude upon the administration of the institution" (8.3.1.8), yet we find no minute or other formal record of the Board’s approval of a contract with a consultant for the review process. Given the apparent lack of objectivity characterizing the review process, and given our previously cited concerns with the vested interests the consultant has demonstrated during and subsequent to the review process itself [see "We Wonder...(#5)"], we wonder on whose authority the consultant was hired, and how he is being paid for his consultation.

Signed:
Kenneth A. Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Instructional Design
Allan Coppedge, Ph.D., Ralph Waldo Beeson Professor of Christian Theology
Ronald K. Crandall, D.Th.P., McCreless Professor of Evangelism and Sundo Kim Professor of Evangelism and Practical Theology
Richard L. Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Leadership and Christian Ministry
Joel B. Green, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Chuck Gutenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology
Virginia Todd Holeman, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling
Eunice L. Irwin, Ph.D., Associate Professor: Mission and Contextual Theology
Randy Jessen, D.Min., Dean, Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership
C. Reginald Johnson, Ph.D., Roy and Weezie Anderson Professor of Prayer and Spiritual Formation
Hugo Magallanes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Church in Society
Terry C. Muck, Ph.D., Professor of Missions and World Religions
M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Christine Pohl, Ph.D., Professor of Church in Society
Ruth Anne Reese, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Lester Ruth, Ph.D., Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship
Michael A. Rynkiewich, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology
Daryl Smith, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Mentored Ministry and Christian Leadership
Catherine Stonehouse, Ph.D., Orlean Bullard Beeson Professor of Christian Discipleship
David L. Thompson, Ph.D., F.M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies
Thomas F. Tumblin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Leadership
Jerry L. Walls, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy of Religion
Ben Witherington III, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament
Laurence W. Wood, Ph.D., Frank Paul Morris Professor of Systematic Theology

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wright's Paul Really 2: The Gospel

Chapter 3: The Meaning of "Gospel" in Paul

1. Gospel means good news, significant good news.
We sometimes use the expression, "to share the gospel" with someone. Often we mean to share how to become a Christian, like steps to be saved. Wright is quite emphatic that this is not what Paul means. We might also mention that Paul does not refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John when he refers to the gospel. None of them even existed (certainly not in their current form) while he was alive.

Wright's claim, and I agree with him here, is that the gospel for Paul is the good news about what God has done through Jesus the Christ.

2. Background of the Term euangelion
a. In the broader Mediterranean world
Wright correctly observes that the word was often used in reference to quite extraordinary news, like the defeat of Roman enemies or the birth of a successor to the throne

b. In the Greek OT
But probably more significant is the background in Isaiah, particularly verses like 40:9 and 52:7. This latter verse seems very significant.

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news (euangelizomai) of the report of peace, who brings good news (euangelizomai) of good things, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"

We have good reason to believe that Paul (and the early Christians) saw the events surrounding Jesus as the beginning of those things they saw foretold in this verse. Wright likes to think of it as the return of Israel from exile. I prefer simply to think of it as the time when God was going to restore the fortunes of Israel and, indeed, the world (less theological baggage).

3. The "Fourfold" Gospel
Wright suggests that the gospel message, the content of the good news, is fourfold (summary on 60): 1) in Jesus, the powers of evil have been defeated, 2) in the resurrection, the New Age has dawned, 3) Jesus is Israel's messiah, 4) Jesus is Lord of the whole world. He suggests two corrolaries about God: 1) The God of Israel is the one true God, and 2) The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus.

OK--Wright has a tendency to pack biblical statements with lots of stuff, so let's distill this, sticking a little closer to the biblical language itself.

Romans 1:3-4: Wright helpfully points us to these verses, for they seem to give us somewhat straightforwardly the content of the gospel, namely, the good news "concerning His Son, who came from the seed of David according to the flesh, [and] designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Here we do indeed find in a nutshell the elements Wright discusses in this chapter.

________________________
1. Jesus is the Messiah (of Israel), because he is from the seed of David and is proclaimed Christ. Christ is of course the Greek word for Messiah. Scholars debate whether Paul used it almost as a "last name" without much thought or whether Paul distinctly thought of Jesus as the Messiah when he used it. Wright favors the latter, and I generally do as well. In other words, there are any number of times when I think it is clear that Paul is using the term with the specific thought that Jesus is the Messiah (e.g., Rom. 9:5)

2. Even more, Jesus is cosmic Lord; he is Son of God in power. He is Lord, meaning that he is enthroned at the right hand of God in the heavens over all, including the Gentiles.

3. Implied in the statement that Jesus is Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9) is the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, meaning that the new age has dawned and the beginning of God setting everything to right.
________________________
I also agree with Wright that surely as part of this good news is also the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:23 would lead us to think that the cross featured prominently in Paul's preaching. Interestingly, however, it seems barely mentioned in Romans (3:25). Wright is surely right to see in the cross the defeat of the powers of evil and of sin in particular.

4. The Gospel of God
Clearly this good news about the Messiah, the Christ, has good implications about God as well. In fact, we see in Isaiah 52:7 the likely origins of the phrase "the kingdom of God" (our God reigns). Certainly Jesus' ministry was about the inauguration of the rule of God on earth as it is in heaven, which similarly involved kicking Satan and his minions "out of Dodge." So this good news about the Christ reveals God's righteousness (Rom. 1:17)

Since Wright's next chapter deals more specifically with Paul's Christology in relation to his Monotheism, I will leave that discussion till the next chapter.

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